In Fiction – Frameworks and Animals – and A Good Cause


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Somes images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you are all safe and well. UK currently experiencing Storm Eunice. Must admit I’m not impressed by her! Neither was the dog…

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today/Authors Electric

Authors Electric
Busy night on the old blogging front as I have two separate posts to share. First up is my Authors Electric post for this month where I talk about Animals in Fiction. This is something I talked about for Chandler’s Ford Today a few weeks ago but the topic bears repeating. I share my love of animal characters and talk about what I do when I write from the viewpoint of an animal character. I’ve written from the viewpoint of a mother dragon after all! Hope you enjoy the post.

Chandler’s Ford Today

And now time for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. This week I’m looking at Frameworks in Fiction. I look at why frameworks matter, share a few of the different ones I use (and why I like to mix them up), and what can be used as a framework, even when at first glance the device in question doesn’t appear to be a framework at all! I also ask if frameworks can be too constricting. Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

Frameworks in Fiction

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Lull between the storms in the UK right now. Take care, everyone, with Storm Eunice due tomorrow.
On a happier note, my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about Frameworks in Fiction. I use a number of different ones for my flash tales and will be discussing these and why frameworks are so useful. Link up tomorrow. See above.

Don’t forget I send out an author newsletter on the first of each month with tips, news, prompts etc. If you’d like to sign up please head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

Currently busy on story judging and editing as well as my own writing so am staying out of mischief well enough!

It was lovely catching up with everyone on the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group on Zoom last night. We all ended up with a new story to work on thanks to a free writing exercise set by #AnnmarieMiles. I used a random name generator to come up with the name of a character to write about and there were excellent and different approaches taken. All good fun!

 

The wind is already getting stronger here in Hampshire – take care, everyone, over what promise to be a wild few days in the UK.

Now I don’t use the weather in fiction at all (too many cliches etc and It was a dark and stormy night has been done!). But you can use the elements to help set mood including landscape as well as weather. Think about the detail a reader needs to know. You won’t need to spell everything out. The joy of flash is so much is inferred and the reader fills in the gaps.

I’ve always loved doing that when reading longer works but for flash writing, it is crucial. I may need to know your character is on a moor. I don’t need to know how wet, boggy etc the moor is because I have my idea of what a moor is like and that will be what I visualise when I read the word “moor”. What is more important to know is the season. Is your character there in the summer or the winter? That will make a huge difference to the conditions they face.

So it is the question of the telling detail then – select what readers have to know, what they cannot guess at, and let your readers fill in the gaps. We will – and it saves so much on the old word count! Nor do you irritate readers telling them what they can work out for themselves.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Now earlier this week, I shared my YouTube story called At Number 64  – see below – and I mentioned I had submitted a linked story to this for Friday Flash Fiction. Well, I am glad to say my second story on the same theme is now up on FFF and I am glad to share it here. Hope you enjoy A Good Cause (and many thanks for the fab comments in on it so far).

Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 19-20-44 A Good Cause, by Allison Symes


In a month’s time I’ll be on my way to the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference where I’ll be running a flash fiction workshop. Looking forward to that immensely. Never thought I’d be doing this kind of thing when I started out.

But I have a very soft spot for workshops anyway. You get to meet other writers. You get to learn something useful. And a good workshop should trigger ideas for you own stories too.

Best invention since sliced bread? The notebook and pen of course.

Still great for workshop/conference environments. And flash gives you potential for writing up your exercises from workshops etc into polished stories you can submit later. Every so often I will go back through my old notebooks and see if there is something I can polish up. Sometimes I will find something useful like that. Other times I’ll read something which will trigger other story ideas and that’s great too.


Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 20-54-40 Writing Workshops Conference 2020 Scottish Association of WritersI was talking about giving readers the telling details they need to know to make sense of your story over on my Facebook author page just now and I referred to the elements. But you need to think about telling details for your characters too.

I’ve mentioned before I like to know the character’s major trait as all sorts of things can come from that which you can use to bring your character to life (e.g. the character is brave, they have a tendency to be reckless because of it and that’s where the story is – in what that recklessness leads to).

So work out what you need to know to make the character work for you. (If the character works for you, they’ll work for a reader). If a character is poor, do you need to know if they have become poor or have always been less well off? What is their attitude towards it? Can that attitude be where your story is – if your character is bitter, do they do something against anyone they hold to blame for their situation?

