Anniversaries, Questions, and Where Magic Is Possible, What Isn’t?

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. Wonderful autumn weather in the UK this week. Lady and I have loved it.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Anniversaries. I look at why these are important, I share some of my favourite writing ones, and how it matters to take time out to recall where you were and where you are now. Sometimes it is only by looking back, you realise you have made progress.

And, of course, it is important to remember so many vital people and events in our lives, past and present. I also discuss bucket lists. Hope you enjoy the post.

Anniversaries


Pleased to share a link to the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads which takes you to my last article here which was about frames in flash fiction. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

It is one of the ironies of flash that limiting things (the word count) encourages creativity. You learn to make the most of what you do have to work with and this encourages lateral thinking. That comes in useful for whatever you write. And you learn to write with precision and to ask yourself do I really need this in the story? If in doubt, the answer to that is no and out the section comes!

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Another gorgeous day out in the park with Lady. She got to play with two of her pals yesterday and played with one of them again today. What was nice was the two dogs were resting side by side for a bit and I just got my phone out to take a nice snap and, yes sure enough, Lady’s pal decided that was the right time to get up and move away!

Am leading an online flash fiction group tonight. Looking forward to that. It’s always good fun.
Will be later than usual with posts at the weekend due to family events but those should be good fun too! (And Lady adores said events. Let’s just say I don’t have to clear up anything from the ground).

My CFT post this week will be on Anniversaries. Do you note any of your writing ones? I have noted a few of mine and it is important I think to remind yourself this was where you were and this is where you are now because it is easy to think you’re getting nowhere when actually you’ve achieved more than you think. Anyway post up on Friday.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Story time at the end of a working week – what’s not to like about that? Hope you enjoy my An Undesirable Property, now up on #FridayFlashFiction.
Screenshot 2021-09-24 at 19-17-23 An Undesirable Property by Allison SymesI’ll be looking at Anniversaries in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (link up tomorrow) (See further up for link) and naturally I include some writing ones. Two that had to go in were when From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic came out.

Wonderful moments and not something I anticipated when I started submitting work for publication. (My eyes had been and still are on the short story market – flash fiction was not something I had heard of but I’ve made up for that in the intervening years, I think!).

It was a delight to have such a wonderfully interactive flash fiction writing group session last night (on Zoom naturally) with fellow members of the Association of Christian Writers. We talked prompts and picture ones in particular. It may seem odd to use pictures to help you produce something that is text-based but they can make for useful ways “into” writing a story. And I like to mix up how I approach writing a story because that encourages me to think differently and to develop lateral thinking.

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I like titles to encourage readers to ask questions. For example, my Time for Some Peace in Tripping the Flash Fantastic -well the questions there would be “who wants the peace?” and “do they get the peace they crave?”. As long as the title provokes interest and curiosity in the reader, it is doing its job.

I’ve mentioned before I have to have a title to start with but my end story doesn’t always retain the title I came up with initially. Often a better idea for a title will crop up while I’m drafting or editing and fine, I’ll go with that instead. Place holders are absolutely fine (and I find them invaluable). Only the Ten Commandments were set in stone after all!

It’s a question of working out, I think, what you need in the way of “scaffolding” to help you get on and write that story. I need a title and to know who my character is and why I want to write them up. I don’t need to know everything but just enough to get me started. Then once started on my draft the creativity can really kick in. And it does.

Fairytales with Bite – Where Magic Is Possible, What Isn’t?

Good question, yes? It is worth thinking about because if your characters can use magic to solve any and every problem they face, where is the drama in that? Where is the conflict with other characters (or even where is the inner conflict they would face in trying to work out how to deal with a problem?).

So it pays to have limits then. Does magic physically and/or mentally tired a character so they have to limit their use of it? What would happen if a magical character became ill? Would they still be able to do what they usually would with their magic? Or does it backfire?

If your created world is a magical one, is there any room for what we would see as science? How would your world react to logical solutions to issues rather than just using the old magic wand to deal with problems? Would magic automatically exclude science or could the two co-exist? Could science mean that characters would use magic to deal with those issues science could not?

And I think there would have to be some situations magic could not change. For example, your characters would not want to live in a world where the geography and/or some other physical aspect to nature could be changed by magic. It would lead to an unstable environment to say the least. Talking of the laws of nature…

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This World and Others – Laws of Nature

What laws of nature apply to your created world? Is your world subject to gravity, say? How do the species survive in terms of food, reproduction etc?

Could anything disrupt or destroy the usual laws of nature or rewrite them even? Who would have that capacity and what reasons would they have for doing it? (There are easier ways to get power, say, than trying to rewrite how your world works as a physical entity!).

Is the natural world in your fiction anything like what we have here? What is better? What is worse?

A lot of the information you jot down as you answer questions like that may well not make it into the story but it is important you know enough about your world to be able to write about it convincingly. So figure out what you think you need to know to make this work. (It will pay off. This kind of planning out can save a lot of rewriting later on).

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I sometimes tweet on the Association of Christian Writers Twitter feed, usually on topics helpful to writers. I was on duty this week and I am glad to share those tweets here.

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A Day in the Life of an Author and Being an Indie Author Part 2 with Maressa Mortimer

Image Credit:-

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

Author images and book covers kindly provided by Maressa Mortimer for the CFT interview.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. It’s been a busy but interesting one on Zoom for me this time.

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s a pleasure to welcome back to Chandler’s Ford Today #MaressaMortimer, who balances a busy writing life with an even busier homeschooling life for her family. So you know I’ve said before it is important to make time to write even if that time is only ten minutes or so but you can still achieve a great deal as long as you’re consistent, well Maressa is living proof that is true! Those pockets of time do mount up. Perseverance does count – and makes a great deal of difference.

I know Maressa via the Association of Christian Writers (indeed it was my privilege to enrol her given I’m the Membership Secretary). We both took part in the Share Your Story Writing summit earlier this year and, in November, we will meet up in person again at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival.

Meanwhile, Maressa chats with me about how she feels her writing has developed and shares what she would like to try writing wise in the future amongst other topics.

Mind you, we do disagree about what constitutes flash fiction. It definitely isn’t 3000 words, Maressa, though I appreciate that is on the short side for a novelist!

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Looking forward to sharing the link for Part 2 of my interview with #MaressaMortimer on Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up tomorrow. See above. This week Maressa shares with me her views on marketing, Facebook Live, book tours, and outlining amongst other topics. Plenty of useful insights here.

And that is the great thing with author interviews. There is always something useful to pick up from them. Even if you can’t use a nugget of information now, it may well prove to be useful to you later on. I’ve lost count of how many times that has happened to me. When the need for the information arises, your subconscious will remind you “hang on, I found out something about that” and you will go and look it up. I always check out author interviews regularly, even when I don’t host them, as they are entertaining and precisely to pick up those nuggets of information I know I may well find handy at some point.

