Regular Writing and What Makes a Good Read

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you had a good weekend. Starting to get rain, thunder etc here. Lady okay with it but does not like being woken up by it. Can’t say I blame her.

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Hope you have had a good day. Not bad here and I managed to get some swimming in as well so that’s good. Managed to duck most of the showers as well – definitely a good day. Lady and I have had plenty of soakings in our time so any time we miss out on that, we feel we have won!

Just to flag up there’s an offer on the paperback on Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See the link at https://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

Writing Tip 9002.5 or thereabouts: Regular writing is important. So is life. If life does get in the way, don’t feel bad about what you can’t do. Focus on what you can.

If it means you need to have another writing session some when else, then fine, so be it. The writing journey is a marathon and not a sprint. Pacing yourself helps a lot.

I must admit I know there are some nights of the week I know I’m not going to get a lot done so I focus on blogging (just adding a few paragraphs sometimes) or I draft a flash story. It gives me something to work on when I do have more time.

 

Am grateful Lady isn’t fazed by thunder and lightning as we had some in my part of the world at about 11 last night. Her policy here is the same as mine – the sensible one of sleeping through it and letting the weather carry on without you. It’s not as if it needs our help!

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Good Interviews. I’ll be looking at what writers can do to help themselves prepare for these as well as looking at interviewing your characters to find out more about them ahead of writing their stories up. Link up on Friday. (And I’m interviewing two great writers for CFT before long – more news nearer the time – so I plan to be practicing what I preach here!).

Chandler's Ford Today post reminder picture(1)Comments welcome for CFT


Changeable weather today with rain forecast this week. Won’t be that sorry, though it will mean Lady and I will probably get a bit wet. The trees here are shedding leaves early to conserve water so the rain is needed. And Lady and I are used to being “drips” anyway so that’s okay!

Many thanks for the comments in on Fitting In, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. In case you missed it, you can find it here.

Now this story is loosely based on fact. I did have a dog called Gracie and I did fall for her immediately. Inspiration for story ideas can and does come from incidents in life but also from what I read and sometimes an overheard bit of conversation which intrigues me. (Train journeys are great for that by the way).

It’s being open to the possibility you might get a story from something that is important I think. The more you read, the more you are open to being inspired too.Screenshot 2022-09-02 at 09-11-55 The Arrangement by Allison Symes

Hope you have a happy weekend.

Any autumn plans you’re looking forward to? Any books you’re planning on reading this season? I mentioned the other day I’m currently reading Churchill’s Wizards on Kindle (having just finished the excellent Regal Retribution by Jennifer C Wilson).

It’s a lovely contrast in reading material – non-fiction -v- contemporary fiction (historical crossed with ghost). But I love to mix up my reading and ideas for stories come from both sides of my reading diet. I’ll read something and the cogs get whirring and I jot down ideas for another flash story or blog post. Reading feeds the imagination and it pays all writers to keep theirs topped up.

Best of all, it is fun to do!

And talking of reading, why not check out the latest edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads? It is free to download, has a wealth of articles, photos, stories and, of course, my flash fiction column.

This time I’m talking about Questions and Answers in Flash Fiction. I love questions as they give you a great story structure from the word go. Your story has to answer the question set. Your question draws the reader in – they know there will have to be an answer by the end of the story. Do also check out the flash fiction pieces that came in as a result of my challenge – there are wonderful stories here.

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-32-31 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine September 2022

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Don’t forget I often post flash fiction videos to my YouTube channel. New subscribers are always welcome (and the current ones treasured!). You can find my channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

Screenshot 2022-09-06 at 20-23-13 Allison Symes

 

It’s Monday. It’s time for a story I think. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTubeThe Right Number. No prizes for guessing which random generator I used to trigger the idea for this one!

 

Does geography come into your fiction at all? It sometimes ventures into mine. For example in A Day Out from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I refer to Earth Mark Two. I didn’t have the room in this story to say more than that but you immediately know you’re in an alien environment loosely based on what we know here.

More importantly, I didn’t need to say more than that. As ever it is the telling detail which matters here. You can bring the senses in here too.

For example, if you say Character X was standing by the blood red waterfall, you can deduce they must be on a foreign planet even if you don’t give the name of it.

Also think about how geography might impact your story (the quest tale is the obvious one here but it can be done for the smaller flash stories). If your character is on a mission to deliver cakes, (quite possibly to Grandma’s house), how could the geography get in their way and what do they do to bypass that? There’s the story. Readers will want to know if those cakes did get delivered. There’s your structure.

The geography is what causes conflict and challenge for your character and they will have to resolve it as best as they can to be able to do what they are meant to do. Usually failure is not an option (and you can increase the hazards for your character here by making it clear what will happen if they do fail).

May be an image of ‎tree and ‎text that says "‎Just give your readers what they need to know to picture your world. Everything else they will هll in from what they have read/seen on film.‎"‎‎

I often refer to some of my stories as “fairytales with bite” because they often have a twist and they’re not aimed at children. They often see characters getting their comeuppance. I also like to look at stories from the viewpoint of alternative characters to the well known ones.

Indeed my first story in print was A Helping Hand in Bridge House Publishing’s Alternative Renditions. My story looked at an aspect of the Cinderella story from the youngest step-sister’s viewpoint. Great fun to do.

The original fairytales are anything but twee as I’ve mentioned before. They can work so well as in flash fiction format, especially if you want a succinct story focusing on one incident in a character’s life.

My The Poison Pen from From Light to Dark and Back Again looks at the Snow White story from the viewpoint of the crone before the King marries Snow White’s mother and shows early indications of what the crone is like.

This kind of tale can add to the world of the well known fairytales I think. But you need to think about what character you’re going to use for this and work out what you can do with them. In this story’s case, I am showing the crone was like this years prior to the original Snow White story. In other words, she’s got form!

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes You Read?

Leading question, hmm? What makes me read is curiosity first and foremost. I have to find out what happens to the characters in the story. Or I have to find out what an expert is imparting to me via their non-fiction work. I read to escape worries and cares for while. I read because I love stories and finding out things. I read because it is a privilege and pleasure to be able to do so.

Reading fuels the imagination and that is why I think all writers should read widely and regularly, inside and outside of their chosen genre. I’ve had story ideas come to me from reading non-fiction. Occasionally a blog idea will occur to me from reading something in a story. I also see reading as supporting the industry I am part of – makes great sense to me.

Besides, as we go into autumn in my part of the world, what is better than curling up with a hot chocolate and a good book or something fascinating on your Kindle?

Screenshot 2022-09-03 at 20-47-58 What Makes You Read

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Getting Together With Other Writers and Book Shelf Joys

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were most of the pictures from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. A big thanks to Jennifer C Wilson for sharing the picture of the triumphant Prosecco Queens!
Hope you have had a good start to your week. In my part of the world there has been a bank holiday so I will probably spend the rest of the week reminding myself just what day is it?! It is a common phenomenon! 

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Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. I know I’ll be a day “out” for most of the week, given we’ve had a bank holiday in my part of the world. Scary thought is the next one isn’t until Christmas!

