Understanding, Publication News, and Aspects of Character

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.

Hope you have had a good week. Have had good publication news this week and I’m particularly proud of this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post. I hope it encourages reading and sheds light on what is needed to portray realistic characters. 

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post called Understanding. I look at how reading promotes empathy and understanding. I also discuss how important it is I understand my characters before I write their stories up. I have got to know where they are coming from regarding their actions and at least a little of how they got to that point.

I also share some thoughts and tips and discuss how a knowledge of human nature is crucial for being able to create characters readers can identify with (and it is okay not to like them by the way. I don’t like all of mine!).

I also look at “point of change” and how this applies to non-fiction as much as it does for fiction. Hope you find the post useful and thought provoking. I hope it encourages understanding of the writing process and encourages you to read even more. Reading is wonderful for encouraging empathy. After all we get “behind” characters we love, yes? Why do we do that? Usually because we can see where they’re coming from and there is your empathy right there!

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In separate news, I am thrilled to say a piece I’ve written about flash fiction will be appearing in Mom’s Favorite Reads (an online magazine) in June. Look forward to saying more about this nearer the time. Lovely way to end the working week (though really every day of the week is a working one for every writer I know – and for me!).

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction


Am making progress with swimming. Have got back to doing my old number of lengths per session so am pleased with that. Do I ever think about story ideas while swimming? Not a bit of it. I think about very little – and it’s that aspect I love. It is chill out time especially when, as with today, I swear the water was colder than normal! (I suspect this is done deliberately to ensure you get moving quickly!).

Lady has got used to me going out again well and I am pleased about that. She has loved having us all at home during the various lockdowns and I did wonder how she’d adjust as life slowly returns to some sort of normality but she has been fine.

When it comes to writing characters, do you focus on the glamorous side of things? That is you focus on your heroes and their marvellous qualities? I can understand that but when I’m outlining a character, I look for their major trait first and then how that can be both an asset and a right pain in the proverbial. Most traits can be used that way.

For example, take the trait of courage. The virtues of it are obvious but the downsides? Well, they could range from your brave character simply not being able to understand other characters’ fears and coming across as arrogant and highhanded to your character being reckless for the sake of keeping the brave appearance up to all and sundry.

I also sometimes look at what is behind a trait. Again with courage, what has led to the character developing this? Is it a front to keep their deep down fears at bay? Is it their coping mechanism and so on? What would happen if they were forced to confront those deep down fears? (I would suspect they would not react well – would they be able to get back to their normal courageous front?).

It probably says something about human nature that it is easier to imagine the flaws though!

Character Flaws


Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Lady and her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, did. Both went home tired but happy.

Looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. I’ll be talking about Understanding and I will look at how reading can encourage empathy as well. I’ll also chat about how I need to understand my characters before I can write their stories up and share a few tips.

Reading widely helps so much with your writing. For one thing, you take in how characters and storylines work. You can even do this by reading a book or story you don’t like. Why? Because you can work out what it was you disliked and then try to avoid that in your own work.

Looking forward to being back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School later this year. I rolled over my place from last year and it will be so nice to get out and about on the train again too to get there. Will be wonderful to catch up with writing pals and be at a live event again.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Just to flag up I will have a piece about flash fiction appearing in Mom’s Favorite Reads (an online magazine) in June. Will share more details nearer the time. Very pleased about this as you can imagine. It is always good to spread the word about flash fiction writing.

Delighted to say my story Got You! is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it and a big thank you to all who have commented on my stories on this website – the feedback is incredibly useful!


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A standard length short story illuminates an aspect of a character’s life and there is usually room for a sub-plot. With flash you do have to focus on the most important aspect of the character’s life. There is no room for anything else but what I love about this is you can imply so much and leave the reader to make their own deductions.

For example, in my story They Don’t Understand (from my debut collection From Light to Dark and Back Again), I have my character come out with the thought “Same bloody patronizing attitude to us peasants”. I don’t need to tell you what this character thinks about authority given that line, do I? It’s obvious and I have found that this kind of implying things has helped me to show and not tell far more effectively.

Flash fiction, with its tight word count, has encouraged that development in me and of course that is going to help with my other fiction writing as well. Win-win!

Flash Fiction focuses on THE important aspect of a character's life


I often use proverbs/well known sayings as titles for my stories and the great thing about doing that is you not only have your title, you’ve got your theme as well.

In Tripping the Flash Fantastic, for my story A Stitch In Time, I take this idea and get my character to reject it and justify why they are rejecting it. That was a fun take to do on the topic.

In my tale The Power of Suggestion I get my character to live up to that title and face the consequences of doing so. There are always consequences!

But you as the writer can have lots of fun taking these proverbs and sayings and using them as you think best. I am fond of twisting them and it is a great way of mixing up how to approach a story.

My favourite method by far is to start with the character.

My second favourite method by far is to use a proverb or saying in this manner as they highlight the kind of character best placed to be in the story.

Fairytales With Bite – The Fairytale Code

If there was a fairytale code, what would you expect from it? My expectations would be such a code would lay down some guidelines for what you could expect to see in a fairytale.

For that I would include:-

  • Good to overcome evil
  • Calling evil out for what it is
  • Cheering on the underdog
  • Rewarding humility and punishing arrogance
  • Things often not being what they seem
  • Characters coveting power/abusing it
  • Characters wanting to thwart said power-mad characters.

What would you include in your fairytale code and why?

I have a soft spot for humorous fairytales (and have written some) but I do love the way such stories can cover a whole range of emotions. I cheered for when things worked out well for The Ugly Duckling. I was deeply saddened by The Little Match Girl (and rightly so too).

Above all, I want to see fairytales cherished by all and not looked down on. I loathe it when someone dismisses something as “just” being a fairytale. There is no “just” about such wonderful stories!

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This World and Others – Identifying Aspects

What makes your created world stand out? What would you say were its chief identifying aspects? What makes it unique? What is it that would attract readers and help us to “place” where we are so we can see what your characters see? I like to see vivid pictures so I can think I would love to live there or, conversely, be very glad that I don’t! But it is those pictures created by your words that have the most lasting impact on a reader.

Think about The Shire from The Lord of the Rings and certain images immediately come to mind, helped no end by the wonderful film adaptations.

What is it about your created world we have to know? What obstacles, natural or otherwise, do your characters have to live with or find ways of overcoming?

What does identity mean for your characters? Are names used or is social status more important? Are any species more important than the others and how did that come about?

Plenty of story thoughts there I think!

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Twitter Corner

 

I thought I’d share here a tweet from the Association of Christian Writers (I’m their Membership Secretary) and my reply to it. Hope you enjoy though I know several writers whose internet research history would make for far more interesting reading than mine!!

 

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A Questionable Choice, Spoilers, and Characterisation

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.

Hope you had a good weekend. Weather continues to be strange for the time of year here. Oh and writing wise, one rejection and one acceptance this week!

The Writing Journey

Facebook – General


Enjoyed my first swim of the week today but it is the hardest one of the week to do! And I knew I’d tired Lady out this morning as she didn’t get off the sofa to come and greet me. It looked as if she’d just woken up as she looked at me as if to say “you’re back, then!”

What I love about writing (and I promise to keep this short, honest!):-

  • Inventing characters
  • Inventing things for them to say and do
  • Putting them in conflict with each other and/or their environment and enjoying the show as they battle it out! (I know, I know… I am a nice girl really, honest).
  • Editing my draft and almost feeling the story “tighten” up and be so much better than that first draft.
  • Submitting the finished story.
  • Being told it has been accepted or if I’m preparing a story for use on my website or Youtube channel, creating a video to go with it.

All great fun and now back to it!

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Hope you had a good weekend. Another blustery day in Hampshire today, Still feels like flaming March!

I found out yesterday the story I submitted for the annual Bridge House Publishing anthology didn’t make it. On the plus side a story I sent to CafeLit will be appearing next week! Will share the link when I have it.

I will at some point have another look at my BHP story and see if I can submit it somewhere else. I often can (and there is always the possibility of including it in a single author collection – nothing is wasted in writing. I’ve found I can recycle most things in some way and sometimes a story turned down in one place is accepted by another).

You never lose the buzz of being published so, yes, having a turn down is always disappointing but I’ve also been encouraged by all those times when I have been able to recycle a story elsewhere. So I know I can have a crack at that again. And there is always the next story to work on! There is always a next story!


My Chandler’s Ford Today post later this coming week will be on the theme of Understanding. (Couldn’t we all do with more of that in the world?). I look at how reading encourages empathy and why this is good for you. I also have a look at understanding how stories work. I’ve found learning this has helped me as I craft my flash and other stories. Look forward to sharing this on Friday.

Have discovered a one-star review for Tripping the Flash Fantastic but there’s no name or comment left with it. Does this mean I have “arrived”?! I know everyone gets them…! (I guess it gets my number of reviews up anyway! – Oh and yes please to anyone who hasn’t yet reviewed TTFF – reviews are always helpful. Thanks!).

