Writing Humour, Reviews, and Discretion

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

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

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

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fairytales with Bite – Messages in Storytelling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Back to Earth after Swanwick

Image Credits:-

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

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

Had a fab time at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (and a huge thanks to Fiona Park for the image of me signing books there recently), but also glad to be back home and at the old writing desk once again. (Lady went bananas on my return and in such a sweet way!). Image below taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

Have started work on my next author newsletter (to go out on 1st September – to sign up for this just head over to my website – landing page – at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). I share news, tips, exclusive stories etc here. I hope later that some of those stories will make it into future flash collections but newsletter readers get “first dibs” on reading these.

Am pleased to say most of my slots for Chandler’s Ford Today are full until towards the end of next month and that’s always a good sign. Plenty of fantastic interviews to come and I will be sharing Part 2 of Writing Humour with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh this coming week. Link up on Friday.

I will also be looking back at a wonderful week at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for CFT soon too. (It’s a good way to celebrate the fact Swanwick happened at all and gives me a chance to share some of the benefits of going to it).

Writing Tip Time: One writing tip that has always stood me in good stead is to read work out loud, especially dialogue. What looks good on the page or screen does not always read well. If you stumble on something, your readers will too. I’ve made many an amendment to a story due to that alone. It is worth the time. That extra polishing up can make all the difference to whether a story is accepted or not.


Back to the usual writing week after a fab week at Swanwick. I’ll be drafting blogs later this evening but since coming home I have submitted a flash fiction piece for #FridayFlashFiction and I will be sharing a YouTube video of mine over on my From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook page shortly.  See further down for the video. (I wrote the story for that video yesterday).

I like to have a good balance of non-fiction and fiction achieved over the course of a week and as long as I manage that, which I normally do, I’m happy. I am also carrying out editing work at the moment which is always interesting.

Funny day with the weather today. Think it’s still trying to make up its mind whether it’s summer or not…

I’ve mentioned before I sometimes use random word generators (nouns, adjectives, questions, numbers even) to trigger story ideas but another way to use them is simply to come up with say half a dozen words and ensure they are somewhere in your tale.

I tend to use the generators to trigger themes and/or title ideas, but the “have to use the words somewhere in the story” ploy is one I need to do more often. I’ve always had fun with this when doing these in the past. So I think it pays every now and then to look at prompt types you used to use and perhaps don’t write to so often now and have a creative trip down Memory Lane and revisit these.


Hope you have had a good Sunday. I know every day this week I’ll be thinking back to what I was doing at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this day last week! Swanwick gets to you like that but it is in a lovely way.

Just a quick heads up to say my debut flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again – the paperback – is currently on offer at Amazon. (Sounds a bit like a film franchise, you know the kind of thing, when I put it like that. I promise not to name my eventual third collection XXX – This Time It’s Personal!).

Looking ahead this week, Part 2 of a fabulous interview with #FranHill and #RuthLeigh will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Have blogs to put up and schedule too and there is always flash fiction to work on. I drafted some while at Swanwick and I need to give some thought as to where I’ll submit those. I have ideas for both. I have the nice task of deciding which I like best. And I am working on workshop material ready for events later in the year. I’m looking forward to sharing details nearer the time.

Learning to plan out what I write when has been a useful tip I have made good use of over the years and it is coming into its own for me now.

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Had a lovely afternoon and evening with family members I’ve not seen for months. Today was the first time in so long that we could have a proper chat and Lady was besides herself with excitement. She loves visitors. She thinks they all come to see her of course. (Oh and she did go bonkers on seeing Mum had returned from Swanwick yesterday. Naturally Lady had to make sure Mum really was back by giving big cuddles to said Mum. Mum did not mind in the slightest!).

Have plenty of blogs and stories to get on with but I will resume my usual writing routine from tomorrow. I always find I need a little bit of “come back to earth” time after Swanwick. Am also looking forward to reading the books I brought back with me though I have already made a start on those. One of my great “home treasures” are my book shelves, packed with signed books by writer pals.

Many thanks for the comments in on my It’s an Ill Wind (up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday). That was lovely to come home to!

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Alliteration Always Advantageous – In titles for flash stories or collections? Not necessarily. (There’s some more alliteration for you!).

I am wary of anything that might come across as gimmicky so I use alliteration sparingly. It can work well but I think as something different to the overall “mix” in a collection. I also want to keep titles open to interpretation and/or mood so trying to dream up something with alliteration can mean I restrict myself unnecessarily here. You wouldn’t want a whole book of alliterative titles. I could see that becoming boring.

As with the stories themselves, your titles should have an interesting hook to them. I’ve used random generators (especially the question one) to come up with ideas for titles I can use directly or adapt. Often changing one word makes all the difference. And I want my titles to have impact. So anything gimmicky could reduce that impact.

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16th August
Pleased to share my latest YouTube video based on a story I wrote yesterday. Hope you enjoy Knowing the Basics though I am glad I do not have Sandra’s attitude to flying. I am even more glad pilots don’t have Sandra’s attitude. See the video for why!


I mix up the kind of prompts I use to produce flash fiction. I will often start with my favourite, an opening line, but have worked to a closing line. I like picture prompts too and random words (either to get into the story somewhere or to use as a title and/or theme) also work well for me.

Stories from viewpoints of alternative characters got me into print in the first place with my A Helping Hand in Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing) but are great fun to do. You do have to put considerable thought into which character you will use for this and why you have picked them.

On switching to Scrivener, I was delighted to discover it comes with character and setting templates in the short story format. I just adjust these to my own use as I don’t need all of the pre-set information given. But it makes a great starting point and thinking about your story before you write it works well for me.

I like to know I have got tracks to follow before getting on with the story. I guess it’s a reassurance to me I have got something to work up into a story in the first place.

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I was glad to take part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night again. I chose two stories from From Light to Dark and Back Again (Serving Up a Treat and Calling the Doctor). From Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I chose Judgement Day. See book trailer below for Calling the Doctor. I’ve always been proud of this one – I change the mood of the story with the very last word. Great fun to do.

