Questions in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good few days. I ‘fess up to one of the downsides of scheduling this week! Let’s just say I think most schedulers get caught out this way at some point and this week it was my turn!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Now I’ve talked before about the virtues of scheduling blog posts etc. It is a useful thing to do but one slight downside is it can mean you get ahead of yourself a bit and I’ve realised I’ve just done that for Chandler’s Ford Today.

My post this week is actually called Questions in Fiction where I talk about using questions as a structure, as inspiration for themes and titles, and I look at questions for characters too.

Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 09-54-18 Questions In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

My Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions post will be on CFT next Friday, 27th May and will I hope to prove to be equally useful as I discuss why reading matters so much to writers. I will also look at rhythms in stories and how resolutions have to be suitable, even if not happy ones.

Apologies for the mix up but as ever comments on all of my CFT posts are welcome over on the website. (It has been a long week! That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!).

Questions In Fiction

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Hope you have had a good day. Nice to see some decent weather. Other half and I enjoyed our evening meal al fresco which was lovely and not something we get to do that often.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow covers Reading, Rhythms, and Resolutions in Fiction. Err… no! See above! As ever comments are welcome in the CFT box. This is always true though!

Talking of comments, many thanks for the comments in on my Authors Electric post yesterday. See below. I was talking about Why I Love the Short Fictional Forms. I love novels, novellas, short story anthologies, and flash fiction collections though I must admit I would like the latter two to have as much “status” as novels.

What every short form writer will hear at some point includes the following:-

1. When are you going to write a proper book?

2. Can you only do short stories then?

3. You must be belting out short stories all the time then because they can’t take you long!

4. Are short stories only for children?

5. Is there really a market for short stories?

Answers (possibly given to stop the writer from gnashing their teeth at the questioner):-

1. A short story or flash collection is a proper book. It still takes time to compile, edit, and proof-read.

2. No but I love short stories so that’s what I write.

3. I do write a fair few but each story needs editing and crafting and that takes longer than you might think.

4. No! Best example here is the original story of The Birds by Daphne du Maurier, which Alfred Hitchcock then turned into a film. Definitely not for kids!

5. Yes. It’s a question of knowing where to look. There are the magazines, including the online ones. There are the competitions. And then there is the indie press who are open to collections.

I feel better for getting that off my mind!

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18th May – Authors Electric
It’s always a joy to blog for Authors Electric, especially when it’s on a topic close to my heart. This month I talk about Why I Love The Shorter Fictional Forms. I celebrate the wonders of the short story and flash fiction formats here.

One great aspect to them is you get the “payback” from a twist in the tale story, to name one example. that much more quickly. And I love going on from story to story in a collection too. In one book I can read a variety of moods and genres. Why should mixed assortments only be for chocolates?!

Screenshot 2022-05-18 at 08-51-06 Why I Love the Short Fictional Forms by Allison Symes

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20th May 2002 – Bonus Post – Mom’s Favorite Reads
Pleased to share a bonus post tonight. Here is an example of a column I write on flash fiction for Mom’s Favorite Reads. The magazine is FREE to download and, as well as the column, I set a writing challenge each month. Why not take a look, have a good read, and give the challenge a go?

Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 12-20-06 Flash Fiction

I like to start the working week with a story (YouTube) and I like to end it with one (Friday Flash Fiction). Seems like a good arrangement to me! Hope you enjoy my latest tale on FFF called Another Birthday.
Screenshot 2022-05-20 at 09-54-32 Another Birthday by Allison Symes

Titles can carry a lot of “weight” for flash fiction but I’ve found they work best when kept short. I like to use my titles to either indicate the mood of the story to come or to be open to interpretation so someone has to read the story to find out which direction I have taken it in. I sometimes subvert well known phrases (my Punish the Innocent is an example of that).

I also like using one word titles such as Expecting – the idea there is to raise questions in the reader’s mind. Who is expecting what? Are they going to be disappointed or thrilled?

So I do give some thought as to what I want my title to be/to do. For flash this is useful as in many cases, the title does not count as part of your overall word count so a writer can use that to good effect.

However, a ten word title to indicate mood etc isn’t going to work. As with the story itself, you want to have an impact on the reader and that works best when kept short. A long title will dilute the effect (and be harder for readers to remember).

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I love slipping in humorous one-liners into my flash stories sometimes. For example in my story, Rewards, from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I have the line “The mocking face of blue-eyed brunette, Gemma Alderson, who was endowed with a bosom that could knock someone out if deployed as a weapon”.

It was great fun writing that but I needed it to have a purpose too – I wanted to send out a specific image (and I so do there!). I could’ve just said that Gemma was big-busted and saved a fair number of words in doing that but it wouldn’t have been so much fun to read or to write.

So yes there is a time when you need more words rather than less in flash fiction but there should always be a specific purpose behind it. Here it was to raise a smile! Good enough reason for me!

Fairytales With Bite – Making the Most of Tropes

For my flash fiction, I can make the most of tropes to help me get the most out of my word count.

If I’ve got a fairy godmother character, I needn’t go into details about the magical equipment she uses, say. You will expect there to be a magic wand, probably a spell book, maybe some pre-prepared potions and so on. You will bring to the story what you know from other fairytales you have read. You will know what to expect. What you don’t want is for something to spill over into cliche.

Yet a fairy godmother character who turns up without a magic wand would seem odd to a reader. So you can use the conventions to your advantage here. You can work out what you don’t need to explain and what you can leave to your readers as they fill in the gaps.

And, yes, things like magic wands can act as a kind of a shorthand. Saves a lot of explaining on your part. Pick your “things readers could reasonably expect” carefully.

If you want to bring in a twist on your trope, such as my fairy godmother character hitting someone with her wand rather than aiming it at them, do explain why. Better still, get your characters to do it. There must be a good reason for the trope being used in a strange way.

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This World and Others – World Building Acrostic

W = Work out whether you’re going to show the whole of your world in a story or just part of it.

O = Originality – what makes your world stand out? How is it different from ours?

R = Realistic characters are always vital. Just bear in mind in a strange setting, those characters can still be realistic even if, say, they are e a great big dragon! Their behaviour and attitudes should be reasonable for the world you’re in.

L = Limits are a good idea, funnily enough. Limit what your powerful characters can do and make them think of alternative solutions to problems.

D = Dreams – what do your characters want and what stops them getting it? Are their dreams/ambitions etc constrained by the type of world they’re living in?

 

B = Build in contrasts. Comparisons with things on earth bring home this is a alien type story.

U = Under your world – what lies there? All sorts of things are being discovered in our seas so what could be beneath current knowledge in your world? Could that have a major impact on them later.

I = Imagination. Have plenty of it! Use the right telling details to help us conjure up what you’ve created.

L= Lunches and leisure – how does your creative world affect them? Does everyone have to stop at a certain time? If so, what would happen on the odd occasion they couldn’t turn up?

D = Dig deep into your characters’ lives but also in to why this setting rather than one other.

I = Intensify the conflicts between certain people groups on your home planet.Look at how these developed. Then ideally come across people from both who will try to put things right. great drama there!

N = New scene, new paragraph. Keep things nice and tight. Drip feed information in throughout the story. Don’t go for big blocks of explaining. Those will be what readers skip.

G = Go for it! Have fun. Think about what you need to know to be able to write the world and characters up.

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Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Off to run a workshop in London tomorrow. Submitted a story for a competition I always enter. Finished judging a flash fiction competition and sent results back to the organisers. Has been a reasonably productive week!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week again. I’m pleased to share Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction, my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today.

