Time Generation and Must Have Books

Image Credit:-
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. Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing images kindly supplied by Wendy H Jones. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Other book photos taken by me.
Hope you have had a good weekend. Nice to have a quiet one after my London trip the week before. The dog wasn’t sorry to have me at home either! Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

Glad to be able to share the Amazon link for the October issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads. Please note it IS a FREE magazine. Plenty of interesting articles to read. My column on flash fiction this time focuses on Light and Dark in Flash Fiction.


It’s my turn on the Authors Electric blog and this time I look at Drawing People into Reading. This post came about as a result of something I experienced at a Book Fair many moons ago. Why is reading considered as boring in some quarters when good books take you into fantasy worlds, science fiction, backwards and forwards in time? What can be done to correct that impression? Any thoughts welcome over on the AE page.

 

Have tried to make the most of nice autumnal weather this weekend given the rain is back next week. Lady had a wonderful surprise when she got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback best buddy today and then Lady’s “boyfriend”, a lovely Aussie Shepherd called Bear, also arrived. Three tired but happy dogs went home, feeling the day was well spent. It is quite a sight to see Lady play fighting with her Ridgeback pal. You stand back, stay out of the way, and enjoy the show! And who can herd the best – a Border Collie cross or an Aussie Shepherd? Hard to pick a winner but both of them ran beautifully, tails going nineteen to the dozen.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready for November. Always a joy to put that together. Please head over to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up. As well as news, I share exclusive stories, prompt, and tips here. (I try to make my newsletter something I know I would want to read if I was on the receiving end and I take the same approach with my stories and blogging. It’s a good starting point because I am trying to see things as a reader would and am tailoring my work to what I think a reader would want. It also helps cut out any temptation to put in things that are not strictly needed).

A tip that I’ve found useful many a time when perhaps the week has been especially tiring is a simple one. Just write what you can when you can and don’t beat yourself up. It is important to enjoy what you do and I would rather have a ten minutes writing session that I loved every second of than to have three times that long and I struggle. And for short periods of writing time I take the chance to jot down ideas for future use or might to do some light editing, things I know I can do in the time and which will help me feel as if I have achieved something. That is important too.

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Lady had a Saturday bonus today in that she got to play with her Labradoodle pal, Coco, today. Both dogs went home tired out and happy. I managed to cut our lawn today. I suspect it will be the final cut of the year too.

Writing wise, I look forward to sharing my next CFT post where I’ll be discussing Good Writing Topics. I am also back on Authors Electric on 18th and my theme for that will be Drawing People Into Reading.

And don’t forget if you contribute to Mom’s Favorite Reads, the online magazine, my topic this month is Memories. What 300 word stories can you share on that theme? This edition will be the November 2021 issue. I’ll share the link as soon as I can after publication so you can have a good read (!) but I know some who follow my website are fellow contributors to the magazine.

I like to pick open themes (the reason for which is something I’ll discuss more on Friday for my CFT post) but an early lesson in writing taught me to go that way as I did make the classic writing mistake of boxing myself in on a story. Never again I hope!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Amazon currently have an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again. See link.

Looking forward to sharing stories from that and Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the Brechin/Angus Book Fest during my flash fiction workshop. One of the best ways of demonstrating what flash fiction is and can be is to read some!

 

It’s a dark, damp, dire Monday in Hampshire so definitely time for story time I think. Hope you enjoy Scrabbled. What message would you spell out on the game board?


I’ve scheduled a new mini-flash tale for tomorrow on my YouTube channel and look forward to sharing the link then. See above!

I’ve also prepared a new story which I hope to submit to #FridayFlashFiction. And I used something different for this one.
I found a time generator! You can choose random times within parameters (which you can change). I chose five times within set hours (9 am and 5 pm). I will definitely do this again. The tale was great fun to write and it made me think about what my character would actively be doing as as well as when. Having specific times in a story meant I had to make my character focus and it gave a nice rhythm to the story too. Assuming FFF take the story, I’ll share the link when I have it.

Now if only I could have a “real life” time generator to help me get all the boring chores done so I had more time for writing and editing etc! Will let you know if my story makes it on to Friday Flash Fiction’s website this week.

Meanwhile you can check out my other videos at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

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I don’t write to the seasons as such though I do like some Christmassy flash fiction stories and have some in both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic. But there is no reason why you couldn’t take the seasons as a theme for a series of flash tales.

