Swanwick Part 1

Image Credits-:
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Many created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Photos of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and Val Penny were taken by me, Allison Symes.  A huge thank you to Jennifer C Wilson for taking the photo of me at my Lift Up Your Pens session at Swanwick. Having a ball at Swanwick as usual. Hope to write a more detailed post for Chandler’s Ford Today in due course but meantime please see these as the edited highlights!

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Facebook – General – Swanwick Week Part 1

It was easy to choose which course I was going to today – it was the one I led! I talked about Editing – Both Side of the Fence. Many thanks, everyone, for the support. Much appreciated.

I was torn about which workshop to go to after that – there were two specifically I wanted to do but in the end I went to Hit Submit! This was led by Ingrid Jendrzejewksi and was great fun. Managed to draft a story and jot down other ideas to work up later. (I managed to do this in the Lift Up Your Pens session I led on Sunday. I deliberately did not do the exercises I set until on the day itself. I love live writing like that).

Tuesday is a quieter day at Swanwick. You generally need it too so I walked around the lovely grounds and then came back to work on two of my long term projects before the evening dinner and speaker.

 

I led the Lift Up Your Hearts session today. This is a short devotional time just before breakfast and I talked about favourite words of mine from the Bible. I also had a hymn to share one of my favourite lines. I love these quieter times ahead of a full day of workshops and courses. I know they do me good mentally, spiritually and physically.

I also try to take time out to walk around the grounds here at Swanwick. The exercise is helpful (they do look after you very well indeed here!) and the grounds are lovely.

As well as continuing with my specialist course, I also went to Promoting Your Work by Val Penny (who I will have the pleasure of interviewing again for this week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post).

Promoting is something all writers need to know more about – there is always plenty to learn here (and things you need to be reminded to do!).

 

I ran the pre-breakfast Lift Up Your Pens today. These sessions are to get the creative wheels turning and I used ideas from random generators for my session here. People seemed to enjoy it and I hope they go on to write up their stories and get them out into the big bad world somewhere.

For my specialist course which is run over a few days, I’ve opted for the Creative Non-Fiction one led by Simon Whaley. For the two part short course today, I’ve opted for the How to Write a How-To Book run by Bettina von Cossel. Both were fabulous and I learned a great deal from them.

Finally for today, I went to Social Media for Writers, the excellent one hour workshop run by Jennifer C Wilson. All good useful stuff and it pays writers to think about their social media options. Which are you going to focus on and why? I must admit I find the support from other writers on social media invaluable.

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It is so good to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School at The Hayes in Derbyshire once again. A huge thank you and shout to to the lovely #JuneWebber and her equally lovely husband,Mike, for being my chauffeurs today as I had to cancel my train tickets due to the strike.

I missed the train journey, as I do love travelling by train, but am just relieved to be here. And it was wonderful having a good chat on the way up! I can’t do that on the train! An equally big shout out to my lovely other half, Adrian, for being my chauffeur on Friday.

And what is there not to like when you arrive, go and unpack, drop off your books in the Book Room and then enjoy afternoon tea? That ticks a lot of writing boxes right there!

A fairly new addition to the Swanwick programme is what they call Birds of a Feather where writers in a genre can get together and chat. I can cover flash fiction, short stories, and blogging as my initial bases. So I will probably head off to that after the evening speaker. The lovely thing with Swanwick is you are made so welcome and you join in as and when you want to do so.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Beginning to cool a bit here at Swanwick. Nobody is sorry about that! Happily spreading the word about flash fiction where I can. Lovely to catch up with Linda Payne, a fellow Bridge House Publishing/CafeLit author here.

I’ve mentioned before I sometimes write the ending first. This works well for twist tales and funny ones. Occasionally I have ideas for what would make a great middle section of a tale. So I write them down. I don’t worry about necessarily writing in order. I can sort that out when editing.

Just get those ideas down – the nice thing with this thought is it applies to a 100 word tale every bit as much as a 100,000 word novel!

Fizzing with ideas - just get them down and then sharpen them up

There is no such thing as the perfect first line. This is good news funnily enough. It means every writer has to work on their stories and it takes time to come out with the lines you want your readers to enjoy. This is another reason why I think it is better to write your story first, then worry about editing. I see these as two separate and different creative tasks.

