Learning from Stories and Characters

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Writing characters is good fun, especially when you can think of suitable flaws that you know you can use to drop said characters right in it. The important thing is for the flaws to be realistic and not over exaggerated.

I have never really liked larger than life characters in fiction (with the honourable exception of Mr Toad in Wind in the Willows! That’s partly because we know he is OTT from the start of the story!).

I want my characters’ flaws to be reasonable based on what I’ve found out about them. For example, if I know a character is kindly, then their major flaw is unlikely to be anything violent etc. The flaw has to fit with the character.

In this case I would probably make the flaw irritability. This makes sense as a kindly soul pushed too much would be irritable. There should always be a flaw to balance out the virtues.

I find goody two shoes characters difficult to read too and I think most readers would. We want realistic characters, people we can identify with, even if we don’t always agree with them or their actions.

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What have I learned from stories I’ve read over the years?

The big lesson, of course, is I’ve discovered what I love and equally what I don’t!

What is more useful still is in working out why I haven’t liked something. It is almost always that the characters didn’t come across well enough for me. I then look at that and think about how I might’ve portrayed those characters and why.

For stories I love, I study how the dialogue flows,how the chemistry between characters works (and you can always tell the author has put a lot of thought into how their people will be on the page), and what I thought worked well.

From all of this, negative and positive, you can learn a lot to apply to your own tales.

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I use the Scrivener template for outlining my characters though you can easily devise your own. Work out what you think you need to know about your characters and outline from there.

One of the Scrivener settings is for character name. Okay, okay, I hear you say, why the fuss about that? Course you’ve got to know the character name.

That’s true but dig a little deeper and look at why you’re naming the character as you have. Names can reveal much such as likely age of character (Gertrude has not been a fashionable name for a while now!) as well as likely class background and things like that.

The template also has a lovely section on personality and that’s where I get to outline major traits. By the time I’ve done that I know what the character’s personality is like.

I’ve also found outlining like this speeds up the process of writing the story. Outline in place and away I go as I already feel as if I know the lead character(s) in depth.

Looking forward to sharing my CFT post with you later this week. Crime writer, Val Penny, will be looking at her venture into non-fiction with her recently released Let’s Get Published. We’ll be discussing the challenges of writing non-fiction and the aspects of that you simply don’t face as a fiction writer.

Got the first draft of a story for a competition done earlier today so that is now resting, waiting ready for my eagle editor’s eye to attack it with the old red pen!

I now know (by not hearing) a couple of my earlier competition entries this year have not got anywhere in the places I submitted them to but this means I can look at these stories again. Sometimes I can find an alternative market for them and I have been published that way too. So it is always worth considering this as a possibility.

Work might find a different home from the one you originally intended for it but that’s okay.

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Flash characters have to lead from the front given there is not a lot of room to tell their story. This is one reason why I use first person a lot. There is an immediacy about that which helps increase the pace of the story but it also takes you right into the character too.

So when I’m planning a story, I outline my lead character. They’ve got to have a story worth sharing after all. So what makes a character worth writing about?

It has to be someone who intrigues a reader. Intrigue can come from setting up a situation the character has to resolve and a reader wants to find out how they do. It can come from a character being the type that lands themselves in it and a reader wants to see if (a) that stops or (b) what their latest adventure is.

 

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Hope the writing week proves to be a good one for you. Likewise the reading one! And if you count under both categories, have a fab time reading and writing!

I’m reading a couple of collections on my Kindle at the moment and thoroughly enjoying them. I’ve found reading collections to be a good way of getting out of my thankfully temporary reading drought.

I’ve long hoped that flash fiction might also be a good way to tempt reluctant readers in to reading at all as you’re not asking them to commit to too much in one go for a start.

Well here’s hoping!😊

 

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It’s been a while since I’ve shared some flash one-liners with you. Time to rectify that then. Hope you enjoy these.

1. The elephant was in the room and looked around with interest, wondering who would be the first to try and make him leave.

2. Of all the last words she’d heard in her time, she’d never expected to hear “I don’t suppose you’re a vegetarian dragon by any chance?”