Likewise, the weather could be a “mood” for your story. Stormy has an obvious link to stormy characters and situations but how could you make “sunny” interesting enough for a reader to want to read on? I think my take on this would be to have a sunny character whose world is turned upside down. Do they find their sunny nature again or is that gone forever? Now there’s the story.

Goodreads Author Blog – Top Ten Must Have Books

Okay, no list is going to be perfect. I suspect some titles will drop out off any list in one year and come back on it again the next year etc but here is my list of Top Ten Must Have Books.

The Lord of the Rings
Pride and Prejudice
Murder on the Orient Express
Raising Steam (Terry Pratchett)
The Code of the Woosters
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
The Daughter of Time (Josephine Tey)
P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters. (Fabulous book and I love reading books of letters).
The History of Britain (Three volume set based on the TV series presented by Simon Schama some time ago but oh so worth reading).
A Christmas Carol

Which books would be on your list?

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Reflections

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope you enjoy the post.

Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jotting down ideas for future use

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Titles,Writing Magazine, Publication News, and Part 3 of Launches in Lockdown (and Lady news update!)

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

A huge thank you to Val Penny and Jen Wilson for their author pics and book cover images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

This post title should indicate what kind of week I’ve had – good but busy! Am just hoping the drink in the Pixabay picture below is a nice hot chocolate… I’m not a coffee fan. (I know, I know, writers are supposed to be but there you go).

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The advice and tips given in this series so far has been top-notch, not to be missed etc., (and the good news is there is more to come!). A huge thank you to #JenWilson and #ValPenny for their contributions this week.

Jen, Val, and I are huge fans of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is where we met and we are all hoping to meet up again there this year after last year’s event sadly had to be cancelled due to You Know What. We are also part of a team there called the Prosecco Queens (anyone fancy a guess at why we went for that name? Anybody? Anybody at all?!).

Last week’s post was from writers from the Association of Christian Writers. Now I mentioned earlier this week one of the joys of reading Writing Magazine is spotting how many of your writing pals you spot in between the covers, so to speak. I have to say it is usually a fairly even split between people I know from Swanwick and people I know from ACW. Keep going, folks!

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Hope Thursday has worked out okay for you. Glad to report Lady is now running again (and is very happy to be doing so, I can tell you). Mind you, it does look like she’s had a mud bath by the time I get her home. Thank goodness for my late mum’s old towels… perfect for dog cleaning duty! Also thanks goodness for an excellent washing machine!

Writing wise, I am looking forward to sharing part 3 of my Launches in Lockdown series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up for that tomorrow.

This week I feature two fabulous guests and writing friends I’ve come to know thanks to the marvellous Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (So not only have I learned from the wonderful courses there, I’ve made fantastic friends and they are the best support any writer can have. Who else but another writer knows the elation when things are going well and you have work out there? Equally who better to sympathise with when rejections are all that seem to appear in your inbox?).

Further news. I had a fab time appearing on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show last week. I’ll be writing a CFT piece about that and resharing the link once the Launches series has finished so that is my CFT diary full for February!

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One of joys of subscribing to Writing Magazine is opening it up and spotting your writer friends in there. This month it’s my turn! My February edition has just come in and I’m on the Subscribers’ News page, talking about my happy writing accident in discovering the joys of flash fiction writing. Naturally my website and Tripping the Flash Fantastic get a mention! (And It was fab my publishers Chapeltown Books had a good write-up last time).

Also delighted to see another 5 star rating come in for From Light to Dark and Back Again. A good day then!

Lady had her first proper but limited run today and loved it. Her paw is fine. The only thing we could have wished for was better weather but it is supposed to improve as the week goes on.

Looking forward to my first blog appearing on Authors Electric on the 18th. Meanwhile do check the excellent posts out there at https://authorselectric.blogspot.com/

Towards the end of this month is going to be a bit busy as I’ve lined an interview up amongst other things and I’m looking forward to all of that (and to being able to say more about the other things too).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’ve discussed titles before here but it is an important topic and they carry more weight in flash fiction stories than in other types of fiction. Why?

Firstly, the right title will set the mood and tone of the story in and of itself and that will save you on the word count for the tale itself.

Secondly, some websites and competitions do include the title as part of the word count (so always watch for that) so you want the title to do some of the “heavy lifting” for you.