I get my first line down and then look at ways to strengthen it later. Often ideas for this will come as I finish the rest of the draft (or a bit annoyingly if I am working on something else) bit I just keep a note of these and come back to them later. Taking the pressure off myself helps a lot here.

Telling details matter in any story but they take on a greater significance for flash fiction writers simply due to the lower word count we have to work with. So it pays to take time out to work out what the reader needs to know and what telling detail can stress that point.

In such a tight word count you are likely to be able to have one or two telling details but make them count! I always say about going for impact but sometimes that impact doesn’t have to be a dramatic one. A character changing their mind about what direction they go in because the name of a street has resonance for them can be a minor telling detail or it can change the whole course of the story – entirely up to you but there is a lot of fun to be had here!

Flash Fiction Impact

Lovely to see From Light to Dark and Back Again and Tripping the Flash Fantastic back in the Book Room at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Always a pleasure to wave the flag for flash fiction (writing and reading it) at events.

One of the joys of flash for me is having to invent characters all the time. Characters drive a story, I think, regardless of its length, and it is always characters who interest me the most in any story. Who are they? What do they want? Who is trying to stop them getting that and what are their motivations for doing this?

Practicing inventing characters will stand you in good stead whatever your preferred form of fiction writing is as it will show you that you can do this repeatedly (always a good defence against the dreaded Imposter Syndrome which strikes most writers at some point and often repeatedly).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Writers and Books

When this post goes live I’ll be at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School once again for a glorious week in the company of fellow writers and where we celebrate all things relating to writing. Books a plenty are in the Book Room and I am sure I’ll go home with additions to be To Be Read pile. (No writer worth their salt ever has a Be Be Read list. It has to be a pile – a huge one too! Don’t even ask about the electronic version of that pile!).

What draws writers into writing at all? Simply It is their own love of books and wanting to produce their own. We’re inspired by those authors we’ve read over the years and ideas will kick start from what we have enjoyed reading. Books and writers are inseparable then. The two things most writes are advised to do is to write regularly and to read widely and well. All of that is a complete joy to do.

What every writer I know would appreciate (and this goes for me too) are reviews of our books on sites like Goodreads. It helps more than you know. It is useful affirmation of our ability to write (ignoring the one star reviewers who are clearly just trying to knock the author down rather than give constructive criticism which might be useful).

For stories to be produced for entertainment there has to be the writers producing them. I can’t imagine a life without books. Neither do I wish to!

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The Dragon of Wantley, Live Events, and the Writing Life

Image Credits:- 
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. A huge thank you to The Chameleon Theatre Company for supplying most of the images for my review of their recently staged The Dragon of Wantley for Chandler’s Ford Today.
Hope you have had a good week. Weather improving here. Hints of summer in the air too.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-28 The Dragon of Wantley - Chameleon Theatre Company - Review - Chandler's Ford TodayScreenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

It is with great pleasure I share my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, my review of The Dragon of Wantley. This wonderful pantomime (loosely based on a true story) was recently staged by the fantastic Chameleon Theatre Company.

My lovely editor at CFT, Janet Williams, and I had a fabulous time and spent most of the evening laughing (a sure sign of a successful pantomime well performed). For more details and a good flavour of what went on, do check out the review. It is so nice getting out to live events again and being able to review them once more too.

(And if you’re in a position to support your local amateur dramatic company, do so. I’ve watched many gems performed by The Chameleons and discovered plays new to me and I look forward to that continuing. Watching a live performance is a fabulous way of taking in a story when all is said and done).

A huge thank you to The Chameleons for the great pictures for this post too.

The Dragon of Wantley – Chameleon Theatre Company – Review

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Looking forward to sharing my review of The Dragon of Wantley, the recent production staged by the Chameleon Theatre Company, for Chandler’s Ford Today.  See above. It has been lovely getting out to live events and reviewing them once again. I’ll resume my In Fiction series on 13th May.

Why did I start to write? Well, I’ve always been a reader. I loved what was known as composition lessons in English in school where I could invent stories. It just took me a while to realise I could carry on doing that as an adult!

What do I want from my writing? I want to improve on what I do, to continue having fun creating stories, and to be published as often as possible. I don’t expect to make my fortune (which is just as well!) but the moment writing stops being fun is the moment I will consider hanging up up my PC/pen. Writing has to be fun.