I discuss how both are invaluable aids to clarity in writing which in turn is going to increase your chances of acceptance by a publisher or getting a placing in a competition.

What you don’t want to do here is give them a reason to turn your work down and writing which is clunky thanks to bulky paragraphs and/or unclear punctuation (which can change the meaning of what you want to say) is a sure fire way to ensure your work is turned down.

My post looks at the Oxford comma, why size matters for paragraphs, and why keeping it simple for punctuation does pay off. I also recommend checking out house styles for publishers (and for competitions the guidelines the organizers are asking you to adhere to) and share my thoughts on why I treat writing and editing as two separate creative tasks.

Albeit editing is creative in a different way to writing that first draft but it is still creative. Honest. I find it immensely satisfying seeing how a work improves over various drafts before I finally send my piece out into the big, bad world.

Hope you find the post useful and, as ever, do add your comments in the box – it is always good to hear from people.

Paragraphs and Punctuation in Fiction

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What got you into reading for pleasure? Well, in my case, it was my late mother who read stories out to me and encouraged me to learn to read at a very early age. You do copy by example.

What got me into writing my own stories? Suddenly waking up to the idea after I hit a significant birthday and a life change (the birth of my son) and realizing if I wanted to be a writer, something that had been in the back of my mind for ages, I should get on and do something about it.

I wrote just to prove to myself I could do it but it was some time later before I went on to try and be published. I suspect lack of confidence was an issue there, but by then the writing bug had got me well and truly hooked and I wasn’t going to let rejections etc stand in the way, which helped against the lack of confidence dilemma!

For me, stories are all about the characters. I have to find out what happens to them. I have to care about the outcome. And that remains an enjoyable challenge for me as I write my stories, as well as giving me immense delight when I read stories by other writers where I am rooting for their “people” all the way through. I use the word “people” loosely there. After all, I was cheering on rabbits in Watership Down!

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Changeable day weather wise. Lady and her pals were not that impressed by it. Their owners were even less impressed. At least the dogs were running around! (Before you ask, there’s no chance of me doing that. Walk yes; run out of the question!).

Will be sharing my Paragraphs and Punctuation In Fiction on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. See above. I’ll be looking at this from the viewpoint of a writer but also from the viewpoint of a competition judge – me! I judge flash fiction and short story competitions every so often and am currently judging for Nottingham Writers’ Club. I also judged the Margaret McConnell Woman’s Short Story competition for the Scottish Association of Writers earlier this year. So I hope you will find the tips in my CFT post handy as both of these things can help make or break a story for being placed. Will explain more on that in my post.

Image on the right is one I took at the SAW conference earlier this year. They have a very impressive range of trophies for their competitions!

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It’s Friday. Hope you have had a good week. I’m glad to say my story, Creation, is now on Friday Flash Fiction and I think any creative type will identify with my lead character in this one. Hope you enjoy the story.

Screenshot 2022-05-13 at 09-12-04 Creation by Allison Symes


Am currently judging a flash competition for the Nottingham Writers’ Club, which is a great pleasure to do. Does judging other people’s work make me think about what I do with my stories and why? Oh yes and that’s a very good thing.

It means I can take a more detached view of my own work for a start but I can also think about why a story works for me and apply that to what I’m writing. What will my readers make of this? Will my readers pick up on what I want them to pick up and so on?

The best tip I’ve ever had was (and continues to be) to put my work aside for a while before evaluating it. It does need that distance of time to help you to read the piece as a reader (or editor or judge) would do. That in turn opens your eyes to potential faults but you then have time to correct those.


Out in my garden at the moment is a laburnum in flower. Looks stunning. So what, you may think?

Well, this tree is an old one, it has lost major branches over the years, and every time there is a storm, we expect it to come crashing down. But it carries on and is a visual lesson in resilience and not giving up, I think. Now there’s an obvious parallel to the writing life in that but why not also think about this from a character viewpoint?

What kind of character could you create that battles on regardless and “blooms” again despite everyone around them having good reason to think they can’t? I think there could be some interesting story ideas from that.

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Fairytales with Bite – Magical Equipment

What springs to mind when you think of magical equipment? Wands? Crystal balls? Potions (and the ingredients for them)? Fair enough. These are the classic tools which spring up in countless fairytales. But I was wondering whether the magical world had its equivalent of Microsoft and they were always bringing out magical upgrades and so on. Perhaps someone’s wand wasn’t “healthy enough” to take Wand 11 Version 8.9 and so on.

What would your characters make of having to upgrade regularly? Would they be suspicious of the manufacturers doing this trying to make even greater profits? Would they make do with their old equipment for as long as possible? (I resisted switching to Windows 8 when that came out as I heard nothing but bad things about it from various sources. I basically wore my PC out still using Windows 7 and switched PCs only when Windows 10 was out).

Also how many magical equipment manufacturers exist in your created world? Is there a monopoly? Can old equipment be recycled or can people still find a use for it? Does said equipment ever let your characters down at awkward moments and, if so, are the consequences tragic or even humorous? Some story ideas there I think!

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This World and Others – Engagement

How does your created world engage with (a) other worlds near it or (b) with different species within its own confines? Is engagement a positive thing or are your people suspicious of it?

How would national characteristics come into play? If one part of your world was aggressive, how would that impact on the rest of your created world and what would their reaction be? How would they engage with the aggressor to try and persuade them to stop?

Now there are obvious parallels with the war in Ukraine (and indeed with many wars throughout our history) but this is where knowing how we engage with others can make you think about how you would do this for your fictional people and worlds. Are they better than us? Are they worse?

Comparisons with what we know here to what could be in what you are drafting are useful. They give you a place to start as you world build. They can also be useful “echoes” for readers who recognize certain traits are what we do or are based on what we do/have done.

Even the most fantastical world has to have something readers can identify with – they need to engage with what you have come up with – so basing your concept on what we know here helps with that.

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The Dragon of Wantley, Live Events, and the Writing Life

Image Credits:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. A huge thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Company for supplying most of the images for my review of their recently staged The Dragon of Wantley for Chandler’s Ford Today.
Hope you have had a good week. Weather improving here. Hints of summer in the air too.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-28 The Dragon of Wantley - Chameleon Theatre Company - Review - Chandler's Ford TodayScreenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, my review of The Dragon of Wantley. This wonderful pantomime (loosely based on a true story) was recently staged by the fantastic Chameleon Theatre Company.

My lovely editor at CFT, Janet Williams, and I had a fabulous time and spent most of the evening laughing (a sure sign of a successful pantomime well performed). For more details and a good flavour of what went on, do check out the review. It is so nice getting out to live events again and being able to review them once more too.

(And if you’re in a position to support your local amateur dramatic company, do so. I’ve watched many gems performed by The Chameleons and discovered plays new to me and I look forward to that continuing. Watching a live performance is a fabulous way of taking in a story when all is said and done).

A huge thank you to The Chameleons for the great pictures for this post too.

The Dragon of Wantley – Chameleon Theatre Company – Review

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Looking forward to sharing my review of The Dragon of Wantley, the recent production staged by the Chameleon Theatre Company, for Chandler’s Ford Today.  See above. It has been lovely getting out to live events and reviewing them once again. I’ll resume my In Fiction series on 13th May.

Why did I start to write? Well, I’ve always been a reader. I loved what was known as composition lessons in English in school where I could invent stories. It just took me a while to realise I could carry on doing that as an adult!