Some other thoughts:-

  • Keep your title short. It makes it more memorable and saves on word count.
  • Impact of title is more important than word count (but that’s true for the story too!).
  • Does your title idea reflect the mood of the story or can it be open to interpretation? I am fond of the latter as it gives so much flexibility but there are times I want to set the mood so I choose an appropriate title accordingly.
  • Alliteration Always An Idea but Don’t Overuse It!
  • Never be afraid to change a title if the one you first came up with isn’t working for you. I find I need a title to work “to” when drafting but have changed it when a better idea comes up.

I’ve had the privilege of judging a flash fiction competition, which was interesting to do, but I was surprised to find some stories didn’t have titles with them. The really important thing to remember about a title is it is your story’s first “advert” to hook the reader in with and you want to make the most of that.

Remember only the Ten Commandments were set in stone so my advice would be to go with a working title and then change it later if you think of better (and that often does happen as you write the story. A better idea will “just come to you”. Note it and then examine it later in the cold light of day to see if it is as good as you thought and/or better than your initial idea. If it is, go for it!).

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I’ve often discussed, especially on my author FB page, the joy of outlining. I find it helpful to outline my characters. Now can you do all of that for a 50 or 100 word piece of flash fiction? Of course you can!

Like the story itself, the outline won’t be a long one, that is all. Less than a short paragraph like this usually does the job nicely – and I then get straight into writing the tale. Prep helps a lot! I’ve found it saves me a lot of time later as the outline has stopped me from going off at a tangent etc. Tangents are fun but are often not relevant to the character or plot so they shouldn’t go in. Everything has to be relevant!

So for a flash fiction outline (and especially for those tales which will be under 500 words), I ask myself a couple of questions.

  • Why do I want to write about this character? (In many ways it is for this character, it is their story I’m telling).
  • What mood is the story going to be? (This does affect the type of character I’m going to produce for the tale. If I want a funny tale, you don’t necessarily need a funny character to service it. What you do want are characters full of their own importance who need taking down a peg or several. That’s where the humour is, not necessarily directly in the character. Often a character who thinks they are funny are not and can often be tragic.).

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Publication News

Many thanks for the great response yesterday to my plug for CafeLit now the list of those appearing in The Best of CafeLit 10 is now known. (And yes this is another crafty way of getting another mention in for CafeLit and the book!). Yes, it does include me – see next post down. Sometimes a date order blog round up goes against you!!

For me the success of any story, regardless of its length, depends on the character(s). If they grip me, I’m reading the rest of the story, book or what you. If they don’t…. Well, life is just too short to perservere with something that just isn’t engaging me.

And that is the continuing challenge for me as a writer. Just how can I make my characters appeal to a reader (and especially one who may well not have come across my work before. There is a certain truth in the saying you only have the one chance to make a first impression and with my stories, I want my characters to hook readers in right from the start. You have got to have that “must find out what happens next” moment and to keep that going until you do reach the end).

One way I try to achieve this is to come up with characters readers can understand. They don’t have to like them but they do have to get where the character is from (and ideally ask themselves if I was this character, would I be doing this? If not, what would I be doing instead? If a reader is asking questions like that from a character, you know what character has intrigued them to keep on reading).

This is where outlining the character helps. And the great thing is you can pick the kind of outline that suits you. I don’t particularly need to know what my character looks like (that can come later) but I do need to know what their major traits are and what their flaws are. Think about what you would want to know from your character if you could interview them “for real” and use that as a basis for a useful outline template you can use over and over again.


Fairytales With Bite – When the Wand Isn’t Enough….

Okay, we’re in a magical world in our stories. How can a wand ever not be enough?

Well, firstly, if a wave of the old wand solves every problem, you haven’t got any stories to write. Where is the conflict in that? Problem A arises. Problem A gets resolved with said wave of magic wand. There’s no character development. And just reading problems being resolved like that will become boring so quickly! Readers want to find out what the characters do and how they react and it takes more than a wave of the magic wand to really show readers what the characters are truly made of. Are they sterling stuff or treacherous rats etc?

Also when everyone has a reasonable amount of magical power, there has to be a way of distinguishing between them (and it helps your readers to tell them apart too).

It is also a reasonable assumption to work on that some species will have more powers than others either by learning or by inheritance or both so what do the weaker species do to ensure they can survive? They’ve got to find ways of beating “their betters” without the use of magic (and that’s when stories can become really interesting. Characters are having to think on their feet here though of course you as the writer have planned this all out!).

