Looking Back

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. In what has been a historic week, I take the opportunity to look back, share a new story, and prepare to embrace the new season. It has taken an autumnal turn here!

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Facebook – General and – Chandler’s Ford Today

Am pleased to share Looking Back, my new post for Chandler’s Ford Today. At the end of the week which began with Her Majesty’s funeral, I thought I’d look back at some of the events I recall over the last few decades and set them against some of the major royal events which were in the news at the time. I look at the importance of taking time out to reflect too.

Long term, I believe it does you good. We need time to process things and taking time out gives you some of that at least. There is a time for looking back, even enjoying some nostalgia but the important thing I think it not to wallow in this but to learn from our past and move on. But you need to take time out to reflect and then move on. It is in the reflecting we learn.

Looking Back

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Lady got to play with her pal, Coco, today. Lovely time had by both dogs. Always nice to see dogs playing.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is about Looking Back, which to me seemed an apt topic in the week of the late Queen’s funeral. Given Her Majesty was the only monarch I’d known, I’ve taken a look back at the decades I’ve been on the planet and shared some of my highlights against the backdrop of major events in her long reign. (Naturally I could not cover all of those). I also reflect on why I feel it is important to reflect. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Many thanks to those who came to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. It was great fun and I hope we all produce stories from it. We at least have got a head start on some! (And it was the tonic I needed after a frustrating day thanks to the Case of the Non-Appearing Washing Machine Engineer! See below!).

I’m giving another Zoom talk next week on flash fiction and am looking forward to that.

 

Hope you have had a good day. Has been a bit of a frustrating one here – have been waiting in for an engineer to visit. No engineer! Ring the company up and “apparently” they rang me late last week to say the part needed wasn’t in. They didn’t. I did point out that they didn’t call and also they could’ve emailed me (they have to have my email address). Not impressed. It’s a lesson of how NOT to do customer service. Did manage to walk Lady though – she’s had the better day!

It will be especially nice to be at the Association of Christian Writers Flash Group meeting tonight. It will be fun and great to see everyone especially after a frustrating day. I suspect an awkward customer service person may end up in a flash piece of mine at some point – writing can be so therapeutic at times!

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction

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It’s Friday night and time for another story of mine which appeared on Friday Flash Fiction. Hope you enjoy Good for Something – my writer character has fears about their upcoming book signing.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 08-55-01 Good For Something by Allison Symes

Am looking forward to sharing my flash fiction workshop to some lovely Scottish writers next week. This is where Zoom is a blessing!

What I love about flash is especially on those days where I’m tired or just too busy, I can still write something. I can still create something. And that makes me feel so much better.

Unless I am on holiday, or ill, where I expect not to write much, if at all, I have to have my fix of daily creative writing. Am a grouch without it – you heard it here first!

Flash is a wonderful outlet for small pieces you wouldn’t otherwise do something with so I love it for that too.

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Feeling very autumnal at the moment. Not that I mind. I think autumn is a lovely season. But as the days grow shorter and the nights longer, can that be made use of in a story? A crime flash piece is perhaps the obvious use for that but you could also do reflective pieces where the characters are tune into the mood of the season to share something important with us.

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Fairytales with Bite – A New Beginning

The classic fairytales often end with “and they lived happily ever after”. It’s what we expect. But for me that line heralds the start of a new beginning for the characters involved. Where could their story take them next?

Many an additional fairytale has come from writers asking and answering that question. It is along those lines I got into print for the first time back in 2009 with A Helping Hand from Alternative Renditions (Bridge House Publishing). I looked at the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the youngest step-sister and explored if there could be a new beginning for her.

Screenshot 2022-09-23 at 20-17-54 Allison Symes

You can take the idea of a new beginning for characters who have solved one crisis and have to learn to live with their new situation in which they find themselves. How would they adjust? Do they need additional support? Do they get it? And when a character has literally moved on, how do those left behind cope with their new beginning? Is it a good thing for them or something they are not looking forward to having to cope with?

A new beginning can be a threat to a character as well as holding out a promise. How will you make your characters face and deal with their new beginnings and what triggers such things? Have your characters known this was coming?

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This World and Others – Continuity

Many of us like continuity in our lives. We like to know certain things will happen at certain times. We like to know we are going to be able to do the things we need to do to survive and so on. Some of us like a routine. (I do. It’s how I get my writing done). So we can apply this directly to characters too.

Think about how they would react if that continuity was threatened or even taken away for a while. How would they cope? Do they get the natural rhythm of their lives back again or do they have to face up to change they didn’t seek and set up a new kind of continuity?

Are there other characters who thrive on chaos? What happens when they disrupt the community continuity and how do characters react to that disruption?

What community leaders does your setting have and how do they react to threats to their authority? It is not likely to be a good reaction but are they measured in how they put things right (in their eyes) or do they take extreme measures? Are they prepared to do anything to get that continuity back?

Definite story ideas there!

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Goodbye to A Great Lady

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
I spent a lot of Monday, 19th September 2022, along with so many others, watching the funeral of Her Late Majesty, Queen Elizabeth. I share some thoughts on that below but there was no way I could call this post anything else. She truly was a great lady. Goodbye for now, Ma’am. We will meet again.

 

Facebook – General

20th September 2022
Most moving moments for me watching the Queen’s funeral yesterday were the corgis, the pony, and the tolling of Big Ben. Have never heard that. (Last time it would definitely have been done would have been for the funeral of the Queen’s father, King George VI. I don’t know if was done for the state funeral of Sir Winston Churchill).

Writing wise, don’t forget to use the senses when you can do so in your fiction. We get our characters seeing things, sometimes hearing them, but don’t neglect the senses of touch, taste, and smell. These should figure “naturally” in your story. If your character is in a cafe, we’d expect them to smell food, drink coffee etc.