And creating something which is unique should be a joy (though it is also hard work and there are bound to be moments when any writer will wonder if the slog is worth it. I often find when I feel like that it is because I am tired. That is when I back off a bit and start being kinder to myself. Then the joy of writing comes back. I don’t think that’s a coincidence).

I know now as well in a way I could not know when I was starting that the writing life is a roller coaster. It helps to know to expect the peaks and troughs and this is all normal, It isn’t just me!

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4th May!

Hope you have had a good day (Star Wars related or otherwise!). Am busy getting workshop material ready and looking forward to presenting both in due course. I love going to workshops too and always learn a great deal from them.

This is where my trusty notebook and pen gets a good workout too! The act of writing something down helps embed what you are writing down into your memory so there’s another reason to do it! Is there a writer out there who doesn’t have the dilemma of which notebook and pen combo to use? Oh well. It’s a nice dilemma to have.

I do sometimes read out a flash piece or two of mine when giving a workshop as I select stories which will back up the points I’m making. The nice thing with flash of course is that this doesn’t take too long. I think it’s easier to take the points made on board too.

So practicing reading out loud is a good idea too. The biggest thing I’ve had to learn to do here is slow myself down when reading. That also makes it easier for me not to trip over my own words.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I’m pleased to share my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. My One of Those Days is based on ideas triggered by a random noun generator this time. I generated two items – a waitress and a tiara. See how I used them here! Hope you enjoy the story.

Screenshot 2022-05-06 at 17-04-48 One of Those Days by Allison Symes

One of my own favourite openings comes from Helping Out in From Light to Dark and Back Again. This reads as:-

It’s not everyday you untangle Hanacrill, a fairy who, Merlin knows how, got caught in a Leylandii hedge but being a witch means being able to handle anything though I’m not meant to rescue fairies.

Why do I like this one?

Firstly, you hear the character voice clearly. You can sense the attitude!

Secondly, you’ve got a fantastical setting spelled out in only a few words (fairy, witch, Merlin etc).

Thirdly, you’ve got a situation which I hope makes the reader curious. Just why would a witch come to the rescue of a fairy? How did that fairy end up getting tangled up like that?

Fourthly, you have a named character who has to be important to the story somehow – and so does the unnamed narrator. They’re telling the story after all so they have to be “in on it” in some way.

Fifthly, you can sense the mood. There is humour here if only in the idea of a fairy getting caught up in a hedge.

If I was writing this again now, I would split the sentence after the word hedge. This is a long one by my standards and I usually prefer short and punchy lines. But this one does work and I do love lines which show a lot of information like this. No need for lots of description. You an imagine what a fairy might look like and do the same for the unnamed witch.

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4th May – Star Wars Day!

When I’m reading a flash collection by someone else I’m looking for a nice mixture of story moods. I do like a good selection! It helps with the tempo of the book too. I like a nice mix of upbeat and lower beat stories.

Life is like that so I like my story collections to reflect this. It also means there will be a good mixture of characters in the collection. Some will serve humorous pieces better than others, for example. And I like to “meet” a nice range of characters in any anthology.

When I’m putting a collection together, I like a nice balance of characters and stories knowing it is what I would like to read (and other readers will feel the same way. Again I have my Ideal Reader in mind here.). I also like to vary the flash word count used too. I’ve mentioned before I think of my books as mixed assortments of stories so it makes sense to me to vary the word count element too.

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Fairytales With Bite – A Wand’s Tale

Woe to the one misusing me.
Who thinks that by casting a spell
He can get out of and be free
From fetching water from the well.

Who using objects for his work
Means he can take things so easy
Magic is not meant to let you shirk
Life isn’t so easy-peasy.

So guess who then called the big boss
When things went so horribly wrong?
His Nibs won’t let anyone “doss”
He’ll make them sing a different song.

That young smart alec apprentice?
You should’ve seen him go bright red
It was all rather momentous
Hearing what the big boss then said.

He came up with a naughty word
Oh I blushed as the big boss swore.
The apprentice didn’t – he’d “heard”
It from the owner of the store.

Where our lad “worked” briefly last time.
Boss there sacked him with a rude mime!

Allison Symes – 4th May 2022

And before you ask, I do love the music and story of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice!