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Day in the life of a writer Part 108. Email in from The Bridport Prize. No joy with my story this time but I will at some point have another look at it, polish it up further if I can, and re-submit it somewhere else.

Email in from CafeLit telling me my story with them will be on the website next week! More details and a link on that nearer the time.

When I was first starting writing seriously, any rejection etc would hit me hard. Now it doesn’t so much. Yes, obviously, I’d like every piece of mine accepted but I am realistic enough to know that rarely happens to anyone. Also it is an opportunity to look at the story again, correct any flaws, and get it out somewhere else. I’ve gone on to have work accepted somewhere else, having done that. So I like to see rejections as a “not here but could go somewhere else” kind of thing. It is a more positive approach to take – and it can kind of work like a self-fulfilling prophecy too.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have had a good week. Am thrilled that my Making Amends is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. I continue the (mis)adventures of my hapless magical being, Sarah. Can she make things up to her neighbour, Tina, after unwittingly letting loose a box of frogs in the latter’s house last time? Or will Sarah unleash something worse?
Screenshot 2021-09-17 at 19-12-46 Making Amends, by Allison SymesAs well as having a story accepted yesterday, I had another turned down. That is the way of things! So at some point I will dig out that story again and see if I can improve it and somewhere else. I’ve had work accepted elsewhere doing exactly that.

Sometimes I’ve edited the rejected piece further, sometimes I can’t honestly see what else to edit but pick a market where I think it is in with a reasonable chance. And you do get better with time and plenty of practice in submitting work in working out which markets are most likely to suit you and your writing style.

The important thing is not to give up (though changing direction is fine. I did that with flash fiction and look where that has led!).

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Delighted to say I’ll have a story on CafeLit next week. Will be one of my longer flashes too. Well, I say longer. It’ll come in at just under the 600 words mark. Be fair, that is a long story by my standards compared with many I write!

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting next week. Great exchange of ideas and information and groups like this push (in a nice way) everyone along with their writing. Sometimes you need that kind of push. A good group will encourage and help you develop your writing and get you to try writing techniques you might not have thought of before, as well as helping you to polish up those with which you are familiar.

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Fairytales with Bite – Cause and Consequence

Fairytales are full of examples of cause and consequence. (It is one of the things I love most about them). Annoy a wizened old man or lady and you can bet you are going to be turned into something unpleasant until, usually, true love redeems you. You do just know there is going to be some sort of comeuppance for those less pleasant characters.

Maybe that is why fairytales so often appeal to much older readers than kids. We know life isn’t like that (and kids sense this too, I know I did) so we get some comfort from reading about justice being done in the stories we read.

And if we write stories as well, we can have a lot of fun ensuring causes do have consequences. The bad guys don’t get away with it etc.

But the consequence has to be in proportion to the cause. In the fairytales, there is always a chance of redemption (usually by the caring actions of another character, usually unseen at the start of the story). And that I think is the aspect I like best. I like the possibility of redemption even if a character in need of it turns it down or doesn’t realise they have this chance. You have to be open to the possibility and not every character will be.

So what consequences will your characters face in relation to their causes? Is their cause just in any way? How do they handle the consequences which result? The answer to that will also reveal a great deal of their personality too.

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This World and Others – The Basics

The basics of world building for me must mean looking at what characters need to be able to survive. How do they breathe? How is food grown? What do they drink?

Then it is a question of looking at how the societies here organise themselves. Who governs whom? Do your societies live in peace with each other and/or within themselves? Thinking about what we need here can help you visualise what your fictional world needs to make it seem real to a reader.

While it is true you will need more description to help a reader, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need pages and pages of it. What are the telling details people need to know? Characters chatting about the latest atrocities carried out by Lord XXX of YYY will show a reader your creations are living under a tyranny without you needing to spell out each and every detail of that tyranny.

The golden rule here is to include only that which is directly relevant to your story and will move it on in some way. Characters can reveal information but ensure they don’t talk about things that, logically, they should already know. That will come across as the info-dump that is it is and switch a reader off. Getting characters to talk about latest developments will show a reader what is going on and you would expect characters to talk about that kind of thing and how it is likely to affect them.

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Twitter Corner

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Being an Indie Author and Editorial News

Image Credit-:

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images of me reading at Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights were kindly taken by Penny Blackburn and Geoff Parkes.

Author picture, where the author writes images, and book cover images kindly supplied by Maressa Mortimer for my interview with her for Chandler’s Ford Today.

Images connected to Creativity Matters:  Find Your Passion for Writing were kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones. Images connected to the Share Your Story Writing Summit held earlier this year were supplied by the summit’s organisers.

Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good week. It’s been an interesting one here – more below – but the picture below indicates what it is connected with.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to welcome #MaressaMortimer to Chandler’s Ford Today for Part 1 of a two-part interview where she discusses life as an indie author. This week she also shares the wonderful story of how she came to publish a book by accident. She also talks about her love of stories and what led her into self publishing. Great insights here and some useful tips too.

Maressa has guested on other CFT posts but this is the first time she has had a post “to herself”! I am already looking forward to sharing Part 2 next week.

What I love about author interviews like this is that every writer’s journey is different and there is something useful to learn from all of them.

Introducing Maressa Mortimer – Being an Indie Author – Part 1

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady is currently resting on the sofa having had a good run around with a flat coated retriever on this evening’s “walk”. Great time had by both dogs though I think the retriever was a bit surprised at how fast Lady is – she has been known to outrun a whippet in her time. Is the only member of my household who can do that. For a start I don’t run. Secondly, even if I did, it would be slow. (I would expect to be overtaken by a tortoise with the wind behind it, put it that way).

Just going to flag up my debut flash collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, is currently on offer on Amazon (the paperback is on offer at under £4.00 – what a bargain). The link takes you to my Author Central page (and yes, Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing is now on there too).

Looking forward to the next Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting later in the month.

And I’m chatting to the lovely #MaressaMortimer in the first part of a two-part interview for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above.

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EDITORIAL NEWS

Am thrilled to announce I am now on the editorial team for Mom’s Favorite Reads. I am joining as their flash fiction and short story editor and look forward to further developments in this area for the magazine. And don’t forget you can read the magazine for free – see the link.

For this month’s issue, I am talking about using frames in flash fiction. I don’t use them all the time but I’ve used a diary format as a frame, for example. Also, in my What The Neighbours Think from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my opening line is a question. That question is then answered in the last two lines.

My favourite way of getting into a story is with an intriguing opening line but I sometimes know how the story has to end before I write it up thanks to that opening line. I like to think of that as having the top and bottom of my story picture there ready and I just have to fill in the middle.

