Diaries and Letters


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. (Many created in Book Brush). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Hope you have had a good start to 2023. It is lovely being back at the writing desk. Look out for a useful writing exercise in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. Hope you give it a go and find it useful.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my first Chandler’s Ford Today post for 2023 where I take a look at Diaries and Letters.

I look at the joys of reading books of these as well as explore using these formats in my own flash fiction writing. I also discuss the usefulness of keeping a diary (not just for noting down what I’ve got to do and when but also for reviewing where I am with my writing and to set goals). I also share a useful creative writing exercise here.

Hope you enjoy the post and hope you have had a good first week “back to normal”.

Diaries and Letters

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Looking forward to sharing Diaries and Letters for my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. See above – this is one of those posts where I have to watch my spelling. It’s difficult reading and/or writing dairies!

I love reading and writing both formats! Am looking forward to sharing more author interviews later on in the year and am glad to say I’ll be taking part in another writer’s blog in March. More details nearer the time. Also looking forward to running another flash fiction workshop later this month.

Hope to get back to work soon on a major project I had to shelve last year (due to my wanting to get my third flash fiction book submitted). Looking forward to that too. I’ve got a rough draft done on it but know it needs plenty of honing.

Have you set any writing goals you want to achieve this year? I like to have a rough idea of what I’d like to see done in the period and deliberately have a mixture of goals I know I’ll achieve quickly as well as the longer ones. It is nice being able to tick things off my “list”.

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Hope you have had a good day. Weather a lot better than yesterday – Lady and I didn’t get wet! It is the simple pleasures in life etc etc…

Am currently reading a biography of the late Queen by Gyles Brandreth (and loving it). Then I’m on to a crime novel. I like mixing things up! I read in different formats too (and I’ll be looking at some formats of story writing in the forms of diaries and letters for my next Chandler’s Ford Today post too. I often read books of letters and diaries – do check these out. They’re illuminating. I’ve written in both diary and letter formats too).

Writing Tip: Given you’re going to be spending some time with your characters (and yes that applies even to a flash piece), it does pay to get to know them a bit. If you could write a letter to your leading character, what would you put in it and why? Give some thought as to how they would reply to you. You’ll get insights into their personality doing this.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s great to be back on Friday Flash Fiction with my story The First Day. An apt title for the first week in the New Year, I think. Hope you enjoy. (Also many thanks for the comments coming in on this already but I think you’ll like my characters in this one).

Screenshot 2023-01-06 at 09-18-42 The First Day by Allison Symes

If you want to practice writing short in a way that helps other writers, how about writing a review of their books? It helps authors with publicity and is the second best way to help them (the first is to buy said books of course). The great thing with reviews is they don’t have to be long.

Talking of writing short, I must admit I did find the strapline for both of my collections tough to come up with – I knew what I wanted to say but it was condensing it down enough that was the issue. Still I got there in the end.

For From Light to Dark and Back Again, the strapline reads A collection of very short stories to suit every mood.

For Tripping the Flash Fantastic, it reads A carefully crafted collection of story worlds.

It is funny how writing short is so often more difficult than writing long!If you’ve got ideas for possible strap lines or even words you’d like to use in a strapline, jot them down somewhere safe. Never assume you’ll remember. You don’t, honestly.

Flash with Amazon and Barnes and Noble

I mentioned over on my main author page on Facebook about getting to know your characters. There are various ways of doing this. For flash fiction, you may not need to know so much. I often use a template to help me work out what I think I need to know. One or two pertinent questions can draw out a lot of information! It’s working out what you need to know I think which can be the tricky bit.

I know I need to know a character’s major trait and why it is that one. Others may need to know what they look like and deduce their personality from the type of clothes they like to wear etc. But as long as you know what makes them tick, that’s the important thing. You do have to convince ourself you know these people and therefore can write their stories up with conviction. You know X would react like this to Y because… etc etc

May be an image of text that says "".. Understanding what makes US tick is crucial for understanding what makes your characters tick."