So just as writers we shouldn’t rely on magic or coincidences getting our characters out of trouble, the characters themselves need more than the old magic wand waving too.

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This World and Others – What do Characters think of their Environment?

The answer to this question will also tell readers a fair bit about what your characters are like.

Do they care about the environment or are they oblivious to it?

If your created world has different climates and regions, are the characters you’re writing about aware of all of this or is there a certain amount of Here Be Dragons about their attitudes?

Here Be Dragons was something written on old maps where a map maker had literally got to the limits of where they were prepared to go to make their maps so anything unknown had this slogan added to it! They could get away with it because it was highly unlikely anyone was going to challenge them (and I’m sure they worked on the theory, well there could be dragons!). (Never get away with it now due to Google etc!).

How characters treat the world around them is likely to flag up to readers how they are likely to treat other characters. One of my own favourite characters in Losing Myself from Tripping The Flash Fantastic appears to be one who cares much more about the environment and natural world than any other of her own kind. That was an interesting story to write because it made me think deeply about what would make a character be or become that way.

And then there will the opposite – those who do not see or care about the environment around them. How did they get to be that way? And is there a point where they have to change their attitude?

So my lead question here can be a great way into some interesting story ideas.

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A Novel Approach, Favourite Books and a Free Story

Image Credit:  Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for supplying many of the photos for her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I welcome #JenniferCWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today.

This time, we discuss her venture into non-fiction with her recently released book, A Novel Approach.

The theme for this summer on CFT has very much been one of changing direction and Jennifer’s interview continues that idea.

Do check out her thoughts on the benefits of finding a good writing group amongst many other gems here.

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I always enjoy writing my CFT posts but interviews, I think, are the most fun of all. Why?

Because I always learn something useful, interesting, entertaining, and often all three from my guests. (So thank you one and all!).

No one author can know it all and learning from other writers is a crucial part of how we all develop. Reading interviews and, in my case, hosting them as well, helps enormously here!😊

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We all have favourite books, many of which go back years. So what made you decide Book A was said favourite? Is it a question of working out what books you have you simply can’t manage without and favourite status is conferred upon them due to that?

In my case, one of my favourite books is definitely a nostalgic one as this was given to me by my late parents. Others, such as Josephine Tey’s wonderful The Daughter of Time I came across by accident and I was so happy to find it!

Still others are books written by friends and, not only do I love the stories, but every time I look at the books, I am reminded of happy times meeting up with said friends. (Usually at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Bridge House Publishing or Association of Christian Writer events it has to be said!).

So what are your favourite stories and why do you love them so much? Do you have room in your life for new favourites? (The answer to that should be of course!). Which book is your most recent addition to the favourites list?

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Am delighted to be welcoming #JenWilson back to Chandler’s Ford Today this week.

Jen will be talking about her change of direction into non-fiction writing with her recently released A Novel Approach. There has been a lot of this change of direction in the air this summer! It has definitely been my theme for this year for CFT.

Jen will be discussing how she came to write the book and shares her thoughts about what a good writing group can do for you amongst many other gems. Link up on Friday. Don’t miss especially if you are thinking about writing a novel.

Meanwhile if you want to check the book out do see the link.

 

JenniferCWilson-ANovelApproach-Cover

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Free Story!

I couldn’t resist having another go at the random noun generator. This time I opted for three random nouns and what came up were “shirt”, “marriage”, and “ladder”. Now there’s an interesting mix!

Hope you enjoy the following. A humorous end to the week is always welcome!

THE SPECIAL OFFER

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the sign. “Buy a shirt and your dearest wish will come true”. I’ve seen plenty of dodgy advertising in my time. So I went over to the market trader and challenged him. How on earth could a shirt grant wishes? Especially such a bright one. Vivid purple was never my style fortunately.

‘You’ve heard of magical lamps and rings, why can’t a shirt be magical too?’ was his response.

I guess on logic alone, he had a point, but when I think of
shirts and magic, it is only in terms of being able to get leaky ink stains out of a shirt in one go in the washing machine. And that doesn’t happen often I can tell you. Unlike leaky ink stains going flaming everywhere.

‘Anyway,’ I told the guy, ‘how can a shirt know what my wish is to grant it?’

‘You tell the shirt when you get it home, silly.’

That was me told.