If you like a good structure in place before you write, a frame is a useful technique to have. Bear in mind, you can also use time as a frame if you give your characters a certain amount of time only in which to resolve their problem. You have a frame right there – a kind of countdown.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to say my story Almost Right is up on #FridayFlashFiction. What will Lizzie do when she realises something is not right about the lipstick on her bedside cabinet? Find out here!

Screenshot 2021-09-10 at 19-06-14 Almost Right, by Allison Symes

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/almost-right-by-allison-symes

I’ve mentioned before one of the joys of flash fiction is it is a delight to read out at an Open Prose Mic Night. It’s not long enough to send your audience to sleep (!) and it is a great way to demonstrate the form and what it can do. (It also helps you get better at reading to an audience).

I find the 100-word stories work perfectly for this. Usually at these things you have a short time span in which to read, mainly to ensure everyone who wants to take part does get to do so, but that works well for this. In a few minutes I can read three stories out so I can decide whether I want contrasting story moods or stories that work to a theme etc.

Incidentally, it does pay to record yourself reading your work out loud as a practice run. I did this via Zoom for when I was preparing my talks earlier this year. Zoom converts your recording into a mp4 file for you when you end a recorded meeting (with yourself!). I discovered for my talks that I was speaking too fast and, of course, you are more likely to trip yourself up over words doing that. You have to learn to slow yourself down a bit.

So for reading flash out loud, I deliberately only choose three stories, which I know I can read in the time limit and not rush them out to the audience either. (And audiences never mind if you still come in at under the time. What they generally don’t want is people going over the allotted time span. It is also not popular with your fellow readers).

Many thanks to #Penny Blackburn and #Geoff Parkes for taking the images of me below reading at different Swanwick Open Prose Mic Nights.

81c3b525454b4749288740f600b1f96a.0The Open Mic for Prose night

I mentioned this over on my author page but I’m delighted to say I am now the flash fiction and short story editor for Mom’s Favorite Reads. As you know, I am always keen to highlight the wonderful form that flash fiction is and how any and every writer can benefit from it so this is a logical step for me.

Later in the year I will be at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival and will be running a workshop on flash, as well as giving a separate author talk. More details to come nearer the time. But am very excited about these developments as you can imagine.

Am going through the draft of what I hope will become my third flash fiction collection in due course. It needs a lot of editing but that’s fine. I like the process of that, “knocking” the book into shape, and ensuring each story not only works but is in the right place in the book, which in turn helps with reading “flow” and a better experience for a reader. It was that process which helped me come up with the title for my debut book as I realised my stories in that were taking me “from light to dark and back again”!

Fairytales with Bite – Crime and Punishment in the Magical World

How does the law work in your magical world? Is crime recognised as such and is it the same kind as we have here? When you think about it, Snow White is really a story about attempted murder, yet it will always be classed as “just a fairytale”. (That does make me grimace. There is so much depth to most fairytales and that shouldn’t be underrated).

What would happen if someone uses magic they’re not supposed to be able to access?

What kind of punishments are carried out? Often people are humiliated for their pride and arrogance by being transformed into something hideous until love redeems them (for example Beauty and the Beast). But in your setting, who defines what the crimes are and what the punishments should be? I can imagine a major punishment for infringement of magical law (well, you don’t want everyone doing it) but is there anything in your world we would not consider worthy of punishment but they do?

Is there an appeals procedure? Are there trials as we would know them? Or is guilt assumed?

No world can survive for long if crime is left unchecked. It would lead to chaos. So this applies to your magical world too. How do they rein in potential chaos especially if there are a number of magical species with different capacities for magic?

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This World and Others – Geography

Does your fictional world’s geography have any bearing on your story or is it just used as a backdrop? What do your readers need to know to be able to visualise it? What kind of problems can the physical landscape cause your characters as they set off on their adventures?

What kind of natural or other disaster can afflict your creation and what can your characters do to prevent or minimise the impact?

What would your world find odd about ours and also think about this the other way round? Think about what you need to have in your setting. Your characters will need food and drink of some kind so how is that produced? Is the land conducive to agriculture or does everything have to be imported in? What happens if that goes wrong?

Also, think about whether you would like to live in your setting or not and the reasons why. What is it about your setting that readers will identify with the most and how can your characters make the best of it?

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Twitter Corner

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Creative Matters: A New Direction and Mom’s Favorite Reads

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Images for Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones (as was her own author pic). Some images for Creativity Matters created in Book Brush by Wendy H Jones and Allison Symes. Image of yours truly proudly holding up one of her copies of Creativity Matters taken by Adrian Symes.

Other images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos as usual. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

A busy week with Creativity Matters now being out and my latest article is also out in Mom’s Favorite Reads. 

Moms Favorite Reads - September 2021

Creativity Matters

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to welcome back #WendyHJones to Chandler’s Ford Today to talk about Creative Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing.

Wendy shares with me what made her decide to go into publishing other authors and how she has found this aspect of her own writing journey. She also shares fabulous tips for writers on working with editors and publishers, as well as marketing tips.

All great information regardless of what stage you’re at in your own writing journey. I’ve found from experience that what might not be directly relevant to me now becomes so later on and I have been so grateful to have that information to fall back on when I needed it.

We also discuss the technical side of bringing books out and Wendy shares what skills she has had to learn to take on something that is brand new for her. She has written from the cradle to the grave, in terms of audience, but publishing others is a first. There are always learning curves but these are what keep us on our toes as writers and help us develop and achieve more than we might once have thought possible.

Wonderful information here and a big thanks to Wendy for sharing this.

Creativity Matters – Wendy H. Jones – A New Direction

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Pleased to say the September 2021 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out. My topic this time is Frames in Fiction and I look at how I use a frame format for some of my flash fiction writing. See my article for more on why this is a useful thing to do and do check out the excellent stories that follow which are on the topic of framed. Loved reading those. Hopefully you will too! My story on the theme is part of my article.

What with Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing, it has been a busy week for celebrating and talking about flash fiction!


A huge thanks for all of the wonderful responses to my post about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing yesterday. It is always a joy to share author pics, proudly holding book etc! Especially since in the early years, I received outright rejections or simply didn’t hear back from publishers. (The latter is even more common now given time constraints for most publishers and agents).

Persistence and willingness to learn from mistakes are crucial attributes for any writer. You do get better the more you write. You learn what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.

I recently judged a flash fiction competition for The Byre Writers. Great fun to do and many congratulations to the worthy winner, #SuzanneMilne with her Why Can’t You Hear Me? I often talk about impact in stories, especially flash fiction. You are looking for the “wow” factor. This one had that in spades.

When I enter competitions I try to come up with unforgettable characters who will move me. If they move me, make me laugh, cry, scream, or what have you, they’ll do that for someone else, including hopefully the competition judge!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Confession time: forgot to submit anything to Friday Flash Fiction this week but I was pleased to see more stories by more people I know on there. (Particular shout out to #HannahRuthRetallick, #VeronicaBright, and #ElaineLangford here).