Many thanks for the lovely comments coming in on Times Past, my story on Friday Flash Fiction. Link here if you missed it – and do let me know what you think of Granny Mary.


Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

 

19th September 2022 – The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth

The late Queen’s funeral was a moving and beautiful tribute to her. I thought the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermon was wonderful and the music and processions were just stunning. The flowers were so lovely.

I salute all those who worked so hard behind the scenes on this.

My thoughts and prayers go out to King Charles and the Royal Family,

Long live the King.

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18th September – bonus post – Authors Electric
Apologies folks – I almost forgot to share my latest post on Authors Electric. I talk about Creative Non-Fiction, which is one of the courses I went to during my week away at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August. Hope you find it useful.


Screenshot 2022-09-18 at 20-36-49 Creative Non-Fiction by Allison Symes

18th September 2022
Am glad the weather is keeping okay for The Queue. Not surprised they’re shutting it later on – I hope everyone gets to go through okay. It is kind of bizarre to think of shutting a queue though! Only in Britain I suspect… I did watch a little of the live streaming from Westminster Hall yesterday and found watching it very moving.

I’ll be looking at Looking Back for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. I usually do write an autumnal reflection piece at some point in September or October for CFT and it seemed apt do to this now.

I look back at my decades on this planet with some of the major events from the late Queen’s time and discuss why momentous moments should make us take time out to reflect. We need that time before we can move on. More on Friday.

How do you get your characters to show emotion? I tend to use their dialogue – there are certain things you would say when upset, angry etc that you would not say at other times. I also use gestures.

I can sometimes get other characters to bluntly ask Character A something along the lines of “what the hell is wrong with you?” etc. The important point though is I am showing and not telling here and you can mix up how you do this to keep things fresh and interesting for a reader.

17th September 2022
It is touching seeing The Queue – am glad the weather is keeping okay – at least it is dry! I was told that the Salvation Army are out there issuing out 1000 cups of tea an hour. That has to be a record, hasn’t it? It’s an apt one that’s for sure!

My late mother always used to say if tea was alcoholic, she’d never be sober but I don’t think even she could’ve brewed, yet alone drunk, so much tea in that kind of time scale!

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Times Past, my latest story on Friday Flash Fiction. Link given further up. This story is in letter format. I use this every now and again. It’s a great form for a “two-handed” story with two characters only (and one of them can be “off stage”). It is effectively an all dialogue kind of tale so you need to ensure your lead here has a strong voice. Here, I think you’ll visualise Granny Mary well from what she says in her letter.

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20th September 2022
A day later this week for obvious reasons. Hope you enjoy my latest story on YouTube – Precious.

19th September 2022 – The Funeral of Queen Elizabeth

Whenever there are big occasions, there are stand out moments. These will be the things you treasure. The Queen’s funeral had so many of these moments though seeing the corgis and Her Late Majesty’s pony was an emotional moment.

The beauty of Westminster Abbey and St. George’s Chapel, Windsor were amazing.

And I had to smile a little as the state hearse left London via Chiswick (the A4) and the flyover there. When we used to visit my late father’s family in London, we would often come into the capital that way. Lost count of the number of times we passed by Fuller’s Brewery.

It was lovely to see the flowers on the road and on the hearse too.

God bless the late Queen.

Long live the King.

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18th September 2022

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting held online which will be next week. Always good fun and it has been lovely seeing some of those taking part having stories out there – more power to your pens and laptops, folks!

The great thing with flash is what with the competitions and online and other magazines out there taking this material, we do have more opportunities to build up a track record in being published. That is likely to come in handy I would’ve thought!

And, of course, you can build up a collection of stories too – the indie press is very much your friend here. I must admit this is where I find having a subscription to a writing magazine is useful – I can spot the competitions and markets that might be of interest to me more easily and it proves to be a most enjoyable read while I’m having my lunch so win-win there!

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17th September 2022
Flash is great for humorous tales. It is equally great for twist ones and those stories which manage to make you catch your breath (the “punch in the gut” ones as I like to think of them). So as well as writing different genres, you can mix up the moods of your tales too. This is a huge advantage to having a form of fiction which has to be character led. The mood for the story is led by them and the situation you put them in.

I also feel where I’m writing a story with emotional depth to it such as my Judgement Day in Tripping the Flash Fantastic, then keeping the story short helps with that impact enormously. I’m not diluting it. Also who says you need thousands of words to get a serious point across? It is not necessarily so!

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Goodreads Author Blog – Stand Out Moments

What are your favourite stand out moments in fiction?

In Pride and Prejudice for me it is where Elizabeth meets Mr Darcy again at Pemberley. You just know at that point somehow things are going to be sorted out between them. It is a question of finding out how.

For The Lord of the Rings it is when Sam Gamgee eavesdrops Gandalf’s conversation with Frodo, is hauled in, and is determined to go with his boss, no matter what. You just know at that point Frodo is going to be glad of Sam accompanying him – and so it proves.

Sometimes the pivot point in the book is the stand out moment for me. But in both Pride and Prejudice and The Lord of the Rings, there are several stand out moments. You can’t beat seeing the Ring of Power going into Mount Doom after all but that can’t happen without the earlier stand out moment.

Can there be stand out moments in non-fiction? I think so. It is usually that point where something is shown to you that you’d not realised before and you learn something new or have a theory you had confirmed or challenged (either work. The moment that makes you change your view or have it confirmed is what you remember).

The ultimate stand out moment though is the one that made you glad to have read the book!

Screenshot 2022-09-17 at 20-25-54 Stand Out Moments

 

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Hooks, Colours, and The Queue

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I’ve been watching the various ceremonies for our late Queen and am amazed at how beautiful a building Westminster Hall is. I’ve been to the Abbey but not to that so this is something to make amends for, I think.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Loved a tweet I came across earlier which felt we had reached peak Britishness re The Queue (definitely capitals needed there) and it now having regular weather updates. All that was needed was for the tea to come out (and I am sure someone has organised that!). We do queues well. We organise well. We have organised a queue – a very special one. Yes, I’d say we’d reached peak Britishness all right!

