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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Hello Again – Hope You Had a Lovely Christmas!

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 have had a lovely Christmas. A shorter post than normal due to the Christmas break but hope you enjoy it and find the tips useful. I moved my usual Goodreads blog post to Monday this week so that is included here. The period of time between Christmas and New Year is a bit of an odd one.

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Facebook – General

This week is always an odd one in that the days after Christmas seem to blur into each other until we reach New Year’s Eve. I do know it doesn’t “feel” like a Tuesday even though I know it is!

Do your characters ever feel this way? Can their mistakes with dates/times etc create havoc in your stories? (Certainly there would be comic potential here). Are your characters punctual and, if so, what happens when they have to deal with someone who isn’t?

Time can be a useful device in a story – it is a good way of making things happen. Characters set up a meeting. There has to be a time for it even though the real story will be in the meeting itself and the outcome from it.

You can also use Time as a character too. Is Time cruel or beneficial or does the answer to that depend on the perspective of your character?

Hello again! Hope you had a lovely Christmas. We did (and I can confirm there is no such thing as leftover turkey when you have a dog in the house!). Nice to be able to see family and I am happily reading one of my presents – The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman. Enjoying it so far.

I resumed a little bit of writing late last night and have been putting the finishing touches to my next author newsletter, due out on 1st January.

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’ll be asking if it should be a case of Out With the Old? Link up on Friday. I hope to resume preparing YouTube videos and stories for Friday Flash Fiction later on in the week.

And I did have a nice surprise over the Christmas period. I received a review of Tripping The Flash Fantastic directly.


This is an interesting book of flash fiction; a fascinating way to read stories here and there and before I knew it, I accidentally finished the book. A book of flash fiction and short stories is a great way to engage in stories even when things are busy.

 

Many thanks to my reviewer and they hit on an important point. No matter how busy you are, there is something you can read – flash fiction is ideal for the quick read!

 

NO POSTS Christmas Day or Boxing Day

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There’s a special offer on Tripping the Flash Fantastic on Amazon at the moment so if you want a quick to read New Year bargain, do follow the link!

In other news, I’m sending out my next author newsletter on 1st January (am not promising to be particularly early though!). Do sign up for this at the landing page for my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am also working behind the scenes on further workshop and talk material so plenty to keep me busy. Naturally I talk about flash. Am thrilled the form has taken off in such a big way. Good fun to write and read. Never waste a writing exercise again – polish it up, send it out as a piece of flash fiction. Why not? You have nothing to lose here.

Screenshot 2021-12-28 at 20-08-10 Tripping the Flash Fantastic Amazon co uk Symes, Allison 9781910542583 Books

Good to be back at the old writing desk once again. Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Hope in amongst your book presents, there are some flash fiction collections included! I’m currently reading a couple myself, as well as Richard Osman’s latest. I often have more than one book on the go at a time. It saves me making up my mind deciding which one I will read next when I can so easily decide which two or three I’ll tackle next instead! Reduces the To Be Read pile a bit quicker too.

What I love about the festive season is there are many possibilities for coming up with some lovely flash tales. I’ve written about Santa, his helpers, used other characters from well known fairytales so often performed as pantomime at this time of the year, amongst others. This is very much the “light” side of what I do and it is great fun. I don’t just write these tales now either. I will draft up ideas as they occur to me throughout the year and then save them for this time of year.

NO POSTS Christmas Day or Boxing Day

Goodreads Author Blog – Stories at Christmas

Thought I’d put my blog up after Christmas this time. Next one will be back on Saturday.

I hope you received plenty of books in the formats of your choice for Christmas. Am currently reading the second Richard Osman book and enjoying that. I’m also reading a couple of excellent flash fiction collections. Whoever said you only had to read one book at a time?!

Naturally I enjoyed stories via film over Christmas Day and Boxing Day. The Muppet Christmas Carol is a must. How can you not love an adaptation where the narrator, in this case Gonzo, recommends you read the original book?

The other must is The Polar Express. I’ve not read the book but the film is wonderful. Has a bit of a dark edge to it as well. Definitely not twee and something to make you think about the nature of belief. Oh and Hogfather. I didn’t get around to re-reading the Terry Pratchett classic this time (I usually do) but did watch the film.