What do I want from my writing? I want to improve on what I do, to continue having fun creating stories, and to be published as often as possible. I don’t expect to make my fortune (which is just as well!) but the moment writing stops being fun is the moment I will consider hanging up up my PC/pen. Writing has to be fun.

And creating something which is unique should be a joy (though it is also hard work and there are bound to be moments when any writer will wonder if the slog is worth it. I often find when I feel like that it is because I am tired. That is when I back off a bit and start being kinder to myself. Then the joy of writing comes back. I don’t think that’s a coincidence).

I know now as well in a way I could not know when I was starting that the writing life is a roller coaster. It helps to know to expect the peaks and troughs and this is all normal, It isn’t just me!

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4th May!

Hope you have had a good day (Star Wars related or otherwise!). Am busy getting workshop material ready and looking forward to presenting both in due course. I love going to workshops too and always learn a great deal from them.

This is where my trusty notebook and pen gets a good workout too! The act of writing something down helps embed what you are writing down into your memory so there’s another reason to do it! Is there a writer out there who doesn’t have the dilemma of which notebook and pen combo to use? Oh well. It’s a nice dilemma to have.

I do sometimes read out a flash piece or two of mine when giving a workshop as I select stories which will back up the points I’m making. The nice thing with flash of course is that this doesn’t take too long. I think it’s easier to take the points made on board too.

So practicing reading out loud is a good idea too. The biggest thing I’ve had to learn to do here is slow myself down when reading. That also makes it easier for me not to trip over my own words.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m pleased to share my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. My One of Those Days is based on ideas triggered by a random noun generator this time. I generated two items – a waitress and a tiara. See how I used them here! Hope you enjoy the story.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

One of my own favourite openings comes from Helping Out in From Light to Dark and Back Again. This reads as:-

It’s not everyday you untangle Hanacrill, a fairy who, Merlin knows how, got caught in a Leylandii hedge but being a witch means being able to handle anything though I’m not meant to rescue fairies.

Why do I like this one?

Firstly, you hear the character voice clearly. You can sense the attitude!

Secondly, you’ve got a fantastical setting spelled out in only a few words (fairy, witch, Merlin etc).

Thirdly, you’ve got a situation which I hope makes the reader curious. Just why would a witch come to the rescue of a fairy? How did that fairy end up getting tangled up like that?

Fourthly, you have a named character who has to be important to the story somehow – and so does the unnamed narrator. They’re telling the story after all so they have to be “in on it” in some way.

Fifthly, you can sense the mood. There is humour here if only in the idea of a fairy getting caught up in a hedge.

If I was writing this again now, I would split the sentence after the word hedge. This is a long one by my standards and I usually prefer short and punchy lines. But this one does work and I do love lines which show a lot of information like this. No need for lots of description. You an imagine what a fairy might look like and do the same for the unnamed witch.

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4th May – Star Wars Day!

When I’m reading a flash collection by someone else I’m looking for a nice mixture of story moods. I do like a good selection! It helps with the tempo of the book too. I like a nice mix of upbeat and lower beat stories.

Life is like that so I like my story collections to reflect this. It also means there will be a good mixture of characters in the collection. Some will serve humorous pieces better than others, for example. And I like to “meet” a nice range of characters in any anthology.

When I’m putting a collection together, I like a nice balance of characters and stories knowing it is what I would like to read (and other readers will feel the same way. Again I have my Ideal Reader in mind here.). I also like to vary the flash word count used too. I’ve mentioned before I think of my books as mixed assortments of stories so it makes sense to me to vary the word count element too.

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Fairytales With Bite – A Wand’s Tale

Woe to the one misusing me.
Who thinks that by casting a spell
He can get out of and be free
From fetching water from the well.

Who using objects for his work
Means he can take things so easy
Magic is not meant to let you shirk
Life isn’t so easy-peasy.

So guess who then called the big boss
When things went so horribly wrong?
His Nibs won’t let anyone “doss”
He’ll make them sing a different song.

That young smart alec apprentice?
You should’ve seen him go bright red
It was all rather momentous
Hearing what the big boss then said.

He came up with a naughty word
Oh I blushed as the big boss swore.
The apprentice didn’t – he’d “heard”
It from the owner of the store.

Where our lad “worked” briefly last time.
Boss there sacked him with a rude mime!

Allison Symes – 4th May 2022

And before you ask, I do love the music and story of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice!

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This World and Others – When Things Go Wrong

Hope you enjoyed the above. It was fun to write. Now things did go wrong for that lazy apprentice and he was taught a lesson.

When things go wrong for your characters in your settings, how do they learn their lessons? Was it something they did need to learn of were they a little bit unlucky? What kind of machinery etc exists in your created world and what are the consequences when that goes wrong?

For the rulers of your setting, what things could go wrong for them and what do they do to try and prevent this? Would this explain why they rule by dictatorship, for example?

Understanding where your characters come from is important. It will help you picture them better and write them up more convincingly because you will believe in them precisely because you do know where they are coming from. Readers will pick up on that too.

Of course things could go wrong in a humorous way too. How do your characters react to that? Do they find it funny? What would happen when one character did find something amusing and another one finds it to be anything but hilarious? How would that change the nature of the relationship between the two? What impact would that have on the rest of the story and would it lead to other things going wrong, which are not so funny?

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Originality in Fiction and Alphabetical Writing Thoughts


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

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

Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

Originality in Fiction

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fairytales With Bite – Fairytale Acrostic

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

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This World and Others – Games and Puzzles

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

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

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

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

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Names in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots and photo taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. Lady has been enjoying the sunshine and meeting up with her dog pals all week. I’m busy preparing workshops and looking forward to running them.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m pleased to share Names in Fiction, my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post. I don’t always know the names of my characters immediately. Often I will know their major trait and their situation and ideas for names will emerge from knowing those things.

Setting helps too as if I’m writing a historical piece as I do sometimes, I will want to make sure the name is suitable for that time period. Sometimes I will jot down a name but a better one will come to me as I’m drafting so I change it, but once I do have the right name for the right character in the right story, nothing is making me change it!

I share thoughts on useful sources to find names in my post, as well as looking at how names have meaning and how that can be used by writers. Surnames didn’t happen until after the 1066 Norman Conquest in England so that is something which has to be borne in mind by historical writers.

I’ve used names to indicate the likely age of a character without spelling the age out. For example, I named a character Walter. Not likely to be a young person with a name like that, right? Correct, he wasn’t.

Hope you find the post useful.

Names In Fiction

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I’m talking about Names in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above. I look at how writers can use names to add to their characterisation and how certain names have gone into the language. I’ll also be sharing tips on using names and good places to find them. (Don’t forget the old random name generators too).

Am looking forward to seeing The Dragon of Wantley, the panto being put on by the Chameleon Theatre Group, next Thursday. It’ll be lovely to catch up with Janet Williams, my lovely editor at CFT. I do see these evenings as “Chandler’s Ford Today works outings” when Janet and I both get to go! Review in due course. And it is so nice getting back to seeing live theatre again.

Do you find it hard to come up with names for your characters? Sometimes I know a name immediately. Sometimes I know who my character is going to be in terms of personality first and that in turn will give me ideas for names to suit that personality.

I don’t always worry about surnames and, where it is appropriate for the story, I stick to first person and just use I throughout. What matters I think is knowing how you are going to get “into” writing your story. I have to know the character’s major trait as so much comes from that. Some writers absolutely have to know the name first or to be able to visualise their people and that’s fine.