Ask yourself questions about what you need to know. I’ve found doing that sparks ideas and soon an outline for a possible story emerges. I like that – a lot!

Screenshot 2022-02-18 at 20-57-33 (2) Allison Symes Facebook

Fairytales With Bite – Happily Ever After?

And they all lived happily ever after has to be one of the most famous endings to any story. Though it should be added the original versions of fairytales often did not have a happy ending or gruesome things occurred before the happy ever after bit.

I understand it being in the classic tales for children but it is not one I am comfortable with myself. I like most of my stories to have a positive, upbeat ending where you can see things would continue to be okay for my deserving characters long after the story has finished. But sometimes I write stories with poignant endings because that is appropriate for the characters I’ve come up with.

And that is what I am really after in the stories I read and write – appropriate endings for the characters.

One thing I do get from my love of fairytales is the wish for the villains to get their well deserved comeuppance. I’m actually more interested in seeing how that pans out rather than the happy bit (because with the comeuppance bit achieved, the rest will follow).

I also like to see happy ever afters “earned” by the characters concerned – it seems more realistic to me the characters (a) deserve to get their happy ever after ending and (b) contribute to achieving that significantly themselves.

So give some thought to how you want your stories to end. When it is a happy ending, have your characters be worthy of it. You want your readers cheering them on to the happy conclusion after all.

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This World and Others – Living In Peace

Does your fictional world live in peace with other creations around it? Do the inhabitants of your created world get along with each other? How many species live in your world and is there any “history” between them? Do they live in peace now after centuries of not doing so? Is your world one of those where peace is a rarity or where war is unknown and disputes have to be resolved in other ways?

What would your fictional world make of our real one? Answering something like that can give you insight into how and why your people behave and act the way they do. Could they live in peace with us? What do they make of our warlike ways? Some would despise that (and possibly because we’re not warlike enough in their view). Some would hate it because they cannot understand violence. Some would love it, possibly seeing possibilities of exploiting that quality against us.

Living in peace takes effort. How much effort are your characters prepared to make? What is the incentive for them to be at peace especially if their culture is one of war?

Good story possibilities there I think especially since there is always someone who is prepared for various reasons to go against the status quo.

 

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Storms, Flashes, and Podcast News

Image Credit:  As ever, unless otherwise stated, all images come from the magnificent Pixabay.

Podcast News

I’m delighted to say I am the guest on Wendy H. JonesThe Writing and Marketing Show talking about flash fiction tomorrow, Wednesday, 12th February. Wendy is a Scottish crime writer of the DI Shona McKenzie series and also writes about Bertie the Buffalo for children. Do check her website out for more information.

The podcast was a wonderful opportunity to chat about why all writers should write flash fiction, even if is not their main work. More on the show and I look forward to sharing the link on the next post on Friday.

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And In Other News…

Am very pleased to say my website links are now included on:-

  1.  Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Swanwick Connections page.
  2.  The Association of Christian Writers’ Members’ Website page.

Facebook – General

I’ve set up a page on my website where from time to time I share some flash fiction stories and look at how I wrote them. I hope this will be useful for other flash fiction writers and entertaining anyway!

I had great fun yesterday evening putting together a simple video for Putting My Face On and think it works well. (See below and on the link too).

Hope you enjoy!

 

Horrible day weather wise with the storm (Sunday, 9th February in the UK – Storm Ciara). Hope and trust everyone is okay. Did like seeing the full moon rising tonight and the way it lights up the clouds though. The clouds DID have a silver lining tonight! (One sign to confirm the weather is truly awful is when Lady wants to finish her walkies quickly and she did today).

Good day today. I’ve finished drafting a standard length short story which gave ME the creeps (and yes it is meant to!) and I’m looking forward to polishing that and submitting it later this week. Will have more news on the publication front fairly soon too.

Have a good week and I hope the weather soon calms down.

 

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I can hardly believe it is the 80th anniversary of the first Tom and Jerry cartoon. Always loved those two (but then I’ve always been a fan of the kind of story where the underdog clearly has the upper hand of the “master”. The Jeeves and Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse are the sublime prose example of those).

Never despise “light” entertainment whether it is in the form of a cartoon or book. Escapism is invaluable and something I think most of us need, for one thing. For another, this kind of thing is harder than it looks to write. If anyone makes anything look easy, you can bet they’ve been working quietly away for years to get to that point.