Now don’t judge me here. I did buy the shirt. I needed to get a present for my nephew so I thought a vivid purple shirt would be the thing. (You should see the colour of his trousers. You need sunglasses, I tell you, so a bright shirt would suit him beautifully. Okay, I didn’t envy his mother the task of washing the wretched thing. That purple would be bound to run but I’ve long told my sister she ought to get her boy helping around the house more so she can start by getting him to wash the wretched thing).

Did I make a wish? Yes. For a laugh. I know my sister is concerned about her lad’s prospects so I wished that his life would take off in a good way so she could stop worrying. Covers both of them and it’s a nice wish I think.

I didn’t tell my nephew, or my sister, where I got the shirt or about the advertising for it.

But I was taken aback when a week after I’d given the present, he and his mother came around with news. Robbie was to be married to the young lass who worked at the launderette and knew everything there was to be known about washing colours separately.

Apparently, he’d borrowed his father’s ladder, went around to the young lass’s house, and proposed at the top of the ladder on Valentine’s Day Night. He had meant to do so when he took her out for a meal but lost his nerve.

That is so like him. As was tumbling off the ladder but fortunately he landed in a huge shrub and no damage done. The shrub was all right as well apparently.

The marriage takes place next month and now I’m off to the market stall. If there are any more of those shirts, I’ll get him a load. I’ve made a list of wishes that will be of real help to a young, married couple.

It’s the least I can do.

Ends

Allison Symes – 21st August 2020

 

Flash fiction may be a quick read but it isn’t necessarily a fast write! I get a first draft down quickly but the work is in the editing (as it is with all forms of writing I think).

Honing a story to ensure every word justifies its place in the tale takes time. And I will often rewrite a section to maximise the impact of that part of the story.

I ask myself if the impact is strong enough? Will it affect the reader the way I want it to do? A change of word, sometimes where I place the word in a sentence, can make all the difference.

It is only when I know any further changes to a story would weaken it that I submit the story somewhere.

Was listening to #WendyHJones‘ excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show, earlier this evening and discovered a new term for what I call wasted words. The term was weasel words and I love that.

It is some comfort to know every writer has these literary pests (and mine are actually, very, and that, as I’ve mentioned before).

Still, when it comes to the edit, I know what’s coming out first and I find, with this done, it seems to get the rest of the edit off to a flying start. I find that helpful so maybe my wasted words have some use. They just don’t stay in!

Image of Wendy H Jones below kindly supplied by her. (Do check out her podcast. I was on episode 4 talking about flash fiction).

Fairytales With Bite – 

The Influence of Fairytales on Literature in General

The obvious influence is that fairytales are a genre in their own right, correctly so too. The next biggest influence I think is given most children’s introduction to literature is via fairytales, said stories act as a gateway into the wonderful world of books per se. That has to be a good thing! This was the case for me and I’ve never regretted having a lifelong love of stories and books as a result.

With that comes the influence on those children who go on to become writers. The marvellous Roald Dahl with his works aimed at children was, to my mind, clearly the successor to Hans Christen Andersen (especially as he knew children liked to read about characters who were not goody goody. Know your market always!).

Fairytales for children can lead to fairytales for adults and I would say A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a prime example of that. What an influence that particular story has had on so many of us!

The idea of wrongs being put right isn’t just for crime writing! There’s a good case for saying fairytales were well ahead of the game there.

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This World and Others – Fascinating Facts

When it comes to creating your own fictional world, and thinking of how it is all going to come together, do some research. This is where non-fiction reference books can be so useful to fiction writers. A lot can be done online of course but do go for a variety of books. This will help in ensuring you get facts right but almost inevitably you won’t find all you want in one book.

You want to create a new planet for your characters to live on. Okay. What are they going to breathe? What are they going to eat and drink? What will their climate be like? All of those things you can research based on what you know/can find out here on good old Planet Earth and then adapt for your own purposes.

If you want your creations breathing something other than oxygen, what do they breathe instead and how do their bodies manage this? Think about fish breathing through their gills. What would your people do?

Have fun working this all out and then show readers what they need to know to make sense of it all.

 

 

 

 

 

Further Thoughts On The Writing Game

Image Credit:  Pexels/Pixabay unless stated. A huge thanks to my guest authors on this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post for their author and book cover pics.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am thrilled to share the second part of my CFT series on The Writing Game – and What to Watch For Part 2. Plenty of advice and tips here, Hope you enjoy. A big thanks to all of my guest authors. This week I feature guests from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Topics include handling professional jealousy and checking contracts.