Am pleased to share my Chandler’s Ford Today post about Hooks. Hope you find it useful. I look at different kinds and why it matters that the author plays fair with their readers. We do have to deliver on our hooks.

I love a good hook and enjoy it when I guess how the story will pan out. I like it even more when the writer wrong foots me. I then go back through the story and look for the clues I missed on my first reading. You learn a lot from doing this, much of which you can apply to your own writing.

Hooks

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The flowers around Buckingham Palace, Sandringham, Balmoral etc are so very lovely.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow will be about Hooks. I’ll be looking at some of the ones I use most often, discuss the importance of playing fair with your readers, and I’ll ask if you can have too many hooks. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Hooks are useful for non-fiction as well as stories of course. They just differ a bit in type. A hook for a non-fiction piece would be for me to share some indication this post or article is going to tell me something I need to know. (Sometimes something I didn’t know I needed to know too!).

The important point though, whether for fiction or non-fiction, is the hook does have to deliver on its promise.

Non fiction can have hooks too - useful information

The service for the late Queen at Westminster Hall today was lovely. It is a beautiful building but I was struck by the vivid colours of those taking part, on the coffin itself, and down the Mall and Horseguards. I thought it apt too given Her Majesty loved her own vivid colours.

I sometimes use colours as a a distinguishing feature for my characters. For example, rather than say Character X had a moth-eaten coat, I’ll show you they had a red moth-eaten one. The addition of colour makes the information given here more pertinent and I think much easier to visualise.

And you can tell something about characters from the kinds of colours they choose to wear – red is vivid, dark blue less so. I would expect the character’s personality to match that. (Incidentally that can be twisted. A shy character can wear red to try to give themselves more confidence but the story should make it clear that is what they’re doing and I would then expect to find out whether the character succeeded in their aim here or not).

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I sometimes write flash stories in the form of a letter and I’ve done so for my piece on Friday Flash Fiction this week. Hope you enjoy Times Past.
Screenshot 2022-09-16 at 09-34-16 Times Past by Allison Symes

When you write, do you have anything on in the background? I listen to classical music as it helps me relax and when I’m relaxed, I find I get “into” writing that much more easily.

You could also think about what makes your characters relax and why they might need that. What has stressed them out that they need their comfort of choice? Again, especially for flash, it’s the telling detail which is needed here. I could get my character to make themselves a huge mug of hot chocolate and put on Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata for instance. That character will be different to someone who pours themselves a large double whisky and puts on a hard rock track.

Think about why your characters have the tastes they do. How do these indicate their personality, especially that which they keep hidden from other characters in your story? Also what are they hiding and why? Are they successful in hiding it?

May be an image of text that says "Some writers need to use visualisation to literally picture their characters. Others need to hear the voices of the characters."


I like to use specific details about a character to help bring them to life for potential readers. Specifics are easiest to visualise and you can infer a lot from them too – saves on the word count too! The nice thing here is you have a wide range of things to choose from here. You can use colours, a character’s tastes in music, food, the senses, their favourite book and so on.

A reader will take different things from a character loving Winnie The Pooh in adult life compared with someone who likes the latest horror instead, for example.

And you can always use a random generator (objects, pictures etc) to help you work out what those specific things could be!

May be an image of text that says "What Who Where When How Why find using random question generators a great way to build up my character profile. These questions are pretty good τσσ."

Fairytales with Bite – When an Era Ends

I’m writing this in the week after the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The mood in the UK generally is sombre and sad, as you would expect. The Queen was just a constant presence and it is odd to think she has gone, despite her great age.

Now when it comes to your fiction, who rules in your story world and what happens when there is a change of leader? Is that done peacefully or not? What rules are there in your setting to allow for changeovers? And if you are writing about immortal characters, are they only allowed to serve for so long? This is also where time comes into play. How does that work in your setting? Do your characters age? Is there a natural time for leadership etc to come to an end?

How do the people cope with the end of an era, especially if it has been a long one? If some cope better than others, there could be interesting stories there as to why that is, especially if that triggers resentment in the ones not coping so well.

Going into a new era, are people optimistic or fearful? What is behind the way they feel? Does the world’s history give them good grounds for fear, say?

And just what does the new era usher in for your characters? What are the likely positives and negatives here? Also, will anyone try to get in the way of the one likely to succeed as the new leader?

 

This World and Others – Changes

Changes in life are inevitable though not always welcome of course. Do your characters embrace changes or try to resist them? Do changes come in thanks to advances in technology and the like or through the way life is lived in your setting?

Are there certain types of changes your characters take in their stride or do they struggle with any kind of change?

Changes can also be seen as opportunities. What kind of changes have led to improvements in the way your characters live/their health/their quality of life etc?

Are our characters the kind to bring in changes for the benefit of others (or are they power hungry and the changes they seek are not in the general good)?

Any kind of story from the shortest piece of flash fiction to the most epic novel has to have change in it. Something happens to a character. The chraracter reacts – there are consequences and conflicts which have to be resolved in some way.

But the joy of characterisation I think is inventing different people who react to these things in different ways and I want to find out what happens to them. If you’re intrigued by how your characters handle changes in their circumstances, then your readers will be intrigued too.

And we all know what it is to have changes we don’t like thrust on us. We know we have to find a way of coping with things. That’s where empathy for characters come in because they can live through things we don’t have to and we can learn from how they do handle things.

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Emotions, Solace, and Books With Meaning


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. As you can imagine it has been a strange and sombre week here in the UK following the death of Her Majesty the Queen. Some of my posts below reflect that.

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Facebook – General

13th September 2022
The scenes around Buckingham Palace tonight are moving. Especially when you consider the last time there were crowds like that it was for Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. You are and will be much missed, Ma’am.