Many thanks for the great comments coming in on my More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers yesterday. My topic of Getting Together with Other Writers clearly hit a chord or several! Link below.

Will be sending my next author newsletter out on Thursday. To sign up just head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

There is also an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic over on Amazon at the moment – do see the link at https://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic

Screenshot 2022-08-30 at 20-01-13 Tripping the Flash Fantastic eBook Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store

More Than Writers

It’s my turn on the More than Writers blog (Association of Christian Writers blog spot). This time I talk about Getting Together with Other Writers and the benefits of this. If you are thinking this can’t be a coincidence given Allison has recently got back from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, you’d be spot on! Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

Screenshot 2022-08-29 at 08-21-46 Getting Together With Other Writers by Allison Symes

I’ll be looking at Author Newsletters for Chandler’s Ford Today next week. Apt since my next one is due out next week too! I’ll be looking at why authors have them and what I do with my one. Link up on Friday.

I’m also busy preparing some interview questions for two great writers for Chandler’s Ford Today and I hope to be able to tell you more about these next month.

Am also going to be setting my next flash fiction challenge soon for Mom’s Favorite Reads, the October edition. I have to work a month in advance here but if you want to find out more about MFR, you can do so here. (You can also check out the latest magazine for free here too – go on, have a great read, you know you want to!).Screenshot 2022-08-28 at 16-57-51 Mom's Favorite ReadsHope you have had a good Saturday. Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Facebook re my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today which I shared yesterday. It was a fabulous week.

Also thanks for the comments coming in on Fitting In on Friday Flash Fiction. If you missed the story, you can find it at the link here.

Am busy getting my author newsletter ready. Hard to believe we’re almost in September. If you would like to sign up for tips, stories and more please do head over to the landing page of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am rediscovering the joys of seeing what is on my Kindle. Am currently reading Churchill’s Wizards, which is proving a fascinating read so far. It is about the art of subterfuge etc carried out during the war. I’m a fairly late convert to the joys of non-fiction reading (and this one I would say comes into the creative non-fiction category given the way it is told). Definitely a case of better late than never though!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I see Writing Magazine are having their Grand Flash Fiction prize competition again. I entered last year, didn’t get anywhere, but reworked my story and I hope it will form part of my third flash fiction collection in due course. I will probably have a go at the competition again this year.

It is a good thing to enter competitions as they help you get used to writing to a deadline and in actually sending a piece of work off somewhere. Too easy to sit on a piece of work for too long.

I don’t enter every single flash fiction competition. I’m glad to say there are far too many of them for that to be possible but at least it does mean there is plenty to choose from out there! Always check the competition rules thoroughly. Check out the credentials of those running the competition as well.

Also the prize on offer should reflect fairly the charge you’re being asked to pay. With a novel competition, for example, I would expect to pay a fair amount (usually circa the £25 mark) because a judge will be reading your book and to an extent your fee is paying something towards their time, which is only fair.

Good luck with any competitions you’re entering. Give yourself plenty of time to draft, rest a story, edit it thoroughly etc. And have fun writing the tale – it should be fun.

Plenty of competitions for the short form

If you’ve had a bank holiday today (as I have), I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Having said that, it is still a Monday and it’s definitely time for a story! Hope you enjoy The Guest.


I love setting the flash fiction challenge for Mom’s Favorite Reads (look out for the next issue due next week by the way) and part of my column gives my own response to the challenge I’ve set. A great way to keep me on my toes, I can say! I also get more flash written so win-win there.

I do like mixing up how I approach writing flash and this is yet another reason to use the random generators. They make me think outside my usual box and that encourages further creativity in me. It can do the same for you, honest, give them a go.

You can also combine results from random generators to create more stories. I did this recently for the Lift Up Your Pens session I took at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I hope to do more of that too.

About to run a workshop on editing at Swanwick


I love mixing up writing in the first and third person over the span of a flash fiction collection. The immediacy of the first person makes it an ideal match for flash writing but I also love the third person where a named character shows you their story. I like being able to set my characters wherever and when I want. I can dip a toe into my favourite genres here. So despite the word count restriction, flash is remarkably flexible.

It’s also easy to share and perfect for Open Mic Nights. I don’t know if Radio 2 still have their schools competition for a 500 words story. I hope they do. It’s a great way into creative writing.

It is one of those ironies in fiction that limits fuel creativity rather than stifle it because you are made to work with what you have got. You learn to think about better ways of phrasing sentences so you make the most of your word count. And you’re never afraid of editing again which is a good thing. I happily stamp all over my darlings when I must (see what I did there!).

Have lost all fear of editing

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Shelf Joys

One of the great pleasures of being a writer as well as a reader is getting to buy books brought out by your writing friends and having them sign them for you.

I have plenty of those on a special shelf and it gives me great joy whenever I walk past it. I look at the books on there and happy memories come flooding back, (for instance of times spent with said writing friends at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School).

Another shelf bringing me joy holds the books I inherited from my late mother (hardback copies of Dickens amongst many others). As for the shelves that give me a distinct case of the giggles, well those hold the works of P.G, Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett. Then there is the shelf containing hardback works by Agatha Christie, the first set of books I collected as an adult.

Books have meaning well beyond the stories they contain – and I love that too.

Having said that, the ebook very much has its place here. I’m rediscovering the joys of finding out just what is on my Kindle and am currently reading Churchill’s Wizards, a fascinating non-fiction book.
So which book shelves have special meaning for you? It is the meaning that makes the shelf special.

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Your Lead Character In Fiction

Image Credits:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Weather has cooled down somewhat as the week went on, much to the relief of both Lady and me. Trust all well with you. Glad to share an exclusive new story from me for this blog – see further down under Fairytales with Bite. Hope you enjoy it. Plan to include it in my third flash fiction collection which I’m working on at the moment.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest post for Chandler’s Ford Today – Your Lead Character In Fiction. I set a mini quiz as part of this to show how important characters are – see how you do. I also look at qualities of the lead character and whether it is necessary to always root for them or not. See what you think and do leave comments over on the CFT page. I go on to discuss what a writer needs to know about their lead character and share some different ways in working this out. Hope you find the post useful.

Later in August, I’ll be sharing a fabulous interview with a great crime writer for whom their lead character is especially important! Well, when you write a series you do have to have someone to lead that series…! More details nearer the time.

Your Lead Character In Fiction

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Glad the weather is continuing to be cooler. I much prefer it at about 23/24ºC and so does Lady.
Have booked my tickets for the Bridge House Publishing event in December. Will be good to see friends old and new there. And I hope to catch up with writing pals at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School which is rapidly approaching (next month – yippee!).

Will be sharing a brand new “fairytales with bite” story in my round up blog post which will also go out tomorrow via my website – see https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – new subscribers always welcome. I will be sharing the link to this post via Facebook tomorrow too. You can also sign up for my author newsletter here – the next one of those will go out on 1st August. Story further down.

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Much needed cooler weather today (though the forecast looks like this might be a temporary reprieve). Lady and I made the most of the cooler weather. Both of us were much happier for it!