I do take some comfort in knowing there are no shortcuts in writing (it means it’s not just me taking the scenic route!), but I take even more from knowing very little is ever wasted. Even rejections can teach you something you can use to improve your writing. And I’ve lost count of how many stories of mine didn’t get placed somewhere, I’ve looked at them again, reworked them, submitted them elsewhere and, as a result, got them into print/on to screen (sometimes both).

Persistence is a virtue when it comes to writing but a better one is being open to looking at your writing and thinking well, I could do this bit better… Time away from the piece is crucial here for being able to give yourself distance but it does pay off.

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I was delighted to find this picture on Pixabay (and you wonder why I like them so much!). Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

What is your inner vision and are you making progress towards it

What is your reaction when you come across a book you don’t like? Do you carry on reading? Do you abandon it and maybe try it again at a later date?

In my time, I’ve done both. The latter has been more successful. For example, I tried reading The Hobbit when I was at junior school but I just couldn’t get into it. Now, of course, I have no problems with it. Sometimes it is a case of timing. YOU sometimes have to be “ready” for a book.

Very rarely do I abandon a book altogether. Even then I feel a sense of failure. I do wonder if it’s just me. What is useful though is to analyse what it is was you didn’t like and make sure nobody can say the same of your books and stories! So even a book that, for whatever reason you couldn’t get on with, has its uses for a writer!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When do I know a flash fiction piece is going to work?

When the story makes me feel the way I want it to make a reader feel, whether it is to make them laugh, cry, or, on occasion, scream!

One of the joys of flash is its almost instant impact but there definitely has to BE an impact! Incidentally slice of life studies can work well here too because the impact there is to make you care for the character you’ve just read about.

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Today was the perfect day, weather wise, to stay in and write and/or read! It’s about the only good thing to say about the horrible weather… I trust things are calming down where you are. Trees down here but it looks like damage is limited.

I don’t use the weather a lot in any of my stories partly because, with flash, there is limited room for description, and I always think the character is far more important anyway. I would rather show you a character battling through the elements than focus on the elements themselves. I’m also determined not to be caught out by the “dark and stormy night” cliche!

 

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How to spot a writer Part 1:-

1. They mutter and probably swear at spotting yet another typo in whatever it is they’re reading. (Guilty here: last one that really annoyed me was the ITV news report online which had Isle of White instead of Isle of Wight. Someone didn’t check the place names there…).

2. Their other half has to drag them out of bookshops OR plot a route around any area that is lucky enough to still have said bookshops. This is particularly important if they have an appointment in two hours time or less as it will be the only way to ensure that appointment isn’t missed. If you tell me you couldn’t possibly spend two hours in a bookshop, then I’ll know you’re not a writer!

3. Flash fiction writers are easy to spot. They will get their smartphone out at every opportunity and will tap away on it. Some of them might even use a stylus (Guilty as charged). If desperate, they will grab a napkin and draft something on the back of that. (Before you ask, not yet, but I suspect I will do this at some point!).

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How to spot a writer Part 2:-

1. You can’t move for them in stationery shops. (We are all suckers for lovely pens, notebooks etc). Guilty as charged on this one.

2. In coffee shops, they are likely to be in a corner, phone or laptop plugged in, and they’ve made one drink last at least an hour so they can get some writing done. (Not quite guilty on this one. I always buy a hot drink and at least one other cold drink if I know I’m going to be there for a while).

3. The flash fiction writer will be keen to explain what their genre is to anyone who will listen so it is more of a case of them spotting you. On the plus side they will know the importance of Less is More for their genre and will keep their talk short and to the point. (Another clue as to who the flash writers are is in their speech. If they seem to cut out all adverbs even when talking, you know you’ve found one). Ahem…

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Goodreads Author Blog – Why Read Then?

Strange question to put on Goodreads, isn’t it? We all love books and stories. Reading is a way of life.

Celebrating books at literary festivals and/or writing conferences is a lovely part of life too!

But it is easy to forget reading isn’t a way of life for everyone. Books have to compete with other forms of entertainment for people’s attention. Sadly, books don’t always win.

I was deeply saddened once, when on a book stall with some other local authors, I heard someone walk by and loudly exclaim “I don’t do books”. Hmm… I wonder why that is? Nervousness about reading? Too many associations with bad experiences at school? I thought the comment was so sad, and I still think that.

I read to:-

1. Escape the world for a bit. (It is beyond me people don’t latch on to this more. The great thing books are legal, they won’t make you put on weight, or give you a hangover).