Have you found a good film adaptation makes you read the book? I have. One of my earliest introductions to Dickens was watching the Alec Guinness version of Oliver Twist. I just had to read the book directly after watching that. And yes it can be fun spotting where lines (especially of dialogue) are kept word for word with the book and where it is clear some editing has gone on.

Do I mind if the film adaptation doesn’t stick to the original book entirely? Not if it is done well. The Lord of the Rings is a classic example. Not everything from the books goes into the film version (and that goes for the extended version too) but the spirit of the book shines through those movies and that is fine with me.

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Writers’ Days

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. Images from Swanwick Writers’ Summer School were taken by me, Allison Symes,  in August 2021 (and it was wonderful being back there again).
Hope the week has been okay for you. Had a good run of nice autumn weather, due to change to rain next week. And my book order of Tripping the Flash Fantastic arrived. It is always lovely to receive books in the post, especially when you’ve written them! Below is image taken by Adrian Symes (always tricky to do your own author posing with books photo) when Creativity Matters: Find Your Passion for Writing arrived a few weeks back. Glad to hold up my two flash fiction collections too, which was apt since my topic in the CM book was flash fiction!

Creativity Matters - and my two flash collections

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post which is about Writers’ Days. I share hints and tips on making the most of events like this, whether they’re the in-person kind or on Zoom. This post naturally was inspired by my having gone to the Association of Christian Writers event held last Saturday in London, our first in-person event since You Know What struck. It was just so lovely to see people again and to have a wonderful creative buzz being generated by being with so many wonderfully creative writers.

You do get a buzz from a Zoom session incidentally but I think it is not quite in the same way. It is more subtle with online writing events in that I find a buzz after the event and I look back and think yes, that was fab. I think for an in-person event you pick up on that buzz immediately. Of course that may just be me!

Anyway, I hope you find the post useful and hope you have a wonderful time at whatever writing/reading/general literature events may be coming your way. (Oh and my books arrived safe and sound so it has been a good day here – see below for my posts on waiting for my book order to come in. I do feel like a kid waiting for Christmas when I’ve got a book order in somewhere!).

Writers’ Days

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The book order I mentioned yesterday (for Tripping the Flash Fantastic) will be with me tomorrow between 10.51 am and 2.51 pm. Bless the Royal Mail for their precision! (I’d have been quite happy with a between 11 and 3 category but there you go!).

Later this month, I am due to go and see the Chameleon Theatre Group perform Murder with Ghosts, which sounds hilarious. And my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today will be there too. I haven’t seen her for ages so it will be nice to catch up with her too. Review will follow in due course though it will be delayed by a week or so as I am heading north to Scotland once more for a much needed break with my better half and the dog right at the end of the month.

Talking of CFT, my post tomorrow is called Writers’ Days and I will be sharing tips as to how to make the most of these as my image (created in Book Brush indicates). Link up tomorrow.  See above.

Tips will help you make the most of a writing day
Always pleased to receive an email saying my book order is on its way to me. Am expecting further copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic in any moment.

I’ll be talking about Writers’ Days for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. Really looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I will also be sharing some tips as to how to make the most of these and events held on that wonderful app, Zoom. Hope this will prove useful. And if you think this is an odd coincidence after my going to the Association of Christian Writers’ day last Saturday, well it isn’t! Inspiration for blog posts can come from a variety of sources (as with fiction) after all!

I remember going to my first events as a delegate and being a bundle of nerves. Sometimes thinking about the tips I would have loved to have known back then gives me ideas for posts for CFT. Little is wasted in writing. It is sometimes finding the right use for material you have. It is sometimes a case of looking back at what I’ve learned over the years and writing it down. You do pick up more tips and useful advice than you often realise. I’ve also learned over time to spot the potential for a story or blog post and then flesh it out further to see if there is any “mileage” in that initial idea. If there is I go with it.

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Delighted to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Development is the latest tale involving my hapless magical being, Sarah, as she tries to fit in well with her human neighbour, Tina. How does she do this time?