Fairytales with Bite – New Year Acrostic (Writing Tips)

N = New Year = New start – do your magical characters need this and, if so, why?
E = Explore what your characters would do when dropped right in the mire. This can be great fun!
W = Work out what your characters could do with in the way of worthy opponents. You mustn’t make life too easy for them.

Y = You decide how magic works in your setting and whether your characters can all have the same powers or have the potential to develop them.
E = Eagerness to gain power – which of your characters have this? Why? What would they do with that power if they got it?
A = Always know what your characters are doing and what their motivations are. These need to be motivations readers understand but we don’t necessarily have to like them.
R = Read through your stories and check for consistency. If your character changes behaviour patterns, there has to be a good reason for that, again something readers can identify with. Were they “redeemed” or “corrupted”? What are the consequences of the changes? Your stories need to play this out.

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This World and Others – Starting Over

This is an apt topic for the start of another year (and Happy New Year!). Many stories show characters starting over (and my favourite here is A Christmas Carol by Dickens).

But give some thought as to whether your setting needs to start over. Has there been a climate catastrophe in your world where agriculture, industry etc all need to start again? What caused the disaster? How have your characters recovered from it? What changes have had to be forced on them? Which have they happily adopted?

Also there are personal disasters for your individual people. What form(s) do these take? How did your characters start over or have they never been able to really recover? What are the consequences of not being able to start over?

How would the history of your world impact on those living in it now? Is there history they prefer to forget (and so have “started over” by focusing on the history they are happy about?). Starting over can be an artificial concept exploited by the powerful so you could explore what they are trying to bury here.

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Bridge House Celebration Event

Image Credits-:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Lynn Clement for taking the pictures of me reading at the recent BHP event for my CFT post this week. Screenshots and most photos for my CFT post this week were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Bitterly cold weather all week here. Writing progressing well – am so glad it’s an indoor job! Looking forward to hearing some festive flash fiction over the weekend, including one of my pieces. It is a thrill to hear my stories on air.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share my new Chandler’s Ford Today post which is all about the recent Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event. It was such fun to go to this and catch up with people. It was by no means certain it would go ahead and, of course, the last two years the event has been affected by Covid. Hope you enjoy my round-up. Already looking forward to next year’s one.

Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event 2022

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Lady had an unexpected surprise today – she got to play with her best buddy, the Ridgeback, who looked very fetching in her coat. Both dogs very happy to see each other.

Looking forward to sharing my next Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. I’ll be looking back at the recent Bridge House Publishing Celebration Event. Always good to go to this. Always lovely to write about it afterwards! See above.

Also looking forward to hearing the Three Minute Santas show on North Manchester FM with Hannah Kate over the weekend. Festive flash is fun to write and wonderful to listen to – will share the link once I’ve got it. Hope this will be in the next post.

Coming up in the New Year will be another flash fiction workshop in January. I did get my competition entry in for the Writing Magazine Grand Flash prize. (You’ve got to 31st December on that one – 500 words maximum).

 

Hope you have had a good day. Still bitterly cold.

Characters have always fascinated me – in my own work as well as in what I read. I do want to know what makes them tick. I need to care about them enough to want to find that out. Often it can be an intriguing bit of dialogue or an internal thought that lures me into reading more. In that, I’m getting a snapshot of what the character is like. Attitudes show up in what they say or think. When I’m writing, I am thinking what it is about this character that would make a reader want to find out more? There has to be something!

I guess the lure of any well written story is wanting to find out what happens. That something happening has to occur to someone which is why for me at least characters are more important than plot. A great character will drive the plot. A good plot won’t be saved by a poorly portrayed character. Readers have to care about your characters (even if that includes wanting to see them fail. There is still care for the character there – you want to see them get their comeuppance).