Also a big hello to those newly signed up to my author newsletter. Good to have you aboard. Hope you enjoy the freebie (which you’ll find as a link in the welcome email). I share tips, flash stories, as well as news here on the 1st of each month – if you would like to sign up please head to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am working on a piece I hope to submit to an online magazine later this week – am loving writing it and reading back issues of the magazine too. Yes, I do always read copies of anything I am hoping to submit work to – how else will you get a feel for the style they want? And it is huge fun to do of course!

Hope you have had a good Saturday. Can’t believe the weather. More like March than May out there. Still Lady got to have an excellent run with a whippet, Milo, earlier today, and a good time was had by all. Lady can keep up with, and sometimes outrun, your average whippet. Yes, she is that fast. Equally fast at coming through for when she just knows it’s dinner time. Strange that.

One of the things I love about characterisation is when it is done well, you do feel as if you are inside that character’s head and can almost feel their pains, their joys etc. I’m currently reading a book for someone where they have got the narrative voice down so well, it almost takes my breath away and it is a sheer joy to read because of that.

A character that grips you is one that will grip the reader. Think about what kind of characters you like. What is it about them that appeals? Look for ways of reproducing that for when you plan out your characters.

If you like honesty as a trait, how will your lead character show that honesty? Is that honesty welcome or does it land them right in it? Think about the things that could come from that honesty – another character being honest back could tell your lead person truths about themselves they won’t like which could set off a chain of events.

If your characters don’t engage you, they won’t for anyone else. You do have to like your people, people (!), even if you loathe what they go on and do in your story.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Many thanks for the great responses to my story video, A Questionable Choice. Also thanks to those who put comments up on my Youtube channel. If you’d like to subscribe to this the link you need is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPCiePD4p_vWp4bz2d80SJA

I usually create a story on a Sunday and upload it for a Monday. This is a great way of sharing mini-tales!

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Pleased to share my latest story video, A Questionable Choice, with you. Hope you enjoy. (And a big welcome to my most recent subscribers too). As ever, I created this one in Book Brush, uploaded it to Youtube, and added a free to use music track. (Youtube have a great audio library and a huge thank you to Dawn Kentish Knox for flagging that up).


I chatted about spoilers for my Goodreads blog this week but another advantage to flash fiction is you can’t really have them here! The form is too short to stand such things. By the time you’ve skim read the story to work out what the spoiler might be, you have in fact read the tale!

One thing you can do with flash though is analyse your stories. Now you may argue surely the form is too short for that but I’ve found this isn’t the case. I still need to ask myself does this character work? Do they convince me? I also look at whether I’ve placed the lines (in some cases individual words – see my post from yesterday on this) in the right places to trigger the most impact on a reader.

I also analyse stories I read, of any length, to work out what made these work for me. I can then learn from that and apply it to my own fiction. I can do the same with non-fiction pieces and learn from that for my Chandler’s Ford Today, Authors Electric, More Than Writers posts etc.

Writing is good for you not just because it stretches you creatively, it encourages you to learn. Every writer learns from those who have gone before us and our contemporaries. What that should do is encourage us to “up our game” and produce even better stories, articles etc.

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If I have one favourite flash tale of mine, it has to be Calling the Doctor. See book trailer below! The reason I like it is because I change the whole mood of the story with the last word. And you can have great fun placing your words at the right places to create maximum impact on your readers. Had I used that last word for this story earlier on, it would simply have become a spoiler. (No spoilers here, thank you!).

This is one of those tales where I did know the ending first and worked backwards to get to a logical starting point. For those stories with twist endings and punchlines, I do think that is the best approach to writing them. It works for me!


Goodreads Author Blog – Spoilers

I have a simple attitude towards book/story/film spoilers – I avoid them! But almost inevitably there are times when, despite everything, you come across the wretched things.

Now do these stop you reading the book/story or watching the film? They don’t for me. I tend to then read/watch to find out if the spoiler did reveal everything or whether there were bits left unrevealed for me to discover.

When writing my flash collections, I need to give enough information away to hopefully get readers to want to check my books out but without telling them everything. It’s not an easy balancing act to get right.

So how much is too much information?

I don’t want to find out the endings, I really do want to find out for myself. I don’t mind being told something like there are plenty of surprises, one of the major characters doesn’t make it (because I then have to read or watch to find out who that was), but I don’t want name drops or to be told the ending is a miserable one. If the story has to end miserably, I want to find out myself and see that the ending is appropriate.

And if the ending isn’t appropriate for the characters and the story being told, I consider that a spoiler. A writer has to deliver on the promise of their story after all.

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Favourite Lines, Talking Flash, and Getting It Wrong

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.

Hope you have had a good week. Weather all over the place here – it feels more like March than May right now.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post about Favourite Lines. Great to see good comments coming in on this already. Keep it up, folks! And do share your own favourite lines (but keep them suitable for a family audience, thanks!).

Do you find you remember a favourite novel or story by one particular line? I do. It can also apply to favourite shows. (Lubbly jubbly, anyone?!).

I also look at the role of catchphrases and repetition in helping favourite lines to become so well loved. Repetition is a strange thing here. Generally, we don’t want to repeat ourselves in our work.

This is especially true for flash fiction. I’ve got to make the most of my limited word count so am not going to want to waste words by repeating some!

But for catchphrases, repetition is unavoidable because they can’t become catchphrases without that repetition. The positive thing here is that the repetition leads to stories and books becoming well loved and cherished because we hone in on what we love best. And often it is what we remember the most clearly.

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Just to say Favourite Lines will be my topic on Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. I’ll be looking at the role of catchphrases and repetition (used in a good way) to help develop said favourite lines amongst other thoughts shared here. Looking forward to sharing that.

Many thanks to all who have recently signed up to my author newsletter. Welcome aboard, everyone! Do see my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com for more.

Am looking forward to Wordy Chat a little later this evening. Given I produced a flash fiction tale about a ping pong ball’s contents from the last one, it will be interesting to see what comes up in tonight’s chat!


Funny old day with the weather and still strong winds. I thought it was March that was meant to come in as a lion, not May. Oh well. Lady had a splendid play session with her best buddy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and another pal, Coco. Lady came home happy but very tired – and I assume her friends did the same!

When I’m not writing flash fiction and short stories, I draft a lot of blogs. Some of these I use immediately but others I draft for use later. I know there will be times when I am short on time so having a blog prepared “good to go” is a useful thing.

Murphy’s Law being what it is, I find it often happens when I’m drafting a blog, I get some ideas for flash tales! So I jot the ideas down and come back to them later. If they still seem promising, I write them up. And yes, when I’m writing fiction, ideas will come for blog posts for Chandler’s Ford Today etc. So I just jot those ideas down and again come back to them later. Sometimes an idea which seems a cracker at the time proves to be a damp squib after some time away from it and coming back to examine it in the cold light of day.

So it always pays to have a notebook or something useful to jot down notes! And it pays to give yourself time to assess your ideas well enough. Distance away from them will show up whether these really are “goers” or not.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When I talk about flash fiction one of the first things I stress is what it is not. It is not truncated prose. Each piece has to be a complete story with a proper beginning, middle, and ending. It is just shorter than the standard magazine type short stories you see.

But if you have ever completed writing exercises while on a course, in a writing conference etc., do take your notebook back out and have a look at what you jotted down. Could you polish those drafts up into flash fiction tales to submit to publishers and competitions?

It is also encouraging to see that if you do a quick web search, numerous flash fiction competitions come up. This is useful. This is how I found #FridayFlashFiction and I am delighted to say my latest story, Getting It Wrong, is now up on site. Hope you enjoy it!


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Yet another lovely thing about flash fiction is it is easy to share on social media and can be a great way of giving “value” to those who follow your blog, postings on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc. I’ve found with the latter the very short stories work best. (Basically 50 words or under. When I first started making the story videos, I did use some of my longer pieces but I think the impact is better with the shorter tales).

One other use for flash is in giving new life to those writing exercises you had a go at when going to (at the moment on Zoom!) writing workshops and the like. Polish your creations up and see if you can submit them to a market or competition. I use the Writing Magazine’s competition guide, which comes out twice a year, but also Mslexia have a directory of competitions in their quarterly magazine, which is always worth looking at.


I write a lot of my flash fiction in the first person. This hasn’t been deliberate. I certainly didn’t foresee that happening when I started writing flash fiction.

But there are times when I’ve come up with a character where I’m better off showing them as an “I” character. They have a strong voice. They want to make their voice heard and a name would not add to their qualities, could possibly detract from them. It can also be something that is not the most relevant thing about them. It is what they do and say that is.

When I do name a character, you can be sure that name is important to the story and my character portrayal. Sometimes I use a name to indicate the character is not of this world. I sometimes use it to indicate social status. And sometimes for my creepier tales, it is more scary to keep my character as an “it” or an “I” so you, the reader, wonder just what these creatures are.

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Fairytales with Bite – Twists

Fairytales have often used twists but we now recognise these things as standard “ingredients” for a fairytale. For example the old crone or man who turns out to be a powerful witch, fairy godmother, or wizard in disguise and turn the tables on another, usually arrogant, character. Beauty and the Beast is a good example of this in that the beast’s curse was put on him due to his arrogance.