What I hope is my post on Friday will be a useful guide as to where you can find inspiration for names as there are various ways to find ideas here.

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It’s been another lovely day in Hampshire. Someone has enjoyed her time out and about – see pic.

Looking forward to taking part in the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group on Zoom later this evening.

One thing to come out of the pandemic was the increasing use of Zoom and that has made many things possible. I can talk to family members in New Zealand easily for example. Genre group meetings like this one, where the people taking part live several hundreds of miles away from each other, is something else made possible.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for the beginning of May. Do head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up.

Am putting finishing touches to various blogs I write for on a monthly basis – I like to keep ahead of myself here so when one has gone out online, fairly soon afterwards the next month’s one is up and scheduled. Gives me plenty of thinking time too and that is always a good thing.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am pleased to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. This one is called Where Am I? It is based on a prompt thrown up by a random scenario generator (which was about waking up in a strange room). Hope you enjoy it and a big thank you to all who have commented on this one already. Screenshot 2022-04-22 at 09-23-11 Where Am I by Allison Symes

Another lovely spring day in Hampshire. Dog was equally impressed.

I’ve been asked an interesting question about whether flash is necessarily about moral twists. Not necessarily. You can argue that Jesus’s parables in the New Testament and Aesop’s Fables are flash fiction given they are mainly within the word count for flash and yes they have a moral message and there can be twists to them. Whoever would expect a tortoise to win a race against a hare, for example?

But a lot of my stories don’t exactly have a moral message though, as with most fiction, you can learn a lot about what not to do or be thanks to following the exploits of the characters. You can “watch” as you read as the characters make mistakes that make you wince etc and think I’d never do that. That is one of the great joys or reading fiction!

Where I think flash does come into its own is having a powerful impact for such a small word count. You can get the “punch in the gut” effect that much more quickly and a writer can exploit that.

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Do you have a favourite kind of character to write stories around? I think most of us do. I have a soft spot for the feisty older woman character where you know there is more to her than meets the eye. I’ve always loved this kind of character in the fairytales. You know the kind – the old woman who suddenly turns out to be a powerful magical being and cuts some arrogant twerp down to size. (See Beauty and the Beast for more on that!).

I suppose behind this is a wish that older characters aren’t written off as being unimportant (and I wish that too for older people in general). What matters here is caring about the characters you dream up because only then can you write their stories up with any conviction. The first person to enjoy your story has to be you, the writer.

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Fairytales with Bite – The Older Magical Practitioner

I have a very soft spot for the older magical practitioner in fairytales. I love those wizened older people who turn out to be a powerful fairy godmother/wizard in disguise who then usually go on to teach some arrogant so-and-so a much needed lesson.

I know my love of this character type is partly due to my own wish that older people are not underestimated or dismissed for being old. I don’t want age to be a factor for my characters. Indeed, if anything, I want their years of experience to have beneficial outcomes in the stories I’m writing about them now. I want experience to count for something.

The ideal sweet spot for me is having a character like that teamed up with someone younger, faster etc but who is willing to learn from them. They could make a formidable team!

What uses do you put your older characters to in your stories? Yes, they can be invaluable sources of advice but I would want them to do practical things that the younger ones could not. I would want the younger ones to do the things the older characters could not. Genuine team work.

Ageism, for me, has no place in fiction (or indeed anywhere!). Yes, sure your older characters aren’t going to be able to do what they could easily do years ago but there should be other things they can do instead, tips and tricks they’ve learned along the way precisely because they can’t do the other stuff any more. So what do you get your characters to do? Are you limiting what they can do?

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This World and Others – Age

Going on from my Fairytales with Bite post, how does your fictional world react to age? Is it respected or despised? A lot will depend on the cultural background of your characters so how can you play on that to come up with interesting tales? You could get some nice tensions/conflicts between between those who respect age and those who do not. Here I would want the old ones to prove those who despise them wrong!

You can also write about age as an era and show how your fictional world has moved on (or not) from times past. What consequences would that have for your characters in the here and now?

Does age work in the same way it does here or is reverse aging possible? What conflicts could that cause? Also are only certain species/classes allowed to get to certain ages and beyond?

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Making Characters Real in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Happy Easter to those who, like me, celebrate it. Good to have some proper Easter weather too – lovely, sunny and warm in the UK right now.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

15th April 2022 – Good Friday – CFT
Happy Easter to those who celebrate it. I visited another church this morning for a lovely Good Friday service. I had a lovely walk of a couple of miles each way and I was especially grateful for the cup of tea on offer when I got to the church! It was needed!

My usual church has all of its Easter events on Easter Sunday so it starts mournfully and then ends in celebration. It is a lovely service but I like to get to a service on Good Friday when I can. On my walk down, I came across a little bridge and someone had put up a small bin with sticks in it. They’d marked the bin “Pooh Sticks” so someone is a Winnie the Pooh fan – made me smile as I saw it. (No sign of Eeyore or Tigger before you ask).

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-34-21 Making Characters Real In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

I hope you find my Making Characters Real In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today useful. I talk about why characters have to resonate with readers for their stories to be believable (and that’s still true even for the most fantastical of settings). I look at motivation and realism too. (Wish me luck for when I get to Q in this series! It is approaching rapidly!).

Making Characters Real In Fiction

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Lady had a fabulous play “date” with her gentleman friend who is a gorgeous tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd this morning. She usually prefers to play with her girlie dog friends but this very nice lad is a rare exception for the boys. Good to see them both running around at full pelt and having a wonderful time.

Writing wise, I am busy getting workshop material ready. Love this (and indeed presenting it later on). As with my flash work where I have my Ideal Reader in mind all the time, here I am thinking of what my audience is going to find useful. Putting yourself in your readers’/listeners’ shoes is a good idea, always. It helps cut any tendency to waffle for a start!

I also have in mind what I’d find useful from a workshop if I was going to it as a delegate. That perspective again helps me tailor my material in the right way. Later, I will record my material and play it back via Zoom. That is a great way of highlighting any issues – such as am I speaking too fast? Am I speaking clearly enough and so on? I’ve also found it triggers ideas for material to add in as I literally listen to what I’ve said and spot gaps which I then fill. It’s also great practice at writing and presenting non-fiction of course so win-win!

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Not a bad day. Looked grotty first thing, then brightened up. This could often apply to me first thing in the morning just after I’ve had my first cup of tea for the day!

Looking forward to sharing my Making Characters Real In Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Good Friday. Hope you will find it useful.

My author newsletter goes out on the first of the month and is packed with tips, news, prompts etc so if you would like to sign up do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

The next couple of months will be busy with workshops – one in May in London and the other as part of the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick.

Did I ever anticipate running workshops one day when I started going to writing events etc? Not a bit of it but I am thrilled with how things have worked out here and ironically the pandemic helped. Zoom was my way in to workshops as it made certain things possible. I hope to do much more of this kind of thing.

I’ve taken the long view that I will see where my writing journey takes me. It has thrown up some interesting things which I hope to develop further. I mean I hadn’t anticipated being a flash fiction writer either when I started out and that has worked out well! Being open is important.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

15th April 2022 – Good Friday
Happy Easter to those who, like me, commemorate it (today, a sad day) and celebrate it (Easter Sunday, a joyful day). I once wrote a flash piece for Christian Writer magazine (the journal of the Association of Christian Writers) called The Craftsman. It focused on the carpenter who made Jesus’s cross.