You have a maximum of five minutes to read (and it is always better to come in a little under that time if possible) and the joy of flash here is you can easily do that with one longer piece or a couple of shorter ones.

It does pay to read your stories out loud and/or record yourself reading them and playing them back. I’ve found dialogue I think looks okay on the paper does not necessarily read well and if you trip over something, your reader will too. At least with flash this does not take long and it is a good thing to hear how your story comes across as that is how your reader will take it in.


Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events and Paperbacks

I’ve just come back from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which has been my first live book and writing related event for well over a year. (It was fantastic catching up with old friends again and the array of courses and workshops was as amazing as ever).

Swanwick has its own Book Room for the duration of the school and it was lovely being able to put my two flash fiction collections in there and pick up books written by friends. (Naturally I got them to sign them during Swanwick week and it is always a thrill to be asked by others to sign your own books).

Is the paperback alive and well? They certainly went down well at the Swanwick Book Room! I think the paperback is still relevant as a format. After all, you can’t exactly put a Kindle out on a table for a book event! Nor can the writer be asked to sign a Kindle (well, I’m not aware of any way of doing this anyway).

From the writer’s viewpoint, paperbacks are relatively easy to transport to an event (note I only say relatively as it does depend on the size. Thankfully I am not writing a three volume epic so that helps a lot!). But people do still like physical books and I think it is healthy to have a wide range of formats as not one size suits all.

When I’m away I do take my Kindle to save luggage space but I would never want to be without physical books. There is something about the texture and feel of them too (and I still love that new book “smell”). And long may that continue!

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Favourite Characters and Misunderstandings

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.

Looking forward to giving a talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers later this week. Always good to share the joys of writing and reading flash fiction.

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Facebook – General

Hope your Tuesday has gone well. Glad to be swimming this afternoon. Refreshing and it is the only sport I do with any reasonable proficiency. I don’t use the time in the pool to think out stories or articles funnily enough. Again, as with being out and about in the natural world, it is the break away from the desk that helps the most. (Lady still doesn’t understand why she can’t go with me. She would cause chaos – no chance at all of her keeping to the proper lane!).

I’m a bit later at my desk tonight for various reasons (one of those days for a start!) but what matters is getting there at all and making the most of whatever writing time I have. I won’t be writing so much this Thursday for example as I will be back at our local Ritchie Hall watching The Chameleons in their come back production after the pandemic. Will be so good to see them back (and what with singing in church again on Sunday, it does seem some normality has returned).

But whether I have a long writing session or a short one, I aim to have something done by the end of said session I can either develop further when I have more time or I have flash stories ready for editing later.

I’ve learned to appreciate that if I only have ten minutes to write, say, then I will make the most of those ten minutes.

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Hope you have had a great start to the week. Lady did as she got to see and play with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback. Both dogs were so excited to see each other. Always nice to see that!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is going to be a bit different. I am celebrating the glorious wildflower meadow in our local park where the dogs play. It is a wonderful sight. The funny thing is the natural world in and of itself does not inspire my writing. What it does do is give me a much needed break so I can come back to my stories raring to go. Link up on Friday and I share some great pictures too.

Looking ahead a bit, I am relishing sharing a two part interview with two of the funniest writers I know – #FranHill and #RuthLeigh (and it is so appropriate I use a hashtag for Ruth as the interviews will make clear!). That’s coming in August and I am so looking forward to reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, the first they have been able to put on since the pandemic began. That will go up in the first week of August, just before I head off to catch up with writing pals at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School after a two year gap. It will be so lovely to see people again (and not just their top halves thanks to Zoom!).

The working of the eye is amazing
Today has been lovely. I got to sing in church for the first time since March 2020 (and yes, I sang through a mask). It was wonderful. Really enjoyed that. Lovely to meet up with other congregation members, some of whom I haven’t seen since the first lockdown (as not everyone is into Zoom etc).

Had a lovely chat with Swanwick friends last night over Zoom. The next time I speak to one of them will be at Swanwick and that is a fabulous thought. So missed that and my writing chums there last year.

More comments coming in on Missing, my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Thanks, everyone, the feedback is useful and appreciated.

Am busy getting my latest author newsletter ready to go out on 1st August so if you would like exclusive stories, news, hints and tips etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

Busy week ahead. Am looking forward to talking to Byre Writers via Zoom on Saturday morning about flash fiction.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Cooler today after last night’s thunderstorm.

Glad to share the link to my latest piece for Mom’s Favorite Reads. I talk about Patience in Flash Fiction Writing this time. I look at patience in characters (or the lack of it) and also at accepting the need it takes time and patience to hone your craft.

For example, I like to have a rough template to work to when writing a story and while that takes time (and patience) to begin with to get it set up so I know where I am going with my tale, I have found it saves me a lot more time later on. I also don’t go off at interesting tangents which are unhelpful to the story I am writing. (I would only have to cut these out later precisely because they don’t help the story along).

I also share my flash fiction story on the theme. Hope you enjoy and don’t forget the magazine is FREE to download from Amazon.

Screenshot 2021-07-10 at 16-53-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021 eBook Publishing, Goylake, Howe, Hannah , Smith,[...]Screenshot 2021-07-01 at 20-08-25 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine July 2021
Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the respond to my latest story video, Misunderstandings, yesterday. See link below. These are great fun to write. I also share exclusive videos on my author newsletter (the next is due out on 1st August), so if you would like to sign up for that, please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

I like to write a variety of flash fiction lengths as (a) this keeps things interesting for me and (b) the story length has to be right for the character I’m writing. If they need more room to show me their story, that is what they get and that is when I tend to write the 750 to 1000 word flashes. Most of mine come in at between 100 and 600 and that’s fine too.