Portraying emotion in fiction can be tricky. I like to let my characters show you how they’re feeling by what they say (and you will also pick up how they’re saying it from context). Sometimes I use gestures to back that up. I can show you a character pacing up and down for example, muttering to themselves. I can also show them biting their nails. I don’t need to tell you they’re worried. You’d have seen that from what I’ve shown you through them.

I like to build up a character picture with small touches like that. For me that is more realistic. I don’t want”over the top” emotion here because it can spill too easily over into melodrama and that for me is a huge switch off. Why? For me it simply doesn’t feel real. And I have to be convinced by my characters. If I’m not, nobody else will be.

We need to care about the characters we read

12th September 2022
I thought the ceremonies from Scotland today for the late Queen were wonderful and most moving. The Honours of Scotland are beautiful (as is the country. Am not on holiday there this year but did enjoy my visit as part of the Scottish Association of Writers Conference earlier this year).

Many thanks for the comments coming in on On That Day, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. If you missed the story, you can find it here.

I’ll also be discussing Hooks for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday.

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

11th September 2022
I liked the line up of tractors as a farming salute to the late Queen on Her Majesty’s final journey. I thought that was nicely done – and also the line up of horse riders further down.

Gestures have so much meaning and they are something that can be used in fiction too. Does your lead character have a gesture they use? It doesn’t even have to be a conscious one. A character twiddling with their hair may not be aware they’re doing it but it is an immediate signal that character is nervous about something.

Gestures can be a great way to show and not tell given most gestures are immediately understandable and we can picture the character giving these out.

You can also think about what you would like your character to signal. If it is respect, do they bow their head? Doff their hat? Just say still for a moment when they don’t strictly have to do that? Readers will pick things up from context here too.

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10th September 2022
Music and books are two things that bring great solace to me – the other one is chocolate but that’s not such a healthy option, I admit.

I’ve found bringing my characters to life so I can visualise what their tastes would be and things like that means I write about them with more conviction. So working out things like what would bring them cheer, their minor vices (like chocolate!), and so on can make them seem more real to you. I think something of that does get through to readers as they read your tales.

Using your own tastes can help you work out what your characters might like. I love classical music, my characters might like hard rock, but my taste in music has given me a way in to working out what I need to know about my character. It is the way into a story that matters, I think. Once I’ve got that way in, off I go happily with my first draft.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash captures a moment in a character’s life – the single most important one. This is why it is such a great tool to help you focus on what really matters to your character and to figure out just what story it is they have to share.

I always like to think of these things as my characters’ stories. I don’t want my author voice getting in the way. By taking this view, I am getting into my characters’ heads more effectively and I hope end up writing their stories with more conviction.

I also focus on getting the story down and then working out how I can improve it. I don’t worry about the word count at all until I know I’ve got everything in place and then I can figure out what word count would suit the story best. Often it isn’t what I had in the back of my mind initially but that’s okay. There’s plenty of different markets and competitions for different word counts out there.

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

It’s Monday so time for a story again. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – this one is called Memories.

I like using flash fiction to show moments in a character’s life which are complete stories in and of themselves. They’re just smaller than the ones you see in the magazines. But that’s fine. Sometimes something is best said in 100 words or so than it would be in 1000. (You can dilute the impact for one thing).

I also think slice of life stories probably work better when kept short. You get an interesting insight into a character and enough time to develop empathy for what they’re showing you but not enough time to be bored or to think they’re whining!

It’s also why monologues/first person narration work so well in flash. Enough but not too much. The Bridport Prize describes flash as “the art of just enough” which is one of the finest descriptions of the form I’ve come across.

Flash Fiction Impact


Flash is brilliant for those ties when you might not feel/be able to write much – life does get in the way. How you feel can feed into this too but flash does mean you can write something that will be a complete piece of work. There are markets and competitions for it too so there are opportunities out there for you to do something with your work.

Even when you’re on a roll with your writing, you can still use flash an excellent warm up exercise for your “main event”. I like the flexibility of flash with regards to genre and the different word count brackets. I don’t write drabbles (100-worders) all the time. I like to mix things up.

Above all, it is lovely to write something for fun and then see what you can do with it. Flash does give more opportunities here simply because by its nature it is quicker to produce than a novel. If you can get your work out there, you get the payback of publication quicker too. And it can make a great way to build up a track record to tell a publisher about when you are sending longer works somewhere.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Goodreads Author Blog – Books With Meaning to You

All books have meaning. For me, I have a few categories here. There are the books written by and signed for me by author friends. I love seeing those books on my shelves, Then there are the books left to me by my late mother. Then there are books I saved up to buy when I was much younger and which I still have.

Then there are books such as The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey which opened up my eyes to the idea there is a whole story behind Richard III that needs further investigating. Do not take Shakespeare as gospel!

Then there are the books which make me gasp as I take in their full scale and scope – The Lord of the Rings is the obvious one.

Then there are my childhood fairytale books – The Reader’s Digest books here were my first introduction to the wonderful (and often scary) world of the fairytale. They remain a great influence on me as a writer too.

Then there are the shelves with my collections of books by P.G.Wodehouse and Terry Pratchett – the laughter shelves if you like.

So which books have special meaning to you and why?

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A Sad Week

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.

THE DEATH OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH THE SECOND

ON 8TH SEPTEMBER 2022

It has been an odd couple of days since the news broke of Her Majesty’s death. My posts below reflect that. There is a collective sense of loss even though we all knew that at some point this day would have to come.

I believe it to be a remarkable tribute that the sense of loss is palpable given she was the only monarch most of us had known and she was a constant presence even for those of us who never met the late Queen.

Constancy and consistency matter (as Her Majesty proved by her devotion to duty) and I feel that is only brought home by events like this.