2. Be entertained in a way that suits me. I don’t have to commit to reading for three hours at a time (though chance would be a fine thing!). If you’re in the cinema and it’s a long film, you really do have to love it otherwise you’re in for a dull evening.

3. Discover different worlds in a way that I choose. I vary my reading. I’ll read crime books for a while, then historical fiction, then short story collections etc. But I choose which worlds to explore and when and I like that.

What I don’t want to see is books being seen as “elitist” or anything like that.

Happy reading, everyone!

 

 

Celebrating Writing

Image Credit:  Unless otherwise stated, all images are from Pixabay.

A very big thank you to Paula Readman, Debz Brown, and Dawn Kentish Knox for kind permission to use their photos which were taken during the Bridge House Publishing celebration event.

Facebook – General

On my way to the Bridge House Publishing celebration event as I draft this post at 7.30 am on Saturday, 7th December 2019. Not going to see much of the lovely Hampshire countryside this time – it’s pitch black still and will be again on the way home.

Am happily ensconced in a comfy seat plugged in and listening to Classic FM as I write. Generally I find classical music soothing unless they put on the 1812 Overture when I have to resist the urge to use my stylus as a conductor’s baton! You’ve heard of air guitar. This is my equivalent!😀

When I get to read my stories publicly, I like to pick a mixture of tales in terms of length and mood. For today’s event I’ve picked short humorous (which can also be used as a description for yours truly!), a mid-range fantasy with a twist, and a crime tale. Hope they go down well. Will be writing the event up for CFT for next Friday.

What I am looking forward to most is meeting up with my fellow writers. It will be fun!

And the pics below prove it was fun!

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Loved the Bridge House event yesterday. Got home shattered but happy – always a sign of a good event, that! Many thanks to Paula Readman and Russell for the group pic of us holding up the books we were in this year. It’s a smashing photo. And this gives me the perfect excuse to repeat showing it!

Was very happy with my work during the day too. Drafted my FB and Goodreads blogs on the way up to London, posted them on the way home. Drafted two new flash fiction stories and wrote a reasonable section for a non-fiction book I’m working on as well. On getting home I started drafting my CFT post for this week so plenty of writing done I’m pleased to say. Naturally I came home with books to read too…

I do love Evernote and a smartphone! Even better was being on a train where I could keep my phone charged up as I actually had a power socket! (I know, I know, writers can be pleased by strange things indeed but I’ve been on too many trains where there is no power socket for phone charging or, worse, where there were some and they’ve been blanked out so I don’t take this kind of thing for granted!).

It was also lovely to chat to different people during the speed “dating” exercise at the event yesterday. Books, whether writing or reading them (or both), are a great conversational ice breaker. (Many thanks also to Dawn Kentish Knox for the pic of me reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again).

Oh and the Christmas tree at Waterloo was lovely. More pics in my CFT post later in the week.

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Am enjoying singing along with the carols on Classic FM. Lady doesn’t really know what to make of it all though… 😀😀 – mind you, she does love Christmas. For a household with a collie in it, there is no such thing as left over turkey! And we get to go on post-Christmas walkies, which always goes down well – with Lady at least.

One of the nice things about coming back from events like the Bridge House one on Saturday is I can be sure of being “mugged” by the dog (demanding a big cuddle, how dare you go away, Mum!) on my return home! (Lady has almost followed me on to the train to Swanwick before now!).

I’ll be writing about Friends and Traditions for my CFT post this week. The Bridge House event has become a tradition for me and it involves lots of friends so win-win there! Link up on Friday. (I’ll also be looking at the benefits of meeting up with other writers).

Oh and I was delighted to find one fellow Bridge House author, #LindaPayne, is a fellow fan of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Another instant topic of conversation right there!

I remember being a very nervous newbie when I went to my first writing event aeons ago. Now, I can hardly wait for my favourites to come around. What has helped here? Why, making writer friends of course. It makes a huge difference. And I’ve always found that when you meet up again, you continue your conversations as if there hadn’t been a break of months or what have you since you last spoke directly.

There is so much much to enjoy about writing and this is one aspect of that. All hugely encouraging too and we all need encouragement on a regular basis.

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A very wet day (as Lady would testify if she could) and I spent a lot of it fervently wishing my glasses came with mini windscreen wipers!

I don’t tend to use the weather much in my stories as, if I wish to add atmosphere to a story, I can usually do it in some other way. If I want to show my characters under stress, there are usually better ways of doing it.