Time for another Youtube video. My latest story video is called Misunderstandings and looks at what might happen when a slightly absent-minded fairy comes across someone with peculiarly shaped teeth. Hope you enjoy it.

I’m giving another Zoom talk on flash fiction to Byre Writers on Saturday morning and am so looking forward to that. It is always a joy to talk about flash and to share how, despite the word count restriction, it is more flexible than you might think at first.

After all I have written across many genres thanks to it. I go where my characters take me and I can set them any time and any where and I do. It is such fun to do too! After all, thanks to a challenge by Scottish crime writer #WendyHJones, I wrote a story about The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball! I’ve also written stories about a very creepy ghost, a witch who didn’t cheat in her magical exams (disappointing her mother a bit), and historical tales from the viewpoints of Anne Boleyn and Richard III.

And I am loving getting back to the drabble, aka the 100-worder, for#FridayFlashFiction, but I also love writing across the whole spectrum of flash. My natural home is 500 words or under but it is good to experiment and find out what works best for me. Sometimes my characters do need the whole 1000 words and that’s fine too.

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A huge thanks for the response yesterday to my post about titles. Also thanks to those who have commented on Missing, my latest #FridayFlashFiction story. I like open titles such as Missing as it gives me so many possibilities to play with – what or whom is missing? Are they found again? If someone is missing something, do they get it back? All sorts of stories can come out of writing the answers to those questions.

For flash, where sometimes the title is part of your overall word count allowance, it is even more important to come up with a crisp, intriguing title that will draw readers in and keep them with you. Random word generators can be useful for playing with ideas here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Favourite Characters

Do you have an overall favourite character in fiction? I have too many to count! The characters that stand out the most for me are those who are unpromising at the start of the story and end up being heroes by the end of it. A hobbit is an unlikely adventurer but look what Tolkein did with his characters in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

I am also fond of characters who need redemption and find it. I also like stories where justice is seen to be done and in the right way. (I am not keen on the vengeance type of tale as you just know the character is likely to go too far with it).

I like characters I can understand even if I don’t agree with their attitudes and actions. One of my favourite characters is Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series as there is so much depth to his portrayal which is revealed over the seven novels.

So over to you then. Which are your favourite kinds of character and why?

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Crossing Fiction and Non-Fiction

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

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

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

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing for CFT has taught me so much.

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

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


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

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

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

Chapeltown Books - consistency matters

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Fairytales with Bite – Animal Transformations

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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Acrostics and Focusing

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. Screenshot of part of my latest story video was taken by me.

It has been a hot few days here but Lady, my collie cross, prefers to keep it cool. Image of Lady and me taken by Adrian Symes.

LADY DISCUSSES TTFF WITH ME

Facebook – General

A bit cooler today. Lady and I weren’t sorry about that.

I’m going to have two blog posts to share on Friday. My Chandler’s Ford Today one is on Brand Recognition and Why It Matters. This is so important for writers given we all have to do at least some marketing. So therefore it pays to think what brand we want to put “out there” that readers associate with us and will like.

I’ll also have a post out on Authors Electric, which is called Reading Into Writing Will Go. Those of you of a certain age will recognise the words “will go” from the way division used to be taught in Maths. So what has that got to do with writing or reading? I look forward to sharing the link on Friday when you can find out!

So look out for two Facebook posts from me on Friday with two links.

Meanwhile back in Hot Hampshire I am so glad I live in a property that faces north. It means more heating in the winter but it comes into its own right now – it is cool here! (It is quite nice that something is cool here because I do know I’m not!).


Baking day – outside that is! Lady had a reduced exercise session before it got too hot. Although she is usually as daft as a brush, she is sensible in warm weather, knows all the shady spots to head to, and is the first of my three collies who willingly drinks water! I rarely go out without water for her and, in these conditions, it is one of the first things I get ready to take with us.

I have a good spot on our patio area where I can do a pavement test (back of hand held down on said area for at least 15 seconds. Let’s just say if I can’t keep my hand there for the required time, Lady doesn’t go out. One issue with going out later in the day is the ground has had time to bake, literally, so please if you’re a dog owner, always carry water with you, and do the pavement test before you go. If in doubt, don’t go). (Lady has happily curled up in the shade for the rest of the day and has been enjoying snoozing and woofing at my shopping delivery man so she has had a great day!).

Writing wise, a huge thanks for all the fabulous comments on my New In Town on #FridayFlashFiction. Feedback always appreciated.

Do you find it harder to write in hot weather rather than cold? Makes no difference to me as I make sure I’m comfortable enough at the old desk but I can understand if concentration levels dip somewhat. (I swear there are times my laptop is cooler than I am!). I don’t use weather in my fiction at all partly because I don’t want to fall into the “dark and stormy night” cliche trap but also I can think of several more important things for a reader to need to know than what weather my character is experiencing. I can only see relevance here if you’re sending your character on a quest (and generally you need longer than a flash fiction piece to do that well!).

Looking forward to sharing my next Authors Electric piece later on in the week too.

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Another warm and sunny day in Hot Hampshire (and a sympathetic salute goes to all hayfever sufferers!).
Stories come in all shapes and sizes but this goes for non-fiction too funnily enough. Especially when I interview someone for Chandler’s Ford Today, I want that person’s story and love to get behind what led them to write the books or stories they have. I suppose this is because (a) I’m nosey and (b) I know no two writing journeys are the same and I find it fascinating and instructive to learn from others here.

For fiction taking a bit of time out to think about what makes your characters the way they are leads to better characterisation (you really have got a handle on your person here) and stronger plot lines. So looking for the story behind the story then is always a good idea. We’re encouraged to dig deeper and not just go for the obvious ideas for stories. Looking into what makes your characters tick in more depth is a great way to achieve that.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. Glorious weather here. Lady enjoying it – sensibly. Currently curled up behind me in a nice cool study.