But when this idea first came out, it would have been seen as a twist in the tale. Old crones and old men are usually just that! The idea of them being powerful beings in disguise would’ve been a surprise.

The ultimate twist for me here is that fairytales generally do see wrong righted, justice done etc., when we know so often in life it doesn’t happen. (It is one of the comforting things about fairytales for me).

And usually the underdog does come out on top in a fairytale.

So the twists are there – given again, in life, it is far rarer for an underdog to come out on top – but they are hidden in plain sight so to speak.

When it comes to writing our own fairytale twists, a good thing to consider is whether an aspect of your character’s life is where the twist comes from. For example, if you have a character who has a talent for art, can the twist come from them using that talent to help someone or even turn the tables on that same someone who perhaps has humilated them?

A successful twist has to seem reasonable to a reader based on what they know about your character(s) and also the setting of your story. If it is a clear fairytale, then those standard ingredients (the tropes) will be expected and it will be a question of working out how you can use them to best advantage for your creations.

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This World and Others – Differences and Similarities

One of the joys of reading fantasy and science fiction in particular is spotting the differences and similarities between the created world and what we know here. But take that idea further and look at the differences and similarities between the characters in those stories. Can you apply any of what you spot here to your own creations?

If in the fictional world, everyone has to have a certain amount of magical ability in order to be able to survive, can you compare that to our need to have a certain amount of money in order to be able to survive? Will your characters do anything to get the magical abilities they need? Are they driven by greed to get more than they need?

How do they treat those who are not as “well off” as they are? If they are at the bottom of the pile, what do they do to improve themselves? And does anyone rebel against the system because they can see the cruelties of it and want nothing to do with it?

Using the traits we know about ourselves is a fabulous way to create characters. Using what we know about our planet can fuel ideas for how you create a world that is far removed from our own as it can be a great place to start. We need oxygen. What would your fictional world need for your characters to survive?

Give some thought as to how sustainable your world is too. If it relies on magical energy, where does that come from? Is there any danger of it running out?

Great fantasy and science fiction stories can take what we know about this world and reflect it back to us in fictional worlds we love to read about. And you can use that thought for your own writing.

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Twitter Corner

 

 

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Late Running, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, and Why Books are Special to Me

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Wendy H Jones kindly supplied by her. Many thanks to Janet Williams (my lovely editor at Chandler’s Ford Today) for the image of me reading at a book signing at our local railway station (yes, really!). Also to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for their images of me reading at various Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic night events. All great fun.

And I think I’ve finally cracked the “most unusual title for a blog post” category! Read on to find out how the inside of a ping pong ball is relevant for my flash fiction writing this week. If you had asked me last week whether I would anticipate such a thing, the answer would have been a firm “no”! How much can change in a week?!

Facebook – General

A huge thanks to the #DundeeCityWriters – I was talking to them over Zoom last night on the topic of flash fiction (naturally!) and it was such fun. Many thanks for hosting me.

(Also one of the best ways to show what flash fiction is to read some out and I always enjoy doing that. I’m hoping the Open Prose Mic Night will be on again at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School this year. Flash works well for this kind of thing. You can’t go on for too long for one thing!).

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is on the subject of Favourite Lines. I’ve touched on this topic before but for this post I will also be looking at how catchphrases and repetition can help us form said favourite lines. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday.


Many thanks for the wonderful responses to my rather unusual tale, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, which I posted yesterday (see below) in reply to a writing challenge set by #WendyHJones on Wordy Chat. (The latter is a Facebook group set up by fellow Association of Christian Writers member, Maressa Mortimer – lots of giggles and chats about the writing world – naturally we meet on Zoom).

I have two standard ways of getting into a story. By far my favourite is working out who the character Is, what their main trait is etc as that usually gives a pretty good idea of the kind of story in which such a creation would appear. But my other way into a story is with a promising title and that was the take I took on this one.

The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball not only gave me my title, it set the tone (with a title like that it had to be a humorous tale), and therefore the kind of character likely to be in it.


As promised yesterday, here is the flash fiction tale I wrote in response to a challenge set on Wordy Chat the other night. The story title says it all!

The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball

Look, don’t blame me. I have to travel in whatever vessel I can find and blend in with my surroundings. I am in what you humans call a sports hall doing various horrid things with balls and bats and making yourself all sweaty. So gross!

But it means I am currently curled up inside a ping pong ball. It’s cramped in here. I’ve had to shrink my normal size down by well over 80% to get in here. Trust me that is not a comfortable experience.

I am here to study you lot on the order of the big bosses. Personally, I would far rather have gone to the seaside.

But I have to go where the bosses tell me to go. (Would so love to tell them where they can go but they’re not forgiving of any kind of insubordination and I do like living so that rules this out).

To be honest with you, I think they’re preparing for an invasion.

I’m going to tell them not to bother.

I’ve seen the way you treat other ping pong balls. Smash them about with absolutely no thought. What would you do to the likes of an alien invader?

I tell you it is terrifying to think about.

So you lot have won. And I must get out of this ball before…

Arggh! Too late.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 2nd May 2021

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Hope you have had a good Saturday.

New author newsletter from me went out earlier today. See https://www.facebook.com/501180463318271/posts/3429068970529391/ if you missed this.

If you would like to receive the newsletter regularly, please sign up at my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – on receipt of the welcome email, you’ll get a link to a giveaway as well.

I’m enjoying putting the newsletters together and, unless there is some specific time urgent news, will keep these to monthly send outs.

In other news, as they say, the next couple of topics for Chandler’s Ford Today will be on Favourite Lines and Understanding. I look forward to sharing those blogs as it is always a joy to talk about favourite lines from books and I make the case for how reading encourages empathy in the latter post.

Am currently drafting a flash fiction story based on what is probably the most unusual location I’ve chosen to date. Well, I say chosen. It’s a response to a challenge set on Wordy Chat last night, where a group of writers from the Association of Christian Writers get together for a good giggle and lots of talk about writing related topics. Those who were at Wordy Chat last night will know what the location is but will share the story tomorrow! (See above – and I hope you enjoy it. I loved writing it).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the lovely responses to my story video Late Running. (See below for video). Also to The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball. (See above for story).

One lovely thing that came up with the latter was I used it in my talk to the #DundeeCityWriters group I spoke to via Zoom yesterday about flash fiction. I used it to prove my point that flash fiction lends itself beautifully to being able to set characters anywhere!

And the great thing? Dundee City Writers is led by #WendyHJones who set the topic of The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball at last week’s Wordy Chat!

What goes around etc etc!

Still, I think I am going to have to try very hard to think of a more unusual setting for a flash fiction story!

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Pleased to share my latest story video. Hope you enjoy Late Running. Pun intentional (and indeed for a lot of my flash fiction it is a case of no pun knowingly overlooked! Why the fondness for puns? I love them anyway but for flash, having words and phrases that can carry double meanings helps with (a) impact and (b) keeping that old word count nice and trim!).

Over on my author page at https://www.facebook.com/allison.symes.50 I’ve shared a flash fiction story, The Inside of a Ping Pong Ball, which was written in response to a writing challenge set by Scottish crime writer, #WendyHJones. It is certainly a top runner for the most unusual writing challenge I’ve responded to (!) but it was great fun to do.

And it is important to have fun with your writing. Okay, there are times when it won’t feel that way. I find being over-tired can sap the joy out of writing (and everything else come to that) so I try to avoid getting into that state.
But one lovely thing about flash fiction, especially if you’re working on a longer project and it is proving to be a slog-fest, drafting a very short story can be a refreshing break from your main writing work and you have something else to submit elsewhere later.

And when I am tired, just jotting down a couple of hundred words, whether it is a full flash tale or will end up being part of a longer one, still makes me feel connected to the creative process. That in itself makes me feel better.

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One of the best ways to demonstrate flash fiction to people is to read some to them! I’ve done this a few times now at things like the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic and even at book signings. (That led to sales -win-win there!). I’ve found the 100-word stories (aka the drabble) work best for this. They don’t take too long to read and demonstrates the capacity of flash fiction well, especially for impact on a reader.

I’ve mentioned before here and on my author page that reading work out loud is great for literally hearing whether your dialogue is as smooth as you think it is. What looks good written down doesn’t always work so well when spoken out loud. But this technique also works for the rest of your prose. If you stumble over something, you can be sure your readers will too. And again with flash it is easy to read a piece out loud and hear whether or not something is working.

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Why Books are Special to Me

I could write chapter and verse on this week’s topic, appropriately enough. So where to start on why books are special to me?

My love of books and stories comes from my late mother who encouraged my love of reading and taught me to read before I started school. Books were regularly given as presents. I would often buy books with pocket money and money gifts sent by my relatives for Christmas etc. I went to the library a lot.

Best of all, Mum had a lovely collection of books herself, which I now have. And I so wanted to have a collection of my own (which I have). As well as being read to as a child, which is so important, I saw Mum read for pleasure herself more often than I could say. It sent the unspoken message that this was definitely an okay thing to do – and it is!