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about Your Lead Character In Fiction. There will be a mini quiz as part of this and I’ll be looking at whether it is necessary to always write likeable characters or not amongst other things. See link above.

I have a soft spot for those characters who back the lead up and without whom the lead cannot succeed in their story. My favourite here is Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings. Even Gollum knew not to underestimate Samwise!

Whatever position your character has in a story in terms of importance, there should be a definite role for them. If your story would work without them, they shouldn’t be in there.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday once more and time for some flash fiction. My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is simply called Tomorrow. Hope you like it.

Screenshot 2022-07-22 at 09-05-01 Tomorrow by Allison Symes


Hope you have had a good day. Can’t believe we’re rapidly approaching the end of July already.

Now I sometimes use time in my stories, with characters going forwards and backwards in it and with dubious results. See Tripping the Flash Fantastic for that (Mishaps and Jumping Time). I have great fun with these kind of tales as they give me opportunities to drop my characters right in it. There is no clause anywhere which says an author has to be nice to their characters. I checked, okay.

But you can take time and use it for more sombre stories too. I did that with The Pink Rose which shows the ravages of time.

So time can be a useful device as a a setting, it can be used as a character, and you can have reflective pieces on it too. How will you use time in your stories?

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… and breath! Thankfully cooler today. Lady and I made the most of it too.

I sometimes start my story with a question in its opening line. In my The Truth, from From Light to Dark and Back Again, I use this and I finish the tale with my character’s thoughts connected to it though the question itself is not directly answered. This is because I’ve used a metaphorical question and my character is aware of that (at a subliminal level at least) They also know they’re not going to change attitudes here. Sometimes your character is the only one to see through something. See The Emperor’s New Clothes for more on this – the kid there was right!

With metaphorical questions, your character is unlikely to be able to answer it fully but their conclusion should be a reasonable one based on the premise of the story.

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Fairytales With Bite – A Fairytale by Allison Symes

Thought it might be nice to have an example of what I call a fairytale with bite this week. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Once a Rat by Allison Symes

I can’t remember all the details to be honest. I was happily being a pain in the neck to all and sundry. I was king of the pickpockets, see. Made a good living at it until I managed to annoy some biddy who happened to be a fairy godmother, and the next thing I know I was zapped and became a rat. I remember her speaking over me.

‘Since you are a rat in human form, you can be a rat in rat’s form and save everyone the bother of having to avoid you. They’ll do so willingly. Most folk hate rats.’

How I survived I don’t know. Even other rats avoided me. I’m sure they knew what I was really. Just a shame every fox I met tried to eat me but I always did have a good turn of speed. Came in handy I can tell you.

And then I lost concentration for a moment and ended up in a rat trap. This girl came to fetch me indoors and then I saw her again. That wretched fairy godmother. Boy, did she laugh when she saw me. Said she never forgot a client.

I never knew such fear as when I saw her take out that magic wand of hers again. What would she turn me into this time?

I couldn’t believe it when I saw I was now a coachman, kitted out in a decent uniform too. I was to take the girl to the Palace for the grand ball. First time in my life I had a job. A proper one too.

The godmother whispered to me not to wreck things this time. I could keep the job if I did well. The pay was good and food and lodgings were thrown in. I might even meet someone nice in the Palace staff. I did too. Mary and I have been married thirty years this year. Got three kids and six grandchildren. It’s been a good life. A funny one too. And she does know about my past. Always ensures I get a decent amount of cheese – bless her.

How long have I been serving Cinderella and Prince Charming now?

Oh, it must be a good thirty years now. Their kids are okay too.

The one thing I can’t resist though is setting the caught rats free when the other staff here aren’t looking. Well, it could be someone I once knew in my past life or one of their offspring.

I got a second chance. Maybe they should too. A rat isn’t always just a rat – and I should know!

Ends
20th July 2022 – Allison Symes

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This World and Others – Poetic Justice

Hope you enjoyed the story. One of the things I’ve always loved about fairytales is they have a strong sense of right and wrong about them and almost always justice is seen to be done in some way. There is usually a chance for redemption too. Love all of that. Always have done.

Is there such a thing as poetic justice in your created world? How does it manifest itself? If magic is involved, is it used to correct a problem initially caused by someone else’s magic for example? (Best known example of that is the fairy godmother modifying the spell for Sleeping Beauty so she doesn’t die but just falls asleep).

Is there any character in your work who deals with justice overall? Does an underdog character come through to ensure justice is done by the end of your story?

What about the characters who deserve to have poetic justice done to them? What did they do? Did they irk someone they really should not have done as my character did?

Now this can be a great vehicle for a humorous tale (and it is where I generally use it) but how will you take the idea of poetic justice and use it?

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Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good week. I think I may have found my favourite title for a Chandler’s Ford Today post (see above and below!). Strange weather week here – had sun, gales, heavy rain and that was just by Wednesday. Welcome to the British summer!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

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

Verbs and Verbosity in Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fairytales with Bite – Where Fairytales DO Bite

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

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

Twee – definitely not then.

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

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This World and Others – Society Norms

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

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

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

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

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

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Getting The Story Down and Hooks

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Weather still hot and cold (literally) where I am right now. I guess that’s a kind of bank holiday tradition in the UK!

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Writing Tip Number 5085 (or thereabouts): When set a writing exercise or responding to a prompt, just get the story down as quickly as you can. Go with your imaginative gut here. You can tidy things up in the edits. It is what edits are for! (And yes there will be more than one).

I’ve mentioned before I always feel a certain sense of relief once I’ve got my first draft down. This is because I know I have got something to work with and improve. I’m not worried about the fact it will need improving. Shakespeare didn’t write a perfect first draft. Neither did Dickens.

Guess what? I’m not going to either! But that’s okay. What matters is having that something to work with in the first place. As someone wiser than me once said, you can’t edit a blank page.

Editing has its creative side too

Hope those of you who had a Bank Holiday today enjoyed it. It was overcast and cold today so we got the traditional weather associated with most UK bank holiday weekends!

Have loved the movie music special that’s been on Classic FM today. As ever, the theme from Jaws gave me the creeps. Am so glad I only ever swim in a swimming pool! Am still hoping the Pink Panther theme will come on. (Apologies for those of you who, like me, are of a certain age, as you too will now have an earworm on the go).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be my review of The Dragon of Wantley, the latest production from the Chameleon Theatre Company. Link up on Friday. (Many thanks to them for sharing with me some fabulous pics – I look forward to sharing them via my post).

I’ve been using the old random generators again. I used the random noun one this time and chose two items – a waitress and a tiara, an interesting combination! I’ve used both for my story which I hope will be on Friday Flash Fiction later this week. I used just one of them for my YouTube video, which I will share over on my book page shortly. See below for link.Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 20-53-53 From Light to Dark and Back Again Facebook
Happy reading Sunday! Am glad to report the May edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out – see the link. For my column this month, I look at Objects in Flash Fiction and share how these can be used to create some great stories. It helps a lot that the reader can picture the object you choose.

The object I chose for this column was a silver teapot and I share my story here. But do check out the other flash pieces that came in as a result of the challenge I set. There are some wonderful tales here. And you can always make yourself a nice brew in a silver teapot while you enjoy a good read!

Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 20-57-08 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine May 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle StoreHope you have had a good Saturday. Spent some time in the garden. Lady loves it out there. Next couple of weekends will be busy so it has been nice to have a quiet one this time.

My monthly author newsletter goes out again tomorrow. Now sent but do sign up on my landing page! I’m planning to review the wonderful The Dragon of Wantley for Chandler’s Ford Today as next Friday’s post. I will resume my In Fiction series after that.

Many thanks for the comments in on Reflection, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. This is an object lesson in not being vain and/or greedy, literally an object lesson. Also it acts as a reminder to be careful about what you wish for.


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

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Bank holidays are lovely but they always make me feel as if I’ve somehow skipped a day all week. Throws the dog a bit too (suddenly wonders where everyone has gone!).

Now how do your characters approach holidays? Do they take any? Could your flash piece be a story about what happened on a holiday?

The nearest I’ve got to that I think is my Camping It Up from Tripping the Flash Fantastic where a vengeful fairy disrupts a camping site. Good fun to write.

Holidays are where the normal routines are suspended for a while so that in itself could lead to interesting story ideas.

Framed Flash Collections


It’s (bank holiday) Monday and time for a story. Hope you enjoy Putting on a Good Front, my latest YouTube video. Let’s just say my sympathy is with Marjorie. See what you think.

 

Hope you have had a good Sunday. The rain is back and the temperature has dropped again – welcome to a UK spring!

My latest flash fiction column is out in the May 2022 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads. I talk about Objects in Flash Fiction this time. Yes, I do use a random object generator to trigger these.

The huge advantage of that is I don’t know what will come up so I “raise my game” to meet the challenge set by the object which has been generated. Making yourself think in different ways encourages creativity. I know I’ve produced far more stories due to doing this.

I like to have a mixture of ways into writing a story as it keeps things interesting for me (and hopefully for future readers too), stops me from falling into a rut, and there is always a challenge to be faced and dealt with. I love that. And I get to do my favourite writing thing all the time – invent new characters to write about!

Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 20-58-14 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine May 2022

 

Almost at the end of another month but at last the weather is warming up a bit.

I sometimes write poetic justice stories. As with the twist endings, I tend to work out what that poetic justice should be first. I want to ensure that is right. I can then ensure my character motivations tie in to it nicely and that the character on the receiving end of the poetic justice really does deserve it! Mind you, it is huge fun working that out!

Whatever my kind of story, everything in it has to make sense. A reader should be able to see where a character is coming from and to understand why they are the way they are.

Motivations need to be strong enough too. This is where asking “what if” helps a lot. I ask what if X happened, would I then really do Y or could I be talked out of it? Or if I was to do Y, what would be the X behind that? There has to be an X here! Characters won’t do things without good reason to do then, any more than we would, which is another way in which fiction reflects what we know.

Character Needs are everything

Goodreads Author Blog – Hooks

As a writer, I think about hooks a lot. I want different ways in which to “lure” a reader into reading my stories, of course. And with my reader’s hat on, I want to be lured into reading by a promising character, an intriguing opening line, a promising idea on the book’s back over and so on.

What I need to make sure of as a writer is that I deliver on my promise to the reader to give them a good read. And with my reader’s hat on I want to find out that character was even more promising than I thought, the intriguing opening line led me into a wonderful story, and the idea on the back cover was fulfilled. The good thing with the latter is that if the author delivers here, I am far more likely to want to read more of their works.

Hooks matter then but delivering on them is even more important. You don’t want the reader to feel let down. Neither do I, as reader, want to feel let down. In situations like that I am highly unlikely to read anything by that author again.

When I’m browsing books, I do turn to the blurb first and then look at the first few opening lines. If I like both, I’ll get the book. The hook has worked!

My favourite kind of hook is the intriguing character one because I want to find out what happens to them and that keeps me reading.

Screenshot 2022-05-03 at 21-09-40 Hooks

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Hooks, Simple Ideas, and Character Attitudes


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
What does snow, ice-cream chimes, and simple ideas  have in common? They all appear in this post – and I discuss character attitudes too.

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Glad to report there is an offer on Amazon on both of my flash fiction collections – see link for more. Go on, pick up a bargain!

I see there is a film about to come out called Operation Mincemeat based on the book of the same name by Ben Macintyre. Loved the book. Film looks promising – hoping they’re faithful to said book.

Looking forward to sharing Laughter in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I love writing all of my posts but there are some which are sheer fun and this is one of them. Mind you, the topic helps!

I forgot to mention this last month but I am so pleased to be a member of the Authors’ Licensing and Collection Society. I have free membership of this thanks to being a member of the Society of Authors. I was really pleased with my pay-out from ALCS last month, which was up from last year. Definitely worth looking into to if you have books out there. And updating the online form when you have new works out is easy too.

I joined the Society of Authors years ago after receiving invaluable advice from them over a publishing contact I’d been offered. It was from a vanity publisher. I turned the contract down, got my manuscript back, and joined the Society. Never regretted any of that!

Screenshot 2022-04-04 at 19-51-16 ALCS

Cold but no snow today so I count that as a win! See post further down for why I say this! Hope you have had a good Sunday. Much as I dislike the clock changes twice a year, I must admit it is nice having the lighter evenings. It means Lady gets a longer evening walk for one thing and she is happy about that.

Regardless of the length of story I write, I do like a good hook in the opening line. I am a great believer in the “hit the ground running” approach.

Sometimes I do this by getting a character to do something. Sometimes I will open with an intriguing line of dialogue. I also open with a set up that has to be followed through in some way and the only way a reader is going to find out is by reading the story through.

And yes I deliberately mix up the approach I take here. It keeps things interesting for me and I hope that comes through to readers too.

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Bizarre weather again today. I was doing some gardening, (”doing” being the operative word as I am no expert!), when snow fell again and at the same time I heard the charming chimes of an ice cream van! (I passed on that).

Many thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on The Way Time Smells, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Using the senses is encouraged in fiction as they all help readers “picture” things, they also make characters seem more real to me, and I was glad to get in a scent I have fond memories of as a child into this story.

I’m looking at Laughter in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post next week and look forward to sharing that in due course.

One positive thing about the cold weather is it makes it even more easy to stay indoors and get on with the writing!

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

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I was talking yesterday about how I came up with the idea for my latest YouTube video, Away. Link below. It was based on a simple premise and, especially for such a short form as flash fiction, it pays off to keep the idea simple. Flash is not the place for the convoluted idea and again this is another example of the form of flash ensuring you do have to stick to the point.

I’ve also found, naturally, a simple idea is easier to deliver on (and stick to the word count with). There’s an old saying about not “over-egging the pudding” and that comes into play with flash fiction writing too. Just because an idea is simple, it doesn’t mean the story is simple. You can still show a wealth of emotion via the simple tale of one character telling another just what a hellish time they’ve had of it lately. Basic plot right there.

And the other character’s reaction whether it is sympathetic or not can show a reader just how caring or not that other character is and, to an extent, whether the first character deserves that sympathy or not. Yet that all stems from a simple idea.