3. The witch incinerated the speed camera after she went through it at 180 mph as she didn’t fancy facing Lucinda who had gone through the same spot the week before at over 200 mph.

Allison Symes – 22nd June 2020

 

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Hope you enjoyed the one-line stories. They’re great fun to do. I’d also recommend having a go at this as (a) an interesting challenge and (b) as a warm-up writing exercise ahead of whatever your main writing event is!

One aspect to flash fiction is that all those writing exercises you’ve had a go at over the years might be able to be turned into stories you can submit to a publisher and/or competition. Give it a go! You’ve nothing to lose here. But as with any fiction writing, ensure all is as polished as you can make it before you send your work anywhere to give yourself the best possible chance.

Good luck!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Outdoor or Indoor Reading

Allowing for the time of year, do you enjoy reading books outside?

The only time I get to do this is when I’m on holiday. At home I tend to think I should be getting on with some gardening rather than reading a book.

I know! Allison, why don’t you tell the inner critic to go away? That is sometimes easier said than done though!

That said, I do find it easier to grab a magazine and read that outside while enjoying a drink or a bite to eat. (It’s also easier to use as a fly/wasp swat should the need arise!).

So how about you? I do find it far easier to read indoors and ideally at bedtime when my inner critic has gone away for the night and I can read in peace.

I also know my treasured books aren’t at risk of being rained on etc so I guess that comes into it too,

What matters though is finding time to read and unwind. And reading is such a wonderful way to unwind. I can only live one life but through books and stories I can get to experience many at secondhand. That is one aspect to stories I simply adore.

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Back to Earth, Special Moments for Writers, and Publication News

Publication News

My story, The Delivery, is now up on Cafelit. It looks at what can happen when you fall foul of the old boss and not just any old boss, come to that. Hope you enjoy. It was good fun to write!

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The Delivery! Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

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My CFT post this week was a real labour of love. (They all are but this one is particularly so). I get to talk about Swanwick Writers’ Summer School! I also look at why seeking to develop and feeding your mind is so important to a writer.

The lovely thing is you feed your mind through fabulous things like reading and interacting with your fellow writers! The best forms of development should be fun (otherwise you won’t stick with them, will you?).

Image Credit:  All Swanwick images taken by Allison Symes, except those of me reading at the Prose Open Mic Night. A huge thank you to Penny Blackburn for those. Captions as ever on the CFT post. (Also it was great to include here a photo of Jennifer C Wilson of the Kindred Spirits series at her Social Media for Writers talk at Swanwick, which rightly was very well received).

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Tough questions to answer:-

1. Why does time drag when doing anything boring yet flies by when you’re enjoying your writing and/or reading? The latter is when I want time to slow down, thank you. I wish there was a way we could control these things.

2. Why do you run out of paper and/or printer ink half way through printing a MSS you want to work on? Why can it never be at a convenient moment? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to re-run a significant portion of a MSS because I went and did something else during the printing, only to come back and go “argh” (or swear, much depends on my mood!), as I discover the last 30% or so is not readable.

3. Why are there either loads of writing competitions you want to go in for because you know you can meet the brief or none at all when you could do with them? You either have the dilemma of working out what you can do in the time and miss out on entering some because you know you can’t do them all, or have nothing to submit to, and neither is good!

Special moments for writers:-

1. Finishing first story/article/book. Just getting to the end is a huge achievement. Well done! (Many say they will write, many will start, not all will see it through and complete the work).

2. First rejection. I know it sounds odd but it is proof you are getting work out there. Also, all writers get them. You’re not going to avoid this (so it’s best to face up to this and remember it is never, ever personal). This is where it can be helpful to have a couple of pieces of work out there at any one time. There is always something then that might do better.

3. First publication.

4. First writing conference (and knowing you fit right in!).

5. First acceptance of a previously rejected piece of work. You’ve looked at the piece again, edited it again, and send it to another competition or market. They take it. I believe no writing is ever wasted. So what might be rejected now might, with more work, be accepted somewhere else later.