Then there are the books with particular meaning. I treasure the Bibles given to me by my late parents and the one given to me by my son.

I love The Reader’s Digest of Classic Fairytales two volume set. I spent hours reading those and loving the beautiful illustrations. I remember the shock I first had on reading The Little Mermaid in here and discovering fairytales didn’t always have happy ever after endings. I identified with the way The Ugly Duckling felt and cheered when all did work out well in the end. (You know full well as a kid it doesn’t always work that way in life, You know it even more as an adult).

I treasure my paperback of The Lord of The Rings and my copy of Pride and Prejudice.

For me, there is absolutely nothing about a book to dislike.

I like my paperbacks, my hardbacks, my audio and ebooks. The format doesn’t matter. The fact it is a book does!

Happy reading!

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Finding Ideas, Themes and Judging a Book by its Cover Part 3

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Many thanks to my guests for Part 3 of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Author and book cover pics were supplied by Amanda Huggins, Dawn Knox (with Colin Payn), Gail Aldwin, Alyson Rhodes (who writes as Alyson Faye), Jim Bates, and Paula R.C. Readman.

A huge thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks. It has been a joy to discuss and share book cover thoughts! Hope you have all had a good week. Looking forward to giving another talk about flash fiction via Zoom next week.

Oh and my author newsletter goes out tomorrow, 1st May. Do sign up at my landing page – https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – for more details.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share the final part of my Judging a Book by its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. Many thanks to all of my guests over the last three weeks for their fabulous contributions. For this post, I chat to guests from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Also a shout out goes to #WendyHJones as a comment from her gave me the spark for the idea for this series. As I mentioned for the More Than Writers blog spot I shared yesterday about Finding Ideas (see below), ideas are there. The trick is to spot them and yes they can come from comments from other writers or things you overhear. The clever bit is gathering those ideas up and running with them! (It is also why it is a good idea to keep a notebook on you as we slowly go out and about in the world once again. Never rely on your memory to record a good idea. You do forget!).

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Bonus Post – My Interview by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website

A little while ago I was interviewed by Francesca Tyer for the Authors Reach website. Francesca has been a guest on Chandler’s Ford Today too.

Delighted to now be able to share the link to that interview. Hope you enjoy it and a huge thank you to Francesca and Authors Reach for hosting me.

Facebook – General – and Association of Christian Writers – More than Writers blog spot

Pleased to share my latest blog on More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. I discuss Finding Ideas and hope you find it useful. I share a few thoughts on how I find ideas.

Earlier this week I came up with another useful method which was to use a random word generator to come up with a random word and then use that as a topic for the picture site, Pixabay. I then used a random picture from them based on that topic to inspire me to write a story to fit the theme. Good fun and I hope to use that method again.

For my MTW blog, I also take a quick peek at how I find ideas for blogs. Well, that is useful to find ON a blog, yes?!

Hope you enjoy.

Hope you have had a good day. (Lady went bonkers, in a good way, with her girlfriends, Khaya and Coco, in the park today. Wish I had half their energy but there you go).

Have a new ACW blog post to share tomorrow and the final part of my Judging a Book By Its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Submitted my flash piece to the Bridport Prize. Glad to get that done well ahead of the deadline (end of May so there is still time to enter if you’re interested. There are other categories too including short stories and poetry).

I chatted over on #Val’sBookBundle earlier about whether poor proofreading would put you off reading the story afflicted by it. It wouldn’t necessarily put me off. It hasn’t put me off the book I’ve just read which had so many poor word end splits. But I was itching to get my red pen out. And that is never a good sign.

What is important to remember though is, while books do get out there with this kind of thing happening, we still need to get our books and stories out there and ensure they are at the highest standards possible. We owe it to our wonderful stories to make them the best we can make them so they have the best chance of attracting readers. So take your time over your own proofreading.

For short stories and flash fiction, check them several times before you submit them everywhere.

For a novel, you do need an independent editor here.

The big problem every writer has is we are far too close to our own work to always spot things that need correcting. So it is a question of accepting that and being prepared to invest in our work.

The dream ticket here is having a writer who has got their work polished as much as possible before it goes to an editor. That editor will see what the writer has done, will understand the story, but will pick up the things and ask questions the writer may not have thought of but which, when answered, will strengthen that book and give it a better chance out there.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


Will be sharing my author newsletter tomorrow. I issue this once a month on the 1st and I share exclusive flash fiction tales here. I hope later on to gather some of those into a further collection but you do get to have the first read! For more do go to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

It is hard to say what I love most about flash fiction. Yes, I am always going to have a very soft spot for the form given it was my way in to having books published with my name on them (and on the front cover too!). But I’ve always loved inventing people. That, to me, has been the big thing about stories so getting to do this all the time for various flash fiction tales is a win-win for me.

I suppose the foundation of all storytelling (and this can apply to non-fiction too) is to have a curiosity about what makes others tick. There has to be a certain amount of curiosity to make you want to find out what happens to the characters or what the writer of the non-fiction piece comes up with as a conclusion.

So my job as a writer is to try to make my characters as intriguing as possible so others will want to read about what happens to them. If I’m intrigued by the characters, others will be too.

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Do you have favourite themes for stories? I’m fond of the “underdog” winning through kind of tale (and you can set those in any environment. A lot of fairytales are based on this). I also like to see justice being done stories (again fairytales often have this as a theme, though not always. You could argue there wasn’t any for The Little Match Girl by Hans Christen Andersen).

I also like characters who are not all they appear to be and the great thing with that is you can take this in two directions. Make the character turn out to be a villain or a hero. You can have great fun going with either of those options. Though I would add there should be some indication early on this character is not all they’re cracked up to be otherwise a reader may feel cheated.

I love it when I read a story like this as I look back at it to see where it was the author planted the first clue to flag up to me as reader I really should look out for what this character is going to do and be. I can learn from that for my own writing and I love that too.


A huge thank you to the wonderful response to my story, Hidden Gems, yesterday. This story came about as a result of using the sixth random word to come up on a random generator. That gave me a topic. I then put that topic into the Pixabay search bar and used the sixth image that came up. I then based the story around that image.

I will certainly use the random word and random image idea again. It made me think outside the box and that is always a good thing.

Am looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter (1st May) and I often share exclusive flash fiction stories here as well as useful tips. If you would like to know more please sign up at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com and you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

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Fairytales With Bite – Defining Happy Ever After

Do your characters have a happy ever after or just a happy for now? And how do you define what happy is anyway? So much depends on what your characters want and whether they achieve that (or something better).

Also does one character’s happy ever after mean ruin for others?

That usually is the case with fairytales. Cinderella is a classic case in point but there is no question that the wicked stepmother and the Ugly Sisters had that ruin “coming”. But you are not told that. You see the “coming to ruin” play out as the story goes on and the attitudes and actions of the characters show you whether or not said characters deserve to be brought down.

So we need to set up our characters so a happy ever after or happy for now is seen to be merited. You want the reader to root for their success. (Wishy-washy characters simply don’t do that for me which is why I dislike Miss Price from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park).

Likewise the characters deserving to be brought down – they too need to be fully rounded individuals, who by their actions and attitudes, show the reader they’re not going to be redeemed. And again you get the reader rooting for these folk to get their well deserved comeuppance.

All stories focus on actions and consequences, conflicts and resolutions so a happy ever after or happy for now has to be the logical resolution to what comes before.

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This World and Others – Making Your Characters Stand Out

How do your characters stand out? What is special about them? I feel it is vital for the author to be totally committed to their characters to be able to write their stories up effectively. Therefore something about the character has to grab the author. That same something is likely to be the element which grips a reader.

So ask yourself what is it about characters you yourself love to read about? Can you apply that to your own characters? If you like characters who are feisty but with hearts of gold, those are the kind of characters you want to write because you will write from the heart because you yourself love these.

It may help to list qualities you want to find in a character (and don’t forget the villains here. You need to give plenty of thought to them too. Your hero/heroine has to have an opponent who will test them, bring out the best in them and so on). Then work out ways in which you can show those qualities.

For example, if you love honesty in a character, then you can use that honesty to land that character in trouble. (This could make a great comic piece). They are bound to say things that, with hindsight, might have been better expressed and with less bluntness, for example. That will have consequences.

It will also imply they have got to come up against another character who doesn’t appreciate that honesty. And the second character has to have good reasons not to appreciate it so work out what those reasons could be. Perhaps they dislike being spoken to like that because it reminds them of a family member who used to do so and it caused great upset. Perhaps they don’t like the main character speaking out because the second one is up to no good and they’re concerned they’ll be found out.

Have fun playing with ideas here. But think about the one thing that will make each of your characters stand out. What is it they are best known for? How does that play out in your story? What makes your characters deserve to be written up?

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Effects, Impact, and Hidden Gems

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Hope you have had a good week. Lady, so far, has had a brilliant one though she wasn’t impressed at my signing copies of Tripping the Flash Fantastic! Image taken by Adrian Symes.

