Trains and Wish Lists for Writers

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It was a joy to write about trains for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. It is one of my favourite inventions. I share how it has affected my writing (in terms of how I use a train journey and writing events I get to) and share some links to some great places to visit connected with the train. All of this just ahead of my going to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event tomorrow. Naturally I’m travelling by train!

Yes, I did have a train set as a kid, shared with my sister, but you can’t beat going on the real thing and I’ve loved trips on the Fort William to Mallaig line (think Harry Potter) and the Watercress Line amongst others. (The latter has a Permanent Way sign on one of their engineering sheds as a tribute to Terry Pratchett. They also have an old advert for Nosegay tobacco – make of that what you will – see the post for the picture proving it!).

One thing I didn’t mention in the post was I love stories connected to trains too. I’ve always loved Agatha Christie’s 4.50 from Paddington (a Miss Marple story) – and who could forget Murder on the Orient Express? And I’ll always have fond memories of my book signing at my local railway station. That was good fun. (Many thanks to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their help there and I’m pleased to advertise their Mulled Wine and Mince Pie event coming up on 13th December. See the post for more).

Oh and my favourite Terry Pratchett story? Very hard to say but I do adore Raising Steam.  Captions over on the CFT post, as always, but I will say a big thank you to the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership for their poster for their Mulled Wine and Mince Pie event.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Had lovely day in Dorset celebrating wedding anniversary with other half and Lady. Plenty of walking and very fresh air! Hope both prove to be inspiring!

Many thanks to all who read my story Staying In on Cafelit earlier this month..it is nice to know it did very well in the number of reads for the period. Things like this are so encouraging.

If there was a wish list for writers I would include:-

1. Encouragement to always come when most needed.

2. Time to somehow magically expand when the writing is going well and you are on a roll.

3. Inspiration to always come when most needed.

4. Always knowing not only have you found the right publisher before submitting work you have sent them the perfect pitch.

5. Never running out of paper, computer consumables, and good ideas!

And below is Lady having a fab time on West Bay beach!

Lady having a good time at West Bay

Lady having a good time at West Bay in Dorset. Image by Allison Symes.

What dates have special meaning for your characters and why? How do they celebrate key events/mark the more sombre ones? Do they live in an environment where commemorations/celebrations are enforced? If so, what led to that and do they toe the line or rebel? What are their reasons?

Questions like these are useful for fleshing out the characters you want to write about but also their setting (which can often be treated as a character in its own right).

In flash fiction, I have to hint at a setting but for standard short stories (1500 words +), there is more room for manoeuvre. I’ve found that the telling details (often only a line or two) are the ones that create the greatest impression of the world you’re trying to convey and so have the biggest impact on a reader.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m looking forward to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event tomorrow and enjoying hearing fellow writers read their creations. I love being read to – doesn’t happen often enough (though this is where audio books are brilliant).

I’m planning to read some of my flash fiction stories too and this is where my favourite type – the 100 worders – come into their own. Short and with a sting in the tale. What’s not to like?! Looking forward to sharing new material and an old favourite or two.

I hope to write further stories on the train. I usually get a couple drafted, along with blog posts etc.

And one of the best ways of showing someone what flash fiction is simply to read them an example!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What do you like your characters to be? I like mine to show spirit, whether or not that stance is justified! I also have a very soft spot for the older hero/heroine.

All of that is fine but I have to watch out I don’t just write characters who are all like that.

It can be a challenge to write about characters I dislike. The even bigger challenge is ensuring I do that so a reader would never know!

It can be really satisfying though when a character you don’t particularly like wins you round by the end of the story you’ve put them in.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

All fiction writers are given the advice to show, not tell in their stories. It’s even more crucial for flash fiction writers to do so. We have to imply so much and leave readers to fill in the gaps (which is just one very good reason why I love reading and writing flash. I’ve always loved filling in the gaps – and yes I was a huge dot to dot fan for much the same reason when I was a kid! I HAVE to fill the gaps in!).

All we can show you is this brief moment in a character’s life and its impact on them. You should be able to see the point of every flash fiction story and why this moment is important to that character. I’m particularly fond of those stories which leave me wondering at the end whether I would have made the same choices as the character. A story that encourages you to think is a very good thing indeed.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite – A to Z of Fairytale “Rules” – Part 3

O = Obscure Origins. Fairytales love their lead characters to have humble beginnings. Many a hero has sprung from there. So never despite anyone coming from such a background. In the fairytale world, they usually go on to greatness.

P = Poverty. This is often an underlying theme. Look at Cinderella. She was made to live in poverty. The fairytale world generally looks kindly on such and will go out of its way to help. Good news if you are that person. Less good news if you’re the one forcing the character to live like this in the first place. There is a comeuppance in most fairytales and you will face it.

Q = Queens. Don’t always get a good press in the fairytale world. Just ask Snow White’s stepmother. Alternatively, there are those such as Sleeping Beauty’s mother, who struggles for a long time to conceive (there is a whole story there which would resonate), gives birth to the heroine, but is not even named (which I think is a great shame).

R = Royalty in general. There is a right royal mixed bag here. The fairytale world is full of princes who aggravate magical beings (Beauty and the Beast), kings who send their three sons out on missions (and it will always be the youngest one who succeeds), and those who try to prevent a bad spell from ever being activated by burning all the spinning wheels in the kingdom. Nice try that but the king concerned should have guessed it only needed one to escape that particular edict and for story purposes that was bound to happen, wasn’t it? Even kings are bound by the rules of story in the fairytale world.

S = Story. There has to be a beginning, a middle and, a lot of the time, a happy ending though The Little Mermaid and The Little Match Girl are notable exceptions to the latter. But it is also true in the fairytale world that the hero/heroine will overcome all obstacles in their way, sometimes with magical assistance. The story is usually a test of character for that hero/heroine and they have to pass it.