May be an image of 1 person and text that says "Readers should be keen to find out what your characters do next. whaus next"

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to report the December double issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now available free to download on Amazon. I took the topic of Fifty as my theme for this edition. I also set a double flash fiction challenge. Do check out how people responded to it. There are great stories here. (And the rest of the magazine is a wonderful read too but don’t just take my word for it – check out the link below.).


I was chatting about closing lines yesterday (see below) so I thought I’d look at opening ones tonight. I love to use an intriguing situation or an interesting bit of dialogue (ideally something that poses a question) so readers have to read on. I also like to set scenes as much as possible too.

One of my favourites here is from Where the Wild Wind Blows from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. That reads The Witch had just finished planting out her runner beans when the farmhouse landed on her head. No prizes for guessing the inspiration behind that one!

But what matters is having something that encourages your reader to read on and I find thinking about what I would like to read helps here. Having an Ideal Reader in mind and thinking about what they would want to see helps enormously too. I am writing for an audience so it makes great good sense to write with them in mind from the get go.

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I love to end a flash tale with a twist or humorous ending, but not always. There is room for the thoughtful ending too. This works especially well for monologues but I did also use this kind of ending for The Pink Rose in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. This is a compassionate Alzheimer’s story and therefore the ending needed to be appropriate for that.

I also used the phrase “the pink rose” in the opening and closing lines deliberately. It was like a “circle” effect here which again was apt for this kind of tale. Knowing the characters well means I get a good idea of what kind of ending would be apt for them.

The one thing in common with a twist or humorous ending though is it would probably pay to write your thoughtful ending first and then work out the steps that led to it. I’ve done this. It is a good technique to help you ensure your story has the right internal logic to make it work.

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Fairytales with Bite – The Underdog

The underdog crops up a lot in the fairytales. Cinderella is a classic example of that. She was not expected to “win”. She was expected to continue to be the kitchen skivvy. I think one of the classic fairytale tropes is that the underdog can win (and to encourage compassion for said underdog – encouraging compassion is always a good thing!).

Often in the fairytales the underdog is in that position through no fault of their own and usually due to the cruelty of others. So another message here is that cruelty will eventually fail (though I must say I find that doesn’t come as quickly as I’d like!).

An interesting thought for a story idea (or several) is what about the underdog who does deserve to be in that role. What have they done to put them into this position? Are they remorseful? Can things be put right?

As a matter of note, I always look out for the seemingly unimportant characters in fairytales. They do usually tend to end up being far more important than anyone initially thought and that’s an idea to play with in your own stories too.

I also love it when an underdog does a lot to help themselves get out of their situation and doesn’t just rely on a fairy godmother turning up. Much as I love the Cinderella story, I do query why the godmother didn’t intervene earlier to help the poor girl against all that cruelty going on. I wouldn’t have minded Cinders challenging her on that but maybe that was best saved for after the happy ever after ending. Cinders wouldn’t be the underdog then!

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This World and Others – Species and Specialisms

Picture the scene. You’ve created a fantastic multi-cultural world. You’ve got a nice array of species. You’ve worked out how they get on with the others (or not as the case may be). You’ve worked out the politics and/or history behind all of that. You’ve figured out how basic needs are met and so on.

So think in more depth about what the individual species are and why you need them in your setting. What are their specialisms? Do they have to co-operate with others to get skills and other resources they can’t do/produce for themselves? Are there biological reasons why they can’t do these things? How does the need to trade with others affect the politics of your world? Can anyone upset the old apple cart here and, if so, how do they do it?

If you have species with specialisms, does that encourage tolerance in your setting or are those with “better” specialist skills resented? What would that resentment lead to?

Also what forms are the specialism in? Technology? Better ways of food production? What you are after here, I think. Are skills which are definitely needed and which others might have cause to envy or resent. Every story needs conflict and resolution. This could be another way into setting up some interesting conflicts.