6. Discovering new competitions/markets to submit to – this is fun!

7. First review of something you’ve written (on the assumption it is a good one).

8. First shortlisting in a competition.

9. First book signing.

10. First taking part in a book fair etc with other writers. (Okay, getting sales is another matter but it is good experience and usually fun too. They can be great opportunities to engage with readers. I’ve nearly always found, after an event, my Kindle sales have gone up even if I didn’t sell many paperbacks).

Can you think of others to add to this list? I’ve treasured all of the above (and still do).

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Delighted to have my story, The Delivery, up on Cafelit today. Hope you enjoy.

Will be out and about over the weekend so hope to get more work drafted while travelling. It’s a great use of time!

 

red mail box

See the link to post in The Delivery. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

 

Which writing exercise do you find the most difficult?

For me, I think it is where you have to put a certain line in the middle of a story. I have written these but not often as I much prefer an opening line or a closing one.

With closing lines, I will “outline backwards” before writing the story up to make sure I get to the required line in a way that makes sense. Once I’ve got my outline I will look to see if I can improve on my initial thoughts. I nearly always can and then when happy with the outline, I write the story up.

But with a middle line, I’ve found the temptation is to cut the story into two halves. The problem with that is it may well come across to the reader as a story of two halves, which is not what you really want. So the trick there is to ensure you can’t see the join, as the wonderful Eric Morecambe so often said to the equally wonderful Ernie Wise!

What is your favourite writing exercise?

I love them all but I think for me it has to be the opening line. Why? Because a promising opening line can take you in all kinds of directions and that’s very addictive!

Usually with this I jot down a few thoughts as to where the story could go and then pick the one I like most and away I write. I do look at the ones I discarded again later and occasionally pick up on another one or two on the list. Why only occasionally?

Because inevitably those at the top of my list are the “obvious” ideas and while there is nothing wrong with them, a competition judge will have seen them all before. You want your own take on the theme that has been set which still meets that theme. You have to dig deep to find the gold.

One wonderful idea that came from Swanwick was to write down your first ten ideas. Having to come up with ten forces you to think more deeply (and laterally) about the topic and that is never a bad thing. And this can be applied to whatever kind of writing exercise or prompt you use too.

Fairytales with Bite –

Top Tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale?  Top tips include:-

1.  Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2.  You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3.  Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story).

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This World and Others – Back to Earth

I had a wonderful week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and now it is back down to earth once more. I share a little of what it is like at Swanwick on my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I do think you need at least a week to get over a holiday, wonderful writing school or what have you.

How do your characters react when they have to come back to reality after their adventures? Most of the time we don’t find out of course because the story stops when the adventure does. One thing I love about The Lord of the Rings is it does show that things are never the same again, particularly for Frodo, when he finally returns to Middle Earth. I won’t say more than that but I thought this part of the story is realistically done. Frodo would be affected by all that he has gone through.

All stories should show that your characters (especially your main one) have changed in some way, otherwise there is no story. Changes can be positive or negative. Now I must admit I generally prefer positive changes but there is a place for the opposite. What would work best for your character and story?

 

 

Plays, Writing Exercises, and Links

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My CFT post this week is called Plays – The Joys and Challenges.  This looks at playwriting, its links with flash fiction and the oral storytelling tradition, and why reading books of scripts (often TV series publish these) is a good idea if you would like to get into this genre.

I look ahead a little to my review next week when I will be reviewing The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, Spring Trio of Plays.  Playwriting has its specific challenges.  How do you convey information without having a character talk all the time?  How can your set convey enough information for the audience to be able to fill in gaps (and for radio the set has to be made of things the audience can hear so they can work out where they are!).

Image Credit:  Pixabay

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Further to my flag up for my CFT post this week about The Joys and Challenges of Plays, I must admit I was surprised to find there are certain elements in common with flash fiction.

One is that an audience has to imply a lot from the way actors act out stage directions and have to take in a whole world from the set (no descriptions or exposition here).

With flash fiction, due to the word count limits, I have to select the most important things for a reader to know and leave them to fill in the gaps. (For me that is one of the joys of reading and writing flash).

But it was nice to be surprised to find these connections to flash here!