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This World and Others – When Things Go Wrong

Hope you enjoyed the above. It was fun to write. Now things did go wrong for that lazy apprentice and he was taught a lesson.

When things go wrong for your characters in your settings, how do they learn their lessons? Was it something they did need to learn of were they a little bit unlucky? What kind of machinery etc exists in your created world and what are the consequences when that goes wrong?

For the rulers of your setting, what things could go wrong for them and what do they do to try and prevent this? Would this explain why they rule by dictatorship, for example?

Understanding where your characters come from is important. It will help you picture them better and write them up more convincingly because you will believe in them precisely because you do know where they are coming from. Readers will pick up on that too.

Of course things could go wrong in a humorous way too. How do your characters react to that? Do they find it funny? What would happen when one character did find something amusing and another one finds it to be anything but hilarious? How would that change the nature of the relationship between the two? What impact would that have on the rest of the story and would it lead to other things going wrong, which are not so funny?

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Making Characters Real in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Happy Easter to those who, like me, celebrate it. Good to have some proper Easter weather too – lovely, sunny and warm in the UK right now.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

15th April 2022 – Good Friday – CFT
Happy Easter to those who celebrate it. I visited another church this morning for a lovely Good Friday service. I had a lovely walk of a couple of miles each way and I was especially grateful for the cup of tea on offer when I got to the church! It was needed!

My usual church has all of its Easter events on Easter Sunday so it starts mournfully and then ends in celebration. It is a lovely service but I like to get to a service on Good Friday when I can. On my walk down, I came across a little bridge and someone had put up a small bin with sticks in it. They’d marked the bin “Pooh Sticks” so someone is a Winnie the Pooh fan – made me smile as I saw it. (No sign of Eeyore or Tigger before you ask).

Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-34-21 Making Characters Real In Fiction - Chandler's Ford Today

I hope you find my Making Characters Real In Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today useful. I talk about why characters have to resonate with readers for their stories to be believable (and that’s still true even for the most fantastical of settings). I look at motivation and realism too. (Wish me luck for when I get to Q in this series! It is approaching rapidly!).

Making Characters Real In Fiction

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Lady had a fabulous play “date” with her gentleman friend who is a gorgeous tri-coloured Aussie Shepherd this morning. She usually prefers to play with her girlie dog friends but this very nice lad is a rare exception for the boys. Good to see them both running around at full pelt and having a wonderful time.

Writing wise, I am busy getting workshop material ready. Love this (and indeed presenting it later on). As with my flash work where I have my Ideal Reader in mind all the time, here I am thinking of what my audience is going to find useful. Putting yourself in your readers’/listeners’ shoes is a good idea, always. It helps cut any tendency to waffle for a start!

I also have in mind what I’d find useful from a workshop if I was going to it as a delegate. That perspective again helps me tailor my material in the right way. Later, I will record my material and play it back via Zoom. That is a great way of highlighting any issues – such as am I speaking too fast? Am I speaking clearly enough and so on? I’ve also found it triggers ideas for material to add in as I literally listen to what I’ve said and spot gaps which I then fill. It’s also great practice at writing and presenting non-fiction of course so win-win!

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Not a bad day. Looked grotty first thing, then brightened up. This could often apply to me first thing in the morning just after I’ve had my first cup of tea for the day!

Looking forward to sharing my Making Characters Real In Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today on Good Friday. Hope you will find it useful.

My author newsletter goes out on the first of the month and is packed with tips, news, prompts etc so if you would like to sign up do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

The next couple of months will be busy with workshops – one in May in London and the other as part of the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at The Hayes, Swanwick.

Did I ever anticipate running workshops one day when I started going to writing events etc? Not a bit of it but I am thrilled with how things have worked out here and ironically the pandemic helped. Zoom was my way in to workshops as it made certain things possible. I hope to do much more of this kind of thing.

I’ve taken the long view that I will see where my writing journey takes me. It has thrown up some interesting things which I hope to develop further. I mean I hadn’t anticipated being a flash fiction writer either when I started out and that has worked out well! Being open is important.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

15th April 2022 – Good Friday
Happy Easter to those who, like me, commemorate it (today, a sad day) and celebrate it (Easter Sunday, a joyful day). I once wrote a flash piece for Christian Writer magazine (the journal of the Association of Christian Writers) called The Craftsman. It focused on the carpenter who made Jesus’s cross.