What mattered for that story and indeed for any I write is that I know where my focus is – for this example, I had my carpenter smooth the wood down as much as he could. He couldn’t help in any other way so he did that. So my focus here was on my carpenter’s wish to help and to figure out a small way in which he could feel he had done that.

My focus for my current story on Friday Flash Fiction comes from a prompt. It was from a random scenario generator (yes really!) and the scenario that came out was finding a piece of paper stuck in a chest of drawers. And this is what I did with that prompt. Hope you enjoy my A Timely Reveal and a huge thanks to those who have commented on this one already.
Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-35-32 A Timely Reveal by Allison Symes

I don’t always name my characters in my flash stories. One reason for this is that, with my darker tales, keeping something as an “it” is more scary than naming “it”. But with other tales, the name of the character isn’t so important to the story. What matters is what the character does.

Where I do use a name then see that as important information. I’m nearly always using a name to convey social status, sometimes species (in my Losing Myself from Tripping the Flash Fantastic I start the story with the name Graxia – this is highly unlike to be a human name), sometimes genre (ditto with Graxia – likely to be a fantasy name, as it is).

Names, like any other vital information, need to move the story on in some way and that can be by giving an indicator of likely status/setting as that in itself will put pictures inside the reader’s mind. You want them to see the right kind of pictures here.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

I sometimes start a flash piece with a question. It makes for a good hook as the reader knows that question has to be answered by the end of the story and they have to read on to find out how that answer happens. My The Truth from From Light to Dark and Back Again does this. I rarely finish a story with a question though I did for Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Why do that? Because the question itself reveals crucial information that wraps up the tale nicely.

Questions also make for good themes. Shorter questions might be useful as titles too. I use random question generators every so often and have found that most of the ones from those tend to be on the long side (e.g. What was your favourite meal as a child and why don’t you have it now?) and so work best as a theme.

In this example, I would probably show a character being offered an old childhood favourite meal and get them having mixed feelings over eating it because there are sad associations with it now etc. I certainly wouldn’t have that question as a title. Titles work best when kept short and snappy. They draw in a reader’s attention better too like that.

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Fairytales With Bite – Diaries

It was great fun writing my fictional fairy godmother’s diary last week. Hope you enjoyed it.

Now think about your own writing. Do you have a character who could keep a diary like that? The one thing I would say about this kind of writing is it is essential you know your character’s voice well enough. You need that strength of voice to come through to your readers (and to be able to sustain the diary for however long you choose to write it).

On a related note, in your created world, are diaries and journals kept by the population at large or only by the elite? (Can everyone read and write or is that privilege kept for a select few?). Are there official diaries that everyone can read? Would diaries be amongst your world’s historical documents and do the contents still impact on how your world is governed?

Just because a document is old doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. The Domesday Book has been cited in legal cases and is still a valid legal document. (I suspect William the Conqueror might have considered it to be his personal diary of what he owned!).

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This World and Others – Record Keeping

Who keeps the records in your fictional world? Who keeps the unofficial ones and how are they kept away from those who would destroy them? If only a few can read and write, are the scribes treated with honour by the general population or are they resented?

One thing I picked up from a medieval fair I went to some years ago was that it wasn’t unknown for scribes, when asked by a peasant to read a letter for them so they could understand its contents, to deliberately tell their client wrong information. Part of the reason for that was to drum up further business from the peasant. Get the peasant angry enough, the scribe would offer to write a suitable reply, the peasant pays up, and another letter gets written! And the scribe moves on to another town before they get found out! Scribes would often be part of travelling fairs and were always on the move.

Is there any way of the accuracy of your world’s records to be checked? Are there records which should be kept but which deliberately are not? What does your character(s) take as “gospel”and are they right do so so?

Records matter. They can confirm or remove an inheritance for one thing. They can sway how a country, say, reacts to another one, because that is all dependent on the pasts of these two nations. If one is deliberately wrong, that can easily change the course of history and the future.

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Laughter In Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. My CFT post was a special joy to write – I love writing about humour. I hope it makes you smile.

Screenshot 2022-04-08 at 16-12-10 Laughter in Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share a Chandler’s Ford Today post which I hope will put a smile on your face. I talk about Laughter in Fiction and explore the point of humorous fiction, as well as share some gloriously funny quotes from Wodehouse and Pratchett.

I look at why the humorous story has to be a story first and foremost and discuss why there should be a good mixture of funny as well as tragic material in fiction.

Hope you enjoy (and let’s hear it for the humour writers – they deserve more awards than they get. Why humorous fiction is looked down on in some quarters is beyond me).

Laughter in Fiction

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Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow.  See above. I’m talking about Laughter in Fiction, which is a fun topic to write about, and I get to share some fabulous quotes from P.G. Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett.

I also talk about the point of humorous fiction. Give some thought as to whether you think humorous fiction is hard to write as comments in the CFT box are always welcome.

Also looking forward to taking part in a couple of Zoom sessions with writing friends over the next day or two., If you can’t get together in person, then Zoom is the next best thing and it has been an lifeline for staying in contact with people and still being able to “go” to writing events.

Next major in-person event for me will be the Worth Our Weight in Gold weekend, which the Association of Christian Writers are having to celebrate their Golden Jubilee. Looking forward to running a workshop there and meeting up with friends and, naturally, it will be lovely to be back at The Hayes, Swanwick for that.

 

I love a bit of word play. It’s why I’m fond of radio shows such as I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, Just A Minute etc. I was writing a guest post for a pal on Facebook as I often do and playing the great game of changing one word in a famous book title with the word “tea”. So I came up with things like The Lord of the Tea, Bleak Tea, Tea and Prejudice etc etc. All good fun. Silly word games like that are (a) a great way to unwind, (b) make me laugh, and (c) remind me of great books I need to re-read again soon.

When it comes to my story titles, I use a variety of ways to find the best one for my purpose. I sometimes use proverbs directly, sometimes subvert a saying (my Punish the Innocent from From Light to Dark and Back Again is an example of that), and sometimes use repetition (such as my Enough Is Enough).

Sometimes I come up with an interesting premise I just have to write up such as my The Terrified Dragon from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. That was great fun to envisage and write up!

I find I have to have a working title as a “peg” to work to but I know now not to be worried if a better idea for a title comes up as I write my first draft. I just note it down and if it still seems better once I’ve written my story, I will change my original title. Only The Ten Commandments were set in stone after all. But I just need something to get me started. And yes often the title will set the mood for the story and that’s fine too. Sometimes the mood of the story I want to write helps inspire the title idea.

What matters here is being open and not being afraid to play around with ideas until you get the one title you know suits your story perfectly. It is lovely when that happens immediately but often it doesn’t. I know now to trust the process of writing to know the ideas will come. I didn’t know that when I started out but writing regularly and often helps develop that trust.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. It’s time for another story from Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy my Four Chairs. This came about as a result of a picture I found via a random picture generator.
Screenshot 2022-04-08 at 16-12-24 Four Chairs by Allison Symes

F = Find your character – why are they worth writing up into a story?

L = Love your characters, loathe your characters – what matters is they are able to keep the reader wondering what on earth is going to happen and to keep on reading to find out.

A = Animals, aliens, whatever – your characters don’t necessarily have to be human.

S = Story, story, story – what happens, what changes, what do your characters do?

H = Have a rough idea as to where your story is heading – this helps even if you don’t like to outline.

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I’ve deliberately gone for a mixture of moods in the stories in both of my flash collections because I like to read a mixture of moods myself. I do see my books as “mixed assortments” and fail to see why that idea should just be restricted to chocolate boxes!