This series is the kind of one I would have welcomed when I was a new writer especially. Why?

Because you don’t realise at the outset how much there is to learn. You don’t know what the pitfalls and hazards are. You’re not aware, to begin with at least, of the difference between vanity publishing and real self-publishing.

It is only when you’ve been writing for a while and you make author friends that you pick up tips and good advice from them, as well as from organisations like the Society of Authors.

If there is only ONE reason to go to writing conferences and events (when such things are possible again), the learning from others is, for me, the most important one. No one author can know it all.

Mind you, there are LOADS of other excellent reasons to go to writing events when you can and via Zoom etc in the meantime.

The nice thing about all of this? Later on, you can share what you have learned with others who, in turn, will share it later. What goes around literally comes around in writing circles – and it should always be to the benefit of the writer!

Hope you enjoy.

Many thanks for my guests this week – #DawnKentishKnox, #GillJames, #AmandaJones, #PaulaCReadman, and #AmandaHuggins.

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Have gone from walking the dog before it became too hot, creosoting fence panels, to editing to about to have a lovely Zoom chat with writer pals.

Am looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new CFT series – The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. Full of top tips, this week’s installment shares advice from writers from Bridge House Publishing, Cafelit, and Chapeltown Books. Link up tomorrow.

Need to get back to flash fiction writing but hope to do that over the weekend. Am also enjoying preparing material for a blog where I will be a guest. Now off to chat!

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Facebook – General – and the Association of Christian Writers – More Than Writers – The Reading Challenge

I talk about The Reading Challenge in my monthly spot on More Than Writers. This is the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers.

This month I ask if writers SHOULD find reading a challenge.

So over to you. What do you read that challenges you? What benefits do you find from that? Do you read outside of your usual genres and how do you find that works? Has it inspired your own imagination and, if so, how?

 

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Many thanks to my lovely guests for their advice and tips in Part 2 of The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, my new CFT series.

As well as avoiding the scams (as we all must), the writing game does have a fun side to it! There are so many kinds of writing to explore so if you’re not sure which is for you, try different ones out. You’ll soon know which you are likely to stay with, which you might write occasionally, and those you loathe!

Exploring different forms of writing led me to discovering the wonderful world of flash fiction and blogging. I have no regrets about either!

Whatever you’re working on this weekend, I hope you have a splendid time writing.

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Mixing up how you find ideas for stories is always a good thing to do. It’s fun too. I think that was the major thing that I took from the Zoom creative writing workshop I was on recently.

I’ve mentioned before that I will sometimes start my flash fiction with what I know will be the closing line and work backwards to get to the starting point. At some point I ought to try a line that would work best in the middle of a story and see what I can do with that. To work forwards and backwards would be a good challenge!

Stretching yourself in writing in different ways helps you discover what you like and, best of all, find new ways of writing stories you also develop a liking for – and it keeps you on your toes.

 

What have been the differences for me in writing FLTDBA and my new book, Tripping the Flash Fantastic, which is due soon?

I’ve had more fun with TTFF in terms of where and when I set my characters. I’ve also written some linked flash fiction for this one, which is a first for me, and I hope to do more of that. I strongly suspect some haiku flash fiction tales might make it into my next one!

Again themes have emerged as I put the collection together but I hope to talk more about that later. I am planning to have a cyberlaunch in due course and am looking forward to that.

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Fairytales with Bite – Reasons to Love Fairytales

Nobody really needs a reason to love fairytales, of course, but for the less convinced I offer the following:-

1. They are often the first stories youngsters come across and are a gateway into the wonderful world of reading. Once that spark is lit, there should be no turning back. It is no coincidence that those who read more develop a larger and more wide ranging vocabulary.

2. There is a clear sense of right and wrong in fairytales. (That appeals to children and those who decided growing up was overrated).

3. Some stories can act as warnings.

4. The stories can reflect injustice and cruelty but also usually have those things stopped by the end. (In life so often these things are not stopped. It is good to have stories where matters are rectified, justice is done etc. This is something shared with good crime stories too).

5. They’re great stories (reason enough!).

In fairytales the dragon does not win. (Shrek inverts that concept but there the dragon is one of the good guys. Love that idea).

This World and Others –

What Every Piece of Writing Needs

While every genre has specific requirements, what every good story needs can be summarised as follows. (A lot of this can apply to non-fiction too).