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It has been another hectic Monday. Time to slow down and enjoy a story then. Hope you enjoy Away, my latest tale on my YouTube channel. I used a random picture generator to come up with the idea for a story based around chairs in a park and thought about who might have put them there.


I’ve talked before about how I sometimes write a punchline or a twist ending first and then use spider diagrams to help me work out how I could get to that closing line. The other advantage of this is this approach usually gives me a good idea of how long my story is likely to be.

If my spider diagram produces a result where I am likely to need more than one character in the story (as opposed to one or more being referred to – a kind of “being offstage” scenario), then I know my tale is likely to be between the 500 and 1000 words mark for flash. For short stories, I’m definitely looking at 1500 to 2000. That then gives me a good idea of where I’m likely to find a home for the finished tale.

What I don’t do is decide on the word count and then work out the story from there. I always go for the spider diagram option that resonates the most with me because it will do the same for a reader. The one that resonates most with me is one I’m going to love writing up because already that idea has triggered me and I will be itching to write it up.

The only times the word count is almost (!) the most important factor for me is when I am writing to a market which calls for a specific word count such as Paragraph Planet or Friday Flash Fiction. And even there I jot down ideas and still go for the one that makes the most impact on me. I am putting myself in my readers’ shoes here and asking myself what would they like from this idea. Then I go for it!

Having your reader in mind from the start is a good idea. It helps you keep on track too.

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Every now and then I write a story where the sentences open with the same words. In my The Wish List from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, all but the last sentence starts with the words I wish.

The advantage of doing this is that it creates a kind of rhythm to my story and, in this case, the “I wish”in each and every sentence ratchets up the tension and that in turn builds up to a conclusion.

It is not something I would wish to do all the time (the I wish being a deliberate choice of phrase there!) because I wouldn’t want it to come across as gimmicky and I fear frequent use of something like this would do precisely that. It does make a refreshing change every now and then though.

Goodreads Author Blog – Character Attitudes

What hooks you into following a character’s story though to those magic words The End? Something about the character has to draw you in and, for me, it is usually to do with their attitudes towards other characters, themselves, and life in general.

One of my favourite characters is Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s wonderful Discworld series. Not only do I like following Sam through one novel I have loved watching that character develop over the series of Discworld novels he stars in – and boy does he develop. That is a sign of a truly great character. They’re never static! And his attitude varies depending on who is dealing with but there’s never any doubt about him wanting to see justice done. (And doing his level best to ensure it is).

I also like characters who acknowledge their own shortcomings but overcome them. (Pride and Prejudice, anyone?). A character who isn’t willing to change when it is clear change would bring them (a) happiness and (b) make them an all round better person is not a character that’s going to hold my interest for long.

Characters reflect us and what we know about life so a character’s attitude generally is something we will need to have understanding of, even if we don’t entirely agree with it.

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Spring-like Writing


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A hectic start for the week for me after a lovely and happy birthday weekend spent with family. Mind you, snow is forecast later in the week. Never let anyone tell you the weather in Britain is dull – it is anything but!

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It’s my turn on the Association of Christian Writers blog spot, More Than Writers, today. This time I talk about Spring-like Writing. What do I mean by that? Well, I take a look at the mood of our writing but also discuss the “energy” within a story. Hope you enjoy the post and many thanks to all who have sent in some wonderful comments already.Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 20-34-37 Spring-like Writing by Allison Symes

Hope you have had a good start to the week. As ever, it has been a hectic Monday here but at least there is only one Monday in any week! Had a lovely weekend with the family (Lady adored having everyone here) and I was back to story writing yesterday.

My latest More Than Writers blog for the Association of Christian Writers is out tomorrow, I’ve sent something off to Friday Flash Fiction, and I’ll share a new YouTube video on my book page shortly. See below for link. So not a bad start to the writing week then!

I look to complete certain things by the end of the week (such as two of my website round-up blogs on the Tuesday and Friday) and then work on stories and blogs around that. It means I know what I’m doing on each day and helps me ensure I never waste a minute of precious writing time.

I like to hit the ground running for my writing as well as getting my characters to do likewise. It keeps things interesting for me – and I trust for my characters too.

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#Had a wonderful time with friends and family at my birthday do yesterday. Lovely to have a good chat with the fabulous #JanetWilliams, my editor at Chandler’s Ford Today. It’s been a funny week. I started off coming home from Scotland to having a big do and I could so have done without losing an hour’s sleep this morning thanks to the clock change!

Talking of CFT, I resume my In Fiction series this week with an interesting post based around the letter K – Kindness and Killing in Fiction. How can I get a post out of a topic where the title is such a contrast? Link up on Friday – you will have to wait until then to find out!

My author newsletter goes out next Friday as well (see my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for the sign up page).

Talking of my website, a big hello to all who have started following me here – it has been encouraging to see steady growth here.

And last but not least, there is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic over at Amazon. Do check out my Author Central page for more details at http://author.to/AllisonSymesAuthorCent


Getting together with family and friends today so thought I would post early. How do your characters handle get togethers? Do they relish them or dread them? And who controls the events? Is your lead character really the one running the show? They might think they are but…

Get togethers are often the source of family traditions so which would your characters have and do they uphold them? Do they cherish them or feel they are being held back by them? For your lone characters, which traditions do they remember from the past and do they miss these? How do they cope with being lone characters now? There is a sense of loss implied here so your story could focus on that.

This is where our own life experiences can help us in crafting a tale. We all know loss. We may not know what it is like to live on an alien world but we can take what we know of life here and help our characters to come across better to a reader. Empathy matters.

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Have had one of those days where I’ve run late all day. But the nice thing about flash, and something I especially appreciate during a busy day, is with its restricted word count, I can still carve out five minutes some when during the day to draft a story! Or jot down ideas for stories, possible titles and so on. Those quick writing times mount up and give me a store of things to come back to when I’ve got more time. There is nothing to dislike about that scenario!

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It’s good to be sharing story videos on YouTube again after a brief break due to my being at the Scottish Association of Writers conference. Hope you enjoy A Scent of Sense. This story was triggered by a question which came up on a random question generator – what is your favourite smell? I thought it a good way to write a tale based on one sense and to focus on that.


If you’d like to check out some of my flash fiction, do visit my YouTube channel. As well as sharing mini stories there, you can find the two book trailers for From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic, here, both of which have a free story included in them. Hope you enjoy (and new subscribers to my channel are always welcome).

Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 21-21-11 Allison Symes - YouTube

Am having a family do today in celebration of my birthday. It will be lovely seeing everyone again and the weather is gorgeous. So am posting early. I’ll be resuming my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today next Friday. I also hope to get back to writing for Friday Flash Fiction this week. And I’ve a number of blogs to draft so I will be out of mischief for some considerable time!

Now there’s no reason not to use gatherings in your stories as long as they move your plot on in some way. What could your character find out at a gathering that will make them change what they do next? And could it change the outcome of the overall story?

