Making an Impact with Words – and Delia’s Choices


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
When the news is so grim, and the impact from words can be dreadful, we need stories more than ever, I think.

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Facebook – General

Am delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads for March 2022. As ever the magazine is a wonderful mix of articles, photos, puzzles, and, of course, stories.

My column this time is called Random Generators and I share some of those I use regularly as well as share a story I created using one. As ever it was a joy to read the stories submitted on the the theme I used here. I’ll be sharing the topic for next time soon on the MFR Facebook page.

On a separate note, I was thrilled to see someone I know from the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School mention they were inspired by some of my 100 word flash pieces for Friday Flash Fiction and then submitted a piece themselves to the Swanwick newsletter.

Flash is great fun to write – and addictive too! There is always the challenge of can I write a story in 100 words, then 50 etc? And you find you’re never afraid of editing again, as thanks to the restricted word count, you do have to develop a robust attitude and not be afraid to wield the red pen.

https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/03/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-march-2022/

Screenshot 2022-03-01 at 17-02-46 Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine March 2022

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One good thing about having the 29th as my slot for More Than Writers, the Association of Christian Writers blog spot, is that I get every three Februaries off! Am looking forward to blogging again on there next month.

Now I’ve been planning my In Fiction series for Chandler’s Ford Today for a while and this week I’m up to H. My topic is Human Behaviour In Fiction. It’s the kind of topic you could write a treatise about but I’m keeping it to one blog post.

And is it timely with all that is going on in the news? Possibly. It is odd sometimes how something you prepared becomes timely. It can sometimes happen with fiction too. Always sends a shiver down my spine when it happens to me.

Anyway, I’ll be looking at how human behaviour is both reflected in fiction and why it is the cause of fiction. Link up on Friday. Oh and I’ll be sending out my author newsletter tomorrow as well. Went out on 1st March but I share a link to the newsletter further down.


Am thrilled to be back on CafeLit once again with my story Delia’s Choices. This story is a result of the ten minute writing exercise set by #AnnmarieMiles at the last Association of Christian Writers Flash Group Zoom meeting. I set the name thanks to using a random name generator.

Those of us at the meeting all gave this exercise a go and shared the results. There was a lovely range of stories all based on one character called Delia. Writing to a set theme does produce varying results as we all have our individual author voices and those come through especially well when you’re all writing on the same topic. Hope you enjoy my effort here (and do let me know what you think of my Delia).

https://www.cafelitmagazine.uk/2022/02/delias-choices.html

Screenshot 2022-02-27 at 16-09-25 Delia’s Choices

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Light of the Moon, my latest Friday Flash Fiction tale. Much appreciated.

I’ll be sending out my author newsletter again next week so if you would like to sign up for tips, stories, news etc., do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be glad to see you.

A big hello to all who have joined since the last edition and many thanks to all who follow me here and on my website.

Now what is the most important thing about any character, regardless of genre, length of story etc?

For me, they have to be relatable whether these characters are human, animal,some odd alien species or what have you. There has to be something I can identify with (though I don’t necessarily have to agree with the character)

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/light-of-the-moon-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-02-25 at 16-16-25 Light of the Moon, by Allison Symes

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to get my author newsletter out earlier today. Do take a look (see link at https://mailchi.mp/5955992ab501/allison-symes-march-2022-newsletter-heading-north-again). If you’d like to sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com.

And a big thank you to the lovely comments in on Blue Memories, my latest YouTube story.

Screenshot 2022-03-01 at 20-14-12 Allison Symes - March 2022 - Northward BoundScreenshot 2022-03-01 at 10-10-11 Your Swanwick Newsletter 1st of March 2022

 

 

 

It’s Monday. It’s story time. Hope you enjoy Blue Memories, my new YouTube video. I’ve taken a random object, a blue hanky, and based my tale around it. I’ve done the same for the one I hope will appear on Friday Flash Fiction later in the week. The moods of the two stories are different too. It’s good to mix the moods up and I am relishing getting two ideas out of one randomly generated item.


Flash fiction is the ultimate in the quick read but that doesn’t mean the stories are quick to write. I can get a first draft down in minutes (especially for the 50 to 100 word tales) but the crafting takes much longer. And for me a story isn’t written until it is fully edited and “out there”.

With the limited word count, I am always asking have I really expressed this in the best way possible? Is it better to have extra word count here because it gives more depth to a character and/or moves the story along, and if so (and the answer to this is nearly always yes), what do I cut elsewhere?

Equally do I accept the story is better at 150 words rather than 100? Often the answer to that one is yes too. So all sorts of things come into play when I am putting the final version of the story together and that takes time – as it should do.

