Verbs and Verbosity 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. I think I may have found my favourite title for a Chandler’s Ford Today post (see above and below!). Strange weather week here – had sun, gales, heavy rain and that was just by Wednesday. Welcome to the British summer!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Verbs and Verbosity In Fiction, my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today. Hope you find it useful.

I look at the crucial role verbs play in any fiction and look at whether verbosity could be useful. Natural instincts would say otherwise. Surely you want to keep to the point, especially if you’re writing to a right word count as is required by flash fiction?

Generally, yes, but there is a place for well thought out verbosity funnily enough. See the post for more. I also share how I specifically use verbs to trigger story ideas.

Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction

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Had a lovely time at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group last night. Good to see everyone.

Writing wise this week, my Chandler’s Ford Today post will be about Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction. (Love it when I get some alliteration into a title!). Link above. Can verbosity be useful in fiction? Yes. Will share more about that in the post. Link up tomorrow. Also out tomorrow will be my author newsletter.

Writing Tip: I blog for various places as you know so I plan out what I’m blogging where and when. It’s a good idea to have a diary – great way to ensure I stay on track as well as helping me with that planning. I also aim to get a blog post up a few days before it is due out (earlier where and when possible) so I have time to go back in and do a final check on it.

For example, I will be carrying out a final check on my CFT post for this week shortly after I post this! Occasionally I pick up an odd error but at least I then have the time to amend it before the blog goes live. Did I pick up anything when doing this? Oh yes. And doing this gives me a final chance to check links etc are working properly.

29th June – More than Writers
It’s my turn once again on More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This time I talk about Working Out a Writing Schedule. I look at why I find these useful and why it is so important to build in flexibility.

Life does get in the way at times after all but I’ve found knowing what I’m going to be writing on any one day means I am more productive. I can get straight to my desk and get on with things and I like that.

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 09-24-51 Working Out a Writing Schedule by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is an upbeat one. Hope you enjoy The Big Day. I have every sympathy for my character, Janine, here. See what you think!

Screenshot 2022-07-01 at 09-21-26 The Big Day by Allison Symes

30th June
How is it the end of June already?! Time marches on (which makes a great theme for a piece of flash fiction!).

Don’t forget you can use time as a structure for your story (as well as a theme). How? Well, I’ve written the odd diary style story. (That one took me up to the 1000 words limit but that was fine. The story was great fun to do and you can find it in Tripping the Flash Fantastic – Losing Myself).

But you could also set a story which has to happen over a few hours and you put in time progression as the story goes on.

You could also show what happens to a character over a longer time period, which could work well as a series of linked flash stories. I’ve sometimes used Time as a character too.

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Am posting earlier than usual today as I’ll be leading the Association of Christian Writers’ Flash Fiction group on Zoom later on. Always good fun and much learned and shared. Always a joy to talk about flash fiction too!

My more reflective pieces (such as They Don’t Understand from From Light to Dark and Back Again or The Pink Rose from Tripping the Flash Fantastic) are hard stories to do. Why? Because I still have to ensure there is a story in there.

I have to ensure my character voice is strong enough to “carry” the tale so you want to read what they have to say. This is where planning out my character helps enormously because it means I’ve got to know them well enough to know where they are coming from and why they have got a story to tell. That in turn makes it easier to write said story.

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Fairytales with Bite – Where Fairytales DO Bite

It has always annoyed me fairytales are considered in some circles as twee little tales for the kiddies. It does tell me one thing immediately though – the person saying that has not read fairytales in ages. They certainly haven’t read the originals which are often violent. Disney has had to water them down for family viewing!

Fairytales are unflinching in showing cruelty up for what it is too and that justice is often on the rough side. Think of The Red Shoes. The wicked stepmother in that has to dance in those shoes until she drops down dead. The Big Bad Wolf is boiled alive in The Three Little Pigs.

Twee – definitely not then.

I do love their robust honesty about what human nature can be like though. Fairytales don’t pull their punches. And that is how it should be.

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This World and Others – Society Norms

Following on from Fairytales with Bite, I think fairytale reflected society norms (and can still do so). People were used to the idea of short lives and for their society to be often violent and unjust. Fairytales were a way of showing that justice could be done, even that too was rough at times.

Though, thankfully , we have moved on (at least in general terms – the UK no longer has the death penalty for example) there is still a deep down wish evil should not prevail. Injustice rightly angers us.

So when it comes to your own created world, what are the society norms there? Are people so used to the violence around them they just accept it? How do your characters seek to improve things (and I’m taking it as a given they are seeking to improve things – there’s a great story structure right there)?

What do they have to overcome? Who helps them? Is magic involved? What are the end results? How are society norms changed by what they do? And there should be change.

Story is all about change, conflict and resolution after all, regardless of genre.

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Hello Again – Hope You Had a Lovely Christmas!