I tend to save the weather for when the story wouldn’t make sense if it wasn’t brought in. That way I can avoid parody (“it was a dark and stormy night”, anyone?) and any description of the weather is kept to the minimum I need to achieve my objective.

 

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Flash fiction lends itself well to being read publicly and also gives an instant demonstration of what flash is. Its brevity is its strongest selling point. Not got enough time to read?

Well, you can read a 50 or 100 worder quickly enough! See it as a great way to enjoy a fiction fix! A good friend has described it as a bus stop read, which is a great way of summing it up as well as suggesting where you can read it!

I love to read shorter fiction in between novels too. Flash fiction is the story form you can enjoy between “meals” of longer works without ruining your appetite for long or short fiction! Anyone else out there who remembers the old Milky Way advert?!

 

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A story comes to life for me when the lead character comes to life. For flash fiction, that has pretty much got to happen in the opening couple of lines. I try to do this by:-

1. Giving an intriguing situation the character has to solve and you want to find out how the character does it.

2. Take you inside the character’s head immediately and something about their attitude/thoughts will make you want to read on.

3. In my Punish the Innocent, I use a letter format to show my lead character addressing “their” reader and by opening with powerful lines. “Dear Sarah, They say the perfect crime is where the criminal doesn’t get caught. Wrong.” Again I’m seeking to intrigue a reader here into wanting to find out if my letter writer is right or not and if THEY’VE committed the perfect crime as their line clearly implies they think they have. It is the “got to know what happens here” scenario and if there was a kind of holy grail for writers, I would say that was it.

So basically then my way into a story is via an intriguing character or intriguing situation. The ideal, of course, is to have both but often (and I’ve found this in works I’ve read by other writers too), you don’t always realise how intriguing a character is until you have got to end of the story.

After all, if you take A Christmas Carol, you would hardly warm to Scrooge if you only read the first page or two, would you? There has to be something to make you want to read on and it is only at the end of that Christmas classic, you have got to see the depths of the real Ebenezer. In flash fiction, you have to do that much more quickly but it is a fun challenge!

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I sometimes write one liner flash fiction stories. (These are great for the 25 words and under competitions/markets). One of the stories I drafted in London on Saturday was one of these. I saw the potential for expanding it and did so! I’ve got work to do on it but the character comes across better in the longer version so I will stick with that.

The flexibility of flash here is one of its strengths I think. If I want to I can still submit the one line version but to a different, appropriate market for that word count.

At other times I will look at my one line stories again and realise they are best left as they are. But this is added reason to put work aside for a while before coming back to it. You need distance to be able to assess whether something would work at a longer word count than the version you originally came up with.

The deciding factors are whether the character is strong enough for their story to be expanded at all and does that character benefit from this.

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Thought it would be nice to share a story tonight. Hope you enjoy it.

WHAT THE NEIGHBOURS THINK
Had the neighbours seen the appearance of a witch in the huge chestnut tree?
Mary fervently hoped not. She also hoped they hadn’t seen her frantically wave at the witch indicating exactly where she could go. Back into the sky on that dodgy looking broomstick and away from Mary.
What is it about me that attracts the oddballs?
Mary poured herself a cup of tea and added a decent amount of brandy to it. She felt in need of it.
Even by her standards, the appearance of a witch was unusual. Annoyingly it was nowhere near Halloween so Mary couldn’t pretend it was one of the neighbourhood kids taking a prank that bit too far.
Looking again out of her kitchen window, Mary sighed with relief. The witch had gone. Mary turned back to her tea only to discover she now had company in her kitchen.
‘Well, aren’t you going to make me a cup of tea then, sister?’
Mary grimaced. She now knew where the witch was.

ENDS.
Allison Symes

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Goodreads Author Blog – What Reading Does For Me

Hmmm….where to start on this one!

1. Reading helps me escape. It doesn’t matter if the day is a good one or not – when I get to read I get to switch off.

2. Reading shows me worlds, real and fantastical, and expands my horizons. You can’t know everything, no one person could, but books are a brilliant way of expanding your knowledge. They can help you develop new interests too.

3. Reading inspires my own writing. I see what other authors do with their characters and think well I would have written them this way instead because… and off I go with my own tales.

4. Reading non-fiction expands your general knowledge. Handy if you like quizzes!

5. Reading expands your vocabulary. Handy if you love word games as It do.

6. People will never run out of present ideas for the book lovers in their lives!

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