  1. Memorable characters with distinctive voices. For non-fiction, this equates to a memorable narrative style and voice. Think of documentaries you have loved. What made them stand out? A lot of that will be down to the narrative voice.
  2. A plot that keeps the reader enthralled and has plenty of ups and downs. For non-fiction, it is a case of setting out what you want to share with the reader in an entertaining and informative way. No dull list of facts etc. You want to engage with your reader and draw them into the world you’re trying to show them.
  3. To meet the needs of the reader whether it is to entertain them with a story or show them something they hadn’t known with non-fiction. You really do need to know your audience.
  4. A powerful ending that delivers on a promising start.
  5. No sagging middles!
  6. A good, memorable title which hooks the reader.
  7. To be a good advert for the other writing you do!

 

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The Writing Game – and What to Watch For

Image Credit:  Pixels/Pixabay. A HUGE thank you to my lovely guest authors in my new Chandler’s Ford Today series for their photos.

MAJOR NEW CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY SERIES

I’ll be sharing Part 1 of a major new Chandler’s Ford Today series called The Writing Game – and What to Watch For. The series will be packed with useful advice. It is particularly useful for new writers or those seeking publication. More experienced writers should find plenty of useful tips too. More on this in a moment but I wanted to give a big shout out to all of the lovely authors who are taking part in this.

Richard Hardie, Brenda H Sedgwick, Francesca Tyer, Teresa Bassett, and Maggie Farran for Part 1 – tonight’s post.

Dawn Kentish Knox, Gill James, Amanda Baber (aka Amanda Jones), Paula C Readman, and Amanda Huggins for Part 2 – next Friday’s post, appearing 31st July.

Jacci Gooding, Jennifer C Wilson, Val Penny, and Wendy H Jones for Part 3 – the following Friday’s post, appearing 7th August.

See the slideshow below. Do check out the posts, not just for the great advice given by everyone, but to discover for yourself what a wealth of talent there is here. The genres represented here cover such a wide range of writing – think romantic fiction to horror and so much in between too!

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You will gather from the above I am rather proud of this new series. Guilty, as charged! BUT this is the kind of series I would have lapped up when I was starting out as a writer. My guests and I all hope you find it useful and entertaining. Now to business!

Am pleased to share the link to my new CFT series – The Writing Game and What to Watch For. This is a three-parter and it’s the kind of post I would have lapped up when I was starting out as a writer.

Many thanks to the guest authors today and to the others who are taking part in the next two posts. Between us all, we have a wide range of experience in writing and cover a fantastic range of genres.

There is everything from YA fantasy to romantic comedy to horror. There’s flash fiction (I know, guess who!) to short stories to novelists. There are the traditionally published to those who have deliberately self published and have done a fantastic job doing so.

The tips and advice given here will be particularly useful for new writers or for those who have written for a while, but are now seeking advice about publication.

But, having said that, I’ve always found it to be true you learn so much from listening to or reading what other writers have to say so I’m sure there will be plenty of good “pickings” for more experienced writers too.

I very much look forward to sharing the next two posts on this topic. Today’s fab authors are #RichardHardie, #BrendaHSedgwick, #FrancescaTyer, #TeresaBassett, and #MaggieFarran.

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Am looking forward to sharing Part 1 of my new series on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow.

Called The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, I set guest authors three questions. These questions are:-

1. Which tip over the years has proved most useful to them?

2. What do they know now that, with hindsight, they wished they’d known when they started writing seriously?

3. What do you think a new author should most be wary about?

My guests have come up with fabulous answers to these and we all hope the three part series will provide a wealth of useful advice.

Naturally I answer the questions myself, one over the next three weeks, and share another Top Tip I’ve found invaluable over the years.

Guests come from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, the Association of Christian Writers, Bridge House Publishing/Cafelit/Chapeltown, the world of self publishing, and some fantastic local (to me!) authors. Between us we cover a huge variety of genres including non-fiction.

Link up tomorrow. And a huge thank you to my guests for their great contributions and photos.

I’ve switched back to the old Facebook and lo and behold I can now add pictures! I was more disappointed not to have ANY responses to my Report a Problem comments to be honest. Still back to service as normal here. I’ll stick with the old school then! On a more positive note:-

Enjoyed the follow up Zoom creative writing workshop this afternoon (Wednesday 22nd July). Have a promising funny flash fiction tale from it so will work on that at some point as it needs some editing to sharpen it up. Both workshops have shown me new ideas for finding story ideas so will make good use of those I’m sure in time.