Image Credits:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a lovely Christmas. A shorter post than normal due to the Christmas break but hope you enjoy it and find the tips useful. I moved my usual Goodreads blog post to Monday this week so that is included here. The period of time between Christmas and New Year is a bit of an odd one.

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Facebook – General

This week is always an odd one in that the days after Christmas seem to blur into each other until we reach New Year’s Eve. I do know it doesn’t “feel” like a Tuesday even though I know it is!

Do your characters ever feel this way? Can their mistakes with dates/times etc create havoc in your stories? (Certainly there would be comic potential here). Are your characters punctual and, if so, what happens when they have to deal with someone who isn’t?

Time can be a useful device in a story – it is a good way of making things happen. Characters set up a meeting. There has to be a time for it even though the real story will be in the meeting itself and the outcome from it.

You can also use Time as a character too. Is Time cruel or beneficial or does the answer to that depend on the perspective of your character?

Hello again! Hope you had a lovely Christmas. We did (and I can confirm there is no such thing as leftover turkey when you have a dog in the house!). Nice to be able to see family and I am happily reading one of my presents – The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman. Enjoying it so far.

I resumed a little bit of writing late last night and have been putting the finishing touches to my next author newsletter, due out on 1st January.

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’ll be asking if it should be a case of Out With the Old? Link up on Friday. I hope to resume preparing YouTube videos and stories for Friday Flash Fiction later on in the week.

And I did have a nice surprise over the Christmas period. I received a review of Tripping The Flash Fantastic directly.


This is an interesting book of flash fiction; a fascinating way to read stories here and there and before I knew it, I accidentally finished the book. A book of flash fiction and short stories is a great way to engage in stories even when things are busy.

 

Many thanks to my reviewer and they hit on an important point. No matter how busy you are, there is something you can read – flash fiction is ideal for the quick read!

 

NO POSTS Christmas Day or Boxing Day

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There’s a special offer on Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon at the moment so if you want a quick to read New Year bargain, do follow the link!

In other news, I’m sending out my next author newsletter on 1st January (am not promising to be particularly early though!). Do sign up for this at the landing page for my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am also working behind the scenes on further workshop and talk material so plenty to keep me busy. Naturally I talk about flash. Am thrilled the form has taken off in such a big way. Good fun to write and read. Never waste a writing exercise again – polish it up, send it out as a piece of flash fiction. Why not? You have nothing to lose here.

Screenshot 2021-12-28 at 20-08-10 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

Good to be back at the old writing desk once again. Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Hope in amongst your book presents, there are some flash fiction collections included! I’m currently reading a couple myself, as well as Richard Osman’s latest. I often have more than one book on the go at a time. It saves me making up my mind deciding which one I will read next when I can so easily decide which two or three I’ll tackle next instead! Reduces the To Be Read pile a bit quicker too.

What I love about the festive season is there are many possibilities for coming up with some lovely flash tales. I’ve written about Santa, his helpers, used other characters from well known fairytales so often performed as pantomime at this time of the year, amongst others. This is very much the “light” side of what I do and it is great fun. I don’t just write these tales now either. I will draft up ideas as they occur to me throughout the year and then save them for this time of year.

NO POSTS Christmas Day or Boxing Day

Goodreads Author Blog – Stories at Christmas

Thought I’d put my blog up after Christmas this time. Next one will be back on Saturday.

I hope you received plenty of books in the formats of your choice for Christmas. Am currently reading the second Richard Osman book and enjoying that. I’m also reading a couple of excellent flash fiction collections. Whoever said you only had to read one book at a time?!

Naturally I enjoyed stories via film over Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The Muppet Christmas Carol is a must. How can you not love an adaptation where the narrator, in this case Gonzo, recommends you read the original book?

The other must is The Polar Express. I’ve not read the book but the film is wonderful. Has a bit of a dark edge to it as well. Definitely not twee and something to make you think about the nature of belief. Oh and Hogfather. I didn’t get around to re-reading the Terry Pratchett classic this time (I usually do) but did watch the film.

Have you found a good film adaptation makes you read the book? I have. One of my earliest introductions to Dickens was watching the Alec Guinness version of Oliver Twist. I just had to read the book directly after watching that. And yes it can be fun spotting where lines (especially of dialogue) are kept word for word with the book and where it is clear some editing has gone on.

Do I mind if the film adaptation doesn’t stick to the original book entirely? Not if it is done well. The Lord of the Rings is a classic example. Not everything from the books goes into the film version (and that goes for the extended version too) but the spirit of the book shines through those movies and that is fine with me.

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All About Time

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post looks at time management (and oh I would love to be better at that!) and at time travel. Naturally a certain Doctor makes an appearance in the post and I also look at if time travel were to become possible, where would you go and why? What would you do while there? Comments as ever welcome on the CFT page.

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I discuss the art of time management and time travel in this week’s CFT post. (I suppose thinking about it further, you could say one of the earliest forms of time management in the UK was when the railways standardised time for us all).