Browsing the stories on here every week is a great joy and is a fabulous way to discover the wonderful world of flash fiction. Submission rules are easy to follow too so why not give it a go? (And yes I plan to get another story on there again soon).

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Just a quick reminder that I’ll be talking with #WendyHJones about Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing tomorrow in Chandler’s Ford Today. Link further up. My chapter is on Why Write Flash Fiction and Short Stories and it was a joy to write. I’m always up for celebrating flash fiction and spreading the word about what a wonderful format it is… not that I’m biased… much!

I am also in the September issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads and discuss using frames in flash fiction writing. See link for more. And don’t forget Friday Flash Fiction if you are looking for somewhere to send your 100-word stories. The feedback I have had here has been incredible and so encouraging. This is nice because this doesn’t always happen online. Happy to share the link for MFR twice – it is a fab magazine with a wide range of articles and stories. It is a joy and pleasure to write for it.

 

One of the things with flash fiction is working out exactly where to end the story. I know, I know, that’s true for any story, I hear you cry. True but given you have less room in flash, it is even more important to get it right.

This is one reason why I will often “start” with a closing line (which is often a twist or a punchline) and then work backwards to get to a logical start. Let’s call it writing from B to A rather than A to B. (Mixing up how you approach is a story is good fun and keeps you on your toes. It also encourages you to think in different ways which encourages lateral thinking and greater creativity as a result).

I aim to leave a story where the tale is concluded but the reader senses the characters could go on to “live” in other stories not told by me at this time. That’s a good sign of characters coming to life for the reader and helps maximise character impact. I know when I read works by other writers, one of the things I love most is, having got to the end, I can still envisage those characters living lives outside of the novel or short story concerned.

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical History Lessons

In your fantasy setting, what role does history play? How much of your created world’s history is known by your characters? And do mistakes from the past come back to haunt your characters now?

When it comes to education, whose version of history is the “accepted” version taught in schools etc? Is there an alternative history that is suppressed because it is a threat to those in power?

When it comes to fairytale history, do stories such as Cinderella and Snow White form the basis of what is taught as in a magical setting, those could be “real life” tales and be treated as such? Are there fairytales that are considered unacceptable and so are not taught? Why are these “banned”? What would happen if word about them got out? Would it make your people re-examine what they’d always taken to be the truth?

Whatever your setting is, whoever your characters are, there has to be something “behind” them in terms of history. Characters have a past. The setting also does (and you could examine what changes have happened over time here too. Are they better? Is the environment damaged by the changes? Has it affected people’s magical abilities in the same way pollution here on Earth would and does choke our planet? All interesting story ideas to explore).

What matters is getting across to a reader what they need to know but to do it in an interesting way. You almost slip the information in so readers pick it up, almost without noticing. What you don’t want is “info dump” and characters should never tell each other what they ought to know. Readers will see right through that, correctly too, as a way for an author to get information across without “telling” you but it doesn’t really work. Dialogue has to be what you would reasonably expect characters to say and I know I don’t tell people I know what I know they already know! So our characters mustn’t either.

What you could do is get a character to ask another what they opinion is on a historical event in their world which is having impact on their world today. We say history goes around in cycles. There’s nothing to stop that being true in your fictional creations.

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This World and Others – Compare and Contrast

A good way to get started with creating a new setting is to compare what you think you want to write about with what we know exists here. For example:-

Planet Earth has 71% of its surface covered in water. That in turn means we have all sorts of creatures living in water or around it or who are dependent on food from it. So what if your fictional world didn’t have water? What would it have it instead? What creatures would live in that substance? Equally if there is a reason for your world not to have water, as we know it, what is that reason? Is it because your world is a gas giant say and what your characters depend on is being able to breathe using that gas?

Politically, you can take what we know here about democracies and dictatorships and apply them directly to your creation or come up with direct opposites. Equally you can have your world have something that is far superior or inferior to what we have here, depending on your preferences.

For characters, you can take what we know about human behaviour and apply that directly to your alien being. Or your alien being has a totally different nature to ours – e.g. it is not motivated by a desire to survive, it is motivated by a desire to befriend other species so all survive.

But comparing and contrasting is a great place to start. It can help you find a way in to your world and character building.

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Swanwick 2021

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.

Many thanks to Fiona Park for the picture of me signing Tripping the Flash Fantastic at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – August 2021. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

It has been a busy week with Creativity Matters: Finding Your Passion for Writing coming out on pre-order in paperback and ebook. (Out on 1st September 2021 so not long to wait). Book cover image from Wendy H. Jones.

It has been a joy to look back at Swanwick though and I hope my CFT post shares something of why it is special for writers.

Feature Image - Swanwick Writers Summer School - August 2021

Facebook – General

27th August
It’s that time of the week again – time to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week, I look back at Swanwick 2021. All of my CFT posts are a joy to write but some stand out as being really special and this one does as it brought back many happy memories of a wonderful week at Swanwick this year, and from previous ones I’d attended.

I look at a little of what the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School has to offer writers (and it can only be a little as otherwise the post would be far too long!). Can’t wait for the booking slot to be open again for Swanwick 2022!

And it was fabulous meeting up with another Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit/Chapeltown Books author for a good chat. #LindaWPayne, I hope to get to see you again at the next Bridge House event!

Swanwick 2021

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Hope you have had a good day. Just sent off some blurb and an author headshot for an event I will be taking part in later on in the year. Loved the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction Group meeting last night. Great fun – I have a story to work on as a result which is good. Nice talk about markets as well, always useful that.

Meetings like this are wonderful places to exchange information. You never know when something someone says then suddenly is of direct relevance to you. That’s happened to me a lot.

I was told about Chandler’s Ford Today – and now write for it.

I was told CafeLit were issuing a 100-word challenge (and look what has led to – two published flash fiction collections).

I was told about Mom’s Favorite Reads – and now write for it. So if you ever wondered if there was any point to networking with other authors, there’s your answer – yes, there is!

And it is great fun. The support and encouragement along the way is appreciated too – it especially helps with things are not going so well. We all get writing ebbs and flows.


Nice to see some sunshine today and Lady was besides herself with glee. She got to play with her best friend, the Rhodesian Ridgeback today, and her other best pal, a Hungarian Vizler. All three dogs went home tired and very happy.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I look back at my week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. What has going to that done for me? Well… (takes big intake of breath)…:-

1. Made lots of writing friends.
2. Had so much encouragement.
3. Learned so much from the courses and workshops.
4. Taken part in things I had not done prior to Swanwick, most notably the Open Prose Mic Night. Great fun.
5. Sold my books.
6. Bought even more books! It is one of my great joys to walk past my book shelf and see books by friends, signed by them naturally, on there.
7. Have a week just focused on writing and nothing else. Bliss!
8. Come out of my shell just a bit! Chatting with other authors helps you share what you do and they share with you about their work. You learn to speak about what you do much more naturally. I was a bundle of nerves when I first started doing this kind of thing.