Had a lovely evening watching a Spring Trio of Plays performed by The Chameleon Theatre Group. Review to follow on 3rd May though I do talk about the joys and challenges of playwriting in tomorrow’s CFT post.

Basically what I’m saying here is the reason for the late post is I’ve been out gallivanting. And a jolly good gallivant it was too!

My CFT post this week looks at the challenges of playwriting.

I’m off to the see The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, Spring Trio of Plays, tomorrow. I like their “mixed assortment” productions like this. Firstly, there’s a good mix of humour and drama usually and, secondly, it is a great opportunity to stage some shorter plays. Link up to my post on Friday. Hope to review tomorrow’s show next Friday.

I would say “break a leg, darlings” but the stage in the Ritchie Hall, home to the Chameleons, isn’t high enough! So I’ll settle for the good old-fashioned “good luck” instead.😀

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I sometimes write up to the 1000 words limit for flash fiction. Inevitably when I do this is a relationship kind of story as I have more room to bring in or refer to other characters having a major bearing on my MC’s life. My stories, Expecting and Rewards, in FLTDBA are good examples of this.

I relished having more words to play with when I wrote these two stories, but, even when you write to the upper limit more often, you still need to write with precision. What you show about other characters has to be relevant to the story but you can achieve more depth here than in the very short flash fiction stories. Mind, depth is not the main purpose of those tales anyway.

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Mood is an important factor in any story but with flash fiction it is particularly important to decide what it is going to be before I start writing. Due to the limited word count, the mood of the piece has to be set very early on.

Yes, a twist can come at the end to change the mood, but generally the mood (grim/funny etc) stays constant through the piece. I then work out how best to portray that mood.

A lot is implied of course, it has to be, but that’s no bad thing. Less really is more when it comes to flash fiction and I know as a reader I love working things out for myself.

 

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Some thoughts on flash fiction:-

F = Fun to Write
L = Language to be direct and specific
A = Action – conveyed in as few words as possible
S = Story complete in and of itself
H = Hero/heroine but room for only 1 or 2 characters.

F = Fairytales and fantasy work well in a flash format
I = Imagination – let it run riot and then hone what you come up with to produce a piece of hard hitting flash fiction
C = Characters. Have to make impact quickly as flash fiction has to be character led.
T = Truth – flash fiction is as capable of conveying truths about the human condition as an epic novel!
I = Intense. Has to be due to the word count restrictions (but that makes truth hit home quicker and harder)
O = Omnipresent narration can work well in flash.
N = No restrictions on what genre of story you use for flash.

Fairytales with Bite – Looking for Links

I was surprised to find links between flash fiction and plays in my latest CFT post, which is on Plays – The Joys and Challenges.  More on that in the post itself but it made me wonder about links in our stories.

Some of these are planned of course but others can crop up as you are drafting your story.  One of the great joys of writing I think is when you’ve drafted a story and you spot other links between characters/with your theme etc., all of which have come out of your sub-conscious mind.

Reading widely in all genres and including non-fiction will help feed that sub-conscious mind which is why doing this is such a good idea for all writers, regardless of what you write.

You want to be able to draw on thoughts that have occurred to you as you read something, which you may not have noted for a story at the time of reading the piece concerned, but which come back to your mind as you write/edit etc and you realise it could fit in really well with your character.

So where to look for links then?

1.  Look at links between what characters fear.  Enemies can be united by a common fear of something or someone else.  Those links can be played on for good or evil.

2.  Look at links between what characters love.  That can also be used for good or evil.  If two characters love the same person, there’s going to be fallout from that.

3.  Look at links with regard to what makes people tick.  The basic drives – the need to survive and pass on genes to offspring – are common to most of us.  It is how we act on them that differentiates us of course.  One of my favourite moments in Star Wars is the famous scene where Darth Vader reveals he  is Luke Skywalker’s father.  Luke is horrified of course.  The very thought of there being any link at all between him and Vader is horrifying for Luke. What links can you use to make other characters react in a similar way?