It is also one of the great joys of short story anthologies. I ensure I read a good mix of flash and story short collections in between reading novels because I love the long form and short forms of fiction and think it healthy for my reading “diet” to read a good mixture of both.

So do check out the indie presses like Chapeltown Books to find out what is out there. And if you want an idea of where to start here, how about checking out the bookshop here, the one my publisher runs?

Screenshot 2022-04-06 at 20-14-23 The Bridgetown Café Bookshop

Fairytales With Bite – The Diary

What a page from a fairy godmother’s diary could look like…

Monday – Needed a lie in as was up after midnight for the umpteenth night in a row turning things into other things for my various goddaughters. When I find out who decreed that fairy godmothers have to stay up late almost continually, I will turn them into something – unpleasant. Possibly with a new ability to croak.

Tuesday – And breathe. Feel so much better after making sure I had a quiet day yesterday. Out in the garden replenishing my pumpkin stocks. I have gone through so many this year. Haven’t even made pie with any yet. Will make up for that. Could just do with a slice of pumpkin pie.

Wednesday – The big boss has sent me all around the magical kingdom today carrying out various errands. Saw off three marauding dragons and that was before lunch. Got back home well after 10 pm (at least is isn’t bloody midnight this time!), having sent various evil beings to the next world where they can harass someone else. Must admit I had more pumpkin pie than I should have done but it was luscious.

Thursday – It was fun shopping with the girls. There’s nothing to beat getting a group of fairy godmothers together and we call come up with more and more beautiful dresses which we swap amongst ourselves. Why should the likes of Cinders have the lot? Tell me that. I’ve come home with a fabulous purple number I will wear to the next Palace party the Fairy Queen holds for us. Had to go up a dress size though. Suspect the pumpkin pie might have something to do with that. And annoyingly I can’t magic the calories off. It’s a banned practice. Grrr…

Friday – Any hopes of a weekend at home were dashed by Her Nibs. I’m on Palace duty all weekend where I have to accompany Her Nibs everywhere. Now that’s okay funnily enough. She wants her fairy godmothers to be at their very best so she boosts our magical abilities temporarily so we can use extra powers to create jewellery for ourselves and so on. I’ve created a stunning amethyst necklace and bracelet combo to go with my new purple dress. Still not allowed to magic calories off though.

Saturday – Got to ride in the big gold coach with Her Nibs. Looks wonderful. The suspension on it is hell though. Her Nibs likes it that way though. Says it reminds her to ensure she always sits up straight. You get used to it after a while though. Mind you, you can get used to almost anything after a while.

Sunday – I got home at 11.55 pm. I think Her Nibs ensured that. Someone likes a laugh! It was nice touring the countryside with her though and waving at the peasants, punters, potential future clients.

Hope you enjoyed that. It was great fun to write.

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This World and Others – Work and Employment

Now for Fairytales with Bite, I’ve invented a fictional diary for a fairy godmother but in it, I show a little of her workload. What kind of jobs do your main characters do? What kind of employment exists in your fictional world? Where magic is involved, what employment opportunities does that create or take away? Who takes advantage of those opportunities? Who suffers because their jobs are taken away?

The issues we face in our work lives – are these replicated in your fictional world? Is there such a thing as management/union disputes for example? When change needs to happen in how people work, what they can do, how are these changes brought about?

When your characters need to go off on quests etc (as you do), what impact does that have on their old lives, including their work ones? If they get back again, do they pick up their old work etc as if they’d never gone?

Does your society have a haves and have nots situation? What drives the need to work? One will be the need to produce food, every society needs that, but the ways in which it is done will differ. Payment of bills is the other “big” issue. So in your world, how do your people provide for themselves and what do they have to do to keep on doing that?

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Kindness and Killing in Fiction – and Snow!


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. My CFT post this week has the most unusual title I’ve ever written to but I show there are plenty of examples of kindness and killing in fiction and not just in the usual genres. It’s good to be back on Friday Flash Fiction as well though I could have done without the snow coming back! But then that’s April in the UK for you!

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Facebook – General

Two posts from me for 1st April 2022 – not an April Fools Day joke, honestly!

The first of the month is a busy time! Am delighted to share the link for the April edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. As ever, the magazine is packed full of articles, photos, and, of course, stories!

My column this time talked about Dialogue and there was a fabulous response to my challenge to create an all-dialogue piece of flash fiction with a maximum word count of 300 words. Do check the column and stories out – as well as the rest of the magazine. You’ll be in for a great read but don’t just take my word for it – there is only one way to find out, isn’t there?!

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Second post!
Okay – not so much sleet and snow today. Lady ran around like a mad thing this morning so almost certainly was unaware of just how cold it is right now. I got my gloves and scarf out! Hmm… I thought I had finished with them for a few months but never mind.

Author newsletter out this morning. Many thanks to those who have opened it so far. Hope you find it useful and informative.

My latest Chandler’s Ford Today post is called Kindness and Killing in Fiction, which is probably the oddest contrast I’ve ever written about. The funny thing is though there are plenty of examples of both across the fictional world and not just in the “obvious genres”.

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-41 Kindness and Killing in Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

I take a look at why characters must have a good reason (or reasons) for their actions and attitudes, though it doesn’t mean the author and/or their readers have to agree with them. We do need to see where the characters are coming from though – that is where realism comes in I think.

I also share my thoughts on why we read crime/horror when the world is the way it is and discuss signs of strength (kindness for me is one of them) and the role of justice in these stories. As ever, comments are welcome on the CFT page.

Kindness and Killing in Fiction

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Am still not impressed with the weather – have had sleet, hail, snow today. I thought March was supposed to come in like a lion and go out as a lamb. No sign of that happening today. Lady literally shakes it all off though she can have little “snow mountains” on her back until she decides to shake it off. She does this with rain too. I’ve learned to side step her when she does that! Having an extending lead is useful…

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Writing wise, I’m getting on with various blogs and I’m planning to get back to actual flash writing at the weekend. By the end of a week, as long as I have managed to get a good mixture of fiction and non-fiction writing done, I’m happy.

And odd moments of time I use to draft a flash tale or brainstorm ideas which I can use as I see fit. Sometimes I will have a specific brainstorming session where I focus on ideas for future blogs. These sessions always pay off because I have things to come back to later when I’m not feeling so inspired.

And you learn to recognize every writer gets periods like that (and in my case I know it can be fuelled if I’m feeling especially tired). Having a notebook stuffed with ideas though is a great thing to fall back on!

When I haven't much writing time

Hope you have had a good day. Not impressed with the weather suddenly turning cold though it was lovely seeing Lady having a riotous time with her best buddies, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback and Hungarian Vizler. (Good rule here is to stand back and enjoy the show. You don’t want any of the three dogs cannoning into you!).

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’m talking about Kindness and Killing In Fiction this time. The whole crime genre has a major focus on the latter, of course, as a good whodunnit depend on there having been a crime to solve but kindness turns up more often than you might think.

A huge thank you to all who commented on my More Than Writers blog about Spring-like Writing yesterday.

My author newsletter goes out again on Friday. I enjoy putting these together and I hope you make good use of the tips and prompts shared.

One thing I’ve found useful to remember when rejections/no hears happen is to recall every writer goes through this and there’s nothing to stop you revisiting a story, polishing it some more, and sending it out elsewhere. I’ve had work published doing that. Good luck!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my The Way Time Smells and a huge thanks to all the who have sent in fabulous comments on this already. This story is loosely based on fact and I evoke how a particular scent takes my character back in time. The scent I use here is one that does take me back in time in a similar way. Hope you enjoy it.