Can’t wait for Swanwick 2022!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest drabble (aka 100-worder) on #FridayFlashFiction is called The Turn Around and I look at how my characters David and Mary spend their tenth wedding anniversary. Does it turn out as either expect? Hope you enjoy reading the story to find out (and a huge thanks for the great comments in on this already. The feedback from this website is encouraging and useful.).


Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 17-10-59 The Turn Around by Allison Symes

 

Repetition can work in flash fiction, funnily enough. You might think it would be the first thing to avoid given the limited word count flash has. But it has been useful, not all the time, but for when I want to produce particular effects.

I’ve sometimes used repetition in titles (Enough is Enough is one example from Tripping The Flash Fantastic).

But what works better, especially if I am writing a “circle” story is have the last line mirror the first line but with a slight tweak to the words so they’re not exactly the same but 90% of the words, say, do match.

Another thing I’ve sometimes done is to start a couple of sentences with the same starting phrase. In my Good to Go, I have two consecutive paragraphs start with “He looked at”.

My The Wish List has all but one line start with the words “I wish”. You can get a rhythm in the prose using this kind of repetition. It can be so effective for emphasis.

It’s not the kind of thing I want to do all the time (I don’t want it to look gimmicky) but repetition, every now and again, can be distinctive and help create the impact you want your story to have on the reader.

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I’m going to be talking about the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week (link up on Friday). What has been so encouraging has been to see the development of flash fiction as a format over the many years I’ve been going to writing events. When I first started doing this, flash was not “on the radar” so to speak.

Now it is a recognizable form, with all sorts of competitions and markets catering for it. And the bigger established competitions such as The Bridport Prize have added it to their categories. I am sure the switch to more people reading on screens has helped fuel the growth in flash fiction as it is so easy to read on screen.

I would like to say onwards and upwards for flash fiction but it really should be onwards and watch the word count limit!

 

Fairytales with Bite – Writing from an Alternative Character’s Viewpoint

Writing from an alternative character’s viewpoint is great fun and it was how I found my way into print back in 2009. My story, A Helping Hand, was published in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing).

The idea was to take an alternative character from a fairytale and write their story up. I chose the youngest stepsister to Cinderella to write about. Great fun to do. I could make that character narky about Cinder’s success and so on. (And if you would like to check the book out you can do so here.

This kind of thing is a great writing exercise. It makes you think about the “bit part” players and explore their personalities. What stories do they have if they were allowed to take the starring role for once? Is there resentment against the well known one’s success or do they hope that some of that “luck” will rub off on them? Do they do anything to try to earn that “luck”?

Do they have success that surpasses the well known character’s new life? Are they reliant on magical help or do they make their own success? Could the well known character end up envying them? All great ideas to explore.

Screenshot 2021-08-27 at 20-13-07 Allison Symes

This World and Others – Where Magic Is Normal, What Isn’t?

It’s a fair question I think. So your created world has magic as a normal thing. What else is normal that wouldn’t be considered normal here? Is there a price to be paid for magical usage (such as it draining the user so they have to be careful how they use it and ensure they don’t waste their own energy)?

What would your magical creations consider unusual about life here on Earth? They would see the absence of magic as abnormal but what would they make of science, for example? What would they make of technology and medical developments? Would they see them as almost magical?

I’ve mentioned before it is important to set parameters for magic. If everyone can use it, where is the story? Where is the conflict? But have certain species only able to do this kind of magic, others able to do everything, and you can set the scene for clashes (and interesting stories). If your magical world wants to spread its magic to other places, how will it deal with another setting which is resolutely opposed to it but can fight back using non-magical weapons?

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Writing Humour, Reviews, and Discretion

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. A huge thank you to Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh for taking part in a fabulous two part Chandler’s Ford Today interview about Writing Humour. Book covers and author pics supplied by Fran and Ruth for the interview. Ruth also supplied images from her garden. Isabella would be at home there!

I love the mix in my title this week! It has been a busy week on the blogging front…

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share Part 2 of Writing Humour, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. Here #FranHill and #RuthLeigh discuss the joys and challenges of writing funny material. Fran writes memoir. Ruth is a novelist who has used a diary format for her book. So different styles of book then but the problems and joys of writing humour are the same for both writers.

This week the ladies share with me whether or not they outline, given funny material has to arise naturally from the characters they portray. They also share their favourite one-liners and discuss marketing funny books. They also look at how their writing has developed and I ask the “killer” question. Given we all have to edit our work many times before sending it anywhere, is there a risk the humour wears thin for them on repeated reading of their own material? Check out the post to see how they respond to that.

And many thanks to Fran and Ruth for a wonderful two-part and very in-depth interview which sheds a spotlight on a form of writing which is difficult to get right. Tastes in humour vary for a start but when a funny book is “done” well, the impact of it can be tremendous. Think what a poorer literary world it would be without Austen, Wodehouse, and Pratchett.

After the last year or so with the pandemic, I think the world needs more funny books and material. Not that I’m dropping a hint to Fran and Ruth or anything…!

Part 2 – The Joys and Perils of Writing Humour – Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh

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Hope you have had a good Thursday. This time last week was my last full day at Swanwick 2021. Has this week at home been strange getting back into the usual routine? Yes, but you need time back at home to process all you have taken in and work out what you are going to do with all those lovely ideas you came up with while in the wonderful company of inspiring writers. Inspiration breeds inspiration.

I’ll be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour where I chat to #FranHill and #RuthLeigh about the trials and joys of writing what is a difficult form to get right. See link above. Humour is subjective after all. Link up for that tomorrow. (And I am looking forward to reviewing my week at Swanwick for Chandler’s Ford Today on the following Friday. Lovely pics to follow with that one too).

Still can’t get over the weather. It is bizarre for August. Very murky and autumnal almost out there. (Lady doesn’t care. She’s happy to have me home again!).


It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this month I am talking about reviews. Do you love them or loathe them? How easy or otherwise do you find getting reviews for your books and stories? Do you have a review policy for other writers and their works? I discuss all of these in the blog but can’t stress enough how useful a review, no matter how brief, can be for a writer. Other than buying our books of course, reviewing them is probably the next best way a reader can support their favourite authors.


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest flash piece on #FridayFlashFiction is called Discretion. I return to my hapless Sarah, the magical being on Earth who has been sent on a mission to get humans to believe in magic again without performing any to prove its existence that way. How does she fare this time when told to produce something in front of a human yet still not use obvious magic? Hope you enjoy finding out!