This World and Others –

Three Writing Exercises to help with World Building

Hope the following ideas for writing exercises help with your own world building for your stories. The idea behind these is to get you to draft out thoughts as to how your world would actually work.  You won’t need to put most of this in your story but do see this as your blueprint.  It is crucial you know these things.  You’ll write with more confidence and it will come across that way in your writing.

It’ll also help convince you that this world could exist.  You are the first believer in it after all. Having worked things out in advance as to how things can work will also help against the dreaded “slump in the middle”.  You will already know what you need to know about your created world.  You can focus on the drama of your story with that knowledge behind you.

1.  System of Government.  Draw a flowchart as to who runs what, what their powers are and how these feed in to each other (local government for example is always answerable to national government at some level).

2.  The Need to Survive.  Write out ten things your “people” need so they can survive.  Draw a spider diagram of how they can obtain these things.

3.  Cultures.  Is your world going to be a mono-culture?  If not, what other cultures are there? Draft ideas as to what these could be, how the multi cultures interact with each other (if they do at all), and whether there is any sense of superiority (justified or not) by one or more of these.  If it is a mono-culture, were they always that way or have they driven others out?

Hope you have fun with these.  Be as detailed or as scanty with details as you wish but the idea is this will give you something to refer to as you write your tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Year – New Goals?

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I don’t really start thinking in specific terms about what I’d like to achieve writing wise for a New Year until about now. I know what my general goals are and those don’t change much but at about this time I set myself some specifics and then work my way through them as the year goes on.

Some years I achieve them all, some years I don’t, but I feel as if I achieve more for having set some ideas down as to what I’d like to get done.

One specific thing I really do want to do next year is enter more writing competitions (flash, short stories, maybe novel but certainly the first two). I didn’t enter as many as I thought I might this year though I have been working away at other projects, one of which I’d like to also get out in 2019 if I can.

Whatever your projects are, whatever your writing goals are, the most important thing is to enjoy what you write and believe in it. If one market or competition does not work out for you, see if you can figure out why. If there is nothing obviously wrong, try with another market or competition that the piece or story would suit. Above all, don’t give up. Enjoying what you write helps a lot when the rejections come in – and they will.

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The only problem I have between Christmas and New Year is working out which day of the week it is and I know I’m not the only one to lose track. Back to full writing routine from tonight though and it is great to be back.

Looking forward to using my new writing diary. Full of prompts and loads of places to jot down ideas (including a monthly To Do/Goals page and at the end of the month an Achievements page. The trick here is to try to get both pages equally full I think! A blank achievements page could be depressing! However I plan to use this to help me try and achieve a plan to enter more writing competitions this year).

Under the picture prompts, there is space to jot down notes for story ideas. I’m going to use those to flesh out some flash fiction!

Big plan is to have the novel ready to start submitting again (I hope around Easter time). So lots to do and I start by preparing material for a guest blog and my usual CFT spot. More details on both to come.

Good luck with your writing plans and have fun with them!

Happy New Year, everyone. Good luck with all writing endeavours.

Never be afraid to check out the credentials of publishing services companies/publishers/agents etc as the genuine ones will (a) not mind you doing this as it shows you are taking things seriously and (b) will be able to answer queries well and thoroughly. Also don’t forget you can seek advice from the Society of Authors/Alliance of Independent Authors and their websites are always worth checking out.

Have fun with your writing, try out competitions, write what you would want to read, and read loads! (Magazines, novels, short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction – it all “counts”).

I’ve got a couple of projects planned for the next year including submitting my revamped novel, a third flash fiction volume, and I’d love to do more non-fiction too. Don’t know whether I’ll get this all done but it will be fun finding out – and I guess that’s the point!

Loved the Doctor Who special tonight. Can’t keep a good enemy down, that’s all I’m saying.

The whole point of any story is conflict resolution though that can cover anything and everything from exterminating someone to being reconciled with them. What matters is the conflict is over. The story has concluded.

But while the conflict is going on, it is true that the hero/heroine and villain must be worthy of each other. No hero/heroine gets to win “easily” – there must be huge hurdles to overcome. The villain needs then to be capable of stretching your heroes to their utmost (and beyond ideally, making said heroes stretch too. Drop your characters right in it and see what they can do).