What I want is the most powerful story in terms of impact on a reader in the fewest possible words yet to have the best characterisation possible within that limit too. I don’t want much, do I?!

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I read flash collections as well as write them, as it is important to read what is in your genre as well as reading widely from outside it. Firstly, it is important to support the industry I am in and, secondly, it helps me to see what is out there in terms of flash and that in turn encourages me to up my game. I also have come to love flash, as you know, so it makes sense to feed that love by reading it.

Advantage to flash is setting characters anywhere

Goodreads Author Blog – Making an Impact with Words

One of the joys of stories and books is when the words flow, you have to keep turning the pages, and the language just hits you “right there” as it is so appropriate for the character or what have you. And the very best authors add words to the language too, Shakespeare being the obvious one there. There is more than one way to make an impact with words then – have some of your invented ones make it into the dictionaries!

As a flash fiction writer, with a maximum word count of 1000 words per story, I have to make an impact with words quickly. So anything that doesn’t add to my characterisation or moves the plot along gets cut out.

The joy of the novel is having a wonderful reading experience and looking back at that – reading The Lord of the Rings for the first time was a fantastic experience once I had finished the book. It was only by finishing it I could really appreciate the depth and scale of the work. For the short story and flash fiction formats, you get the “pay back” of impact that much quicker.

But the joy of reading widely, in whatever form or genre, is you take in words and their impact and you can learn from how other authors do this to improve your own works so other readers get the impact from your stories, your words.

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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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Dialogue in Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some 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 have had a good week. I hope to be on a train on my way to Derbyshire by the time this goes out (and it will be lovely to meet up with members of the Association of Christian Writers Committee once again, I’m their Membership Secretary). I’ll be at The Hayes, Swanwick – and I got to book my place for that in August this week so it has not been a bad week at all!

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Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

I look at Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I also include internal dialogue (aka thoughts in this and discuss the use of dialect. I also share my policy on whether a character should swear and list what I think the functions of dialogue should be in any kind of fiction. Hope you enjoy it and find it useful.

Dialogue in Fiction

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Hope you have had a good day. Has been a bit mad here. Glad things are winding down a little. Posts from me over the next couple of days will be at differing times as I am away on Association of Christian Writers business for a couple of days.

Before you ask, Lady isn’t coming but she will be spoiled rotten while I’m away. She always is! She’ll sulk a little when she knows I’ve gone (she tends to look around my side of the bed just to double check I’ve not sneaked back during the middle of the night) but will mug me for all she is worth when I do get back.

Now what is it that you like best about books? Yes, I know. It’s a question of where to start on this one, isn’t it? For me, it’s where I’ve got to the point in the story where I’m rooting for the character to succeed or fail because I know the book has now gripped me and I will just have to read on to find out what happens. And it doesn’t matter whether I’m reading a flash piece or an epic fantasy trilogy, that point doesn’t change for me.

My next favourite bit is getting to the end of the tale and finding the author has made good on their promise – the character has succeeded or failed, as is appropriate for them and the story they’re in. I must admit I do feel so disappointed if I’ve read a story with promising and interesting characters and then find the ending falls flat. But the best ending in the world won’t work for me if I’m not gripped by the characters in the first place.

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Many thanks for the views on No B Gratitude, my latest YouTube story. This is a short and fun tale and I manage to get a pun in on the choice of music for this too. I’m off at an ACW Committee Retreat soon so I may well be putting up a video later than usual next week. Will just have to see how things go. Likewise for getting a piece in to Friday Flash Fiction but I am really enjoying producing something for both of these things once a week. Keeps me on my toes and I am finding more uses for the random generators I love so win win!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I hope by the time you read this I will be in lovely Derbyshire on Association of Christian Writers business for a couple of days. (I’m their Membership Secretary). But right now it is the end of the week and time for my weekly drabble. Glad to share my latest on Friday Flash Fiction and this one is called Timing. Again I used a random generator for this and the question behind it was what was the most recent silly thing you did? So I got my character here to answer that one! All great fun and I hope you enjoy it.

https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/timing-by-allison-symes

Screenshot 2022-02-04 at 08-57-53 Timing, by Allison Symes

Screenshot 2022-02-03 at 21-31-38 Friday Flash Fiction

 

Your first audience for any story you writer is, of course, you. If you’re not gripped by the characters and the situation they’re in, nobody else will be. This is why I outline my character so I can get a “feel” for who they are, what they’re capable of, and as a result I can determine whether they really do have a story in them that should be told.