If your character Is the shy type and a gathering of any kind would fill them with horror, how do they find out information they will need for their “quest”? And how would they handle things if they absolutely had to to go a gathering? Don’t be afraid to drop your characters right in the mire – this is where you find out if they will sink or swim and where you will find out so much more about what they are capable of, whether that’s in a good way or not.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Celebrating the Booksellers

We should celebrate the booksellers, yes? If you’re lucky enough to have an independent book store near you, make the most of it! Even where you have a known chain, still support them. Where I am, we were lucky enough to have a lovely independent book shop as part of our main shopping centre but the owner retired (understandably) and now the nearest bookshops are at least five miles away.

One of the joys of going to a writing event, such as the one I’ve recently returned from, is there is usually a book stall connected to it. These are often run by a local independent bookseller so, as well as supporting the authors whose works you buy, you support these good people too. And it does make sense to support the industry you want to be part of!

Although online ordering can be convenient, I don’t want the physical bookshops to disappear. I think we would lose something important. Browsing through bookshop shelves is a far more pleasurable experience than trying to browse online!

So go and support your local bookseller. You know it makes sense.

Screenshot 2022-03-29 at 20-47-10 Celebrating the Booksellers

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Anti-Scammers and the Three C’s


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
With the awful news going on right now, I think it is more important than ever to appreciate all of the creative arts – and avoid those who would scam you as a result of your trying to follow your dreams here.

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Many thanks for the wonderful responses to my anti-scammers post yesterday. See below. And do bear in mind there are plenty of sharks who try to lure in the unwary writer too. Never be afraid to check things out and organisations such as The Society of Authors and Alliance of Independent Authors should be your first ports of call for advice. This is also another advantage to joining in with writing groups, whether these are online or in person, because writers share what they learn from one another and that includes warnings about which so-called “services” to avoid etc.

It’s also a good idea to regularly read the writing magazines too as you learn so much from these too and check out websites like Writer Beware! This is an American site but the principles of what they expose for rogue publishers etc applies the world over and you will at least know what to look out for.

It was only when I had been a writer for a while I realised how much there was I didn’t know and needed to know but recognising that and then doing something about it like joining writing groups etc is a good first step into being more savvy about the do’s and don’ts of the writing life. Don’t be conned!

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I’ll be talking about Imagery In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. I look at writers using words to “paint” images with and the importance of book covers. One way or another, imagery comes into fiction a lot, even if it is not always obvious.

Will be giving a talk soon on historical flash fiction soon – looking forward to that and, of course, next week, I’ll be heading off to Scotland once again. I’m at the Scottish Association of Writers Conference from 18th to 20th March and will be running a flash fiction workshop there. Plenty going on then and I will report back from Scotland for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course.

Oh and a word to the wise – I am getting emails in from those who say they have a proposal for me. I bet they have too – how to check my email address is a genuine one and use it for phishing at best. Stay well clear of these things, folks. I delete immediately and then clear my delete folder immediately too. Never click on the links they send you.

Not sure whether this one is targeted at me because I’m a writer or whether it’s a huge mailshot and they only need a few people to respond to make money (and that is what they’re after – your money). Hmm… maybe there’s a flash fiction story or several in which scammers like that get scammed themselves. Something to think about!

Where do my ideas for stories come from? All over the place which I know is not exactly helpful. The point though is to be open enough to recognise something as a potential idea. My ideas come from things I have read, fiction and non-fiction, and from triggers such as the random generators I often use. Also overheard snippets of conversation can be the starting point for a story.

But what matters is recognising what I call the “aha moment” when I come across something and think yes, I could do something with that. And the more you read, the bigger the pool you have to fish in for ideas of your own. We all build on what has gone before.

What we do is bring our unique take to an idea or a theme and make it our own. Prompt books are always useful too. What I find matters is finding a way in to writing a story. And you have to love reading stories to know that you yourself want to write them.

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Fiction has a variety of purposes as I’m currently exploring in my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Escaping from worries via a variety of genres or exploring the human condition or confronting evil head on via what our characters go through is all fine.

What matters is that fiction is truthful. It has to be to have any meaning. And for fiction to be truthful, the characters have to be true to themselves, whether they’re the best hero of all time or the worst villain.
This is why I need to know the major trait for my characters before I write their stories up. I can look at how and why they’ve developed that trait (and this is so often a springboard for further story ideas).

Major traits can tell me so much about the characters in themselves. If my character’s major trait is they like a good laugh, I can look at what has driven that. Is their life sad and they want to escape sadness at any cost so put on a jolly persona to cover that up? Is it their way of being accepted by others and what drives the need for that acceptance?

Also, I can take things another way and show how their good laugh helps another character or causes problems. All sorts of story ideas can come from just knowing my Character A will do almost anything to have a good laugh. And that is just one example of how knowing a major trait can trigger ideas. For me, that’s more important than knowing what the character looks like.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

In any story regardless of its length, there has to be conflict, character, and change – the three C’s! Without a character experiencing conflict, even if it is internal only, there is no story. There should be change. Did the character overcome or succumb to the conflict? Either way that is a change though one is obviously more positive than the other!

One of the lovely things about flash is I can have, as a story, a self-contained moment of change for my character which simply isn’t long enough to even be a short story yet is still insightful.

How your characters react to things tells you so much about them. How you react to the character’s reaction may well shed insights about yourself – fiction can be illuminating like that. Flash does it more intensively than any other form though so be warned!

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You know I’ve written from the viewpoint of a mother dragon before, yes? (See my book trailer for Tripping the Flash Fantastic). Well, I think I’ve upped my game a bit here. See my latest YouTube video and see what you think. Hope you enjoy it.

 

Writing a short story, such as flash fiction, is not easier than writing longer work. Nor is longer work easier than writing shorter items. You need the idea. You need to get that first draft down. You need to edit it. And edit it again. You need to rest it for a while. You look at the story again, spot the errors you missed first go around (and we all do that!), correct those, and once happy submit the piece or save it for a collection. And you do this over and over again because you love the challenge of it.

As I’ve mentioned, I find I can get a first draft down quickly. It is the editing and crafting of the story, even my 100-worders, that takes the time. Rightly so too. I want to get every word right. Where I can find a better choice of word that gives more “oomph” to my writing, I will change to that word. And if I am writing to a specific word count, as I so often am, I then have to check I haven’t gone over that and adjust things where I have.

The one thing I have learned over the years is I’ve got to give myself enough time to follow things through thoroughly enough. But that’s fine. I’m drafting more pieces while resting others so I always have something to work on. No chance of getting bored and I love that too.

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Just to flag up Amazon have an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic. See link for more.
I like the variety flash offers me. I can write across a number of genres, write my stories as acrostics, all-dialogue pieces, monologues etc., and I can choose my word count up to 1000 words.

My hopes for flash is that it will encourage the reluctant reader to dip their “toes” into the wonderful world of books and encourage people to write their own stories. Creative writing is good for you. And writers read so book sales go up! There’s nothing to dislike about that scenario!