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Interview Part 2 with Jenny Sanders, Shout-outs, and Getting Steamed Up

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Jenny Sanders for supplying author, book, and other pictures for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. As ever, screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good working week. Nice surprises this week – unexpected shoutouts for Tripping the Flash Fantastic and I will be glad to share further publication news very soon too. (And it stopped raining for a bit too so Lady and I consider that a win!).

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s with great pleasure I welcome back Jenny Sanders to Chandler’s Ford Today for Part 2 of a stunning interview (and many thanks for the comments coming in on this already).

This week, Jenny and I discuss writing devotionals, short stories, and flash fiction. The latter especially is another example of where Jenny and I cross (writing) paths – hence the title for this interview this week. Hope you enjoy.

The writing journey can take you on all sorts of interesting pathways as Jenny and I have both found.

Crossing Paths with Jenny Sanders – Flash Fiction, Devotionals, and Short Stories- Part 2

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Many thanks to #ValPenny for a lovely shout-out today for Tripping the Flash Fantastic. That was a lovely surprise, as was the fabulous comment from #JoyWood. Now that is what I call a review! Thank you, ladies.

Also had a further nice surprise when I gave someone, a fellow dog walker, one of my business cards as they’re interested in my books. Now that’s music to a writer’s ears, is it not?

Don’t forget, as well as getting copies of TTFF and From Light to Dark and Back Again, online (usual outlets), you can contact me via my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like a signed copy (or copies) directly from me. See my contact page.

Talking of flash fiction, I’ll be discussing that very topic, amongst others, with Jenny Sanders in Part 2 of her interview on Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up tomorrow. See above.

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Lady got to play with her best buddy, the lovely Ridgeback today, and after Monday’s weather, it was so lovely to have a nice day out in the park today. Nice to come home still dry too!

Am enjoying the Flash NANO challenges especially as there is great variety in them. Looking forward to tackling today’s one later on. I deliberately mix up the random generators I use to produce stories. I don’t want to limit myself to one type. I think this has stood me in good stead for Flash NANO. Best of all, it’s fun anyway!

I was impressed – my train tickets for the Bridge House Publishing event arrived today. I only ordered them a couple of days ago. So looking forward to catching up with people again here (and I hope making new friends too).

AE - November 2022 - Taking part in Flash NANO

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday. It’s time for another story. (Think it is quite nice to start the working week with one on my YouTube channel and to finish said working week with another one on Friday Flash Fiction). Am pleased to say Getting Steamed Up is my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. This one started life in response to a Flash NANO prompt. Hope you enjoy it.

Screenshot 2022-11-25 at 09-38-34 Getting Steamed Up by Allison Symes

Many thanks to #FridayFlashFiction for commenting on my post yesterday about one of the disciplines of flash fiction. Couldn’t agree more – see screenshot if you missed the post. Don’t forget a new batch of stories will be up tomorrow and do check out what’s on there.

Fabulous reading and catching up with stories via websites like this can be a great way to ensure you get some contemporary flash fiction reading in as part of your “reading diet”. I consciously try to ensure I read in and out of my genre, past and present work, books, magazines etc. It keeps life interesting for a start. It’s fun too!

Screenshot 2022-11-24 at 19-49-51 Allison Symes Facebook

 

One of the disciplines of flash fiction (which comes in useful for other forms of writing) is in knowing where and when to stop! You tell your story, your character has done/said all they needed to do/say, and then you stop. I find the word count restriction helps here.

The End really does have to be the end. It can be tempting to add in a kind of concluding bit. Flash writing cures you of that habit quickly as you can only include anything which moves the story on in some way. There really is no room for anything else and that’s good. Your focus is sharpened thanks to this.

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Fairytales with Bite – Who Guards The Guards?

In a magical setting, there should be some way to measure magical standards. One way is obviously through schooling and exams but what about later? Who ensures standards are kept up by fairy godmothers and the like? Who ensures short cuts aren’t being taken which could endanger others? Who sets the standards people need to stick to in the first place and have these ever been changed or challenged?