Coming up on Chandler’s Ford Today in the next month or so will be a fascinating interview with someone I first met a few years back at the Hursley Park Book Fair, which I wrote about for CFT at the time. Very much small world syndrome here but a delightful one and the interview is a smashing one. I’ll also be sharing how I met this author again as it is a great advert for networking in person where you can and online anyway. Looking forward to sharing more on all of that in due course.

Coming up this Friday for CFT will be a piece called Brand Recognition and Why It Matters – so I combine writing with some marketing for that one! (I also share thoughts and tips here and look forward to sharing this later in the week).

Thrilled to bits my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction, New in Town, has had a wonderful response to it. Acrostic stories are good fun to write though I have found you want something (a) short and (b) open to interpretation for this kind of thing. In case you missed it, here’s the link for it. Oh and it has been a great joy responding to the comments on the site itself on this one. Thanks, everyone.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the response to my acrostic flash tale called Fiction yesterday. Good fun to write and create a video for. I have discovered the joy of animations on Book Brush and used a “pulse” one for Fiction. I use Book Brush a lot for my blog work as it is lovely putting captions into the pictures I use – and they look better I think. Only downside? It is too easy to lose a lot of time playing with Book Brush but there are worse writing problems to have!

But it is creative and part of the old marketing so that’s okay then! (And the videos are a simple way to share mini-flash tales – basically under 100 words or so).

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For the rest of the story you’ll have to go to the link – see below.


Pleased to share my latest acrostic flash fiction story video with you. This one is called Fiction and many thanks for the comment that has come in on this already. Hope you enjoy. There is a time for dancing in the streets…and a time not to!


I’ve mentioned before that titles carry a lot of weight in flash fiction. They indicate mood/genre of the story, freeing up precious word count room for what matters – the story itself. But it pays to keep your title short to maximise the impact of it and to allow for the fact some markets and competitions count the title as part of their acceptable overall word count limit. Do watch out for that! Also shorter titles are more memorable and that’s important to your reader (and therefore potentially to you too). You want your readers to remember your titles and the books they appeared in!

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Glad my story New In Town went down so well yesterday. Acrostic flash tales are good fun to do but work best, as I mentioned on my author page on FB earlier, when kept short and if the word or words chosen can be taken in more than one way. Double meanings, as well as hyphenated words, are great assets to the flash fiction writer!

Twice the meaning for only one “lot” of words and hyphenated words mean you get two words for the price of one. So glad to have discovered that one especially as I have made good use of it in my time. (No. You can’t just hyphenate any words – that would be cheating!).

Misjudging people can be a great theme for any story but I have used it in flash. In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my character, Walter, makes up his mind about the new postman in my story Identity. Can’t say more than that. The story is about whether Walter was right or wrong. But what was interesting here was I didn’t need to give you the postman’s backstory. You just see things from Walter’s point of view and then the story goes on to show you whether he was right or wrong.

I’ve mentioned before that with flash focusing on one character and one important incident is the way to go. Here it was a case of focusing on Walter’s viewpoint and then following it through to a conclusion. I could have brought in something from the postman’s viewpoint to indicate whether Walter was right or not. In not doing that, I’ve made the story more focused and, I think, it has greater impact.

Goodreads Author Blog – Kindles for Kinds of Books?

I love reading. Okay no big news there. I love reading in all kinds of formats and listening to audio books. Again no great breaking news story there. But I wondered if you save your Kindle or other e-reader for certain types of book. I do.

I use ebooks to test out authors new to me and for a lot of non-fiction (especially where the print version would be too big and bulky to handle. I can think of a few tomes here that would break your toes if you dropped the book on your foot – the Encyclopedia Britannica anyone?!).

I also use ebooks for short story and flash collections as these are ideal for reading on a screen.

The Kindle is one of the first things I pack whenever I get to go away (and that still won’t be for a while yet given Covid) and its finest “moment” is saving every avid reader from ever having to worry again about how many books they can fit into their suitcase. I appreciate my Kindle for that alone!

So do you save certain kinds of book for your e-reader and, if so, which?

 

 

 

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Prompts, Story Collections, and Editing Flash Fiction

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

I hope my new story video, Acrostic, shared below, puts a smile on your face after what has, in the UK, been a wet and windy week. (It honestly feels more like November than May right now! Brrr…).

Oh and there is an offer currently on at Amazon for the paperback of Tripping The Flash Fantastic (as at 25th May 2021).

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Facebook – General

Okay, we did actually see some sunshine in my part of Hampshire today but the rain’s back. Not overly impressed as you may be able to tell!

I discuss Writing Prompts in my Chandler’s Ford Today post later this week. I share a few examples of prompts and look at why these are useful. I’ve also contributed to a couple of books of prompts produced by #GillJames – I find these so helpful in encouraging me to think outside of my usual imaginative box. And they’re great practice for when you go to writing conferences and the like where exercises are usually set. (These are often set on giving you a closing or opening line for example so practicing writing to these is a good idea). More on Friday.

Some of my published stories started life as a response to a writing prompt so, yes, I am biased in promoting using them. But you never know if you can write to a prompt if you don’t try, yes?

Occasionally I will jot down a line that I think could make a useful prompt but then end up using it as a theme (and even for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts on occasion, as my post on Friday will share). So there is a lot potentially to be gained from using these.

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What a day! Torrential rain, hailstones, glorious sunshine… I don’t think snow is on the agenda but there’s still a few hours left to the end of the day so who knows?

It was great to “go” to a Zoom event where two authors read from their latest works – #PaulaRCReadman (who has guested on Chandler’s Ford Today before) and #PinarTarhan. It is always lovely being read to but it was great being able to put questions directly to the writers afterwards.

Happily wrote another drabble and submitted it to #FridayFlashFiction. I love the way this site encourages you to produce more work for the following week. Great idea. (And yes there are other categories of flash here but they want you to have two 100-worders published with them first before you submit longer flash tales. Am having a ball writing the drabbles again though so I may be here for some time but that’s fine with me!).