Screenshot 2021-10-15 at 18-35-06 Development, by Allison Symes

Delivering on the promise of an interesting title and hook is vital of course. You don’t want to let readers down. Always think of those you’re writing “to” as they’re the ones you’re seeking to entertain. This is another reason why I will use spider diagrams and/or flowcharts to work out different ways I can take a promising idea. I then go the one I like the most and it almost always is the one I think will have the most impact on a reader, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, scream or what have you. If the story produces that effect in me, whichever one I’ve chosen, it will do so for others.

I know how I feel when I read a story I love. I’m gripped by the premise, the characters etc., and I always want to reproduce those effects in my own fiction. And if you’re not sure about who you’re writing “to” invent your own Ideal Reader. Who would you like to enjoy your flash or other stories?

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On my reading list at the moment is Root, Branch, Tree, an anthology of flash fiction produced as a result of the National Flash Fiction Day in 2020. Whatever genre you write, you should read in your field, as well as out of it.

The latter helps you expand your imagination, the former helps you see what else is out there in your area. You can study the book to work out the publisher’s style and then decide whether or not your style of writing would fit in with theirs. Studying the market is vital and I would say every writer has to do it. How else will you know where to submit your work? You can’t do it blindly but at least studying the market is fun – you get to read and can legitimately call it research!

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Fairytales with Bite – Required Reading

What books or stories are required reading for your characters, whether they’re at school or not? Who writes these? Is anything specially banned and, if so, why? Would, say, a book on logic go down particularly well in your magical setting? And are our interpretations of the classical fairytales the same as those held on the world you’re creating for your story?

Is there any class of character in your setting who cannot read or is forbidden to do so (and do they seek knowledge and books another way)? Do your characters accept the stories they’re told to read or do they ever question them?

Who lays down the rules for what is read? Why did they choose this particular material? Are adaptations allowed?

What do your characters “make” of reading? If everyone is, say, expected to read and re-read classic books regularly, do your people do that or do they get sick of it and get put off the books they’re supposed to love?

For characters capable of producing magic, what text books, instruction manuals etc do they have? Is there such a thing as an editor in your world? (Someone should make sure the spells are written out correctly after all).

Thinking about questions like these can help you flesh out your creation. Attitudes to literature (and by default to the arts in general as well) will show much about your world and how it is run. A world that takes reading seriously is more likely to be a civilised place in which to live than one which despises knowledge, never wants to learn etc.

I must admit I can’t imagine a life without reading. Nor do I wish to imagine it!

This World and Others – Literacy Matters

Literacy matters a great deal to me as I am sure it does to most of us. As mentioned in Fairytales with Bite, I can’t imagine my life without books in it. Not being able to read fills me with horror – imagine missing out on so much. Occasionally I go to medieval weekends and the like and I always come away from these, having had a great day out and learning a lot, with a profound sense of gratitude I live int he age I do, despite its problems. I just know back then I would have been an illiterate medieval peasant who would probably have died in childbirth long before the age I am now.

So on your fictional world, how seriously is literacy and education taken? Do your characters get an education and, if so, what form does that take? How does it impact on them later in life? Does their education (or lack of) help them in the story you’re putting them in or cause them problems because they know too much or don’t know enough?

Can your characters easily access books? Is fiction valued or does your world only treasure cold, hard facts? Are there specific school/age related books as we know them or do your characters have to get to grips with archaic language from an early age?

And if you have a divide between the educated and those who are not, how did this come about? What clashes happens between the two groups? Is there anyone with a vision to get education to all and do they accomplish this or do other forces get in their way? (It is always easier to control those who don’t ask questions or who perhaps don’t know they should ask questions).

Food for thought there, I think, and I know I will always appreciate my books!

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Told you I loved books!

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Learning, Back at an ACW Event, and North Manchester FM

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (and most created via Book Brush using Pixabay photos). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Lovely autumnal weather here in the UK right now – just the kind the dog and I like most.

Facebook – General

Enjoying the lovely autumnal weather at the moment – dry, sunny, crisp – my kind of weather at this time of year.