Is there a magical enforcement agency of any kind and, If so, who guards those guards to ensure they’re doing their job properly? Is the agency a good one or are they the equivalent of the old Keystone Cops (i.e. fit for comic purposes only)?

Are the guardians of magical standards respected or feared? (Could be both but I find it interesting where a body like that is respected rather than feared. It would tend to show me that these people are doing their job in a way that benefits the people and there could be stories here about where the public helps the agency solve magical crimes, prevents standards slipping and so on precisely because that respect exists. People don’t tend to assist those they fear unless they have no choice).

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This World and Others – Law Making

In your fictional setting, does law making tend to follow the pattern we have here of parliamentary democracy or dictatorship? How do laws get made and passed? Do people have any say in this? Can people petition the likes of their local councillors/MPs? And when laws are passed how are people informed about them? How long does a new law take to be implemented fully?

Does your world have a separate civil/criminal law making body/bodies?

In the case of longstanding laws, what could make the authorities change these? Do they update laws where situations/technologies and the like have changed? That kind of change can make some laws redundant. For example, we no longer need a man with a red flag walking in front of a motor vehicle to warn pedestrians a car was on the road!

Is the law respected or mocked (even if the latter is done privately)? Are there laws which desperately need scrapping or an update and who/what is blocking that? Plenty of stories to be had there I think!

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Breaks (and, aptly, A Quick Sandwich)

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. Am off to lovely Northumberland for a few days shortly. Hope to post as normal but that will be time and internet connection dependent! Loved it here when I went before, as did Lady, and autumn is a lovely time to go, funnily enough. Beautiful colours.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s Friday once again and time to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This time I look at Breaks.

I look at this from the viewpoint of characters needing breaks too. A story which is all action with no gaps for characters (yet alone readers) to take stock and work out what to do next is (a) a bit too relentless and (b) risks your characters coming across as cardboard cut outs.

We all need time to work out what to do next when faced with a dilemma so a character not doing that will come across as being unrealistic. The trick though is to ensure the “break” is an interesting one and still engages the reader.

I share some thoughts on that here and look at breaks in shorter forms of fiction too. Hope you find it useful.

Breaks

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Lady got to play with her best buddies, a lovely Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Hungarian Vizler, and all three dogs went home tired and happy – job done! Busy packing for my break – naturally Lady’s case gets done first. Must not forget the toys!

Breaks will be up on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. See above. I look at how characters need breaks to work out what they’ll do next but the trick is to ensure these breaks are interesting enough to keep the reader hooked. I also look at breaks in shorter fiction and ask if there is such as thing as a lucky break for writers.

Now what fascinates you most about characters? I like to find out what mine can do when push comes to shove and those characters who are not so obviously likeable – well, could there be redeeming features in there somewhere?

I love poetic justice stories (which comes from my love of fairytales) but also tales where someone redeems themselves or is helped to become a better person in some way (my faith has an influence there – redemption or the possibility of it matters to me).

So naturally that comes out in my characters most of the time. Note I say most of the time. I do come up with characters I would loathe to meet in real life. It can be an interesting challenge to write their stories up as I still have to understand where they’re coming from to do them and the tale justice.

Why write those? Sometimes it is to see if (a) I can do it and (b) to explore a different perspective.

This is why you should never judge an author by their characters. Many of us will have characters we don’t like much!

 

Windy, wild, and the acorns are flying off my oaks. Suspect there will be some busy squirrels tomorrow gathering them all up. Suspect there will be some excited dogs including Lady wanting to chase the squirrels. I’ve heard a squirrel’s cry. It is quite harsh. I wonder if they’re swearing at the dogs in squirrel language? Could be!

I’m looking at Breaks for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up on Friday. Again see above. This was an interesting topic to write about as it made me think about why we do need breaks for our characters but still need to be able to keep our readers engaged with the story.