Lady looks distinctly unimpressed! Image by Adrian Symes

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Lady played with her “gentleman friend”, Bear, today. Bear is a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd. Lady generally prefers to play with her girl friends (and she got to do that again today with the smashing Coco) but Bear is one male dog Lady does have a soft spot for. And boy can they both run! Took home a tired but very happy dog.

Looking forward to giving a talk about flash fiction on Zoom next week.

For my Facebook book page a couple of days ago, I suggested a new way of finding ideas for a story (using a random word generator and Pixabay) and mentioned I would have a go at this myself. I duly did so and I will be posting the results on my From Light to Dark and Back Again page shortly. (Also see below in my From Light to Dark and Back Again section here – the image below is the image I’ve chosen for my flash story idea).

Always good to keep ways of finding story ideas fresh and challenging. Mixing up ways of approaching a story I find makes things interesting for me (and hopefully for a reader). The one thing that does not change, whichever method I use, is ensuring I do know the character well enough first. For me, that is the only way to be sure the character is “worthy” of having a story told about them! Well, they are the leading character. They’ve got to be up to the role!


Lady had a great time playing with her pals over the park today. Came back tired out but happy. And it takes a lot to tire out a collie!

Looking forward to sharing the final part of my Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by its Cover, on Friday. This week I’ll be talking covers with guests from CafeLit, Bridge House Publishing, and Chapeltown Books. This has been a great little series. Many thanks to all who have taken part so far and who will be joining me in Friday’s post.

Loving listening to Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams on Classic FM as I type this. It is one of my favourites, I voted for it again in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, and was pleased to see it went up to No. 3. I love this music because it seems to take you right back in time and that is such a wonderful effect to create.

Of course as writers the effects we create are with words but positioning of words, thinking of strongest impact possible on a reader etc., all have a part to play in making sure what we create is exactly what we mean to create. Flash fiction writing, where you are honing your word count right down, encourages the creation of effects via the minimal amount of language so every word I do use really does have to punch its weight to justify being in the story at all.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. It is nice coming back from a long walk with Lady without having to clean all the mud off her! (And you should see where she can get the mud. She also believes in sharing it around – but at least it is only mud!).

Do you remember the first characters who made a huge impact on you at the time of discovering their stories? Mine mostly come from books but there are some TV characters who made a huge impact on me too – mainly because they were girls who did things (Including writing!) and didn’t just hang around waiting to be rescued. I became tired of that very quickly, even as a kid.

My favourite characters include Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), George (The Famous Five), Jo March (Little Women), Lady Penelope (Thunderbirds), Sarah Jane Smith (Doctor Who).

As for my own characters, unless they do something useful, they’re not making it into any of my stories! After all the whole point of a story is to find out what happens and you need your characters to make things happen.

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Glorious sunny day today. This is more like it! Great to have a Zoom chat with writer pals yesterday – always a great “pick me up”. Looking forward to when we can get together for actual live events again.

Do you find it hard to get motivated to start writing sometimes? I find that is more of a problem if I am really tired so I just go easy on myself. Just draft something useful I can turn into a blog or short story later on. I always feel better for having done something creatively and that in turn helps me for the next writing session. I am encouraged to go on with the thought well maybe I can do something with what I drafted yesterday and if I could write something useful then, I can do it again now.

It is important to be kind to yourself. If you can only manage five minutes writing, for whatever reason, then go with that. Don’t despise small pockets of writing time like that. They build up over time.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I mentioned a new way of creating a story using Pixabay and a random word generator the other day. (See post further down). I selected my sixth random word and the sixth image I found on Pixabay relating to my topic. The topic I chose was raindrops. And here is the result! Hope you enjoy.

Hidden Gems
‘Boring, Dad, this is so…’
‘I know, boring!’
I wish I could say I was surprised at Karen’s attitude but unless there was a decent shopping centre within a mile of her, she made it clear to the world at large she was hard done by. Why bring her to this wildflower meadow then?
I promised her mother I would try to get some love for the natural world into our daughter before she hit the terrible teens. Since losing Sarah to the Big C, all Karen wanted to do was shop, shop, shop.
Even the kingfisher in flight hadn’t impressed Karen mainly because I swore she missed seeing it, though I was amazed at that flash of brilliant blue.
‘There are hidden gems everywhere, Karen. Keep your eyes open.’
‘Yeah, Dad, right. I know Mum wanted you to bring me here but this is so boring. And it’s been raining.’
I knelt by a flower. ‘Isn’t this beautiful with the raindrops on it?’
Karen gave me the “you must be kidding me” look.
I sighed. ‘Okay, Karen, tell me, if this was a piece of artwork would you want it? Go on, get down and have a good look at the flower and see what you think.’
To my surprise, she did. And it started something special.
Karen is in her thirties now, just married and I hope at some point she and her chap, Stephen, will present me with a grandchild. But what does Karen now do for a living?
She’s not become a botanist or anything like that.
She’s a jeweller. She creates exquisite items based on inspiration from the natural world.
I guess it is one way of learning to appreciate the joys of our planet!
Her pieces sell well too.
She presented me with a smashing tie pin. It was in brilliant blue and in the shape of a kingfisher. On the card that came with it were the words ‘I didn’t miss the kingfisher, Dad. Is it really twenty years ago since we saw that?’
I smiled. Those words meant I kept my promise to Sarah after all.

Ends.
Allison Symes – 27th April 2021


Pleased to share my latest story video on Youtube with you. Hope you enjoy A Rotten Day. We all get days like these…

One of my nice tasks for the week is to create a story video and schedule it on Youtube. I look forward to sharing my next one with you tomorrow, having set one up today. (I do love scheduling!). But the images I use for my stories don’t always tie in with the tale itself so, as for my Chandler’s Ford Today posts, I have to think laterally. Sometimes I go for a relatively plain background image if there is no obvious link I can get to directly or laterally.

But it occurs to me there is nothing to stop you (or me for that matter) looking up random images on Pixabay and the like and using them as an inspiration for a flash tale. You could even use a random word generator to trigger words to put in the search bar for Pixabay and perhaps decide you will pick the sixth picture (or whatever number you decide) as the image you will use to generate your next flash tale.

Worth a go? Definitely. And I will give this a go myself and report back I hope later in the week. (See post above). I’ve selected the sixth random word and the sixth image on Pixabay for my topic. Hope to share a new flash tale based on this later in the week.

And do have fun with this!

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I chatted over on my author page about being kind to yourself when you’re finding it hard to start writing anything. Just write for five minutes and see this as something you can polish up later on. The great thing with flash of course is it is perfect for short periods of writing time and, once polished up, those little bits of work can become published stories and, eventually, make it into a collection.

Five minutes of writing time is always better than none and I must admit I always feel better in myself when I have written something. I also feel better knowing what I’ve drafted has the potential to become something that can be published and that spurs me on too.

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Disappointments

Are there any books that have disappointed you? I’m glad to say mine are few and far between and it is almost always because I’ve not been convinced by the characterisation. Something doesn’t quite ring true for me and that lets the whole story down.

The good thing about that is you can learn from it if you’re a writer. I do try to analyse what I liked or disliked about a story and its characters. I also look at how the author shows us what their characters are like. I want to see for myself that Character A is mean to their granny or what have you. I don’t want the author telling me. I want to work it out myself. And great stories and books always allow you to do just that.

After all, what do we look for in a good read? A story and characters that will take us away from our daily lives. Therefore the characters have to “take us with them” on their journeys and be such that we will want to go with them.

Even in the case of a villain, it will be a case of wanting to find out how they get their comeuppance but if you have got to the stage where you want that, the author has written their character well to get you to feel that way.

I must admit I resent book disappointments more now than I used to as I don’t want to waste time on reading something that is going to let me down and make me wish I’d been reading something else instead. Also I am only too aware there are so many wonderful books out there, so I don’t want duff stories getting in the way!

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Judging Book Covers Part 2, Planning, and Openings

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. 

Many thanks to Val Penny, Jennifer C Wilson, and Teresa Bassett for their author and book images for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post.

Many thanks to Penny Blackburn for her image of me reading at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I adore Swanwick and am always happy to sneak in extra pictures if I get the chance and given Val and Jennifer are both Swanwick friends, I thought it was a good opportunity to do that again!

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Later on in this post, I’ll be looking at openings for magical stories but you still can’t beat the one below!

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today


Pleased to share Part 2 of my Judging a Book By Its Cover series for Chandler’s Ford Today. This week I chat about book covers with guests from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, Val Penny and Jennifer C Wilson, and from Authors Reach, Teresa Bassett.

Between them my guests have written crime mysteries, romantic historical fiction, ghostly historical fiction, non-fiction, and YA books! Not a bad checklist that!  And a wide range of cover experience to discuss and share with us. Hope you enjoy. I share the final part of this series next week and hope the entire series proves especially useful to those considering their cover designs now.

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Lovely day, despite a chilly breeze, and Lady had a smashing time playing with her friend, Coco.

Looking forward to sharing Part 2 of my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover. This week I chat to guests from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and Authors Reach about their most recent covers. They share their thoughts on what makes for a good cover. Link up tomorrow.