My late father was a child during World War Two and was, at first, too young to be evacuated. Later he recalled often seeing the late Queen’s parents in the bombed out areas of the East End of London. I am absolutely sure the late King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother as she became, would be very proud of their daughter. We are.

May you rest in peace and rise in Glory, Ma’am.

God save the King!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

There was really nothing I could add to my Facebook post yesterday. See below. Her Majesty will be much missed. I thought the King’s speech was wonderful.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is Good Interviews and I look at the topic from using interview techniques to get to know your characters better before writing their stories up. I also share some thoughts on how writers can prepare for interviews and what I think makes for a good interview.

Hope you find it useful.

Good Interviews

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8th September 2022
So deeply saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty the Queen. She has been a constant presence and will be much missed.

God save the King.

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Hope today has been okay. Have enjoyed listening to the 30th birthday celebrations of Classic FM today. I’m a fairly late convert to the joys of classical music. This is very much a case of better late than never.

Now talking of well known sayings, how can you use them in story telling without falling into the great big cliche trap?

One way is to use the saying as the title. It also gives your readers the theme immediately. It is then a question of you delivering something special on that well known saying – no pressure then! – but it can be done. The big hook for any story for me (and I won’t be the only one) is the lead character. Get me interested in them and I will read on.

Also think about ways you can prove the well known saying to be right or wrong in the case of your character. Maybe for your person, it really isn’t a question of being late than never. Never would’ve been the better option etc. You could have fun with that.

I’ve subverted sayings for titles but you could do it for the story itself too. Your character would have to establish fairly early on they are different enough to be able to do that as it is unlikely a meek and mild character would subvert anything much!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Today has been a strange day, as you can imagine, though I thought His Majesty’s speech hit the right note and was beautifully done. I’ve been listening to various recollections of people meeting the late Queen on Classic FM today. Personal stories matter and they were all deeply touching.

I love stories as they can be a form of escapism and just sometimes that is exactly what is needed.

My latest story on Friday Flash Fiction is called On That Day, which is about what happens when Bella finds a travel machine conveniently left open. Hope you enjoy it. Definitely on the light side this one.

Screenshot 2022-09-09 at 09-12-26 On That Day by Allison Symes

8th September 2022

Today is a historic day. The late Queen’s devotion to duty was legendary. You will be much missed, Ma’am.

God save the King.

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One quick way into a character outline for a flash story is to ask five quick questions about them.

1. Your name?
2. Your major trait?
3. Your tastes in music, food, film etc.
4. What you like/loathe the most?
5. Name one thing you would never do.

The great thing with the last one is your story would have them facing up to that one thing they’d never do. When push came to shove, would they still really not do it or cave in? A great way to ratchet up the tension and there would have to be a conclusion – which way would your character go and why?

Asking and answering questions sets up a structure for your piece of work

Fairytales with Bite – By Hook or by Crook

Which way of doing things do your characters prefer? Do you have characters who couldn’t be honest if their life depended on it and would do anything to get their way? What obstacles do they come up against and do they change their tune?

What would be fun here, I think, is having a character who does things the right way – they hook support in legitimately – up against someone who will take every crooked turn available and then watch the sparks fly! Only one of those characters can win by the end of your story. Will the judicious use of the right “hook” be enough to save the day?

How honest, or otherwise, is your main setting and its government? Do your characters moan about their leaders the way we moan about ours and, if so, what are the consequences, especially in a magical world?
What kind of crook does exist in your setting? Is there crime as we know it? If there’s magical crime, what form does that take and what are the consequences for those caught using it?

Last not not least, what is the hook for your story and characters? What will draw readers in? It helps to draw yourself into the story and view it as if someone else had written it. What do you make of this tale if it was written by someone else?

This World and Others – On Whose Order?

Orders can be given by all manner of people. The kind of order given matches the importance or otherwise, of those giving the order, so who do you have in your stories barking out commands to all and sundry? How well does this go down the the other characters? Potential set up for comedy and/or tragedy here I suspect.

It can also led to interesting story ideas if you look at how someone got into a position of authority ad what they’ve had to do to stay there. On whose orders are the orders given out? Are the orders ever disobeyed? Can anyone question an order to prevent it being carried out?

Is your society structured in such a way everyone knows their place and everyone knows whose orders are being belted out to people and why? If you have a stranger in town, so to speak, how do they pick up what they need to know?

Are orders backed up by the use of force ore are people generally obedient?

Best question of all, who challenges the status quo? Many a fine story has been told using that premise. Also just because orders are given it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re followed properly.

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Regular Writing and What Makes a Good Read

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

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Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Hope you have a happy weekend.

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

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

Best of all, it is fun to do!

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

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

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

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Goodreads Author Blog – What Makes You Read?

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

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

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

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

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Getting Together With Other Writers and Book Shelf Joys

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

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Facebook – General

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

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

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

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

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

More Than Writers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

Plenty of competitions for the short form

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


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

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

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

About to run a workshop on editing at Swanwick


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

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

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

Have lost all fear of editing

Goodreads Author Blog – Book Shelf Joys

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking Back at Swanwick 2022

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Most images from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School for my Chandler’s Ford Today post were taken by me, Allison Symes, as were any screenshots (and photos of Lady naturally).
A big thank you to Jennifer C Wilson and Penny Blackburn for images they took of me that I’ve used in my CFT post. Tricky to take pics of yourself when about to give a writing session! Hope you have had a good week. Not bad here and thankfully much cooler. Lady is pleased about that too.

 

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m thrilled to share Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today this week. This post was a sheer joy to write. It was also lovely not having to worry about sourcing the photos – I took most of them and friends shared the rest. Many thanks to #ValPenny and #JenniferCWilson here!

(I generally do use Pixabay and then enhance images via Book Brush as you know but it is also nice to share pics I’ve taken from time to time).