I had the idea for this one because the title came to me quickly and I know I would then need a scent to “latch on to” and why someone would link a scent with something in their past.. I’ve found before when the titles come first that tends to also give me a story structure from the start and I find that really useful. That was the case here.

Screenshot 2022-04-01 at 09-18-31 The Way Time Smells by Allison Symes

I’ve mentioned reading your work out loud before to hear how it sounds and the nice thing with flash is of course that doesn’t take long. The other reason I do it (and record myself to play back later) is to work out a kind of “set” for Open Prose Mic Nights. I like to have a balance of different moods of story, vary the word counts I read to, vary whether I use a first or third person narrator etc. I hope that makes things more interesting for an audience. I know it does for me!

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For humorous flash pieces, such as my Bypassing The System in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I write my punchline down first and then work out different ways as to how I could logically get to that point. I do the same for twist in the tale stories. To me it makes sense to write down what I know I want to be in the story and then work out everything else around it.

Occasionally I have had a go at competitions where they give you a line they want you to put in the middle of the story. That’s a tough call but the way I’ve tackled this is to work out what must lead from the middle line to get to the end.

Having got two-thirds of the story down, I then figure out what the beginning has to be. Sounds a bit convoluted I know but it does mean that I have completed the “brief” and what leads to the middle makes sense as does what comes out from it to the end. I find with these stories knowing what the ending is, again, helps me to sort out the beginning.

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Fairytales with Bite – Time for a Spell?

I’ve long believed that Cinderella’s fairy godmother was somewhat late for the party when she did finally turn up. Where was she when poor old Cinders was having such a hard time of it being ill-treated by her stepmother and her daughters? Cinders could have done with earlier intervention I think – it would’ve limited the misery for one thing.

That said, when is the right time for a magical being to intervene to help someone? Is there a case for leaving intervention as late as possible to (a) give the character to chance to help themselves and (b) to ensure all other options are exhausted first? (Not a lot of comfort for poor Cinders there!).

Whenever you get your characters to intervene magically, ensure there is a good reason for that intervention and that magic is the only option available at this point in the story. Set something up earlier in the story to show magical intervention is a distinct possibility to avoid any disbelief on the part of a reader.

And if you can get a character on the receiving end of such help to do something to help the process, even If it is only by just fetching possible “ingredients”, then so much the better. They are at least contributing to their own positive outcome here.

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This World and Others – Recollections

Memories matter. They matter to individuals. They matter to countries. They matter to a world, fictional or otherwise. Culture is built up (or destroyed) by what people choose to remember. And what is chosen here will reflect a great deal on the nature of the character or culture doing the reflecting.

We, for example, remember the fallen in world wars etc for Remembrance in November. Others may see remembering the fallen as something they simply do not do – they only recall the heroes, the ones who survived.

For your fiction, you can pick elements like that to show the nature of your fictional world overall. A world that celebrates war is going to be very different from one that remembers and honours more peaceful ways of living. A culture that remembers its failures as well as its triumphs is likely to be a better one in which to live simply because it has learned to be honest with itself about its failures.

So what will your characters recollect? What is officially chosen to be remembered? What is remembered but talked about very quietly for fear of the authorities?

What would your characters do if they come across something that has to be told or recollected in some way yet goes against their world’s policy on what is remembered? Will they dare to cross the line here and what would the outcomes be if so? I would suspect there would be more than one outcome. There would be the obvious one of the authorities punishing the character but what would happen if the words had “got out” and others had got to hear the forbidden truth? What could be the outcome from that?

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At The Scottish Association of Writers Conference


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I also took the photos from the Scottish Association of Writers (SAW) Conference. It was a joy to be north of the border for the SAW event. I had a wonderful time and the journey to/from by train was a wonderful chance to relax and get plenty of writing done so win-win there too!

The journey home

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my latest Chander’s Ford Today post, At the Scottish Association of Writers Conference. It’s a real pleasure to report back from last weekend’s fabulous event. I also take the chance to have a look at the art of judging since, as well as running my flash fiction workshop there, I had the pleasure and privilege of judging one of their competitions, the Margaret McConnell Woman’s Short Story competition. I must admit I wouldn’t have minded winning the beautiful trophy myself!

And it was so nice meeting people in person whom I’ve previously only met thanks to Zoom as well as catch up with fellow Swanwickers (attendees of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – we get everywhere!).

At The Scottish Association of Writers Conference

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Nice to get back to a good old swim today – perfect day to do it too! No flash fiction on Friday Flash Fiction from me for this week, hope to resume that next time, but do check out the fabulous stories on there. There’s bound to be something you’ll love (and for flash fiction writers, it is a great way to showcase what can be done with the form).

Will be sending out my author newsletter next week so if you’d like to sign up for tips, prompts, news etc., do head over to the landing page of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for more. I’ll resume my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today after this week’s post, which is a report on my recent time in Scotland.

I’ll be off on my travels again in June to run a flash fiction workshop for the Worth Our Weight in Gold celebration weekend the Association of Christian Writers are putting on to celebrate their Golden Jubilee. Looking forward to that especially since it will be at The Hayes, Swanwick, where I “swan” off every August for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

Plenty to look forward to then – and now on with the writing!

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Many thanks for the great birthday messages yesterday (22nd March). Much appreciated and it was a lovely day.

Something I found out just before I headed to Scotland for the weekend was that I will be having a story of mine out in The Best of CafeLit 11 later in the year. Very pleased about that (and delighted friends of mine will be in there too).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be called At the Scottish Association of Writers Conference and I report back on my time there. Looking forward to sharing the link on Friday.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Nothing from me on Friday Flash Fiction this week (I hope to make up for that next time) but don’t forget to check the website out. There are wonderful stories on here and it is a joy to scroll through and have a good read. It is important to read well as well as write well and sites like this have a very useful purpose to serve in providing contemporary material for you to read. Enjoy!

I make a point of reading flash and short stories as well as writing them. I think it is vital to read in the field you’re in as well as reading widely outside of it. Inspiration for ideas comes from all manner of places including what you like to read so it makes sense to have a broad pool from which to fish, so to speak. Sometimes an odd line will strike you and ideas for stories of your own will begin to develop from the thoughts that have occurred to you as a result of reading that story.

So don’t let anyone tell you that you’re “just reading”. You are, in fact, carrying out vital market research and it is a lovely way to do it too, so there!

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How do you make the most of a workshop? Notebook and pen or laptop or app where you can take notes is essential. I note down any markets suggested by the speaker (to check them out later and see if they suit me). I also listen out for specific tips – it is the detail I am after. I can then work out how to apply that to my own writing. And if there is anything like a checklist or template I can make use of, I make a note of all that too.

But best of all is the fact if a speaker sets a writing exercise, as many do, there’s nothing to stop you polishing that piece up and sending it out as a flash fiction piece later on. I’ve done that and had work published as a result. Always see any writing exercise you have a go at as a rough first draft and do give them a go.

The idea is for you to produce a piece of work you can work on again later. Even if you get to read it out at the time, don’t worry about how it will come across. Nobody’s expecting perfection. What they’ll be after is seeing how you took the brief because that can confirm to them they’re on the right lines.