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Had a great trip on the Watercress Line (steam railway) yesterday with family. Always think of the stories of the navvies who cut out the sidings etc to make our railways. So many stories we won’t know but can only make educated guesses at.

When it comes to our own stories, what is most important to your characters? Who are the characters who you MUST tell stories about and why? Think about what has made you choose these people and play to their strengths and weaknesses. A well portrayed character has plenty of virtues and failings and both will affect the direction of the story.

It’s a good idea to mix up how you source ideas for stories. I like to use proverbs, well known sayings, songs can be an inspiration too and this year I hope to use more picture prompts. (My new writing diary has loads of these in it and I plan to get several flash fiction pieces from these!).

It’s also nice from the writer’s viewpoint to mix up how you gather the ideas/raw material to get you on you way to generating a new story. It keeps things interesting for you and you on your toes, which is never a bad thing. One of the things I adore about flash fiction is it is always a challenge to write small but doing so is very satisfying. (Even more so if the story is published!).

One thing I would like to try and do more of is use more of my own photos to trigger ideas and to take pictures specifically with story generation in mind. The great thing with using your phone for pictures is it is so easy to delete the ones that don’t work out. Sometimes you need to do that with a story too but that is much harder to make yourself do.

I try and avoid getting into that position by outlining first (it really does help). The great thing with outlining is it can be as detailed or not as you like. I’ve sometimes drafted a one-line outline for a piece of flash fiction but it has helped me work out which route to take with the story before I start it. I find I then write more efficiently too.

What are your hopes and plans for your flash fiction writing in 2019?

Mine are to submit pieces online and for competitions more regularly. I also hope to post more on my website – allisonsymescollectedworks.wordpress.com – as well.

I’m working on a third volume of flash stories as well and hope to get this up together and ready for submission.

I really enjoyed taking part in Open Prose Nights for the first time this year and would love to do more of those. I would also like to give more talks on flash fiction as well.

But I should finish the year’s posts with a flash fiction piece I think.

CROSSING TIME
‘I suppose you think that was clever’, the girl said.
‘Of course, why do it otherwise?’ I replied.
‘You can’t hold me back. It doesn’t matter what you do.’
‘There’s not a human born who doesn’t long to, you know. I had the courage to try.’
‘Or the foolishness! Most of you accept you cannot beat me. You even celebrate me once a year.’
‘Yes, it’s all lights and fireworks and parties, but you are a cruel devil and I will beat you.’
The girl laughed. ‘How? You’re not immortal. You can’t win a fight with Time. I should know. I also know how long you have. I can see your sands running through’.
Out of nowhere she produced an hour glass and sure enough the sand was running through but I didn’t care. I didn’t bother looking. I didn’t want to know. It wasn’t the object of the exercise. I wanted to defy Time and I had.
‘I can keep you at bay with this time piece, and keep doing so until it is time for me to go. I like my current age. I will stay this way. That will do.’
I waved the pocket watch in the girl’s face as if daring her to take it but she waved it away from me. The watch’s hands were going backwards. I set them to a week ago last Friday. I wanted to see if I could do it the way the saleman in that strange little shop insisted I could.
And sure enough here I was back where I had been last Friday. Just outside the chip shop, cursing myself for forgetting my coat on what was the coldest night of the year so far. What I hadn’t expected was this wraith like girl turning up to berate me.
‘There is always a price to pay for crossing Time,’ the girl said, sighing. ‘I will catch you in the end. Your time will come. And trust me I will make you know it when it does. I don’t like cheats. I never have.’
‘So be it but my “time’s up” will be at the age I choose.’
‘And how are you going to explain that to people? Tell them you’ve got a funny portrait in your attic?’
I grimaced. I must admit that thought had not occurred to me. But so what? I could always tell people I had found a really good moisturiser!
The girl vanished. I went and got my chips. I was just crossing the road, munching them happily, when a Mini came out of nowhere and sent me crashing across to the other side. The last thing I remember was seeing the girl reappear and she was laughing.
I got one thing right. Time IS a cruel devil.