But I hope flash brings characters to life for people. Those brief glimpses of a character’s life, I hope, will intrigue people to want to read longer stories, novellas, novels etc. Characters are the draw for readers. We need to know what is going on in a character’s life. You don’t necessarily need to write an epic to give that fascination to a reader.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

BB - Flash with a Dash for TTFF

Goodreads Author Blog – Realistic Characters

I’ve never been fond of characters who seem too good to be true. I love the characters with flaws and who change for the better. For any fiction, regardless of genre or length, I’ve got to be able to “get” where the character is coming from and why. I don’t necessarily have to agree with them though!

For my own writing, I like to work out my character’s major trait as all sorts of things can come from that. If a character is brave, are they reckless with it? If they like a laugh, what will they do to get that laugh from others? Plenty of story ideas there – and you can explore the idea of when things go wrong too.

So I like characters to resonate with me in some way. While I will always root for the hero/heroine to win, I want to see that the villain does have reasons to behave the way they are. Their objective has got to make sense. There is never any room for the pointless character. I suppose writing flash fiction with its restricted word count of 1000 words maximum has made me more aware of that.

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Endings in Fiction – and Retreats as a Theme


Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Having been away at a retreat last weekend, I used the theme of retreat for my YouTube video earlier this week and for Friday Flash Fiction this week! Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. Looking forward to being part of the Scottish Association of Writers’ conference in March. More news to come on that in due course (and I don’t think you can beat their website image – see below!).

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share Endings in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today. Memorable endings stay with you long after you’ve finished the book or story and make it far more likely you’ll read more work from the author concerned.

I also look at why I feel the “it was just a dream” ending only worked the once and why. I look at linear, circular, and twist endings. (I use the latter a lot for my flash fiction so am especially fond of those). I go on to discuss what I think a good story ending should do. Hope you enjoy the post and do share your favourite story endings in the CFT comments.

Endings in Fiction

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Brrr… after an almost spring-like day yesterday, it has turned cold again. Mind you, it has been nice to see the signs of spring appearing – I’ve spotted primroses out and my solitary clump of snowdrops is doing well.

I’m talking about Endings in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week and I’m looking forward to sharing the link for that tomorrow. See link above.

A classic ending reverberates long after you’ve finished reading the book. A weak ending lets whatever came before down and a writer risks having readers not want to take a chance on their stories again. Well, you’re not going to risk being disappointed again, are you? So it matters then that you get your ending right. No pressure then! But it is worth taking your time to get this right.

Think about the impact you want your story to have on a reader. Think about what you yourself would want to see in the ending as if you weren’t the writer.

Putting yourself in your Ideal Reader’s shoes is an invaluable thing to do because you want your stories to impact on your reader so they want to read you again and again and again. If you are thinking about them from the start, you are less likely to go off on unhelpful tangents because you are seeking to reach them so you are thinking of what they need to see from your characters and plot.

 

Hope you have had a good day. Very busy one here – from housework to taking the dog to the vet for her annual booster, it’s all glamour here – umm…. maybe not!

There is an offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic via Amazon. See the link for more information.

How did I come up with the title for my second flash fiction collection? Well, one of the stories in it is called Tripping the Light Fantastic but I wanted something indicating the book’s genre so it was an easy choice to just change one word here.

Titles are so important. A good title is your first “hook” to draw the reader in to read your story (and the second one is an intriguing opening line). It is worth giving yourself plenty of time to think of the title that will attract readers to your book. Try to put yourself in the reader’s shoes. What would intrigue them? If you weren’t the writer of the book, what would intrigue you about it? Does the title grab your attention?

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I was away at the ACW Committee Retreat last weekend and I used the theme of retreat for my YouTube video earlier this week. I also used it again for my story this week for Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Misunderstanding and many thanks for the great comments in on it so far.

Screenshot 2022-02-11 at 09-39-13 Misunderstanding, by Allison Symes

Yet another advantage to writing flash fiction is you have a form of writing which is ideal for people who want to write but know they haven’t got the time or desire to write longer works.

And flash pieces are easy to share on your website, social media etc to help raise your profile (though do bear in mind this does count as having been published. I don’t worry about that because I do want to reach people with what I do and sharing a story every now and again is an easy way of doing that. I see this as part of my marketing work but you have to decide what you are happy to share here and what you want to keep back for submission elsewhere).

I would also say if the thought of writing a longer work is too overwhelming, do think small and start there. With online magazines and competitions for flash available now, you can build up publishing credits here and have something to put on a writing CV if you do decide to submit a longer work to an agent or publisher later on.

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Advantages of writing flash fiction number 999 (or so it seems to me!):-

You can use old writing exercises as the basis for creating new flash fiction pieces. Take what you scribbled down in a writing conference talk and see if you can turn it into a story. Most material produced by exercises like this are far too short for the standard short story market. No problem! Write, edit, polish, and send off to the flash one instead!

Dig out those old notebooks – what can you develop from those initial notes? It is worth doing. I took one of mine (The Balcony Seen) and edited and polished it and it ended up on CafeLit.
Screenshot 2022-02-09 at 20-07-59 CafeLitMagazine

Fairytales with Bite – Justice

One aspect to fairytales I’ve always loved is you know justice will be done – in some form anyway. Evil is generally thwarted. Good will prevail eventually. Simplistic, maybe, but even as a kid I knew real life wasn’t always like that and it was a comfort to see wrong being righted in fiction.

And another lovely aspect to fairytales is characters traditionally considered as villains don’t have to be. Think Shrek. The ogre is the hero there.

So how would justice be seen to be done in your fairytale setting? Are characters reliant on a helpful fairy godmother turning up and waving the old wand about or are they expected to do some of the work themselves and then call for magical backup? You can probably guess which approach I prefer by the way I’ve worded that!

And yes I do like to see characters contributing something to getting themselves out of trouble even if their efforts don’t succeed. Likewise, I prefer characters who try to act justly even if sometimes their actions are misunderstood or they “let the side down” briefly by those odd moments when, perhaps provoked too far, they don’t act justly. We’re not perfect. Our characters won’t be either.

The theme of justice is often tied up with another theme – redemption. A character hasn’t acted justly. They regret that. What do they do to try to make things right and does this ensure justice is done? All interesting possibilities to explore further.

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This World and Others – Law

How does the legal system work in your fictional environment? Is there a civil law, a separate military one, or is there just one? Who ensures justice is done (or do they like to ensure it isn’t done unless it is for them or their cronies)?

Are there trials as we would know them or is everything settled by armed combat? Do ordinary characters have easy access to the law for when they need legal help or is it dependent on whom they know?

As the law stands in your fictional world, what is the history behind it? For example, if people or other beings used to be able to vote but they can’t now, what changed and why? Did your characters try to bring the right to vote back? What stopped them?

How do laws get changed or repealed? Who works for the law (police, barristers, judges etc)? And when punishment is to be inflicted, what form does that take? What does the law in your world allow and what is the basis behind that?

Law underpins a society. Something of that should come through in your fictional world too. Your readers won’t need to know all of the details but they will need to know Character A can’t do this course of action because it is illegal in your setting and your character has to come up with something else instead.

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Firing Up The Imagination


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you had a good weekend. Mixed bag here – my dog, Lady, wasn’t well though she is a lot better now, thankfully and getting on with plenty of writing (which always cheers me up).