I don’t know about you but you do know a good cover when you see one. It can be hard to define exactly what it is that has drawn you in. What matters is that the cover has drawn you in to want to find out more. And once you’re drawn in, off you go for hopefully another wonderful read! No pressure then…!!


Lady had a smashing play time with her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and her “gentleman friend”, Bear, who is a lovely tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd. Lady generally prefers playing with her girlfriends but Bear is one of the exceptions and he is a gent of a dog, which is probably why Lady likes him. And she can play with his Chuckit ball while he plays with her Chuckit ball etc. Three tired but happy dogs went home again… Delightful to hear a lot of thundering galloping going on here. Three reasonably big dogs at full pelt is a sight to be seen and heard.

Talking of being heard, how well do your character voices come across? Can you picture your people (or other beings) when you read their stories? When you have more than one character in a story, can you tell them apart by the way they speak? This is where pet phrases or certain words used by certain characters can help. I’ve written stories in the past where one snobby character did not use contractions at all. Good way of telling them apart from everyone else.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again


I’ve mentioned the need to really know your characters before but how does that work for flash fiction with its word count restrictions? Simple! You have a simpler set of questions to ask your characters!

You’re not going to need to go into as much back story as you would if you were writing a novel but what I have found useful to know before writing that first draft of a flash tale can be summed up below.

 

Character Type – Not does not have to be human.
Character Mood – Doesn’t have to be a positive one!
Major Trait – Again doesn’t have to be a positive one.
Theme – And sometimes the theme can make a useful title as well.

I’ve outlined an idea for a mini-flash tale (50 words or under generally) as a quick line or two on a piece of paper as I realised I had two ways of taking that particular story and I needed to know which would work best.

Jotting things down on a piece of paper or in an Evernote file on the old phone still has much to commend it. I’ve always found an outline, no matter what its length, keeps me on track for my story and saves time and heartache later on.

The heartache can come if you find out no matter what you do the story isn’t going to work and you’ve written a load of it already and can’t see ways of salvaging it. That has only happened to me twice and for the same reason – I didn’t know my character well enough.

Lesson learned. A little forward planning pays dividends and if you’re not really a planner just jotting a note to yourself of where you think your character may take you is still useful.

Am currently preparing something to submit to The Bridport Prize in their flash category. (Wish me luck. I would love to be longlisted here!). Hope to sort out the final polish and submit over the weekend.

What is encouraging though is that flash, while now a regular part of this competition and many others, wasn’t always recognized. It is great to see opportunities like this and yes you do have to be in it to have any chance of winning it.
Incidentally my final polish will be to make sure I have followed the entry rules to the letter. I can’t stress how important that is.

I have judged competitions and you don’t want to have to disqualify entries because of that but it is unfair on those who have followed the rules to allow any to go through that have not done so. So don’t make the judge’s life easy. Follow everything to the letter so the judge doesn’t have “easy” reasons to turn your entry down. Much the same applies for submitting work to a publisher and/or agent of course.


There are many things I love about flash fiction but the chief one, I think, is being able to set my characters wherever and whenever I want. So I do! I’ve written historical flash, ghost mini-tales, crime ones, acrostics, and my trademark fairytales with bite (aka fantasy with a twist, often an ironic one).

But I also love using the first person for flash tales as I get to take you straight into the head of my lead character. You see what they do. You see why they think as they do. The immediacy of flash is what gives it its emotional impact I think.


Fairytales With Bite – Once Upon a Time – Opening a Magical Story

Once upon a time is the classic way to open a magical story, of course. Those four words immediately conjure up a world far, far away (in both distance and time) and encourage me to settle down for a good read. It also immediately sets up the magical environment in which the story is going to be set.

Those words are a good example of repetition (in so many stories) setting up a link that goes deep into our subconscious. Everyone who has read or heard a fairytale will know those words and have a good idea of what is come.

Anticipation of having a story delivered is also an important part of reading. After all, what draws you to a book? The thought of a good read? But that good read can only come from you taking in the opening and deciding you would like to buy or borrow said book.

So how to open a magical story? With my flash fiction, I often set a clue in the opening line or two that magic is likely to appear. For example, in my Seeing Is Believing from Tripping the Flash Fantastic, I open with “When Ben was unwell, strange signs appeared in the sky above his house.”.

So I am upfront right at the start of the story magic has to turn up in this tale somewhere – what else could explain the strange signs? Doing this again gives readers a sense of what this story is likely to be and hopefully be intrigued enough to read on to find out whether or not they were right.

For flash fiction, I keep the level of details down to a minimum (as I need to due to the restricted word count of 1000 words maximum. The advantage of that restriction though is it makes you keep in the story only what really matters to the story. For an opening, it means I have to draw a reader in quickly so I want to make the most powerful impact I can with my opening lines).

For any kind of story, magical or otherwise, those opening lines are vital to the success of your story. I’ve found it helps to put myself in the reader’s shoes and ask myself what would I want to read here? What do I absolutely have to know? And those are good questions to ask yourself as you edit your story. They will help you make your opening lines as strong as possible.

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This World and Others – World History

Does your created world have much of a back story in its own right? If you needed to write a history of it could you do so and which aspect would you look at?

History covers a huge field from the traditional wars and battles that changed history to changing cultural history and so on. Most of this would not be directly relevant to your story but is phenomenally useful for you to know. Why? You need to be able to give your characters a sense of the world they belong to – they should know where they come from and that in turn will influence their attitudes and decisions. That will affect your story and rightly so!

So work out what you think you will need to know. If one of your characters is an artist, what kind are they? Does their culture encourage creativity or stifle it? If, say, they’re a painter in a world where only sculptures count for anything, how do they handle that?

History feeds into the lives we lead now and this is just as true for our fictional creations.

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Moments, One Liners, and Publication News

Image Credit:-

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Screenshots of my latest CafeLit story and latest Author Electric blog spot taken by me, Allison Symes. (But do go and check the links out – see posts below!).

Spring has finally turned up here in the UK – hooray!

 

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Loving the spring weather (now it is finally here!).

Don’t forget the ebook of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is on offer at Amazon for £0.99 for the next two days. See http://mybook.to/TrippingFlashFantastic for more details.

Looking forward to sending out my next author newsletter. If you would like to sign up for a monthly newsletter, full of tips and stories, as well as news, please go to my website landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – and on sign up, you will receive a welcome email with a link to a giveaway too.

In other news, as they say, what do you make of writing prompts? I love them though I appreciate not everybody does. My favourite kind is the opening line. I like to rise to the challenge of them! I also like picture prompts though I find it easiest to use a prompt like that where the image is taken by someone else. I suppose with my own photos I’ve already got the links and stories in my head associated with those pictures.

I find writing prompts are a great “go to” as a warm-up writing exercise but the most important thing about them is to have fun with them. If they take you out of your comfort zone, then you’re being stretched as a writer and it is only by being stretched like that, you will find out what you are capable of and it may well prove to be more than you think.

Definitely worth a go I think!

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CafeLit – Publication News

Pleased to share a new CafeLit story from me – Smashing Sally. This is a long piece (by my standards!) but I hope you enjoy it. I was rooting for Sally all the way through – and I don’t always do that for my characters as it depends on how I’ve portrayed them! – and hope you do too. (Also nice to have a longer piece published again. Makes for a nice balance with my recent drabbles on Friday Flash Fiction!).

 

Facebook – General and Authors Electric

Pleased to share my latest post for Authors Electric. This time I talk about editing. I look at when to edit and discuss whether you can edit too much. I always feel a sense of relief when I’ve got my first draft down because I then know I’ve got something to work with and improve and it will improve after a decent edit.

I can’t edit as I go. I have to reassure myself it is okay to write total rubbish to begin with because it is not going to stay in and that nobody but nobody ever wrote a perfect first draft. That’s definitely not going to change with me!

However you write and edit, what matters is you do and it helps enormously to get as much creative joy out of both processes (if only for your own sake!).

Hope you enjoy.

Thought the funeral service for HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was beautifully done. Felt so sorry for the Queen sitting alone. (And for anyone who has had to do that this past year).

Looking forward to sharing my Authors Electric blog tomorrow and there will be a new CafeLit story from me up on that website on Monday.

Oh and a quick shout out for #ValPenny who kindly gave me a mention on her blog today.

Friday night is often Zoom night for me and it was lovely catching up with friends from the Association of Christian Writers. To think just over a year ago, if someone mentioned Zoom to me, all I would think of was that it is a fabulous ice lolly and a great word to get out in a game of Scrabble, especially if you can get it out on the triple word score! Yet since then, I’ve attended various writing events on Zoom, given a talk on Zoom, and been part of an international writing summit (the Share Your Story Writing one) all thanks to it. I wonder where we’ll be a year from now!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the great response to my new story video, Fear. (See below for link to it). Some aspects of life never change and my character’s attitude and actions in this prove that!

It has been a joy to find a way of using my mini-tales (the one and two sentence kind) as a way of flagging up (a) what I do and (b) what flash fiction can be. I never anticipated having my own Youtube channel only a year or so ago.

I adore writing the mini tales because they are an excellent challenge (and would also work well on Twitter incidentally which reminded me to just put Fear on there!).