I’m busy wrapping up some blogs for later on in the month as I want to get those scheduled before I head to Northumberland. Scheduling is useful and I sometimes use it for tweets too. I will often draft blogs for different places well in advance of my due date and have found this pays. Nearly always there will be something I would like to change or add to before I schedule and that’s fine. I’ve given myself the time to do that.

Do you plan your writing time? I’ve found it useful because there are certain days of the week when I know I can’t write much but I always feel better if I get something done. So I use those times for smaller pieces of work yet have still been creative and productive. That matters to me.

May be an image of text that says "? Give yourself plenty of thinking time. Is your chosen topic giving you plenty of different angles to use to write to?"

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It’s Friday storytime once again. On Friday Flash Fiction this time is my drabble called A Quick Sandwich. Hope you enjoy it (the story that is and, if you’re having a quick sandwich yourself as you read this, that too!).
Screenshot 2022-10-07 at 08-58-14 A Quick Sandwich by Allison Symes

Ideas for stories can come from all sorts of places but for me, sometimes it is an image from a film I’ve seen that is the trigger for a new flash piece.

My Where The Wild Wind Blows from Tripping the Flash Fantastic is an example of that. The film influence here is The Wizard of Oz where the farmhouse crashes on the witch. So even odd scenes can be used to trigger flash fiction ideas. I don’t want to say a lot in these tales which is why flash is the perfect format for them.

So think about scenes which have stayed with you. Any possibilities of a flash tale told from the viewpoint of an alternative viewpoint looking on the scene with interest? Someone whose voice has not been heard?

You can have a lot of fun here – good luck!

Tripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Sometimes I draft titles to use later on – it is a good use of those small pockets of time when you know you can’t get much done. It also means when I do have longer at my desk, I’ve got something to work up into stories. I find a good title can be a creative spark in and of itself in that I then need to think of the characters and plot line that can do it justice.

And it’s a good warm up writing exercise too – five minutes jotting down title ideas. They don’t have to be perfect. Nothing is on a first draft. But it’s a great way to get you stared on something and I find having the titles encourages lateral thinking. I am literally thinking now what can I do with this? I want to avoid the obvious so I dig deeper and I’m on my way to something which will be unique but fits the title. For competitions, this is invaluable. Judges like stories that stand out.

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Fairytales with Bite – Misfire Acrostic

MISFIRE

M = My, that wand is on the blink again.
I = I only got it serviced last week.
S = Said it was fine for its age but was that wizard referring to my wand or to me?
F = For goodness sake, that wand has gone and blown up my daffodils.
I = I wouldn’t have minded that so much if it had taken out those dratted weeds as well.
R = Right, that’s it, I’m off to the shops and trading this thing in.
E = Except… except it has conjured up a perfect cream tea…hmm… maybe I’ve been hasty, I’ll go to the shops tomorrow.

Allison Symes
5th October 2022

Hope you enjoyed that. Acrostics are fun to do with flash fiction. Best for when the word you use is relatively short. (Can make an interesting writing exercise – why not give it a go and you can always use a random word generator to come up with the word itself to write to).

I also love acrostics like this for amusing little scenes of everyday magical folk like my annoyed fairy godmother character narrating the above.

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This World and Others – Service Engineers

The above acrostic made me wonder about those unsung heroes or villains, the service engineers. Someone has to service the magical equipment out there.

Why call them villains? Well, I am a little biased here given I had one not turn up on me. Would that happen in your fictional world? What would the consequences be, especially in a magical setting?

And what could go wrong with the magical equipment? I suspect my story wand above simply had a mind of its own. Not sure any service engineer could sort that one out but what could they do?
Is their profession highly regarded or are they considered to be the lowest of the low – those magical beings who didn’t have the talent to do something better?

And what would happen to your lead character whose wand or other equipment did give out at a critical moment? How could they recover their position?

I wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of their service engineer the moment they got back to the shop to complain but that could make for a fun story (albeit probably not from the engineer’s viewpoint!).

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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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Facebook – General

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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