If your exercise is to write a 100 word story set in any world, it won’t matter if you set your tale in Fairyland and someone else sets theirs on a rodeo. What matters is getting a story down any old how. They’ve seen/heard how you’ve done it. They know they’ve got something in their notebooks which could be read out. They’ll be reassured and maybe encouraged to read their work out too. You also get instant feedback from those around you here and you can use that to help you polish your story later on.

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A huge thank you for the birthday messages yesterday (22nd March).

I’ve mentioned before that one thing I love about flash is the ability to set characters anywhere and everywhere. I was able to prove that point during my workshop at the Scottish Association of Writers conference last weekend. And it is something to make full use of – I love reading across many genres, so why shouldn’t I write across them too? You can do exactly that with flash with only the 1000 words beings the upper limit as your main restriction and even there, you can write across the spectrum. Some of my stories genuinely work better at 500 words or less so I leave them at that word count. Others need a little bit more “room” so I give them 750 or the full 1000 words treatment.

Flash has to be character led. I never liked reading lots of description. I always want to find out what the characters get up to and with flash you pretty much have to do that from the start. So win-win there as far as I’m concerned.

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Traits in Fairytales

I use character traits as my major way in to finding out about my “people” and writing their stories up. I have to know what they are made of in terms of those traits to work out what their stories could be. #

Positive traits can fail at moments of stress (and those can make interesting stories as the character comes to terms with their failure – or not). Negative traits can be overcome especially with the help of other characters and the story is all about how that “overcoming” is done (and why).

Traits are a major feature in fairytales. The arrogant are punished and usually need some act of love/kindness to be redeemed from whatever spell they’ve had cast on them as punishment. Powerful magical beings often disguise themselves humbly to work out who is worthy of their support and who definitely isn’t and here kindness is definitely rewarded eventually. It is a trait that counts for something in fairytales.

So think about what character traits you want to see in your people. What matters to you here? If honesty is important, would you show that through a character who is honest or one who isn’t and they get their comeuppance for that? In your fairytales, how would you like to see magic used? To benefit the kind in some way? When those who are not kind somehow get magical benefits, will there be a price to pay for “bucking the system”?

In working out what matters to you, you can work out what matters to your characters and that will help you set up a good story structure. If your character has to be honest, your story structure will show how that honesty lands them in it, say, and how they get out of that.

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This World and Others – Differences

Differences take many forms, of course. Differences in culture, language, what we find funny and so on. Most people have no trouble accepting others are different. But how does that work out in your fictional world? Are your characters tolerant or not? What would your fictional world count as “normal” or “different”? And does it react well to differences?

Fear can be a major motivator in the unkind treatment of others. If you dislike a particular trait, how would you act towards a character who has that trait in abundance? Would your character’s fear lead them to prejudiced treatment of others, for example?

If your fictional world is a monocultural one, how did that evolve? Was there ever a time when that wasn’t the case and, if so, what led to the removal or suppression of the other culture(s)?

How we handle differences can reveal a lot about us whether that is conscious or not. We can use that for our characters too.

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Journeys in Fiction – and For Real!

Image Credit: All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Some photos taken by me, Allison Symes, from the Scottish Association of Writers Conference.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Journeys in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Am sharing from Scotland!☺

I hope to report back on the Scottish Association of Writers Conference next week.

But journeys can take many forms including internal journeys. I discuss this and more in my CFT post this week.

https://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/journeys-in-fiction/

It’s double blog today for me as my latest Authors Electric post is out today. This time I talk about Coming Up with Ideas. Hope you find it useful.

https://authorselectric.blogspot.com/2022/03/coming-up-with-ideas-by-allison-symes.html?m=1

Am on my way up to Scotland for the weekend conference of the Scottish Association of Writers. Looking forward to being on LNER again for the leg up to Edinburgh Waverley.

Meanwhile, am enjoying seeing the Hampshire countryside. And of course train journeys are the perfect opportunity for a spot of discreet people watching! I have used odd snippets of conversation overheard on train journeys to trigger ideas for characters and their tales. Waste nothing!

I was talking on Zoom last night about random generators and while preparing for that discovered new ones I know I can use. Win-win there! 

One was a historic events generator – could be useful if you use settings as your way into a story. The other was a world building generator with many separate elements also available as generators. Think character names, geographic elements to pick and choose etc.

The nice thing with all generators is you pick your parameters and adapt these based on what you know you need to know to start drafting a story. I find choosing two or three random things to generate at a time works best for me. Something amongst those items will trigger an idea and away I go. Limits encourage creativity.

I don’t know how I manage it but I always seem to time having a haircut with soggy weather! It’s the kind of talent nobody wants but someone gets… in this case, me!

Am looking forward to travelling north tomorrow for the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference. Hope to get plenty of writing done on the train via Evernote. I usually manage to draft some stories, blog posts etc – all useful stuff I know I can use later.

My posts here will be at different times over the next few days but my Chandler’s Ford Today post will be up as normal on Friday. Aptly I’m talking about Journeys in Fiction.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to share my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Waiting – the story at least!☺

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

Looking forward to giving my flash fiction workshop at the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference this weekend.

Am currently heading north at a rapid speed enjoying the countryside en route.Finding your way in to writing a story or blog or article is vital. With my workshop I look at a couple of different ways to find that way in.

Shortly going to be chatting about random generators to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group via Zoom. Have a web search and see how many there are out there. There are more than you think and I found one new to me for the talk I’m about to give too. Hope to share more here later. 

Fairytales With Bite – Is the Best Help Always Magical?

Given magical power, as with any other kind of power, is open to abuse, I would say the answer to this one is a definite “no”! It’s also not the only answer to a problem.

Despite Gandalf’s magical powers in The Lord of the Rings, the others still have to fight Sauron etc. And it wasn’t entirely magical help that got Frodo to where he needed to be either. He and Sam still had to walk, still had to work out whether to trust Gollum or not etc.

And even in the classic fairytales when the fairy godmother turns up (albeit often somewhat belatedly in my view) to help the lead character, that same lead character has had to show themselves to be worthy of that help coming their way. Those fairy godmothers don’t get their wands out for just anyone, you know.

So self-help, the help of loyal friends etc is every bit as important as magical help – and I think that is how it should be too. You don’t want a story to hinge on a magic wand funnily enough. You want it to contribute but not be the be all and end all.

If a story can be solved by magical help alone, where is the story? Where is the depth of characterisation? You can show the latter through the friends coming to our hero’s aid. 

This World and Others – Resolving Conflicts

This kind of topic will always be topical, unfortunately, but for fiction purposes how are conflicts resolved in your created worlds? Is there such a thing as our conciliation services, the United Nations etc? Or are conflicts always fought out, literally?

Someone in your stories has to have the courage to be the peacemaker (or at least be the one who tries to bring about peace. It isn’t up to them whether that attempt is successful). What makes that someone set themselves up for, at best, being moaned at by both sides in an attempt to make them see reason?

Peacemakers and those who call out wars are not always the most popular people on the planet. What drives them to try to resolve conflicts? What conflicts form part of your back story and drives your characters here?And when conflicts are resolved,  how long does it take your people to settle back to normal lives again?

Now not everything will be back to normal again. There will be losses. So what are these and how do people cope with them? How do your characters resolve their own inner conflicts?

When conflicts are resolved, amongst the huge sense of loss there often is, what happens to your characters’ sense of hope etc? How and where does the future look brighter? There should be hope somewhere otherwise there is no “proper” resolution to your story – and without hope,  your characters and your readers will only feel despair that things haven’t been resolved properly.