This post shares a little of what it is like to be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I look at taking part in workshops and fun events such as the Open Prose Mic Night and share a little of the joys of being immersed in the world of writing for a week, especially when you are always made so welcome whether it is is your first visit or your 50th.

Hope you enjoy the post and maybe see you there for Swanwick 2023.

Looking Back at Swanwick 2022

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Hope you had a good Thursday. Many thanks to those who came to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. It was great fun and lovely to see familiar names popping up on online magazines who welcome flash fiction. Keep writing!

I’m so looking forward to sharing my Chandler’s Ford Today post tomorrow. I’ll be Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 and this post was a real labour of love to write. I love writing all of my posts but some always stand out as special and writing about Swanwick does that for me. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Have, after a bit of a break, got back to reading on Kindle again. Good to be back to that. Am so glad electronic book shelves can’t give way under the weight of all I’ve got on that!

My flash collections are available in Kindle and paperback

Strange day weather wise here in Hampshire – drizzle, cloudy etc and then boy did it warm up!

One of the joys of writing is you do have two interests in one here. Every writer I know has a serious addiction to books and stories of all kinds and loves to read in and out of their genre. I try to keep my reading “diet” mixed and interesting.

I catch up with things like Writing Magazine over lunch but I read books to help me with my writing, novels, ebooks, collections etc (using paperback and the Kindle for this) most nights before settling to sleep. It is only if I am already too tired I don’t do that. I make up for it the next night instead.

I love stories. I love writing them. I love reading them. Win-win here. And in making writer friends, I get to ensure I read contemporary fiction as well as the classics. I like to find out what friends are bringing out after all and I have a lovely collection of their signed books to me on my book shelves. I treasure that.

And the great thing about flash fiction in all of this? It proves an entertaining story can be 100 words long as well as the novels proving it at 100,000! I like that. To me there is a pleasing symmetry going on here.

May be an image of text that says "Regardless of genre and setting, all stories need a proper beginning, middle and ending."

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

It is lovely to be back on Friday Flash Fiction after my break at Swanwick last week. Hope you enjoy my tale, Fitting In, which has a book-related theme. It also shows you can never be always sure of who your audience might be.

Screenshot 2022-08-26 at 09-20-17 Fitting In by Allison Symes

I like open titles for my stories, ones that have to provoke curiosity in a reader. Sometimes I subvert a title or phrase (as in my Punish the Innocent from From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Titles are your first hook to draw a reader in and I have judged competitions where there are no titles. I do think writers are missing a trick here. It pays to have a good title. I jot down an initial idea and then change if it I need to. I know what my story line is going to be (because I know who my character is) and that usually gives me a starting point for a title. Doesn’t mean I necessarily have to stick with it though. Again as with my story itself, I just need something to get me started.

I like alliterative titles but try to avoid using them all the time. They’re memorable but you don’t want to get sidelined into using only one kind of title. I’ve used proverbs. I’ve used phrases. I’ve used ideas thrown up by random generators. I like keeping my options, as well as my titles, open!

Questions are useful for themes and titles

Writing tip 7008 or thereabouts: Don’t worry about your flash word count immediately. Get your story written. Then rest it. Then look at it again with fresh eyes and get rid of wasted words, look at ways to improving your phrasing and so on.

I then find a story will be “settling” at the circa 100, 200 or 300 words mark. I then and only then think will I try to reduce the story down to the lower word count or leave it as it is? If I feel a reduction will take something away from the story as such how it flows, characterisation that adds depth to the tale, I leave the story at, say, 224 words and then find a market or competition looking for pieces under 250 or 300 words.

I ask myself questions during the editing process mainly along the lines of do I need this and, if so, why? That helps enormously in helping me to judge what really should stay in. You don’t want to lose the soul of the tale. Editing should always enhance this and bring the best out in your story.

The only thing to cut out is waffle – now if only politicians took the same view, yes?!

Simple writing equals no waffle

Fairytales With Bite – Character Profiling

I often use random generators to trigger story ideas but you can also use the random question one to help you get to know your characters better. I use https://faculty.washington.edu/ejslager/random-generator/index.html mainly because I have a soft spot for the duck on their page (go on, check it out, you know you want to!).

I generated the question What is your theme song? You could apply that to your character and find out more about them by then asking yourself why they chose that one. In a fantasy setting, you could also work out what kind of music they would have. Is it comparable with what we have here?

I find I have to know what my character traits are (because actions, thoughts, capabilities all stem from that) but the generators are a great way of getting into profiling your character quickly. No reason why you can’t use them for fairytale characters or others of a fantasy/magical ilk.

Screenshot 2022-08-21 at 20-35-24 Random Qs

This World and Others – Character Roles

What roles do your characters play in your stories? What roles are available to them? Are roles assigned by gender, ancestral heritage or anything like that? Do your characters like or resent their roles?

The role of women has changed considerably over time here – what would be the equivalent for your characters? Do things like war change what people are expected to do? How does technology change roles? Doles your world have the equivalent of the Luddites who went around smashing machinery to try to save their own jobs?

If your world has androids or any other kind of robot, what are their roles and could they break their programming? Do humanoid characters resent the role the robots do or are they relieved they don’t have to do this kind of work?

Characters can have roles they didn’t expect thrust on to them (Frodo Baggins, anyone?). So how do your people handle this? Is their new role the making of them?

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Zoom, Flash Fiction, and What Does a Book Give You?

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Full report on my week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School coming up in my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday. Meanwhile, I celebrate flash fiction and share some ways in which Zoom has been so useful to me. Plus I ask a leading question for my Goodreads post this time!

BookBrushImage-2022-8-23-20-2120Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Came back from my Slimming World group to discover only a teensy weensy gain from my week at Swanwick last week. Given what I had, I thought this was a brilliant result and am feeling chuffed and nicely surprised! Lady is not at all sorry the weather has cooled down somewhat. Neither am I.

Looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group meeting on Zoom tomorrow. Zoom has made genre groups possible for us, given so many of our members live hundreds of miles apart and could never get to an in person meeting. Zoom is one of the few good things to emerge from the pandemic.

It is also useful as an editing tool. How? Well, you can record a meeting with yourself where you read out your short story or flash piece, end the meeting, and Zoom will turn the file into an mp4 for you to play back later.

I’ve picked up clunky dialogue this way. What looks good written down doesn’t always read out well. I also use Zoom to practice my Zoom talks and help me get my timings right. (And for those of us of a certain age, Zoom was also a great ice lolly! – at least here in the UK it was!).

Use Zoom to record your stories and then play them back to hear them as a reader would take them in


Nice to see some rain here in Hampshire today – drizzle rather than heavy rain for most of the day. Less likely to cause flooding and will still freshen things up a bit.

Back to the real world after a fantastic week at Swanwick. It’s going to be a long week…! Having said that it was lovely taking Lady back to the park today (there are some green bits on it now – not many but there are some!).

I’ll be sharing my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday. I loved picking the pictures out for that one. I always take loads when at The Hayes.

My next event is likely to be the Bridge House Publishing one later in the year and it will be lovely to catch up with people there too.

What is nice though is this is where social media can come into its own – there are ways to stay in contact with writing friends throughout the year – and social media is at its best for this kind of thing.

Networking encourages your zest for writing


Hope you have had/are still having a lovely Sunday. Back to the writing desk and coming up later this week will be my Looking Back at Swanwick 2022 for Chandler’s Ford Today. Link up on Friday.

Looking forward to the ACW Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting on Wednesday.

A big hello and welcome to the new subscribers to my author newsletter. The next one goes out on 1st September. Hard to believe we’re nearly three-quarters of the way through the year already. I share tips, story links, and news in my newsletter, especially relating to flash fiction. If you’d like to sign up, do head over to my website (landing page) at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Do I sign up to newsletters myself? Oh yes. They’re a great way of hearing the latest from your favourite authors, which is why I love reading the ones I’ve signed up for.

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Have caught up on some much needed sleep after a hectic and joyous and wonderful week at Swanwick.
Glad to share a link to the last flash fiction challenge I set for Mom’s Favorite Reads – and to one of the entries that came in as a result. Hope you enjoy.

Don’t forget MFR is free to download and there are wonderful articles and stories in there. Do check it out. (Glad to say a fellow Swanwicker, Maggie Cobbett, is in there too).

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 20-03-59 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine August 2022 eBook Publishing Goylake Howe Hannah Smith Melanie Fae Sylva Jones Wendy H Macleod Sheena Symes Allison Amazon.co.uk Kindle Store


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Trust you have had a good day. Looking forward to chatting about all things flash fiction related with the ACW Flash Fiction Group on Zoom tomorrow. And it was great to spread the word about it at Swanwick too.

Don’t forget Mom’s Favorite Reads has a flash fiction column every month, written by yours truly, and I also set a challenge here. Do check it out for FREE.

I was glad to pick up another anthology from the National Flash Fiction Day from the Swanwick Book Room last week. It is important to read in your genre as well as outside of it. You get a feel about what is out there in your field and I find it encourages the love of this form of writing even more. Win-win there.


It’s Monday. I’m back to the day to day tasks after a fabulous week at Swanwick. It’s definitely time for a story. Hope you enjoy my latest on my YouTube channel – Send a Secret.

 

The lovely thing about flash fiction is you can mix up the mood of your stories in a collection. I like to write a mixture of lighthearted tales and those on the darker side, encompassing everything from historical flash to crime ones to twist in the tale to ghost stories.

The word count for flash is limited but you don’t have to be with your characters and settings. I love that aspect. When it comes to putting a collection together, I try to group my tales so you literally do go From Light to Dark and Back Again, I do like to finish on a lightish note.

I usually focus on my character for my stories and then ask myself where would this character best be placed. Sometimes I know I want to write a historical flash immediately so it is then a question of who can I use to serve my tale.

But the character has to suit which is why I ensure I know them well enough by asking myself some pointed questions. It is about working out what you need to know or so I’ve found and then I can get on and draft my tale.

How do characters see themselves

The weekend after Swanwick is useful as it gives me a chance to catch up on sleep and time to start processing ideas etc which came from the courses and workshops. I was glad to spread the word about flash fiction too. I sometimes run a workshop on why flash fiction is useful for all writers, regardless of what else people do.

I hope to resume writing stories for Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel from this week. Sunday is often when I draft those and it means I get two new flash pieces written a week. Does writing more encourage further ideas? I find it does – and the random generators are a great blessing here too. I know where to go to trigger other ideas I would not have thought of alone. They are so useful for that.

AE - Jan 2022 - Random question generators

Goodreads Author Blog – What Does a Book Give You?

This is a leading question is it not? Where to start! Well what does a book give me?

Books give me escapism, entertainment, educate me, and show me things I had not realised I needed to know. Books can and do encourage empathy with characters. I can see where characters come from and why even if I still disagree with the actions they’ve chosen to do. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is something you get to do all the time when reading fiction, regardless of story length.

Books take me away from my problems for a while – and sometimes that break is all which is needed for me to work out solutions to whatever I’m facing. Even when that’s impossible, just having the break away does my mental health the world of good. And I get to discover worlds and situations I would never face for real but that in turn leads me to wonder what I would do in those situations and why.

Books do act like a kind of portal then. And it was the classic fairytales that showed me girls could be heroes too (see The Snow Queen by Hans Christen Andersen for this).

Above all books and stories encourage you to keep on reading. That in turn fuelled in me the desire to write stories and books myself. I see it as a kind of giving back to the wonderful world of books.