Allison Symes – 31st December 2018

One nice aspect to flash fiction is if you use a writing exercise to help you start off your creative work for the day, then there is nothing to stop you revisiting what you come up with for that and see if you can turn it into a flash fiction story.

From that writing exercise can come an entry for a competition, a published flash tale etc. Give it a go if you try these writing exercises (which often get you to write a couple of hundred words or so. Perfect length for a lot of the flash fiction categories. You can always edit to get a piece down to 75 words or less or keep the piece as it is and look for the 200, 250, 300 word category competitions and markets).

Good luck!

Goodreads Author Blog – And Happy New Year!

Following on from my Merry Christmas post last week, I could hardly call this one anything else!

So with a New Year in mind, what are your reading and/or writing plans for 2019?

I would like to read more flash and short story collections in the next 12 months plus get my own third anthology of stories finished and ready to submit. (Still very much at first draft stage).

I would like to catch up on my To Be Read pile (but I suspect that is an ambition most of us have!). I would like to submit more non-fiction pieces too.

I don’t tend to take up reading challenges because I think I would feel so disappointed in myself if I don’t manage them. However, I would like to widen my variety of reading (which is reasonably wide as it is but I am conscious there are many genres I haven’t tried and I ought to explore. The world of books is meant to be explored!).

Whatever your plans here, good luck! Happy New (reading) Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best ways to escape is with a good book. Image via Pixabay.

HAPPY EVER AFTER AND THE REAL YOU

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Happy Ever After? discusses the classic fairytale ending (in most cases) versus the modern tendency to have a “happy for now” scenario.  I’m not that keen on the latter, though I can understand it and I share my thoughts as to why here.  What do you think?

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

The Real “You” looks at our tendency to cover up those less impressive aspects of ourselves, especially when we are trying to impress someone. Our characters should be doing this too and in this post I ask who are they trying to impress, what are they covering up and do other characters see through it all?

FACEBOOK PAGE

I look at a writing exercise I tried at Swanwick where I had to give advice to my 20 year old self.  Tonight’s FB page discusses that.  And yes I did tell myself to lighten up!  I remember being very intense at that age.  I also tell myself to start writing sooner…  oh I wish I had!

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CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

Just a quick reminder that part 2 of my interview with the wonderful Barbara Large, MBE, founder of what is now known as the Winchester Writers’ Festival, will be appearing this coming Friday.

What world will you enter when you next read a good story? Image via Pixabay.

What world will you enter when you next read a good story? Image via Pixabay.

 

A bookshelf of beautiful books. A joy to look at, but a greater one to read! Image via Pixabay.

IS THERE A MAGIC WAND IN WRITING?

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

You shouldn’t be too surprised that the answer to “Is there a Magic Wand in Writing?” is a resounding “no” but I discuss how you can help “beef up” the imaginative muscle.  And the best way of all is to indulge in the flip side of writing, which is to read.  Is there a writer who doesn’t love to read?  I don’t think so and my attitude here is go for it – prose, poetry, fiction, non-fiction – indulge, knowing it will help your own writing no end!

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

On a similar theme, my post Flexing the Imaginative Muscle shares three writing exercises.  Writing exercises are, of course, the other great way to fire up your imagination.  Some have given me opening lines, which I’ve then used to write flash fiction or longer short stories, though a play, a novella or longer piece of fiction could also start from something like this.

FACEBOOK PAGE/CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY POST

I use my FB author page tonight to discuss my Chandler’s Ford Today post called Why I Use Scrivener Writing SoftwareThis is likely to remain the most technical piece of writing I ever produce but I hope it might be useful to those writers considering using this software.  I have, however, put in links to some of my favourite authors for whom writing technology consisted of the quill and the typewriter!  And those sites are worth exploring if you are a fan of Roald Dahl, P.G.Wodehouse and/or Shakespeare!  At the end of the day it is the imagination that is the most important writing tool of all.

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Feature image for my Chandler's Ford Today post.  Image via Pixabay.

Feature image for my Chandler’s Ford Today post. Image via Pixabay.