My next author newsletter is due to go out on 1st June so if you would like to sign up please head over to my website (https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com). This time I will be sharing my responses to two writing prompts I set in May amongst other things. And I have set another writing prompt to have a go at too.


It was lovely being back in church today and seeing people I’ve not seen for months. Nice start to the day (though Lady found it odd. For the last few months services have been on Zoom and she has snuggled between us on the sofa while they were on. I suspect she missed that today!).

I’m sharing a post on Writing Prompts for Chandler’s Ford Today later in the week. Hopefully it will prove useful. I’m fond of a wide variety of such prompts. They are a great way to kick start your writing when needed and I am especially fond of opening and closing lines. Can do a lot with those. Link up on Friday.

Talking of blogging, it will be my turn on More Than Writers, the blog spot of the Association of Christian Writers next weekend and I will be sharing a lighthearted post about genres. Looking forward to sharing that.

What is the one writing habit you wish you could ditch forever? Mine is getting off to slow starts. I find when I do get started, I’m up and running and a great deal of useful writing gets done but it is the getting started that can sometimes be tricky for me.

(It’s worse if I’m tired or run down and that is when I will deliberately turn to only writing short pieces, fiction or otherwise. The great thing with doing that is there is still the sense of accomplishment at finishing a piece of work, even if it is only a 100-worder. I find feeling positive is the biggest boost to creativity for me and so completing small pieces of work makes me feel positive, that in turn encourages me to write more and so on).


Hope your Saturday has been okay. Glad the wild winds of yesterday have settled down. Looking forward to getting back to church tomorrow. (Okay still have to mask up etc but it will be so nice being there in person).

Many thanks for the great comments so far on my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction, Sibling Surprise. It’s lovely and useful having feedback. Also welcome to those signing up to my website and/or newsletter. Good to have you aboard.
Will be drafting more flash pieces over the rest of the weekend, one to go to be a story video on Youtube.

I tend to write another piece for #FridayFlashFiction over the weekend and submit that. It’s great writing drabbles again on a regular basis. More recently I have either written the mini (under 50 words) tales for the videos or longer flash pieces of 500 words plus. So it is lovely to return to my first flash love here as it was the 100-word challenge from CafeLit that started the flash fiction ball rolling for me.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Many thanks for the great response to my story video Acrostic yesterday. (Link below). It was huge fun to write. Writing stories in acrostic form works well for flash fiction given, as with character studies, these things are best kept short.

Now when it comes to editing a flash story, you might be tempted to think because there are not a lot of words, there is less to do. Wrong!

As well as cutting repetition, typos etc., you do need to ask yourself whether the words you’ve chosen do have the maximum impact on a reader. Any weak words will show up horribly clearly in such a short form. I usually find a phrase I’ve used which is good can often be strengthened by a tweak here and there.

It is the tweaking – the paying attention to the fine details – that can take a good flash story and make it a truly great one. Yet another challenge to flash fiction writing here but trying to make your story the best it can be is something that engages me (and hopefully the finished result will be more likely to engage a reader. I believe most people who read regularly will be able to tell when a writer has poured heart and soul into their work, whether it is a 100,000 word masterpiece, or a 100-word drabble).

 

Story video time again. Hope you enjoy this one – Acrostic lives up to its name and I will say it is not based on fact, honest!

I do sometimes use acrostics to come up with a different form of flash story. They’re great fun to do but a fairly short word works best and it needs to be “open” enough to be able to taken in more than one direction.

 


I nearly always know the impact I want to make on a reader when I draft my flash fiction stories. I say nearly always as sometimes I do manage to surprise myself.

For Calling the Doctor, where the mood of the tale turns on the very last word, that did not come to me immediately but I did have the character fully pictured. I wanted readers to sympathise with a character who did not know the truth about the other person referred to in the piece. But it was only as I was drafting their story, the way of ending this tale came to me and I went with it.

It was then on reviewing the story I realised how much I had “upped the ante” on this story by having a dramatic twist like that. A sympathetic character study here would have worked well but twisting the mood on the last word lifted this story to greater heights and it remains a favourite story of mine.

It is also a good example of a dark tale without over-egging the darkness. So much is implied and that of course is the strength of flash fiction. I love it when I read a story or novel and I pick up on the implications by myself. That gets my imagination going and isn’t that part of the joy of a really good read?

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I sometimes use alliterative titles for my flash pieces. The most recent for these is Sibling Surprise which went up on #FridayFlashFiction yesterday. (See link given above). I try not to overdo this though as I don’t want titles to seem gimmicky so I like a mixture of alliterative, proverbs/well known sayings etc. For all of them I want something to conjure up the story mood and “advertise” the tale to come.

I usually do know the title first but sometimes a better idea comes along as I draft my tale so I just jot down the idea and switch titles later if the latter idea proves to have more of an impact. I find I have to have a “peg” to work to so I have to have some kind of title. But very little is set in stone so as long as I’ve got something to give me a starting point, that’s fine with me.

What I do know is that shorter titles work best. They’re easier to remember too which is handy when you’re coming up with titles for the next stories. I’ve only repeated once to the best of my knowledge but for both tales, I got very different stories from them so that was okay but it is not something I want to do often for obvious reasons. I do see a title as a story’s first advert so I want each one to be distinctive.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

As well as reading novels, I like to read short story and flash fiction collections. I often use these to help me decide which genre of novel I want to read next.

Now I’m not unbiased here, as I am the author of two published flash fiction collections and have been in a number of short story anthologies! But I am going to take the chance to wave the flag for both formats.

There are different challenges in writing short stories and flash fiction as opposed to novels, naturally, but the charm of the short form is in giving you a brief overview of a character’s life. In the case of flash fiction, it is a snapshot only but for things like character studies, which to my mind work best when kept short, this is an ideal format for that kind of story.

I like to mix up the type of story in terms of genre, length, and mood. It gives me a wide reading diet that in turn helps me with my writing. We are all inspired by things we have loved reading after all.