Screenshot 2021-08-20 at 19-19-31 Discretion by Allison Symes

I’ve had the pleasure of judging some flash competitions (and hope to do more in the future) and what I can say from that perspective is the title definitely matters! It is the first hook to lure your readers in to discover what your story is all about. And most flash competitions don’t include the title as part of the overall word count allowed so make the most of that. (Some do include it so always double check the rules but the majority I’ve come across do not).

You can use the title to set the mood and genre of the story without then having to spell that out in the tale itself. Open titles, that is anything which could be taken in more than one direction, are my favourites as those entice the reader in to find out which direction you have taken with it. (I love these as a reader. I enjoy it when I guess right but am more impressed when the author betters me here!).

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I discussed alliteration yesterday (see below) but I do like to mix up how I approach finding titles for my stories, as well as for the way in which I write the tales up. I often use proverbs and well known sayings for titles but I sometimes change one word to bring a unique twist I can make good use of for my story.

When I have brainstorming sessions, I often jot down ideas for titles only. Later I will come back to these and work out story possibilities from there. (This is where spider diagrams or flowcharts are useful as I can easily see where the different ideas are taking me. I always go for the one that makes the most impact on me as that will be the idea I will write up with the most conviction. It’s coming from the heart because it has had that impact on me. Also if it appeals to me, it is likely to appeal to others).

I keep titles short. (Generally one to three words. The most I go to is about seven. I want my titles to be easy to remember and when I do go for longer ones it is because I am using a proverb I need to quote in full – e.g. Time Waits For No Man – or where the title wouldn’t make sense without the “extra words – e.g. Time Is For Others to Worry About).

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Fairytales with Bite – Messages in Storytelling

One aspect to fairytales I especially love is that the classic stories get across timeless messages without preaching. For example, the classic message from The Ugly Duckling is to not judge by appearances. (That is also the message from Beauty and the Beast).

Another popular one through so many tales is that good will overcome evil, even if it does take its time doing so. Think The Snow Queen, Snow White, Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel amongst many, may others.

You learn to look out for character types in fairytales too. I can’t remember what age I was but I did know early on that if a wizened character turns up, look out for them. They’re likely to be someone important in disguise. I don’t know how many stories I had to read and re-read to get that message but I did get it!

Likewise, you develop a kind of sixth sense as to which characters really are up to no good despite their fine words.

Best of all, the fairytales show us the messages and leave us to come to our own conclusions. And that is what we need to do for our tales. We need to think about our message, the characters who could deliver it, and then let the characters and the story unfold as the readers go on. Timeless messages are the ones that work best. When will there ever be a time when we don’t want to see evil overcome?

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This World and Others – Would You Live in your Created World?

Well, would you live in your fictional world? If not, why not? Think about the aspects of it you dislike. Why are they in your story? Are you reflecting your dislikes of things we know about here in your stories?

It’s absolutely fine doing that but it pays you to be honest with yourself about why you are writing these things the way you are. By understanding this, you will make sure you are getting across what you need to get across.

If, for example, I wrote a story about anti-bullying (I loathe bullying of all kinds), I could write this from the viewpoint of a victim (yes, I was once). I could easily show the horrors of bullying and the impact it can have on people. I could also write from the bully’s viewpoint (though I think I would find this far harder to do and I think I would probably have to go down the “it is part of expected culture” school of thought as it gives the bully a reason to do it. Indeed, if the bully was threatened for not wanting to do it, you could use that to generate some sympathy for them).

So you have to know why you’ve chosen things you dislike because it will help you to write those things up with more conviction. That does come through to a reader. I know I’ve read things where I instinctively feel yes, this author has been here or knows someone who has. It makes the story “live” for me.

An anti-bullying story would reflect my loathing of bullying but I need to have realistic characters and their behaviour to make sense, even if I dislike it. It has to feel real. My loathing of bullying is a good starting point but I need to move on from there to create a story readers would get behind.

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Writing Humour and My Swanwick Report


Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Images from the 2021 Swanwick Writers’ Summer School taken by me, Allison Symes.

Am learning so much at Swanwick and it was lovely catching up with a fellow Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books author, Linda W Payne, too. More below.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Firstly, it was a joy to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Oh how I have missed so many friends there.

Glad to meet up with most of them again (and I hope to catch up with the rest this time next year, God willing). As ever, the courses, workshops, and guest speakers were excellent.

And the quiz team I’m part of, Prosecco Queens aka this year as Prosecco Avenue(!😄😄), finished in medal position for the general knowledge and literary quizzes. (Silver and bronze respectively before you ask…☺). Great fun. Oh and Minnie the Minx turns out to be older than I thought. It is amazing what you can learn from these things!

Secondly, I am delighted to welcome back to Chandler’s Ford Today Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh, who write wonderfully funny books in very different ways. Naturally this two-part interview had to be called Writing Humour.

Fran and Ruth share fabulous insights into the joys and perils of writing humour. Hope you enjoy the post. Can’t wait to share the concluding part next week.

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The Joys and Perils of Writing Humour Part 1 – Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh


Final part of the flash fiction course at Swanwick today (Thursday). Focus was on marketing and it was good to get plugs in for CafeLit and Friday Flash Fiction. Also sold another From Light to Dark and Back Again afterwards, which was unexpected and lovely.

Also enjoyed the Competitions course, which was packed to the brim with tips and useful advice.

And I’m pleased to say my Side Benefits of Writing article is now up on Mom’s Favorite Reads.

 

Had a fab Wednesday here at Swanwick. (This is the nearest I get to being a roving reporter by the way!😄).

Della Galton’s flash fiction course is engrossing and yes I have flash pieces from it. I’ve entered one of them for the flash competition here. And I will submit the other one after I get home. Have a few ideas where it would fit.
Also went to a non-fiction workshop which was packed full of useful info. I do have a long term project on the go here so this hour session was timely.

Also went to Diana Kimpton’s course on creating a series. Could I apply that to flash writing? Well, the course has triggered ideas.

Outside of Swanwick, Part 1 of a fab interview with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh on Writing Humour will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Looking forward to sharing that. (See above).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Was on way home from Swanwick as I drafted this. So good to be using Evernote again. Drafted some flash pieces for me to work on further and got on with editing a bigger project too so pleased with my efforts.

Thrilled to have had my best year at the Swanwick Book Room too. You can never know how these things will go. But I can say I waved the flag for flash fiction, which is something I love to do.

Delighted to come home and discover It’s An Ill Wind is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it.


Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 19-12-37 It's an Ill Wind, by Allison Symes


Final day at Swanwick. The week flies by. Final part to the flash course was very good and looked at editing and marketing. Always useful topics.

Hope to get a piece in for Friday Flash Fiction over the weekend. I sent in a piece before Swanwick so hope to check if it made the cut for this week on my trip home tomorrow.

 

Glad to say all copies of Tripping The Flash Fantastic in the Swanwick Book Room have sold. Thank you, everyone.
Good to come across other flash authors here. I love the differing things you can do within the format. Don’t forget many a writing exercise can be turned into flash stories. Why not give that a go?