I like writing across the range for flash. The form has more flexibility than it might at first appear. Not only can you set your characters in different genres and times etc., you can choose the word count to write to as long as you don’t go above the 1000 maximum allowed. I’ve written across the word count range though my natural home is under 500 words. Have fun with the format!

 

Time for a new mini-story video again. This one is called Fear. Hope you enjoy it though it will have more meaning I suspect for the cat owners out there! (Also like to think of this as a kind of tribute to the old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Absolutely adore those though clearly Jerry was the intelligent one. Being small myself, I like that!).

 

 


One reason I like to start my stories with a character I know well enough to write for is that stories encourage empathy and understanding. Therefore I think it crucial to understand your character and where they are coming from so you understand (as will your reader) their actions and attitudes. It is that which I think keeps readers reading. Readers will follow a character they can get behind.

The great thing is you don’t have to like the character. You don’t have to approve of their actions either but you do need to understand why they are the way they are. Interviewing your characters is something I’ve mentioned before but it is a useful way of making sure you know what you need to know before getting that first draft down.

It is also my belief it will save you a great deal of time later. I know I’ve stopped myself going off on unhelpful tangents by simply using an outline of my character so I know what they are likely to do. It doesn’t stop them surprising me but when the surprise comes, my reaction should be one of “yes, that’s possible because they’re capable of this, that, and that, so doing this ties in with that”.

If something comes completely out of the blue, I need to look at my character again because I want to know where that surprise came from. There is always a trigger. And it flags up to me I didn’t know my character as well as I thought I did.

Oh and a quick bit of promotional – the Kindle version of Tripping the Flash Fantastic is currently available on Amazon at the bargain price of £0.99 so do grab a copy. Offer lasts for four days.

Little moments can have a powerful impact and that is something flash fiction brings out so well. I mention this as I was moved at seeing the late Prince Philip’s hat and gloves on the seat of the horse drawn carriage today. (17th April 2021 – for the royal funeral).  (Also loved seeing the sugar lump pot for his horses). Things like that mean a great deal.

Another item that brings things home are shoes. If you ever go to the Imperial War Museum or the Mary Rose Exhibition when such things are possible again, there are a collection of shoes there, which brings home to you the people they’re telling you about were real. And, for me, there is a link forged between the past and the present.

So when it comes to our storytelling, what are your characters’ little moments? The things that mean the most to them? Why do these things mean so much? What it is about them that will convince your readers about the truth of your character portrayal?

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Goodreads Author Blog – One Liners

What are your favourite one liners from stories etc?

I love the opening to Pride and Prejudice.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Sets the scene and the tone. Beautifully done.

I also love this one, by complete contrast, from Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.


“Many phenomena – wars, plagues, sudden audits – have been advanced as evidence for the hidden hand of Satan in the affairs of Man, but whenever students of demonology get together the M25 London orbital motorway is generally agreed to be among the top contenders for exhibit A.”

Hard to argue with that one! It certainly explains the queues…

A good one-liner usually makes me smile or laugh out loud. A really good one-liner will make me pause, read it again and enjoy it again, before moving on to the rest of the story.

And there are far too many from P.G. Wodehouse to quote here but that in itself is a tribute to his wonderful ability to come up with lines that just “hit” you and make you laugh out loud.

As you will gather from this, my favourite one-liners are of the humorous variety. Which are yours?

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Judging a Book by its Cover

Image Credit:- 

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

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

I’m starting a new three-part Chandler’s Ford Today series this week called Judging a Book by its Cover. Hope you enjoy it. A huge thank you to my guest authors for taking part and for supplying their author photos and book cover images.

Tonight’s guests are from the Association of Christian Writers – Fran Hill, Joy Margetts, Ruth Leigh, Wendy H Jones, Maressa Mortimer and I all contribute to this week’s edition.

Images of me reading at Open Prose Mic Nights were taken by Geoff Parkes (Swanwick) and Dawn Kentish Knox (Bridge House Publishing events) and Ana Coelho (Waterloo Arts Festival events).

Hope you have had a good week. Will have publication news from CafeLit next week and am looking forward to sharing that.

And it seems to have finally stopped snowing…. not before time it must be said.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Delighted to share Part 1 of a brand new series for Chandler’s Ford Today called Judging a Book By Its Cover. Over the next three weeks, I set my guests three questions to answer and they have shared some fabulous information with me. I start the series by having a look at the cover for my own Tripping the Flash Fantastic and then go on to chat to my guests who this week are from the Association of Christian Writers.

I chat to Wendy H Jones, Fran Hill, Maressa Mortimer, Ruth Leigh, and Joy Margetts about what they think their latest book covers “say” to their potential readers. They also share a tip about book covers they have found works for them. I also set a challenge at the end of this post. Anyone who loves reading will be well up for this!

So then – judging a book by its cover – the old proverb says we shouldn’t but for books themselves we absolutely do and rightly so! Covers are a vital element. They are your book’s first advert and have to draw the reader in. So what works for you when you’re choosing your next read? Comments welcome here and over on the CFT post as usual.

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Hope you have had a good Thursday. Had my hair cut yesterday! What a wonderful feeling… and I no longer have a fringe that needed holding back with industrial strength hairspray.

Today I was back in the swimming pool for the first time in well since goodness knows when. For some reason I’m feeling rather tired this evening! But it is great things are slowly returning to normal and I am looking forward to having my second jab in June. That is something I never expected to say! It is an odd world when vaccinations are something you anticipate keenly…

Glad to say Part 1 of my new Chandler’s Ford Today series, Judging a Book by Its Cover, starts tomorrow. Guest authors and I look at some of our covers, analyse what we think they say to potential readers, and share tips on what makes for a good cover. Link up tomorrow and a huge thank you to all taking part in this three-part series. Tomorrow’s guests will be from the Association of Christian Writers. More details tomorrow. See above!


I was chatting over at #Val’sBookBundle earlier about the joy of audio books but what I am greatly encouraged by is that there is a format to suit everyone when it comes to stories. I can think of family members who won’t read a huge book but will watch the film adaptation of it or listen to the audio book of it.

I like to mix up reading “proper” books and ebooks. The Kindle is a great invention. I’m looking forward to taking that with me once again when I hopefully get back to the #SwanwickWriters’SummerSchool in August. I want to save room in my case for the books I’ll buy from the Swanwick Book Room after all!

But what matters is you read, no matter whether you use an e-reader or go for a good old hardback or listen to your stories. It is difficult to overestimate how much reading helps a writer. And you do learn by absorption how books are set out, how dialogue should be and so on, as well as being inspired by the characters you read.

As for my own stories, I try to think about the impact I want my tales to have on a reader and then work out ways of achieving that. As you know, the story for me is all about the characters and they’ve got to interest me to make me want to read on.

So when it comes to editing my own work, I do ask “what is in this for a reader to enjoy?”. It is a valid question.

By putting yourself in your readers’ shoes, you are more likely to write something they will enjoy. You will be thinking about how your character comes across. What is it about them that makes you love or hate them? If you feel that way about them, your readers are likely to do so too.

And it is a useful way, when editing, of ensuring that everything in your story matters to the story and your readers have to know what you are sharing with them. No matter what the length of your story is – 100 to 100,000 words – every word must move the story on and share something important with the reader.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Putting a collection together is interesting in that several things have to be taken into consideration. I’m looking for the right balance in my stories in terms of mood but also in terms of story length. I have more drabbles (aka 100-word) stories in From Light to Dark and Back Again then I do in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. But in the latter I have more of the longer (500 word+) tales and I have taken my characters that bit further as I’ve written historical flash stories for the first time for this book.

I also like to make sure I have “light relief” stories in my collections so they are not overly dark but I also want some of the darker material to ensure there is a bit of “bite” to my books. I am fond of twist in the tale stories and there are plenty of examples in both of my books but I didn’t want either volume to be dominated by them.

I am also thinking of my audience as I get a book ready for submission. (I aim at YA upwards, anyone who can appreciate irony since that does feature in what I do). I want to give a good mixture of stories so people hopefully feel they have had a a darned good read after finishing the books OR it is the perfect thing for them to dip into. (I love “dipping in” books myself).

But overall I want the books to be a good representation of what flash fiction is and can be. And that’s always a great challenge to rise to!


I don’t always name my characters. Sometimes this is because I feel they will be more scary left unnamed (and this is especially true for my stories where the character is an “it”. You can have a lot of fun wondering just what the “it” is!).

What matters more to me is conveying what those characters are like and why their story matters. For example, in my story The Silence (Tripping the Flash Fantastic) I start by saying “It was the perfect way to shut up Mr Know-it-all.”
You don’t need a name there. What you have got is the attitude of the narrator and the attitude of the unnamed character being referred to as there has to be a reason why our storyteller is referring to him like that. Hopefully that would make you want to read on, if only to find out what the perfect way was and was it as perfect as our narrator is claiming?

Where I do name a character, it can indicate they’re not of this world, or I will pick a name like Mary or Ben and get something extraordinary to occur. Most of us will know people called Mary or Ben. We can conjure up in our own minds what a fictional Mary or Ben might be like – and I can then get to turn the tables on said characters. All great fun!