And sometimes less is more so do add short stories and flash fiction to your reading mix. I find them to be a wonderful “appetiser” ahead of the next “meal” of a novel!

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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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Twitter Corner



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Being Interviewed

Image Credit:  As ever Pixabay/Pexels unless stated.

Interview News:  It was fabulous being interviewed by Paula C Readman on her blog. More details below.

Facebook – General

Is it me or are the nights drawing in earlier than usual for August? Still I suppose the upside to that is it encourages me to be either at my desk writing or curled up with a good book reading.

Talking of which, most of my reading I do at bedtime. I’m not seeking to analyse a story at this point! I just want to be entertained and go to sleep having enjoyed a good read. I DO, however, make a note of whatever particularly grabbed me about the book/short story. You can learn a lot from that.

I mix up reading fiction and non-fiction too. A good non-fiction book will grip me just as much as an excellent novel etc and reading non-fiction regularly can help trigger ideas for stories. Having said that, you should see my TBR pile, “real” and electronic versions! Still, those will keep me out of mischief for some time and that is never a bad thing!😀

I am delighted to be on the other side of the interview desk tonight with my appearance on #PaulaReadman‘s blog, Funeral Birds to Stone Angels. Hope you enjoy the interview (and do check out the other interviews on here too (see the Guest Book Tour Page). The chats are fabulous and I find I’m always entertained by what other authors have to say. I usually learn something useful too so win-win!).

Allison Symes - Published Works

Yours truly and some of my collected works! Image by Adrian Symes

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Delighted to see this on the Waterstones site. Looking forward to seeing Tripping the Flash Fantastic on there too!

I do enjoy writing character thoughts. I love creating dialogue too but with my 100 word stories in particular, I often don’t have room for my characters to get a conversation going!

I can get them to think though and thoughts reveal so much about the character.

What would you make of a character who thought something such as “I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s”?

What would your initial thoughts be? That the character was lazy? Dog tired and just can’t face going out?

A lot of the assumptions you make here will depend on how much of the story you’ve already read.

But what if that was the opening line? You would be expecting to see a lazy character maybe get their comeuppance perhaps? That might be the point of the story. And it may well be BUT one thing I also love is layering so how could I layer that line to get something more from it?

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here.”

Now what would you think? Maybe you would feel more pity for this character now? I know I would.

The lovely thing about layering is you get to direct how it goes and you can throw in a red herring too.

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here. I reckon that agoraphobia she says she has is just an excuse to never go out. It only needs one bus ride to get here. Just what is her problem?”
Allison Symes – 24th August 2020

Any sympathy for this character has now gone right out of the old window, yes?

Work out what you want to reveal about your character and remember you don’t have to share it all at once!

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I can’t say I was impressed with Storm Francis. (I should imagine the Pope might not be too happy at having a storm named after him. I wasn’t impressed there was a Storm Alison a few years back – okay having the second l in the name was probably too much to hope for. I know I can be a right shower at times but a storm? Really?! 😀😀).

Have got an interesting challenge for this week’s CFT post. I’m reviewing the summer! No. Stop it. It is NOT a two word article ending in the word “awful”. Honest. Link up on Friday. Probably best leave it there I think!

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope you enjoyed my story, The Special Offer, in my last post. It was great fun to write and I do love using the random generators to trigger ideas. With most of them you can set your own parameters too.

The great thing with all of them is you can choose how to use what you generate. Will the words be a title, a theme, or just be placed in the story somewhere? And you can combine all or any or all of that of course.

With the number generator, you could use the numbers for times (as I’ve mentioned before), but how about a number being used as a house address where something spectacular happens? Or where the number has special meaning for your character?

It can be useful to write down a list of ideas that occur to you. The first few will be the “obvious” ones but those further down the list are unlikely to be so self-evident. THAT is where you may well find the germ of an idea that YOU can turn into something special.

Have fun!

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It was great fun taking part in #PaulaReadman‘s post on her blog today. Just so you know, I do have an interview page on my website, to which I gladly added my appearance on Paula’s blog earlier today. Scroll down and enjoy the read! Hope you enjoy the other interviews on there too. (And Paula is very generous with the cake too!).

It’s always an interesting experience for me being interviewed given I spend a fair amount of time doing the interviewing for Chandler’s Ford Today. Best thing of all? I get to talk about my big fictional love – flash fiction!

 

I hope Monday has been okay for you. Can’t say I’m looking forward to the storm that’s heading to most of us in the UK tomorrow. Still I guess I won’t need any help blowing away the proverbial cobwebs tomorrow!

I’ve just shared on my author page a flash story I created to illustrate a point I was making about layering your characters and not revealing everything about them all at once. I’ll share that story here too.

“I can’t be bothered to go to Helen’s. I’ve been around there so often in the last few weeks and yet she never comes here. I reckon that agoraphobia she says she has is just an excuse to never go out. It only needs one bus ride to get here. Just what is her problem?”
Allison Symes – 24th August 2020

Now you’ll notice immediately there’s one thing missing. Something I’ve often said is important to a tale and that is the title. It is the first “lure” into a story for your reader. So how do I go about choosing a title

?Sometimes a title comes about as a result of the theme of the story. Sometimes it can be based on the character name or their attitude. But here what would I go for and why?

I’d probably call this I’m Not Going Again because (a) it fits the story and (b) will hopefully intrigue a reader enough to find out who is the I in the tale and why they’re not going to somewhere again.

The reason why is important in fiction. Readers lap up a story because they have got to find out what happens. And that’s a good thing.

Think of the stories you’ve loved. What kept you reading them?

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I was right not to be impressed with the storm. Oh it was windy and rainy all right, but Lady and I were not sorry to get back home after our walk today. Was nice to see some sunshine later though.

Now when it comes to my flash tales I write a mixture of “sunny” tales and others which are darker in tone. This is partly due to my writing reflecting what I like to read and directly inspired my first book’s title of course.