What mattered for that story and indeed for any I write is that I know where my focus is – for this example, I had my carpenter smooth the wood down as much as he could. He couldn’t help in any other way so he did that. So my focus here was on my carpenter’s wish to help and to figure out a small way in which he could feel he had done that.

My focus for my current story on Friday Flash Fiction comes from a prompt. It was from a random scenario generator (yes really!) and the scenario that came out was finding a piece of paper stuck in a chest of drawers. And this is what I did with that prompt. Hope you enjoy my A Timely Reveal and a huge thanks to those who have commented on this one already.
Screenshot 2022-04-15 at 12-35-32 A Timely Reveal by Allison Symes

I don’t always name my characters in my flash stories. One reason for this is that, with my darker tales, keeping something as an “it” is more scary than naming “it”. But with other tales, the name of the character isn’t so important to the story. What matters is what the character does.

Where I do use a name then see that as important information. I’m nearly always using a name to convey social status, sometimes species (in my Losing Myself from Tripping the Flash Fantastic I start the story with the name Graxia – this is highly unlike to be a human name), sometimes genre (ditto with Graxia – likely to be a fantasy name, as it is).

Names, like any other vital information, need to move the story on in some way and that can be by giving an indicator of likely status/setting as that in itself will put pictures inside the reader’s mind. You want them to see the right kind of pictures here.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

I sometimes start a flash piece with a question. It makes for a good hook as the reader knows that question has to be answered by the end of the story and they have to read on to find out how that answer happens. My The Truth from From Light to Dark and Back Again does this. I rarely finish a story with a question though I did for Losing Myself in Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Why do that? Because the question itself reveals crucial information that wraps up the tale nicely.

Questions also make for good themes. Shorter questions might be useful as titles too. I use random question generators every so often and have found that most of the ones from those tend to be on the long side (e.g. What was your favourite meal as a child and why don’t you have it now?) and so work best as a theme.

In this example, I would probably show a character being offered an old childhood favourite meal and get them having mixed feelings over eating it because there are sad associations with it now etc. I certainly wouldn’t have that question as a title. Titles work best when kept short and snappy. They draw in a reader’s attention better too like that.

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Fairytales With Bite – Diaries

It was great fun writing my fictional fairy godmother’s diary last week. Hope you enjoyed it.

Now think about your own writing. Do you have a character who could keep a diary like that? The one thing I would say about this kind of writing is it is essential you know your character’s voice well enough. You need that strength of voice to come through to your readers (and to be able to sustain the diary for however long you choose to write it).

On a related note, in your created world, are diaries and journals kept by the population at large or only by the elite? (Can everyone read and write or is that privilege kept for a select few?). Are there official diaries that everyone can read? Would diaries be amongst your world’s historical documents and do the contents still impact on how your world is governed?

Just because a document is old doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. The Domesday Book has been cited in legal cases and is still a valid legal document. (I suspect William the Conqueror might have considered it to be his personal diary of what he owned!).

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This World and Others – Record Keeping

Who keeps the records in your fictional world? Who keeps the unofficial ones and how are they kept away from those who would destroy them? If only a few can read and write, are the scribes treated with honour by the general population or are they resented?

One thing I picked up from a medieval fair I went to some years ago was that it wasn’t unknown for scribes, when asked by a peasant to read a letter for them so they could understand its contents, to deliberately tell their client wrong information. Part of the reason for that was to drum up further business from the peasant. Get the peasant angry enough, the scribe would offer to write a suitable reply, the peasant pays up, and another letter gets written! And the scribe moves on to another town before they get found out! Scribes would often be part of travelling fairs and were always on the move.

Is there any way of the accuracy of your world’s records to be checked? Are there records which should be kept but which deliberately are not? What does your character(s) take as “gospel”and are they right do so so?

Records matter. They can confirm or remove an inheritance for one thing. They can sway how a country, say, reacts to another one, because that is all dependent on the pasts of these two nations. If one is deliberately wrong, that can easily change the course of history and the future.

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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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Writing Humour and My Swanwick Report


Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.

Book cover images from Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books.

Images from the 2021 Swanwick Writers’ Summer School taken by me, Allison Symes.