On the assumption time travel ever becomes possible (and I’m not counting the gags that say something like travelling on XXX railway makes you feel as if you’ve gone back to the 1860s!), where would go and why?

Thinking heads on. Link goes up tomorrow. Comments welcome in the CFT comments box when post goes live. (If you’re really keen it goes live at just after midnight but you may have to wait to get a reply from me! Unlike Cinderella, I know where I’m going to be at midnight and it won’t be at my keyboard… ah the joys of middle age!).

One good thing about the dark nights coming in earlier is it does encourage reading and writing!

I don’t need much of an excuse to curl up with a good book or get on with various writing projects as it is but the lighter evenings during the summer months can make me feel a bit guilty about not getting more gardening done etc. Note the “a bit”. Easy enough to squash so I can get on with reading and writing! I just wish I could stop feeling the slightly guilty feeling at all!

I often prefer lighter reading and writing during the darker months too. Contrast in mood perhaps? Whatever, it’s definitely time to get on with some writing once again!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I often use lightning flashes in my photos for posts like this, given I think they reflect accurately how a flash fiction story illuminates and impacts on the reader. Very briefly and then over, but you don’t forget the impact.

A short story (say 1500 words+) to me is like shining a torch around – more light for a greater period of time but the impact can be diluted.

Sometimes you want that – you want the story as a whole to impact on your reader and you can only know if it‘s done that by reading and re-reading the whole thing.

The novel is like having a great big light on constantly. When you switch it off (stop reading it), that’s when you think about the impact it has made on you. Or that is how it has always seemed to be to me. I didn’t really appreciate the greatness of The Lord of the Rings until I’d finished reading it. You then take a mental step back and realise the huge scale of the trilogy.

Flash fiction makes you focus on the little details but the great thing with that is you can take this and use it to sharpen your longer works of fiction. No dull bits ever, thank you! The sections that are necessary to link the action should still carry the reader with them. The reader should be as keen to read those sections as they are the main scenes. Flash makes you tighten up your writing and this is enormously useful for ensuring your longer stories flow as they should.

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Time is the theme of my CFT post this week (time management and time travel. If the latter ever becomes possible, you will have to be really good at the former to make said travelling work well for you!). I’ve used time as a theme for a few of my flash fiction pieces – Telling the Time (there’s a clue somewhere here!) and Time Waits for No Man (likewise!).

My main use of time though for flash fiction is deciding on when I’m setting the story. Am I going to tell it as it “happens” to the character or will I get the character to look back on an event? I use both regularly and usually it is clear which would work better. So much depends on the character A reflective type would be best suited to looking back at something that had happened (which I do in They Don’t Understand). An active “go get them” kind would probably be better off telling the story AS it happens, implying the passing of time as we go through the events with them.

What do I look for in an opening line for flash fiction? I don’t necessarily need to know who the lead character is funnily enough, but I DO need to know the setting, the attitude of the narrator (especially if this is a first person piece), and some indication of what the problem is. That problem and how it is overcome IS the story of course.

Something about the narrator/lead character has got to intrigue me enough to make me want to read on. A great piece of flash fiction will make you ponder whether YOU would have acted in the same way as the character you’ve just read about!

Fairytales with Bite – Favourite Times

What are your characters’ favourite times? Curling up with a good book? Lazing in the bath? Going for a good walk with the dog?

Use questions like this to help you establish your character. The answers may not appear in your story but knowing something about the character before you start writing about them will be enormously helpful. You don’t need to know each and every little detail. What you want is enough information that you can write clearly for them, knowing how they would react to a situation and why. The reader will pick up on the fact you really do know your character (even if they do this subconciously, in many ways it is better if they do pick up on this that way) and the writing will flow better as a result.

Of course, working out what your characters’ favourite times will tell you so much about them. Do they curl up with a good book because they can’t face what is their real life? Why can’t they face it? Dig deep. Maybe you will surprise yourself with what your characters show you about themselves. Use that.

This World and Others – Time

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week talks about time management and time travel.  Guess which one I want to get better at!  Joking aside, this led me to think about how we use time in stories.

A lot of my flash fiction stories are set within a very short time period (appropriately) and are written in the first person, precisely because I want to achieve a sense of “immediacy”.  For other pieces I have the lead character looking back at their lives and being reflective so the time within stories like that is longer, “stretched” if you like, and the pace of the story is slower.  What grabs you with those kinds of tale is the character – something about them intrigues you enough to make you want to find out more.

Time in itself can make a useful theme for stories (too little of it, too much of it etc) but I’ve found it helpful to think about the kind of story I want to tell and then work out what the best time frame for that tale would be.  In my Pressing the Flesh the opening line is “It was 3 am”.  The impact of that is to make you wonder (a) why the time is important and (b) to assume the character concerned is unlikely to be up to any good at that time of night.  (Quite right too – see my From Light to Dark and Back Again for the whole story!).