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Facebook – General

I talk about random generators for my Authors Electric post on Firing Up the Imagination this month. I use a variety of these to trigger story ideas, title ideas, theme ideas and so on. I’ve even used a number generator to trigger numbers I either use as countdowns in my tales or house addresses where the action take space. Why not give them a go? They’re great fun to use and you can set your own parameters on them too.

Towards the end of last week, Lady came down with the same bug her best buddy, the Ridgeback, had. Glad to say both girls are now a lot better and were so pleased to see each other this morning.

Sent in another story for Friday Flash Fiction over the weekend and am looking forward to taking part in the ACW Flash Fiction group Zoom meeting on Wednesday. For my FFF story, I did something a little unusual – I repeated a whole line deliberately. I hope to be able to share the link on Friday but the reason for the repetition was that it added “oomph” to the storyline and to my lead character’s portrayal.

With the flash fiction word count being what it is (and 100 words for FFF) I would normally see repetition as a waste of words and I would usually find a different way of saying the same thing if that was justified. Often that kind of thing brings emphasis to a point without the need to repeat. But for this story the direct repetition was the correct way to go. I look forward to sharing the link later in the week and you can see what you think.

What matters is why you’re doing something like this and the reason has to be strong enough to justify it.

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Hope you have had a nice weekend. It was lovely catching up with two lovely writer friends on Zoom last night.

I’ll be talking about Best Friends in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up on Friday. And I’ll be taking a briefer look at Animals in Fiction again for Authors Electric on Tuesday. Link above.

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Dodging by Numbers, my latest piece on Friday Flash Fiction.

I must admit, especially given what my story is about, I prefer painting by numbers, which is something I did as a kid. I also used to like I-Spy as a kid, both the game and the books on different topics where you got points for specific things observed.

Topics included things like birds, cars, butterflies, on a train journey etc., and I understand the books are still going strong. The idea of course was to encourage observation (and it kept kids quiet on a journey! I know as I was one of those kids!). Also it encouraged kids to collect books, another good thing!

But being observant is excellent prep work for creative writing. You spot things and story ideas occur.

Your observations encourage you to ask questions such as the classic “what if” and that is probably my favourite trigger question for a story. You can do so much with that one but it helps enormously to have an observant, inquiring nature as you’re more likely to ask the question and want to answer it. I can’t honestly say what impact the I-Spy books had on me for developing curiosity about the world around me but triggering interest is key to learning anything I think.

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. It has been pretty cold again here but on the plus side, my winter jasmine is out, and I am beginning to see some signs spring is on its way. Won’t be long I hope before I see the first snowdrop.

Now what do your characters make of the seasons? Do they have a particular favourite? Are they at their best in one, say, and at their worst in another? How could that affect their behaviour and how the outcome of your story might play out?

If you have a character who loathes the long dark evenings of winter, what would it take to make them do something that needs doing as part of your plot? How would they make themselves face up to having to get on with the task in hand regardless?

This would be a good opportunity for your character to show grit and determination. It should also encourage reader sympathy. I have a lot of sympathy for characters who make themselves do what has to be done regardless of personal feelings, likes and dislikes.

Also working out what your characters like/dislike here gives you a chance to flesh them out more so you understand where they are coming from, even if some of this does not make it into your story. I have found the more I know my character, the better I can write up their story as I am writing about them from conviction. And I think some of that comes through to your reader.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One great way to get “into” a story is to come up with a cracking opening line which gives your character a “do or die” scenario you know has to be resolved one way or the other by the end of the tale.

In my Decisions from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, my opening line reads “He could watch the world end or jump on to the alien spaceship that encourages visitors.”. Decision time right there and then, consequences will have to follow whichever choice is made, and hopefully your reader is hooked to want to find out more.

And it is great fun, and a good use of time, to draft opening lines like that and come back to them later to write the stories up. You give yourself thinking time for one thing. Also if you find that promising opening line isn’t as good as you thought, and that is where the break away will help you come back and judge it objectively, change it to something you want to write up.

When I have moments like that, I then write up the new idea pretty much straight away fuelled by my own enthusiasm for the new idea that has occurred to me believing it will be better than the original one. Most of the time it is but I needed to get the original idea down first to help clear my imagination to come up with the better one! The old brain can be a bit funny like that but it does mean when you jot down ideas, you are “clearing the decks” ready for your subconscious to get to work.

Screenshot 2022-01-18 at 21-12-32 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

It’s Monday (Blue Monday too). It has been a long day. It is story time then! Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – The End Is Nigh. (And if you, like me, find Monday especially tiring and busy, then the thought it is almost the end is nigh for this particular Monday is a good thing too!).

I discussed Reading as Therapy in my Goodreads blog this week but reading is, of course, so much more than that. See link here and further down.

Reading is vital to anyone wanting to write whether it is flash fiction pieces or a three volume epic because:-

  • What you read inspires what you write. I love fairytales. So I like to write my own. I don’t want to write my version of Cinderella but I have written twists on that classic story. I like to write from a fairy godmother’s viewpoint etc but I needed to know the fairytales and how they work to be able to do that.
  • You take in subconsciously how stories work, how dialogue is laid out etc so that helps you when it comes to writing your own tales.
  • You literally see who the publishers are and what they are producing. Some authors credit their agents in books. So reading is a way of picking up information that might prove useful to you when it comes to submitting your own work.
  • I read in my field (I need to know what else is out there and I will always read genres I love, including those I write in), and out of it. I widen my sources of inspiration thanks to doing that.

I’ve mentioned before I also mix up the kinds of things I read. I read short and long form, fiction and non-fiction, books, and magazines. It all counts. Best of all it is fun!

Screenshot 2022-01-18 at 21-18-23 Reading as Therapy

It is good fun every now and then to have a writing session where I jot down promising opening lines. I come back to them at a later date and if they still grab me, I write them up. A really good opening line can be a complete flash fiction story in and of itself (though you can still go on and write a fuller version of the story later if you wanted to do so).

And when you only have short pockets of time to write, why not draft this kind of thing? You are doing something creative. And your subconscious can “brew” on the lines you’ve come up with (which will help you when it does come to writing the story up). You may not be able to get to your desk for a bit. Fine. Let your mind start thinking up possibilities for those opening lines. You are thinking possible stories out and that is never wasted time.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Reading as Therapy

Now there are certain things I see as therapeutic – chocolate, classical music, my dog, and, naturally, a good book or several. When the news is grim (as it so often is these days), a good book can transport you back in time, forward in time, anywhere on Earth (other planets are available if you like sci-fi), and can chill you, thrill you or make you laugh.

Books are wonderful. Doesn’t matter what format they come in either.

And when my own mood is low, reading a cosy crime (Agatha Christie) or something by Wodehouse or Pratchett or Austen is the very thing to help lift it. Books cannot stop my problems, yet alone the ones we see in the news day in day out, but they can transport us “somewhere else” for a while and sometimes that is all you need.

So yes I see the act of reading as a therapeutic art in and of itself and one major reason why I would love to see everyone enjoy books and reading.

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