It has also been a while since I had to write something in ten minutes so it was good to get back to that kind of thing again. It keeps you on your writing toes which is always good.

And I really have loved the haiku exercise that was set so to finish for tonight…

When the midweek blues
Hit home always remember
Two days – it’s Friday!😊

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Am listening to the theme from Dick Barton Special Agent on Classic FM as I type this. I don’t remember the original series (though it is repeated every so often on Radio 4 Extra) but the music IS very evocative.

It was great fun choosing the music for the book trailer for FLTDBA. I went for Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens as I saw it as quirky music for quirky fiction.

I’m currently drawing up a shortlist of suitable choices for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Finding a piece that reflects either one specific mood of story OR has different moods within it which reflects the variety in the book is not always easy. But it is still great fun to try to do!

And of course it combines my two great loves – classical music and stories!😊I just need to find a way of somehow getting chocolate, prosecco, and a decent cup of tea into the mix!😆

 

My CFT series The Writing Game – and What to Watch For, which starts tomorrow, has a wealth of advice, especially for new writers or those who are seeking publication whether that is immediately or after having written for a number of years first.

I didn’t start out seeking publication myself. I wanted to prove to myself I could write and it was a long time before I actively sought to be published. I don’t regret doing that. I learned a lot. My ONLY regret with writing is not having started at all a lot sooner than I did.

One thing I could’ve added to this was be open to the types of writing you do. As I’ve mentioned before, it is how I discovered flash fiction. Also, taking part in writing exercises on Zoom this week, has reminded me of the importance of using different ways to trigger story ideas. You need to keep an open mind and to use things that are not immediately obvious story material. But it pays to look into different writing exercises and see what you can do with them. It’s fun too!

(I shall be writing more haiku for a start!).

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A writing exercise I took part in via a Zoom workshop today involved two objects (given from a list) and drafting a story about them. I’ve got a rough draft of a funny flash tale from that. Good fun to do.

It struck me that it was useful the list was set by someone else. There is a certain amount of the “you’ve got to get on with it then” syndrome here.

Could you scupper yourself by choosing your own objects? Possibly. The temptation would be to stick to the things you know you could write about. The whole point of the exercise is to make you think outside of the box and stretch yourself here.

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Fairytales With Bite – Quirky Characters

There are those who might feel that the reason I love quirky characters is because I am one! Hmm…

So what is it about quirky characters that appeals to me so much, both in terms of reading about them and writing them myself?

Humour – there’s usually a lot of humour, often irony, involved here. That appeals directly ever since I first came across irony in Pride and Prejudice which I read at secondary school many, many moons ago. That book was an eye opener for me in terms of how irony can be used (and the best kind is subtle with it too). It paved the way for me to appreciate more direct irony in the works of Terry Pratchett and P.G. Wodehouse, to name but two, later on

The Unexpected – The irony (!) here is you expect the unexpected from quirky characters. You’d be a bit disappointed to say the least if they didn’t come out with something. Often this is the pivoting point of the whole story too. What is fun is trying to guess what they come up with.

Memorable – You remember quirky characters. It’s why I’ve always loved Jo March in Little Women and George in The Famous Five. Again I wanted to find out what they could do and whether they could surpass what had gone before. It kept me reading! The trick for a writer is to achieve the same thing. It is also the challenge! What is it that makes your characters memorable?

 

This World and Others –

Elements of Worlds I Love to Pick Up On When Reading

In fantasy and science fiction, the created world can be a character in its own right. (The very name Mordor to me will always imply evil, for example). I don’t need to know the nuts and bolts of that created world. I just need to know what the main characters think of their world and that shows up in how they react to it.

The kind of information I do need is basic common sense stuff. If everyone in the world flies everywhere, how do they do it? What problems does that cause? How do they deal with traffic congestion at peak flying times (and I refuse to believe there isn’t any!)?

I needed to know in The Lord of the Rings that it was highly unusual for hobbits to go on adventures and they certainly weren’t considered as hero material by anyone one else in Middle Earth. I didn’t need to know the ins and outs of daily life as lived by a hobbit.

So what do you like to know when it comes to reading alien worlds? What does your reader know to know to make sense of the world you’re showing them?

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