Writers are often advised (and I’ve done it too) to read widely as sparks for story and article ideas will often crop up from what you enjoy reading. But I was at a fascinating Zoom talk last night about Cistercian Abbeys. Not something I write about. Nor am I likely to do so but the talk was interesting and revealed plenty I did not know especially about life in a community.

Now I can see I might get something from that for a story or two later on. Fabulous if I do. Still improving my knowledge even if not. Win-win basically. So why not try a Zoom or other kind of talk on a topic that might be a little outside of your own box but where you have some underlying interest? (In my case, I love history).

I’ve talked before about mixing up how you approach story writing to keep things (a) fresh and interesting for you and (b) to encourage lateral thinking and even more creativity. Why not use talks as another way into that mixing up your approach?

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Hope you had a good Monday. Not bad here. Nice autumnal day, plenty of sunshine, and Lady got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddy and her Labradoodle pal. All is well in her world at least!

Coming back to earth after a wonderful ACW event on Saturday but I find I always do need a bit of a breathing space after an event like that to take stock and then get on with my writing again.

Many thanks for the lovely comments so far on my Leaving It Late, which is my most recent tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Am so loving writing the drabbles again – and this particular tale shows just how far one character can take stubbornness.

Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 16-41-23 Leaving It Late, by Allison Symes

It was lovely getting back to using Evernote properly on my train trips to/from London for the Association of Christian Writers day yesterday. I’ll be out and about on the train again next month when I go to the Brechin/Angus Book Fest and again in December because Bridge House Publishing are having their annual celebration event, hooray!

Mind you, some things don’t change over the years. I always used to become irritated when bad radio reception would hit right during the middle of my favourite song. These days my irritation is aimed at when the internet connection drops out just as I’m trying to post something (and you don’t always know when a tunnel is coming up!).

It was fantastic catching up with so many friends yesterday and I look forward to catching up with more over the next couple of months. I also managed to draft a flash piece yesterday which I’m going to use for my YouTube video this week. Hope to share the link for that tomorrow over on my book page at From Light to Dark and Back Again. See further down.

Oh and it has been lovely listening to Gill James being interviewed by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Plenty of plugs for Bridge House, Chapeltown, CafeLit etc (and a couple for me too – thank you, Gill and Hannah). Give it a listen and discover insights into how a small independent publisher works.

Gill James Interview Here
Screenshot 2021-10-12 at 20-56-33 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 9 October, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

Am on way to my first in-person event for the Association of Christian Writers today. Event is being held in London. I am so looking forward to catching up with friends I’ve either not seen or only seen through Zoom for the past two years. Am drafting this via Evernote on train up. Will probably post on train home.

As well as what you learn from the speaker(s), you pick up loads of tips, sites to check out etc., when chatting with other writers over a cuppa or several. You also sense a creative buzz at the event which you can draw on to inspire you when you’re back home again.

So it will be a tiring, inspirational, and fantastic trip out. ACW are also celebrating the launch of Write Well! This will be launched during the latter half of today’s event. The book is written by various ACW members about aspects of writing and I am looking forward to reading it.

The lovely thing with writing is you don’t stop learning or developing what you do. This is so good for the old brain!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Giving your character an immediate problem they have to resolve is a great way to get into a story. Your reader has to read on to find out what happens, which is exactly what you want. But you can also add intrigue by hinting at an unusual setting for the problem.

I did this with my Decisions from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. My opening line to this is “He could watch the world end or jump on the alien spacecraft that encouraged visitors.”.

Well, firstly, what would you do if you faced that? Whatever you decide, hopefully the hook is there for you to want to find out what my character did. Secondly, I’ve managed to give you the genre in four words – world end and alien spacecraft. This confirms the genre has to be sci-fi and this is an apocalyptic tale.

The setting is here on Earth – that is confirmed by my character’s name (Jeff). So little things like this give your readers plenty of information to take in and you don’t info-dump on them either. That was something I did use to do when I first started out. Great big blocks of description and/or “have to tell the reader this so I will give it to them all in one go right here and now”. Uhh… no!

Drip-feeding information is better by far, more interesting, and helps keep your word count down, invaluable for flash of course.

Pleased to share my latest YouTube story, The Package. Who do you feel the most for here? Comments welcome here on over on my channel page. Hope you enjoy the tale.