Fairytales with Bite – Five Things to Avoid

  1. Trying to be clever with magic you are not qualified in as this has never ended well.
  2. Annoying older folk. Just be aware they may not be all they appear. Many an arrogant idiot has discovered that nanoseconds before being turned into something ugly.
  3. Misreading a spell. It won’t be you in uncomfortable footwear but a heroine with feet cut to ribbons won’t do much for your career advancement.
  4. Annoying wildlife. In a magical world they will be more intelligent than you.
  5. Coveting gold. Not a good idea in any world as it could lead you into legal and other trouble. In a magical world, you could face being blasted away by a dragon. I know. I’ve written on the topic!

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This World and Others – Five Things to Include

  1. A sense of where your created world is in the overall scheme of things.
  2. Who lives in it, how they survive, and how the world is ruled.
  3. The similarities and differences between your created world and what we know here.
  4. How your created world gets on with others in its solar or equivalent system. Or not as the case may be.
  5. Does your world send out explorers or welcome any coming to it?

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Welcome Back, Chameleons

Image Credit:-

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

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

Welcome Back, Chameleons

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – Who Lays Down The Rules?

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

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

All great story ideas there.

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

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

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

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Wildflowers, Seasons in Writing, and Flash Moments

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. (I’m especially fond of the one I created below about the best lines, think the imagery works really well here).

All screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here and am looking forward to talking about flash fiction via Zoom to the Byre Writers on Saturday, 31st July.

The best lines conjure images

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I end the standard working week with a gentle post for Chandler’s Ford Today called Wildflowers. I am lucky to live near a nice recreation ground, where I exercise Lady, which has a stunning wildflower meadow as part of that. This post celebrates this year’s wildflower “blooming” and it is especially nice to do so as it has emerged late this year. Indeed, as you will see from my post, I had thought we weren’t going to have flowers out at all here this year.

Now the funny thing is the natural world does not inspire my writing at all. I know it can do for writers but not for me. What it does do is give me a refreshing break from my desk and it is that break which helps “fire” me up for writing on return to said desk.

Hope you enjoy the post – and the pictures. It is a joy to share pictures like this.

Wildflowers

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Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers

I’m posting early for once as I have the great delight of returning to watch live theatre this evening. My local amateur theatre company are exceptionally good and I am looking forward to tonight’s entertainment so much.

Meanwhile, I discuss Seasons in Writing for my More than Writers blog spot this time. Slower seasons may be just what we need at times to recover from intensive work and/or to develop ideas that need more time to come to fruition. I do know, whatever season of writing I am in, I need the support and encouragement of other writers. They in turn will appreciate that support and encouragement from you.

Hope you enjoy the post.


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Got a bit of a soaking out with Lady and my better half this evening. Changeable weather again but Lady did get to play with her best buddie, the Ridgeback, again today so all is right with their world.

Favourite writing tips of mine include:-

1. Get the story out, edit later.

2. Worry about word count (especially for flash) only when you know you have got the story down and there will not be major changes.

3. Fire up your imagination by reading widely, in and out of your genre, and don’t forget the non-fiction. Ideas for stories can come from there.

4. Get the story out, put it aside, then edit it. You need to come back and read the story as a reader would to see where it works and where it could do with work! Only time away gives you the necessary distance.

5. Draft other stories while you’re resting others. I like to see this as a writing – resting – editing – submitting – writing virtuous circle. The idea being you will always have a story to draft and, when not doing that, you will have another one to edit and get ready for submission somewhere.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It was a joy to watch The Chameleons perform last night for the first time since their pantomime in December 2019. I was talking about flash moments in stories yesterday, including those stories produced for the stage. There were several in last night’s performance and I hope to write about some of those in my review for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

And talking of flash, I’m pleased to share my latest drabble from #FridayFlashFiction. This one is called Oddity and is my take on the Demon Barber of Fleet Street story (aka Sweeney Todd). Hope you enjoy. (And yes always go to a barber you know you can trust!).
Screenshot 2021-07-30 at 18-42-48 Oddity, by Allison Symes

Am off to the theatre this evening for the first time in over a year to see our excellent amateur theatre company, The Chameleon Theatre Group, perform once again. This is why I am posting early. I usually post at around 7.30 to 8 pm UK time. For an evening out, my posts were up by 5 pm! But it was worth it. The performances were great and I’ll talk more about what I went to see in my CFT post next week.

I like stories in whatever form they come in – books, audio, and for something like this getting to watch the stories being brought to life. And yes, flash can pop up here too. How? It will be those one liners here and there that strike a chord with me that perhaps are too easy to overlook. It will be those lines that resonate with me the most. I like to think of those as flash moments.

(And of course different people will get different things from the performances they go to watch so will have different flash moments. But maybe, just maybe I will get ideas for stories of my own from those flash moments. Even when that doesn’t happen, I still get to see an excellent performance and discover plays new to me so win-win!).

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I write mainly in the evenings listening to Classic FM. Does that put me off my stride for writing flash stories, blogs etc? Not a bit of it. I find I relax and when I relax, I write and write and write. You get the picture.

A useful way of working out who your characters are would be to decide what their favourite music would be and why. If your character loves, say, Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens above anything else, does that mean they themselves have a quirky nature given the music is quirky? (See my book trailer for FLTDBA above as I use Danse Macabre as the music here if you don’t know the track. I swear you can hear the quirkiness in it and it is why I chose this piece for this trailer. You might also remember the music from the old TV series, Jonathan Creek). Book trailers below.

Of course, you can use almost anything (and not just music) to work out who your character is but it is down to you to decide what you need to know before you write their stories up. I’ve found a bit of time spent working my characters out has saved me a great deal of time later on and I usually find depths to my characters as I explore their personalities more, which in turn adds depth to my story.

Fairytales with Bite – The (Magical) Arts

What role is there for the arts, as we know them, in your magical world? Is there a place for, say, portrait painting when a quick wave of the old wand could produce a stunning picture without any physical effort at all? Do your magical characters turn to “old-fashioned” ways of producing art as a means to unwind?

Are those who do create works of art, as we would understand the process, looked down on or up to because they use “manual” rather than magical ways to do these things?

Also, what role is there for music? Is music created magically? Or does your created world import music it likes from other places, including from Earth?

Do you have characters who prize the arts and those who despise them? What kind of conflicts could that produce in your stories?

For me, our world would be a much poorer place without the arts. That could apply to a fictional world too. (I don’t like dystopian works much, especially after the last year or so with the Covid pandemic hitting us all so hard, but art would be looked down on in such settings at best I feel and that’s no coincidence. A world without art in some shape or form would always be pretty bleak to me).

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This World and Others – Fiction or Fact in Your World

Following on from my Fairytales with Bite post, what emphasis does your created world put on fiction and fact? Is one more heavily weighted than the other?