With flash fiction I reach that “yes, got to write this character up” stage very quickly indeed and you get better over time (and with practice) at spotting promising characters earlier. I don’t always know the length of the story at this point unless I am writing to a specific word count market such as Friday Flash Fiction, but I don’t let that worry me. I get the story down. I edit it. I leave it for a bit and then look at it again and read it as a reader would. I ask myself tough questions particularly of the “do I really need this in here” variety! That question is useful because you have to be able to say an emphatic “yes” to that one.

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Hope you have had a good day. Lady got to play with her best pal, the Rhodesian Ridgeback today. Two tired and happy dogs went home again. I do sometimes write flash pieces based around dogs. One of them is Jumping Through Hoops from From Light to Dark and Back Again. Let’s just say I am very much on the side of the poor dog in this one!

Fairytales with Bite – Dreams and Nightmares

Most of the classic fairytale characters go through a nightmare stage before their dreams come true (though it is always useful if you have a kindly fairy godmother turn up armed with a large wand and bigger pumpkin!).

In your fictional world, are your characters able to make their dreams come true and is this dependent on magic (whether it’s their own or someone else intervening to help them)? What would count as a nightmare situation for your characters and how do they overcome that?

Of course one person’s nightmare could be someone else’s dream – the villain wants their schemes to succeed, it would be their dream come true. How can you ratchet up the tension between Character A trying to make those schemes succeed and Character B who desperately needs them to fail? There should be plenty at stake here – just what do your characters have to lose or gain?

In a magical world, is the meaning of dreams taken seriously? Who interprets them? Do they do this honestly and do your characters act on what they have been told? What are the consequences of that?

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This World and Others – Interactions

Fiction is dependent on interactions between characters. Story is dependent on conflict and resolution (even if the latter is not a happy one) so there has to be a case of a character wanting something and something/someone else getting in the way of them obtaining that.

Sometimes the conflict can be an internal one – the character wants to change some aspect of themselves and struggles to do so. You see glimpses of this with Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. There are times Frodo’s more positive attitude towards Gollum seems to be paying off and other times when Sam’s cynical view of Gollum is justified.

So yes a character can interact with themselves and Gollum does that a lot. Not necessarily to his own benefit either. For the record, I see Gollum as a tragic, evil character whereas Sauron is just evil. There is a huge difference here. I don’t like Gollum but the possibility of redemption is there – whether he takes it or not is another matter.

How do interactions between your characters play out? Does on character always seem to get the upper hand or is there more of a balance? The problem with dominant characters, as with dominant people full stop, can be they cause resentment (and rebellion) in others. Interactions matter – they fuel the conflict which is the heart of any story.

So give thought to what you want your characters to do and why they are the way they are. With Gollum, you can see what led him to become the creature he became. Your readers need to do that with your characters – and indeed with mine!

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Starting and Finishing and Creativity


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some 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 had a good weekend. Nice quiet one here but lots of exciting news to report this time plus I hope a useful blog I prepared for the Association of Christian Writers on Starting and Finishing.

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Facebook – General

You know how sometimes there is no news and then all of a sudden there is loads to share – well today is one of those days for me.

Delighted to say my new author newsletter is now out there (for more do see https://mailchi.mp/22ec1b09a6da/allison-symes-february-2022-newsletter).

Many thanks also for the comments in on Tears Before Lunch, my most recent Friday Flash Fiction story. See https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/tears-before-lunch-by-allison-symes for more.

And I’m delighted to share the link to the brand new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads which is free. See https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ – the range of articles in here is amazing. Do check it out.

Has also been a good day for another reason – I’ve booked my place for the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Can’t wait to go and there is plenty to look forward to before then.

I’ll be at the Scottish Association of Writers conference in March and running a workshop on flash fiction there. So looking forward to that – https://www.scottishassociationofwriters.com/workshops-speakers/

 

Hope Monday hasn’t been too trying. Newsletter out tomorrow, new story video out (will share link on my book page shortly), and pleased to have submitted a new story to Friday Flash Fiction. I’ll be discussing Dialogue in Fiction for my Chandler’s Ford Today post on Friday.

I use more dialogue in my short stories (1500 words plus) than in flash though I am counting thoughts as internal dialogue and I do use that a lot in flash. It’s a great way of taking you straight into a character’s head and showing you their thoughts and attitudes. You see things as they see them and I think it a good way of developing character empathy. Okay you may not always agree with them but that’s another matter! You at least see where they are coming from.

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Hope you have had a good weekend. Lovely to catch up with writing friends on Zoom last night. Always such a morale boost. Am getting my next author newsletter up together ready for sending out next week. If you would like to sign up for tips, prompts, news, stories etc., head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

What would you say was your favourite kind of story? I suppose mine comes from my life long love of fairytales in that I love to see wrong being righted and the underdog to do well. Mind you, that does open up a lot of possibilities for reading material as well as for writing stories. Wrong being righted is a common theme to crime stories after all. And the underdog aka the hero nobody expects to be a hero is a common theme in fantasy.