 

Nice to have a quieter day after a wonderful day in London yesterday with the Association of Christian Writers. Will be returning to the capital in December for a Bridge House Publishing celebration event – can’t wait for that. Have been in contact with people over Facebook and Zoom, of course, but it will be so nice to get together in person again.

I’ll be sharing tomorrow my latest YouTube video which was inspired by a snippet of conversation I overheard on the train yesterday! Good fun to write and I look forward to sharing the story. (I say overhear, it was more a case of not being able to miss the conversation, but it can all be useful material for sparking off story ideas!).

 

Am back on the train for an Association of Christian Writers event so am resuming using Evernote for jotting down blog posts and flash fiction pieces. It’s lovely getting to use the app again after a long gap. I used it for the first time since lockdown for my trip to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August but with today’s event, it feels like it’s going to be a regular thing again. And that’s nice.

I will often use train writing sessions to brainstorm ideas for titles and/or opening lines. Course it’s a great chance to people watch again! Have just heard someone saying they had to go to their old house to pick up a delivery they sent to their old place by mistake and the person now living there was a “really old lady”. I suspect they mean someone of my age – fifties!! But could I get a story from that?

Oh yes! Firstly, the old lady could be something not of this world and my character has no idea what to do when they discover this. Far from getting one over on an old lady, she is the one turning tables here. Secondly, I could do something with the delivery itself. What is it? Why does my character need it? What would happen if the old lady opens it as it came to her house?

So will be keeping ears and eyes open for this trip ready to jot down ideas!  See YouTube video above – I did do something with this!

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Goodreads Author Blog – New Books

One lovely thing about going to events, as I’ve done this week, is exploring the book stalls and bringing home a new book or several! (Naturally I hope to sell some of mine too!).

It is great being able to go to events again. I missed this so much in 2020. And I know I will be picking up a very good read indeed when I go to the book stalls.

I’ve yet to go back to bookshops again but that will only be a matter of time! I may get to do so as part of my travels as there is a Foyles bookshop at London Waterloo. I think a lot will depend on how much I spend at the book stalls first!

The downside is every time I pick up new books like this, it reminds me I should sort my bookshelves out! I guess into every reader’s and writer’s life a little rain must fall!

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Pinch, Punch, The First of The Month and Trying Hard

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Many thanks to Fiona Park for the fab photo of my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at Swanwick 2021.
Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here. New story out and a new More than Writers blog post which has attracted a fair few comments but then I did ask about people’s Writing Niggles. It seems to have hit a spot!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It’s that time of the week again and time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week’s one is called Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me, writing wise. I also look at the origin of the saying and ask why white rabbits are considered lucky. Any thoughts on that? If so pop a comment over on the CFT page. This post will tie in nicely with next week’s one where I’ll be taking a look at sayings and their uses in creative writing.

Pinch, Punch, The First of the Month

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A huge thanks for the wonderful comments coming in on my More Than Writers blog spot yesterday. See further down. My post about Writing Niggles obviously hit a sore spot or several! Mind you, the one comfort here is we all have writing niggles. It is working out a way of (a) managing them and (b) limiting the irritation they can cause you that are the tricky bits to get right.

My post tomorrow for Chandler’s Ford Today is all about Pinch, Punch The First of the Month. I look at what the first of the month means for me now (author newsletter send out day!). I also look at the origin of this strange phase (which will also tie in with my post on the 8th October as I will be talking about sayings and their uses in fiction and non-fiction).

Oh and is it just me or have the light levels in the evening just plummeted into complete darkness so far this autumn? There has been no gradual fading of the light. It looks as if someone has gone in and taken the bulb out! Dark by 7.30 pm… I wasn’t expecting that until much later into October.

It’s my turn on the More Than Writers blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. This month I talk about Writing Niggles and it is a rare writer indeed that doesn’t have at least one. I share some of mine (yes, some!) and solutions I have found that have helped me. A huge thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments on this subject which have come in already.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share my latest story on #FridayFlashFiction. Will my hapless Sarah finally make things right with her neighbour in Trying Hard?