Also because I cannot write “light” all the time.

I think it was Terry Pratchett who said you needed to have some tragic relief sometimes. The older I get the more I appreciate that.

My first love will always be light prose (and ideally funny with it) but I do think you need the darker stories as well. Doesn’t that reflect the human condition? Okay there is a limit to how dark I go but I love a well crafted crime novel as well as a funny memoir or short story collection. And there will always be room on my shelves for both.

Flash fiction is fantastic here as the form lends itself well to playing with character and seeing what you can do with them. Therefore it gives you plenty of opportunities to write lighter tales and darker ones and every which shade in between.

Goodreads Author Blog –The Wonders of Non-Fiction

The majority of my reading, whether in paperback or on my trusty Kindle, is fiction to be honest. But I’m a fiction writer so you would expect that.

However, my non-fiction “reading diet” has increased over the last couple of years, partly because I also blog for an online community magazine and a good general knowledge, as well as good sources of research, are useful for that.

But I have found I wanted to read more factual work in between the escape from it all in fiction kind of books.

I’ve enjoyed a few of Ben Macintyre’s books and have developed a greater appreciation for what is known as creative non-fiction.

Gone are the days of worthy tomes gathering dust on shelves somewhere and rightly so. You want books to be in the hands of eager readers and that goes for non-fiction too.

And non-fiction writers still have to know their audience and draw their readers in every bit as much as fiction writers must do.

So what do I look for in a good non-fiction work?

1. I still want to be entertained and often that is with a narrative that grips and is telling me an exciting “story”. The only difference with fiction is that here the story is a true one.

2. I want to learn something new and/or back up the knowledge I already have on a topic. (Ideally I’d do both).

3. I want the non-fiction book I’ve picked to encourage further reading on the topic and give me a source of ideas as to where to turn next.

So what are your favourite non-fiction books? Have you made any great discoveries this year?

 

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Brainstorming and Rainbows

Image Credit:  All images are from Pixabay or Pexels unless stated.

Facebook – General

I’ve mentioned before that every so often I brainstorm ideas but I do this for non-fiction, as well as for flash fiction and short stories. I jot down thoughts for future Chandler’s Ford Today articles, note ideas for future blog posts for different places including for the Association of Christian Writers, and material for use on my website.

This is a great use of odd five minutes of time which build up every now and then and means I’ve always got ideas to work on. It is usually these ideas I work on further when I’m travelling by train anywhere, though that’s not going to be happening for a while!

The point though is if you’re not sure what to work on, jot down possible ideas. Even if you don’t work on them immediately, it means you’ve got a store of ideas to turn to later on and that is a good thing.

 

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Thought the Queen’s speech tonight was spot on (Sunday, 5th April 2020). Hope it encourages people. I know it did me. Encouragement is needed (and too often undervalued).

Now on to writing matters. Encouragement can come into our stories too. I think the best example is Sam Gamgee’s role in The Lord of the Rings. He literally carries Frodo at times. So how can we show encouragement in our stories? Well, pretty much the same way we show encouragement to each other.

I know a kindly and timely word does me the world of good especially in stressful times. Getting a character to do the same for your “lead” should have an inspirational effect. I also think it important to show our leads under stress, needing help from others, as that adds realism to our characterisation too.

Realistic characters have the ring of truth to them and that makes the world of difference to readers sympathising with your “people” and “buying into” your story.

 

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I am sorry to hear Boris Johnson is so ill and hope and pray he recovers soon. Regardless of political or any other kind of belief, I wouldn’t wish coronavirus on anyone. (Nor should anyone else).

On a more positive note, and the reason I’m late on here tonight, was I was discovering the joys of video calling with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. I’ve “gone” to the odd webinar, had video calls one-to-one on things like What’s App with my sister etc., and am now “doing” Slimming World online via Zoom, but tonight was one of the single biggest online chats I’ve taken part in.

It was good fun and lovely to see everyone, albeit at a distance. We did look like we were contestants on the old quiz show, Celebrity Squares though. For anyone not growing up in the 1970s, it was a quiz show based on the old game of noughts and crosses and celebrities were in boxes of 3 x 3, which is why tonight’s video call reminded me of that.

On Sunday, we’ll be having a virtual Easter Day service with communion (we’ll be bringing our own bread and wine!).

So all very different but the need to stay in touch with our friends and family does not change. Nor should it.

And what can writers contribute?

Stories and articles to entertain – don’t underestimate the importance of entertainment. It can be a coping mechanism.

Stories and articles to cheer – and I think we could all do with that.

Stories and articles to inform.

Stories and articles to encourage other writers in their craft and readers. We don’t know what difficult journeys they might have but if a story or work of ours lifts spirits for a while, that’s good.

And other than walking the dog, I shall be only too glad to be at home tomorrow.

Take care everyone.❤️❤️❤️❤️

black and white laptop

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Pexels.com

 

I’ve had to change how I exercise Lady at the moment (though overall she is doing pretty well). It has been lovely spotting the rainbow pictures, whether they’re chalked on the ground, or on paper in people’s windows. Thanks all. They are cheery.

Question for you: What do you get if you have an upside down rainbow?

Answer: A multi-coloured smile! See below.

So whichever way up the rainbow is, it is always a good thing!

Whatever you are reading or writing, whatever creative work is your “thing”, I hope it makes you, and others smile. We could all do with that.

Facebook – General – and Publication News

Bonus post from me tonight.

Delighted to say I have a new story on Cafelit – Getting the Job Done.

Hope you enjoy.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So what should a flash fiction piece aim to do? It should illuminate something of a character. It should produce a good response in a reader (whether to make them laugh or cry etc).

There should be a sense of there being nothing else to say and that the story works perfectly as it is – a mini form of fiction. It should never feel as if it has been artificially cropped to fit a word count requirement!

If a short story is a moment in time, then a flash piece could be described as a half moment, a blink if you like, but you can still take quite a bit in during that blink!