T = Time. Most fairytale stories play out over a relatively short period of time (Sleeping Beauty notwithstanding!). What always begs the question for me is why did Cinderella’s fairy godmother turn up so late to help her goddaughter, who clearly needed help much sooner?!

Final section next time.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Visiting Fictional Worlds

A recent question which came up on my Goodreads page was which fictional worlds would you visit if you could and why? Well, my choice was Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings, as I’ve always loved its portrayal and the films just confirmed what I had already imagined this glorious place would be like. I also liked the hobbit holes and fancy one myself as they look lovely and cosy. Mind you, I’m under 5′ tall so I would probably fit in quite well! I must admit though I’d happily give Mordor a miss.

My second choice would be Narnia from The Chronicles of Narnia, though I would ensure I wrapped up well (see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for why!). I wouldn’t mind visiting Harry Potter’s Hogwarts either. I like the look of the school grounds! (And to tie in beautifully for this week, I would love to get to Hogwarts on their train!).

So where would you go if you could and why?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAIRYTALE WORLD BUILDING… AND STEAM TRAINS

FAIRYTALE WORLD BUILDING

As ever, a title that says it all!  I share some tips I have found useful when it comes to world building.  In Fairytale World Building, I discuss how reading widely (including non-fiction) is so useful for sparking ideas and helping you to make your created world more realistic.  It is the great irony in fiction that our stories have to “seem real” even though they are completely made up, but to have any resonance with readers, they have got to seem plausible if say the world is magical or what have you.  The reader has got to feel “yes, it could be like that”.  Anyway, I hope the tips here are of help, they have been to me.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

What Drives Characters follows on from a recent post on motivations.  Tonight’s post looks at what would make a character behave differently from the way they would usually.  In a crisis, is their inner cowardice or courage let loose?  When stubbornness drives them to finish something when they are not usually stubborn? What brought this trait out?  Commitment to an idea?  An extreme situation?  Food for thought here I hope.

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

I look at The Watercress Line, a Hampshire based steam railway, in tonight’s post.  There are lots of pictures including one of a totally politically incorrect sign, which always makes me laugh when I see it as I can’t imagine who would buy the product with the name it was given.  See the post, you’ll easily spot the picture in question and well, would you buy it?!  I also recommend Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett in this post as he spent a day on the Watercress Line researching this novel.  Strongly suspect this was a real labour of love!

FACEBOOK PAGE

Again I discuss my CFT post here.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F867810889988558&width=500

My feature image for tonight's Chandler's Ford Today post. All images in this post were taken by me.

My feature image for tonight’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. All images in this post were taken by me.

 

Part of the Reception Area at the Roman Baths, Bath. Image taken by me. Easily the most beautiful place I've ever queued!

AWAY DAYS AND TECHNICAL ISSUES

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

In Away Days, I link to my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post (more below), but also ask what magical beings would do and where would they go when they fancied a jolly outing.  This post was particularly fun to write and I hope you like it.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Aptly, as I have had technical issues tonight sharing my website posts on Facebook (Weebly are looking into it), tonight’s post is on Technical IssuesI focus on what these are for writers – spelling, grammar, presentation of work and so on – and give one or two tips.  I like the technical side of writing.  While the creative side, that imaginative spark that gets you going with a story or whatever, is obviously more fun, I love having a piece to work with that I know a good edit will improve.  (I’ve yet to come across any work of mine that isn’t vastly improved by a darned good edit!).

ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN WRITERS – MORE THAN WRITERS

I write a post for ACW once a month now.  For my fellow Christians who are part of this, my latest post (which appeared yesterday) is on The Joy of Hymns and I share some thoughts about my favourites and why I love them.  It is generally down to the imagery the words create (much the same would go for poetry in general I should imagine).

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

My latest post is another in my Away Day series and looks at lovely Bath, once home to Jane Austen, one of my favourite writers.  I focus on the Roman Baths here.  Those Romans were amazing engineers.  The connection with Chandler’s Ford?  Chandler’s Ford has good train links and you can get to a wide range of destinations by rail in a day from the local station, hence my Away Days series.

Beautiful Bath. Image taken by me.

Beautiful Bath. Image taken by me.

 

 

One of the exhibits at the Steam Museum, Swindon. Image taken by me.

PRACTICAL WORLD BUILDING

Tonight’s posts all have a being practical theme to them.

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I look at Transport in the current post having visited a railway museum today.  Magic would be an obvious form of (a) fuelling transport systems and (b) actually being the transport system.  But there is a downside to most things in life, including transport, so where would that be in your fictional creation?  How much magic does it take to enable someone to fly?  Can everyone in your world manage it?  Just a few thoughts to consider…

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

I look at Practical World Building and set a few questions that I hope may help anyone who is starting off on the process of creating their own world but may not be too sure of where to start.  It is a big undertaking when you think of it – a whole world out of nothing except what your fertile imagination can invent.  But this is where looking around at the world we live in can be such a good place to start.  What is your world’s equivalent of the trains for example?  And Terry Pratchett famously started by working out what the plumbing would be for Ankh-Morpork (the waste has to go somewhere and fresh water, or as fresh as possible, is crucial of course).

FACEBOOK PAGE

I talk more about my railway museum visit and speculate what it is about history (including things like the history of transport) that I love.  It is all about stories.  The story of this, the story of that, when all is said and done but there are fascinating tales in our past, any one of which can be used as inspiration for kickstarting our own ideas into play.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAllison.Symes.FairytaleLady%2Fposts%2F786028601500121&width=500

At the Steam Museum, Swindon. Women at work during WW2. Image taken by me.

At the Steam Museum, Swindon. Women at work during WW2. Image taken by me.