If, say, your world despises fiction (and the arts) and focuses on plain facts (the sciences, engineering etc as we would know them), what would happen if their “knowledge” is challenged by the discovery of something new? Or if a long cherished theory was debunked? Or if if was proven the world of the arts had health benefits science could not produce? Would your created world suppress these because of its disapproval of the arts rather than accept they got it wrong and there was place for fact and fiction?

There could be interesting character development here. If say Character A was a scientist open to new ideas, how would they react when Character B, their boss, who was anything but open, suppressed knowledge? Would Character A leak the knowledge somehow? What would the consequences be if they did?

If Character A was open to the arts but their boss wasn’t, again what would the consequences be if Character A was caught going to an exhibition or a concert?

Interesting story ideas to explore here I think.

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Crossing Fiction and Non-Fiction

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.

Many thanks to Wendy H Jones and Gill James/Bridge House Publishing for book cover images as part of my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Images of me signing my contract re my contribution to a non-fiction book were taken by Adrian Symes. It is SO helpful having a significant other who can take photos like that for me! Not that easy to do it yourself.

Has been a hot week here in Hampshire. Have appreciated my swims this week. For once, the water felt refreshing rather than perishing cold!

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Local Author News – Allison Symes – Crossing Fiction and Non-Fiction as my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I take the chance to give an update on what has happened/is about to happen with my fiction and non-fiction writing.

This includes two books and writing for an American online magazine. So there has been lots going on over the last few months! And more Zoom talks have taken place, with another one due at the end of the month. I’ll also have further news to share later on in the year and am looking forward to being able to do that.

Mind you, I am looking forward to going back to the local theatre company next week and being able to review their shows for CFT again. Have so missed seeing The Chameleons in action on the stage, Their productions are wonderfully done.

Local Author News – Allison Symes – Crossing Fiction and Non-Fiction

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Another hot day. Another day of Lady taking it easy and cool.

Will be sharing what’s going on in my writing world this summer with my local author news post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Writing for CFT has taught me so much.

  1. Writing to a deadline.
  2. Writing to a word count. (Up to 1500, as my posts are articles rather than blogs as such, here).
  3. Working out questions for other authors so the interview ends up being an enlightening conversation full of useful tips and advice for other writers.
  4. Coming up with ideas week by week.
  5. Thinking laterally where I need to for both article ideas and suitable Pixabay photos to illustrate my posts.
  6. Discovering what’s going on in my local area with things like The Chameleon Theatre Group and learning to produce reviews with interesting background information on the play being performed, its author(s), and often both.
  7. Working out what would be a good non-fiction story to write up for CFT.
  8. My responding to comments and engaging with readers has come on a lot since writing for CFT!
  9. Thinking about my target audience here and actively engaging with articles designed to entertain them (with the odd local news author post about me for a little publicity for yours truly).
  10. Learning to plan ahead, schedule my posts, and where possible write things in advance so I know I have post all ready at least a week ahead.

So a huge thanks to CFT editor, #JanetWilliams, for having the vision behind the website. The idea was to bring Chandler’s Ford people together and it has but it has gone beyond that. There is a reasonably sized writing community in and around our area so the magazine has been able to engage with that audience too. And I have had the odd gig from it – the Hursley Park Book Fair a couple of years ago where I met #HelenMatthews, whom I recently interviewed, and also getting to take part in other local book fairs. Will be so nice to have those back again but watch this space as they say.


Another sweltering day here in Hampshire but Lady and I are managing to keep our cool.

Just to say the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. To find out more head here – http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

Looking forward to seeing The Chameleon Theatre Group back on stage for the first time in well over 15 months in just over a week’s time. Review to come in due course for Chandler’s Ford Today but I do like reviewing their shows. Over a year, there is a varied programme and every show makes for a wonderful evening’s entertainment. Good to see some normality back.

Chapeltown Books - consistency matters

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I was chatting on here yesterday (see below) about titles being the first hook for the reader. The important thing is to make sure your fabulous title isn’t the only one. The story has to live up to the promise of its title for a start (otherwise you won’t get repeat readers).

So what you are also after then are an intriguing character, a cracking opening line ensuring your reader simply has to read on, and a satisfactory ending. The ending must suit the character and type of story. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a happy ending.

See what you make of my ending to my latest story on #Friday Flash Fiction called Missing. Is it happy?


Screenshot 2021-07-23 at 17-16-56 Missing, by Allison Symes

It was great talking to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group last night, all thanks to the wonders of Zoom. I took the topic of titles for this month’s meeting and looked at different ideas for finding inspiration for these.

Titles can do a lot of “heavy lifting” in flash as they can indicate mood and genre without you having to spell things out in the story itself. So it is well worth getting these right. I often find I come up with better title ideas as I write my tale though I need something as a marker or peg to get me started.

And from a writer’s viewpoint, the title is the first hook for your reader. You want to hook them right there.

 

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Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting online tonight. It is always a joy to talk about flash.

Once you get over the idea of the restricted word count, you find there is more flexibility with the form than you might think. Not only can you write across genres, there is the possibility of writing your stories as poetic tales, acrostics, in diary format – all sorts of things as long as you don’t cross 1000 words. All great fun to do too.

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Fairytales with Bite – Animal Transformations

Animal transformations often crop up in fairytales but usually because some arrogant so-and-so has annoyed a powerful wizard, fairy godmother, or witch in disguise and have paid the price for doing so. See Beauty and the Beast for more on that!

But what could your magical beings do if they could change into animals? What would they choose to turn into and why?

Is there a price to pay for being able to transform like this? One idea there would be to have the transformation weaken them in some way so they would think twice about using the skill. You could then force your character into working out when they should use it and what other ways they could use to get them out of a situation where the animal transformation might have been useful but is not worth doing because it costs them dearly.

And is there resentment from those who can’t do animal transformations against those who can? What kind of conflict could that lead to?

I suppose if I could transform I would want to be able to fly so I’d probably look at becoming a bird. (I know I wouldn’t want to become an insect – far too much risk of being eaten!).

 

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This World and Others – What Makes Your World Stand Out?

What makes your fictional world something you want to write up? What would its appeal be to a reader? What would they identify with? What would they find strange (or at least strange compared to life here on Earth which in itself can be strange at times!).

Is it the setting that grabs your attention or the characters? What can you do with the characters in your setting that you could not do if they were based here?

Asking questions is a great way of working out a rough template for your creation and to iron out any issues early on. It pays you to work out what you need to know and, as you write your first draft, jot down things you discover you might need to research later. For example, if your created world does not have water, what could your inhabitants drink instead?

And especially if you’re thinking of a series of books, it would pay to keep a “biography” of your world so you have to hand what you need to know when you draft Book 2, Book 27 etc.

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