Screenshot 2021-10-01 at 18-59-48 Trying Hard, by Allison Symes

One of the biggest things flash fiction has done for me as a writer is to help me understand what “show, don’t tell” means in practice. It took me ages to get my head around that.

Because I have to write to a tight word count, I have no room for “extras” and showing a scene rather than telling it can take up a fair bit of said word count. I’ve found it helpful to focus on one thing I have to show a reader for a story that is 500 words or less. I’ll show two for 500 to 1000 words. So I have to work out what is the most important thing to show a reader and focus on that alone. That in turn does help me keep my word count down.

I’ve mentioned before my “she wears a red coat” and “she wears a moth-eaten red coat” as these are great examples of tight writing and how one word can change perspective. I don’t need to tell you my character is poor in the second example. I’ve shown you (and hyphenated words, since they count as one word for flash fiction, are the flash writer’s best friend). So think of ways in which you could show something.

Anger – character slamming something.

Sadness – character being asked by another character something along the lines of “what’s up with you?” and then getting the first character to sob.

Happiness – Showing your character walking jauntily, whistling a cheery tune etc.

So you can show a mood quickly. Setting can be done with the selective use of detail. A poor house can be shown as characters moaning about the roof leaking again etc. Think about what you want to show and then what words you can use to do that. Always pick the strongest. A roof leaking is far more powerful than characters moaning about how poor they are. Readers do pick things up on context (I love doing this). We just need to give them the right clues so they can.

BookBrushImage-2021-9-30-20-354Just to flag up the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently on offer on Amazon. See link for more.

Will also be sending out my author newsletter on 1st October. I share tips, prompts, flash stories here (and these are often exclusive to newsletter readers) as well as my news. Do head over to my website (the landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com where the landing page takes you straight through to the sign-up. There is a giveaway too.

Fairytales with Bite – Seasonal Magic

Do your magical characters use their powers more at certain times of year or spread the use evenly throughout the twelve months? In your fictional setting, do certain seasons encourage the use of magic or, conversely, limit it? In the darker times of year, is magic more difficult? Is there any link to available light levels and when there is light, is it easier for a character to “produce the goods” when it comes to using their powers?

Do physical weaknesses limit magical use? After all, we are prone to colds, the flu etc more in the winter months and that affects how we “perform” so could your characters be affected by something similar?
Also, can your characters adapt their spells to match the time of year? For example, when it is dark and gloomy, are they on call for “lift me up” charms to help get people through these times? (For me a cup of hot chocolate, a cosy home, classical music, and a good book would do this for me nicely!).

Are your people expected to produce more magic at certain times of year? If magic can be equated to energy, are they on call to produce more of this at certain times of year to help keep their environment “going”? (Think Monsters Inc where the monsters need energy from children’s screams and then run into problems when they find youngsters aren’t so easily scared any more).

How do the seasons affect your people? In good ways or negatively and how could that change the outcome of your stories (or do your people “compensate” and, if so, how? What matters here is that you know how things work here even if you don’t need to share all of that with your readers.

You inevitably won’t share it all but you could have a character exploiting weaknesses here to their advantage. You would need to know what they are exploiting, how, and what would be the outcome? Also could the exploited hit back by using your natural world against whoever is trying to pull this trick off?).

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This World and Others – Seasons

I love the seasons. See some of the above pics for proof! The last one with the summer house is from my garden earlier this year. There is beauty to be found in each, even in winter (and there I also have the delicious compensations of hot chocolate, a cosy home etc to enjoy). Okay, so we have the four, but what does your created world have? More or less? Same as ours or totally different?

How do the seasons work in your created world? Especially if you have magical characters, is there anything they can do to influence how the seasons work and, if so, how? What would they gain from this?

Seasons tie in with celebrations too so what seasonal events would your world hold? Why are these things special to them?

As for the climate, can it compare with ours or is yours worse or better? How do your characters manage the ups and downs of the seasons and the climate?

There are seasons in life too. How do your stories reflect this in your characters, especially as they age? Have they learned anything useful from their younger years (especially what not to do) that benefits them now? Do they appreciate the season of “maturity” or do they resent not being young any more?

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