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Twist endings work well for flash fiction, as do “punchlines”, but everything in the story must lead naturally to that point. This is why for this kind of tale, I write the ending first and then spend some time working out ideas that could have led to that point arising naturally. I then go for the one I like the most as that will be the one which has “grabbed” me and hopefully, later, will “grab” a reader too (in the nicest possible way of course!).

I’ve used spider diagrams for working out different possibilities though a simple flowchart works just as well. (All those years ago when I was working on flowcharts in Maths etc., I never dreamed I would end up one day using them for storytelling but there you go!).

But it does pay to take time out to work out different possibilities. Especially if you are entering a competition, the same ideas will come up time and again but it is your take on them that can make your story stand out and give it more of a chance. Writing down various ideas will help you whittle out and discard the weaker ones.

I’ve also found in jotting down ideas, other ideas come to mind as well. It is almost as if you’re unlocking your imagination here and it will be the ideas that come from that which are most likely to be the strongest ones to go with.

Fairytales With Bite – Magical Hierarchies

There are hierarchies in any created fictional world but I think it is fair to say with magical ones, the sparks could really fly!

So how do you judge who should be the most powerful beings? Who can hold them to account or do they rule over everything and their reign is a tyranny?

If that is the case, there has to be someone or something that can bring deliverance (or at least the hope of it) to the rest of the population, otherwise you have no story. There has to be conflict and resolution.

If you are reading a story where the majority are “subjected”, what we as readers want to find out is whether anything or anyone can free them from that and usher in a better age/better way of governing. (Let’s just say I was relieved Sauron didn’t win in The Lord of the Rings and I refuse to believe that’s a spoiler after all this time).

You could, of course, have two equally powerful magical species and they act as a check on each other but stories here could arise from when those checks go wrong. What happens? Can things be put right so the balance is right again? Who does this and so? Have you got anyone prepared to rebel against their own side if necessary?

Give some thought also as to how those hierarchies develop and what sustains them or breaks them. Conflict, consequences, resolution – the three golden ingredients for any good story.

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This World and Others – Where Magic Fits Into the Non-Magical Elements

Is there anything in your created world where the magical elements are controlled by non-magical ones? If so, how and who is doing the controlling? (That’s always interesting to know!). Can politics be used to control those with powers who, if let loose, could destroy everything?

(One aspect I love about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is how the wizards are far more fond of big dinners than magic and the Patrician knows this. Do check out Sourcery in this series for what happened when magic did take over Ankh-Morpork. It’s a great tale and an interesting study in magic not being the be all and end all).

If magic is used as a tool to help your fictional world, how is this done? Is it like engineering, say, when it is used to fix specific problems or develop your society in some way? Is the development to the benefit of all or a mere elite? Can anyone study magic or do you have to be from the right background? How does magic affect the lives of the majority or does it pass them by?

Hope you find some interesting story ideas there.

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Snow, Stories, Patience, and Fish

Image Credit:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated.

Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.

Image of Lady wondering why I’m excited about a box of books was taken by Adrian Symes

An interesting title choice I think – see below for how these link up. Two of them are to do with stories I’ve produced this week!

 

Facebook – General


Many thanks for the great responses to my post yesterday.

Happily drafting more stories for what I hope will be my third flash fiction collection. I’m almost there at the word count requirement but know the draft needs a heavy edit (or several) so plenty still to do there.

Am also revising my non-fiction project. Generally happy with it but am tweaking at the moment. Next stage there will be to draw up a list of publishers I want to approach with it. Am hoping to get that out for submission in the next couple of months or so and I’d love to be able to submit the third flash book by the end of the year. Yes, that is my 2021 taken care of nicely!

I find once I get started on a writing session, it is like someone has fired the starting gun and off I go. It can be the getting started that can be tricky, especially if you’re tired etc as I mentioned yesterday.

My tip here is be gentle on yourself, don’t commit to too much, and on days when I feel like that, I focus on small amounts of writing I can polish up later. There will be places for a 100 or 200 word story later, that’s for sure, and I feel better for having got something down I know I can send off later.

Still no snow today so that’s promising! (I know, I know! Famous last words and all that. We’ll see!).

Not impressed with the recent wintry conditions in the UK. Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.

Snow again this morning. Other than that, it has been an okay but busy Monday. Hope you have had a good day.

Glad to hear Just a Minute on the air again. It’s not the first time they’ve used guest presenters but it is odd that the much missed Nicholas Parsons is no longer part of this wonderful game.

I’ve mentioned before I tend to write less on a Monday given it is one of my busiest days and tiredness takes its toll. But that’s fine. I know I’ll make up for it during the rest of the week. I don’t set myself a word count per day. I just want to write daily and there will be some fluctuations. It is a case of going with the flow. And that’s fine too but it has taken me some time to get to that point and to learn not to be too hard on myself.

 

Lady helps out! Image by Adrian Symes.


Still can’t believe how cold it is. Doesn’t feel like April at all. Oh and we had snow again today. Thankfully not for long but I suspect it will still be a while before our heating goes off!

Writing wise, I start my new Chandler’s Ford Today series on Friday. Called Judging a Book By Its Cover, this three-part series will see a range of guest authors and myself share our latest covers and talk about what we think of these. We also share some useful tips. Looking forward to sharing that later in the week.

Don’t forget I do have an author newsletter now. I send this out monthly and share exclusive stories and writing tips here. To find out more sign up (and receive a free giveaway) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Am busy preparing the newsletter for May, working on my third flash fiction book, and editing my non-fiction project.

And the best thing of all about writing?

I get to write in the warm!

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Delighted to say I have another piece, Patience, up on Friday Flash Fiction. Day late sharing (sorry!) but if you like your stories on the darker side, this is one for you. And it is good to be writing drabbles again. Some of my most recent flash pieces have been on the longer side so it is great to be back to my first flash love here. After all it was the CafeLit 100 word challenge that drew me into writing flash at all!

Lady has had a good day. Got to see her best buddie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, on our way back home from the park so on a convenient corner, well out of the way of anyone, the two dogs had a playfight – as you do. Two tired and very happy dogs went home! (Would love to know how dogs can chew each other’s ears without causing any damage incidentally).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views on my Fish Out of Water story video which I posted yesterday. (Coming up below!). These mini-tales are great fun to write and then put into a video format like this. I like to mix up the mood of what I produce here and it was more than time for a lighter piece.

Incidentally, talking of mood, I should add that character mood does not necessarily match author mood. This is just as well for (a) all my author friends who write crime, (b) all my author friends who write horror, and (c) me when I’m having an off day! Also, thinking of some of the characters I’ve come out with in my time, it is just as well my mood would never match theirs!

Never assume a character’s mood is the same as their author’s one! Image created in Book Brush using a Pixabay photo.


Hope you enjoy my latest story video on Youtube. Fish Out of Water is one of my lighter tales. Well it is From Light to Dark and Back Again here! Also pleased to say I’ll be having another story on CafeLit next week, which will be one of my longer flash tales. More details on that nearer the time but it’s lovely to have an acceptance at the start of the working week!

 


One thing I am loving about submitting drabbles to #FridayFlashFiction is the feedback on my stories. Many thanks, everyone, for that. For my latest story, Patience, I have deliberately not specified the creature that is the “lead” in this.

This isn’t a word count issue, funnily enough. I am going for effect here. One of my earliest introductions to horror was the film Duel which I think was the first directed by a certain S. Spielberg Esq. It works because the plot is simple, scary, and you never see the enemy. I think it would have lost something had we been able to see who the enemy was.

This is another reason why I don’t always give a gender to the non-human creatures that turn up in my stories from time to time. “It” for me conveys a sense of horror when used in this context. 

 

Sometimes the creature in a story is best left unspecified. Doing that can be a more scary effect for a reader than if you spell everything out.

Hope you’ve had a good Saturday. Still cold!

When do I know a flash story is going to “work”? When I know the characters convince me is the answer to that. If they convince me, they should convince other readers. And to convince myself, I’ve got to want to read their story and find out what happens! How can that be for the person who wrote the story?

Simple. I put the story aside for a while and then come back to it after a week or so. Only then can I look at it with fresh eyes and assess it as a beta reader might.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Greatest Characters

The greatest characters in any story are for me the ones where I’ve got to find out what happens to them. Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings is an obvious one for me here, as was Aslan in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (especially after the sacrifice scene).

But characters who back up the main leads grip me too. I have a very soft spot for Sam (and Frodo would have failed in his mission without him). I also have a soft spot for Lucy in the Narnia Chronicles.

Any great character, for me, is one where I can identify with them in some way. They’re not perfect. Good. Neither am I. They have virtues I aspire to and flaws I’m glad I don’t have as well as some I know I do! But they come across as fully created beings I want to find out more about even if they’re not human.

Great characters for me include Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax throughout Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (though he makes my skin crawl with his miserly ways at the start of the story).

Great characters can also be redeemed as Scrooge shows and the theme of redemption is a powerful one.

So who would you nominate as your greatest characters?

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