 

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How can flash fiction reflect deeper emotions and attitudes such as encouragement? You need another character to do that for the lead, surely, and that increases the word count?

Yes, of course, but this is where the beauty of flash comes in. It has a range of word counts up to the maximum of 1000 to play with. So if your story needs to be 750 words, with your lead person needing support and encouragement along the way, then so be it. Don’t lose vital characterisation for the sake of the word count.

Ask yourself always what is is the reader needs to know.

Ask yourself always what the character has to do and how they can achieve it.

Ask yourself always when the character needs help, how does that happen? Who assists them?

It is generally true in flash fiction you can’t have too many characters. But you can certainly have a couple of them. I also get some of my characters to refer to others who are “off stage” as this shows my character has a life outside of the world of the story I’ve put them in.

Also a character can recall words of encouragement so there are ways to get this kind of deeper characterisation into flash fiction and not exceed the maximum word count.

In darker times, do you prefer to read longer works or shorter ones?

I know regardless of what I read, I want the tone to be uplifting in some way. And flash fiction has a role to play here. Given its brevity, it is a perfect vehicle for the short funny story to cheer people up. I often finish a story with a punchline. Flash lends itself well to that.

For longer works, for me it is always Wodehouse or Pratchett that I tend to turn to first.

But take pleasure in your reading and writing. That’s always a good thing to do anyway but particularly now I think.

For a story to work properly as a story, there has to be a pivotal moment of change. In flash fiction, there isn’t much time to set that up of course. This is why I generally start with that moment and the story then shows the consequences.

(And even when I don’t, my opening is written in such a way as to signal to the reader the moment of change is coming soon and you have got to find out what is going to happen, haven’t you? You make the premise so promising, “no” is ruled out as an answer to that immediately!).

For short fiction, the pivotal moment has to be as close to the start as possible (otherwise why would a reader be interested?), so this, for me, is another side benefit to flash fiction. It means I know I have to hit the ground running! That’s no bad thing.

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Goodreads Author Blog –

Titles – What Is It About Them That You Like The Most?

What is it about a book title that encourages you to look inside the book itself?

I like titles (of stories, books or what have you) to give me some idea of the mood of the story and, where possible, its genre too.

My next flash fiction book will be called Tripping the Flash Fantastic which I think manages to do both. From Light to Dark and Back Again, my first flash collection, was specifically chosen to reflect the mood of the stories and the range of moods for the collection as a whole.

I like titles that sum up the book’s contents well. You can’t misunderstand The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection can you?! (Fabulous book too. Conan Doyle was a genius and I’m sure we owe the concept of the flawed detective to him. Certainly he can take the credit for popularising it at least. Holmes’ drug addiction would still be controversial now. As an aside, I wonder if that is why Conan Doyle chose that, believing drug use would never be uncontroversial. Just a thought).

For my flash fiction stories, especially for those competitions and markets where the title is included in the word count, I like to keep titles short. I’m also fond of alliteration every now and again. Well, let’s face it Pride and Prejudice is a much more memorable title than Jane Austen’s first idea, First Impressions. (To be fair that would’ve worked. It’s not a bad title. It is a question, I think, of working out what is better for your work and she certainly did that).

Some of my favourite book titles include:-

The Lord of The Rings. Doesn’t that make you want to find out who the Lord is and why the Rings matter?

Interesting Times (Pratchett). Again, doesn’t that make you want to discover what the interesting times are and who they are happening to?

Murder on the Orient Express. My favourite Christie novel for many reasons but the title is an instant attention grabber.

It is the book title that makes me want to read the book’s blurb and, from there, the opening paragraph or two.

Yes, a good cover will catch my eye and it is important but if the title intrigues me, then even if the cover isn’t as good as it could be, I’ll try the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind The Scenes

Image Credit:   As ever, unless stated, most of the images were from Pixabay or Pexels. A big thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Group for their images. Also thanks to Richard Hardie for supplying images related to his and Francesca Tyer’s events for World Book Day.  (And yes it has been a busy few days!).

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today x 2!

Yes, count them, not one but two CFT posts this week.

First up, the start of a new mini-series.

I’m delighted to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today. The #ChameleonTheatreGroupChandlerFord share interviews showing what life is like behind the stage. They share some fabulous insights into directing amongst other things in Part 1 (see link).

This series will run at intervals over the next few weeks. Many thanks to The Chameleons for wonderful material and the photos, as ever.

I’m looking forward to their next production, Spring Quartet, in April.

 

I’m always interested in behind the scenes looks at life, whether it is to do with creative writing or amateur theatre. So it is a joy to share a new mini-series on Chandler’s Ford Today where The Chameleon Theatre share their insights into life behind the stage.

Why the interest on my part? Well, partly it IS because I’m nosey (!) but that’s a good thing. Why? Writers have to be interested in what makes people tick. Knowing that helps us to develop convincing motivations for our characters and make their portrayal that much more believeable.

I’m also interested in behind the scenes looks because it opens up worlds that are new to me. That’s a good thing for increasing knowledge and understanding, I think. Understanding is also crucial in creative writing. You also get to understand yourself better I think.

And now for my second CFT post this week!

Am pleased to share a bonus CFT post this week. Every so often CFT has Local Author News slots. The last one was for me when I appeared on #WendyHJones‘s excellent podcast, The Writing and Marketing Show talking about all things related to flash fiction.

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-writing-and-marketing-show/e/67280384

Up tonight is a piece with news from local YA author, #RichardHardie, and debut Authors Reach novelist #FrancescaTyer. They share news of their World Book Day eventsrecently. Francesca’s debut novel The Firestone was recently published.

Hope you enjoy. (Oh and remember the best things you can do to support local authors you know are to go to their events where possible and review their books in the usual places).

(My normal CFT post link will be up tomorrow where I start the first of a mini series from #ChameleonTheatreCompany-Chandler’s Ford. They share insights from life behind the stage. More tomorrow).