Am learning so much at Swanwick and it was lovely catching up with a fellow Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, and Chapeltown Books author, Linda W Payne, too. More below.

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Firstly, it was a joy to be back at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. Oh how I have missed so many friends there.

Glad to meet up with most of them again (and I hope to catch up with the rest this time next year, God willing). As ever, the courses, workshops, and guest speakers were excellent.

And the quiz team I’m part of, Prosecco Queens aka this year as Prosecco Avenue(!😄😄), finished in medal position for the general knowledge and literary quizzes. (Silver and bronze respectively before you ask…☺). Great fun. Oh and Minnie the Minx turns out to be older than I thought. It is amazing what you can learn from these things!

Secondly, I am delighted to welcome back to Chandler’s Ford Today Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh, who write wonderfully funny books in very different ways. Naturally this two-part interview had to be called Writing Humour.

Fran and Ruth share fabulous insights into the joys and perils of writing humour. Hope you enjoy the post. Can’t wait to share the concluding part next week.

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The Joys and Perils of Writing Humour Part 1 – Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh


Final part of the flash fiction course at Swanwick today (Thursday). Focus was on marketing and it was good to get plugs in for CafeLit and Friday Flash Fiction. Also sold another From Light to Dark and Back Again afterwards, which was unexpected and lovely.

Also enjoyed the Competitions course, which was packed to the brim with tips and useful advice.

And I’m pleased to say my Side Benefits of Writing article is now up on Mom’s Favorite Reads.

 

Had a fab Wednesday here at Swanwick. (This is the nearest I get to being a roving reporter by the way!😄).

Della Galton’s flash fiction course is engrossing and yes I have flash pieces from it. I’ve entered one of them for the flash competition here. And I will submit the other one after I get home. Have a few ideas where it would fit.
Also went to a non-fiction workshop which was packed full of useful info. I do have a long term project on the go here so this hour session was timely.

Also went to Diana Kimpton’s course on creating a series. Could I apply that to flash writing? Well, the course has triggered ideas.

Outside of Swanwick, Part 1 of a fab interview with Fran Hill and Ruth Leigh on Writing Humour will be on Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. Looking forward to sharing that. (See above).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Was on way home from Swanwick as I drafted this. So good to be using Evernote again. Drafted some flash pieces for me to work on further and got on with editing a bigger project too so pleased with my efforts.

Thrilled to have had my best year at the Swanwick Book Room too. You can never know how these things will go. But I can say I waved the flag for flash fiction, which is something I love to do.

Delighted to come home and discover It’s An Ill Wind is now up on #FridayFlashFiction. Hope you enjoy it.


Screenshot 2021-08-13 at 19-12-37 It's an Ill Wind, by Allison Symes


Final day at Swanwick. The week flies by. Final part to the flash course was very good and looked at editing and marketing. Always useful topics.

Hope to get a piece in for Friday Flash Fiction over the weekend. I sent in a piece before Swanwick so hope to check if it made the cut for this week on my trip home tomorrow.

 

Glad to say all copies of Tripping The Flash Fantastic in the Swanwick Book Room have sold. Thank you, everyone.
Good to come across other flash authors here. I love the differing things you can do within the format. Don’t forget many a writing exercise can be turned into flash stories. Why not give that a go?

Fairytales with Bite – Five Things to Avoid

  1. Trying to be clever with magic you are not qualified in as this has never ended well.
  2. Annoying older folk. Just be aware they may not be all they appear. Many an arrogant idiot has discovered that nanoseconds before being turned into something ugly.
  3. Misreading a spell. It won’t be you in uncomfortable footwear but a heroine with feet cut to ribbons won’t do much for your career advancement.
  4. Annoying wildlife. In a magical world they will be more intelligent than you.
  5. Coveting gold. Not a good idea in any world as it could lead you into legal and other trouble. In a magical world, you could face being blasted away by a dragon. I know. I’ve written on the topic!

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This World and Others – Five Things to Include

  1. A sense of where your created world is in the overall scheme of things.
  2. Who lives in it, how they survive, and how the world is ruled.
  3. The similarities and differences between your created world and what we know here.
  4. How your created world gets on with others in its solar or equivalent system. Or not as the case may be.
  5. Does your world send out explorers or welcome any coming to it?

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Twitter Corner

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