Screenshot 2022-08-23 at 08-34-12 What Does a Book Give You

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Interview – Val Penny – and Swanwick Part 2

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Val Penny for supplying the book and author photos for my interview with her on Chandler’s Ford Today. Photos from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, including one of Val about to give her excellent Promoting Your Work talk (see CFT post), were all taken by me, Allison Symes. You do know who to blame! And a HUGE thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for taking the photos of me about to lead my session at Swanwick and of me signing my books. It is SO hard to take that kind of shot yourself!! Another lovely thing about Swanwick is we all happily do this for each other – the sharing and kindness here is amazing.

Feature Image - Val Penny - The Hunter Wilson Series and Blog Tours20220818_130622
Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

Safely back home after a fabulous time at Swanwick, I hope to report more on that for Chandler’s Ford Today next week.

Today though I share a great interview with Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, a fellow Swanwicker. Val shares news of her recent book release and we have a fab chat about blog tours, keeping notes about your characters’ main characteristics, marketing and other topics. Hope you enjoy it and it was lovely to catch up with Val again in person this last week. Until next year, Val!

Val Penny: The Hunter Wilson Series and Blog Tours

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Am pleased to share my latest blog on Authors Electric. Aptly I talk about Holiday Reading and Writing.

The four part course on Creative Non-Fiction ended today. So useful. I then went on to the Writing Comedy short course led by Rob Gee.

Later this afternoon, it will be time for the Swanwick Annual General Meeting. The main event on the last full day is the famous Swanwick Farewell and Awards evening which is always great fun. It was too!

Am I planning to be back next year? Oh yes!

Screenshot 2022-08-18 at 13-48-54 Holiday Reading and Writing by Allison Symes

Well, the temperature has cooled here in Derbyshire. We have had rain! Nobody sorry about that.
I resumed the Creative Non-Fiction specialist course led by Simon Whaley and then went on to the Historical Fiction course led by Jennifer C Wilson. I write some historical fiction flash stories and it is an area I would like to write more in – the scope is huge!

I’m planning to finish my afternoon by going to the Cracking the Cryptic Crossword one hour workshop led by Vivien Brown. I love crosswords. I can’t get cryptics so I thought this could be useful for when I want to unwind with word games, as I often do. It was great fun and an eye-opener.

There’s a fancy dress evening later. Am not really into that myself but it will be fun seeing what costumes people come up with for the theme of Another Night at the Movies.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

So back at home and back to the writing routine. (I have to have one to get any writing done at all). I hope to resume writing for Friday Flash Fiction and my YouTube channel from next week.

Swanwick set a competition for us while we’re there. I did send in a 150 word story. It didn’t get placed but I loved writing it, will look at it again and see where else I can submit it – I do know there will be somewhere!

I’ve sometimes gone on to have work published that way. And I’m fine with the sometimes by the way, simply because nobody hits a perfect 100% hit rate in writing/being published/being placed.

Delighted to sign Tripping the Flash Fantastic for fellow authors while at Swanwick. It is always a special thing. When I first started writing anything seriously, I knew nobody in the writing world. It is now a great joy to have many writing friends, some of whom I’ve met in person and others I’ve met just online.

I’ve learned so much chatting to other writers, including finding out about flash fiction and I’ve never regretted discovering that!

 

My week at the fantastic Swanwick Writers’ Summer School went by in a flash. It always does. Fabulous fun, caught up with old friends, got chatting to people new to Swanwick, learned so much from the courses and workshops, and enjoyed taking part.

I did take part again in the Open Prose Mic Night. Again fun to do and flash fiction works well for this. Loved listening to the Open Poetry Mic Night too.

For the prose night, I picked my linked flash tales – Mishaps and Jumping Time from Tripping the Flash Fantastic this time. Pleased to say they did get laugh but then my hapless time travelling alien in these stories does have that coming. Honest!

 

One thing I’ve learned over the years is to not rush a submission to a short story or flash competition. You always do need more editing time than you think. So I factor this in to my schedule and aim to submit my work about a fortnight before the deadline, having carried out all editing necessary including that important final check to ensure you have got all the typos out etc.

Can a judge tell if a competition entry has been rushed?
Oh yes.

What you want is for your work to be so polished the judge knows you haven’t rushed at all and you’ve given yourself plenty of time to ensure all is as good as you can make it. The little details matter here too.

Planning does not have to kill spontaneity - just work out what you need to know, you don't need to plan everything

Fairytales with Bite – The Creative Arts

What kind of creative arts would your fairytale world have? Would it be an area where magic was banned? I can’t see how much fun it would be if you were allowed to whip out your magic wand, say a quick spell and, hey presto, you’ve produced a stunning picture or a brilliant book. I would want things to be created “properly”, else where is the joy of the creative process?

Naturally I think of stories and books first for the arts world, followed by music, especially classical, as my two big art interests are there. What are your arts interests and could you bring them in somehow to the world you’re creating in your stories? What would be different in your magical world in this sphere?

Often we think of fairytales as those stories we read as children/had read to us. What would your magical world’s equivalent be? Do they tell tales about dodgy humans getting their comeuppance thanks to a heroic magical character, say?

Life is made up of the basic necessity to survive naturally, but what about the other elements of a well rounded life, which include the creative arts? How are those represented in your stories?

BookBrushImage-2022-8-19-20-191

This World and Others – Values

What values does your fictional world have in common with this one? Which ones are literally alien and why have these values been established? (That may well shed a great deal of light on the characters of your aliens – do they agree with these values or not?).

Values get established over time so how long did it take your world to come up with the ones it has? Are there sections of the community which don’t hold with these values at all and what do they do about this? Passive resistance or something much more active? Are they right to take the view they do?

Bear in mind your characters, wherever they are set, do not need to share your values. I’ve written pieces where I am at odds with my characters and that’s fine. But you still do need to understand why your characters, of whatever species, hold the values they do. There will be reasons for this. Okay, they may not be great ones but they will make sense to your fictional world and characters.

BookBrushImage-2022-8-19-20-2347

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