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I talk about Starting and Finishing for More Than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers, this month.

I discuss how I often get into starting a story by using a random generator and share why spider diagrams are so helpful too. As for the other end of the story, I look at how for twist in the tale stories, it is a good idea to write that twist down first and then look at what could lead to that point.

I also look at whether planning your work out kills off spontaneity.

Hope you enjoy the post and find it useful.

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The new edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is out and you can download it for free. See the link at https://moms-favorite-reads.com/2022/02/01/moms-favorite-reads-emagazine-february-2022/ for more.

In my column this month (see Page 42), I talk about Creativity. I look at some of the different ways I use to trigger story ideas and fuel my own creativity (and I discuss picture prompts and random generators amongst other things. I hope to talk more about random generators for a future column as these are so useful). My theme for people to write to this time was What Creativity Means to Me and the responses to that were wonderful but don’t just take my word for it – go and treat yourself to a good and free read!

 

Hope you enjoy my new YouTube story – No B Gratitude. This story was inspired by something that came up on a random question generator – the question was what was the most recent silly thing you’ve done?
So I got my character to show you! (There’s also a pun in the choice of music chosen for this one – I was so pleased to find it available to use from YouTube’s comprehensive audio library which is the audio equivalent of Pixabay for photos).

Just to flag up there is an offer on From Light to Dark and Back Again at the moment over on Amazon.

What do I love most about reading flash fiction by other writers? Firstly I learn a lot from seeing what other people do with the format. Secondly, I love to see what writers do when writing to the same theme and word count.

The Waterloo Art Festival Writing Competitions held in the last few years were a great example of this – the fifteen winners for each year, including yours truly, all wrote to the same theme and word count yet the stories were so vastly different.

Last but not least, it encourages me to “up my game” and see what I can do better. Why is that a good thing? Because it fuels the old creativity “grey cells” and helps me produce (a) more work and (b) better work because I have tried to stretch myself a bit.

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Twist endings work beautifully in flash fiction precisely because you don’t have to wait long for the pay-off! I’ve always loved that aspect of things. And the nice thing here is you don’t have to limit twist endings to crime stories, though that is the obvious home for them.

Twist endings can also be punchlines so will work well for humorous tales. And a monologue can be enlivened by a surprise ending too. For this kind of tale, I always write the twist first and then work backwards to get to the start. It seems an odd way of doing things to begin with but you do get used to it. It also means you have a logical plot leading to that final twist. You don’t want your twist let down by a weak start or flabby middle.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Books and Trains

Books and trains are a match made in heaven (especially publishing heaven!). As well as stories inspired by train (and my favourite here is Murder on the Orient Express – the ultimate train, yes?!), books are the best form of portable entertainment and a fabulous way of passing the time.

I must admit I wait to read until I know I am on the train I want otherwise there is the risk I will still be reading at the platform long after the train has gone! (It helps a lot if I know I’m going somewhere like London Waterloo which is the end of the line as I know I can’t miss my stop either!).

It is no coincidence that the major stations have bookshops on them. For me the perfect way to escape the cares of the world is to read, ideally while listening to classical music via my headphones. (If there’s a cup of tea or hot chocolate to hand, even better!) And if I’m not reading stories while travelling, I am writing my own so I love that too.

It probably helps that I write flash fiction which a dear friend described as a “bus stop read”. It works well on trains too!

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Animals in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Many thanks to Geoff Parkes and Penny Blackburn for shots taken of me at Open Prose Mic Nights at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. (Looking forward to being back there again!).
Hope you have had a good week. I think I’ve had the best comment ever on any post I’ve written in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. See further down for more on this.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Am delighted to share Animals in Fiction, my post for Chandler’s Ford Today for this week. I look at favourite animal characters as well as explore their use in stories. I also look at writing from the viewpoint of an animal, which is something I’ve done from time to time.

And I am thrilled comments are coming in on this one already, including one that I think may well prove to be the best comment I’ve ever had on a CFT post (and possibly on any blog post!). Once you’ve read the post, scroll down and check out what one of my readers’ dogs made of the theme for Jaws! My sympathy is with the dog.

Also, do send in your own comments on the CFT post about your favourite animals in fiction.

Animals in Fiction

 

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Good news – Lady got to see her best buddy briefly today. Latter is much better and the two dogs were delighted to see each other, especially since today is not one of the days they usually meet.

I’ll be sharing my Animals in Fiction post for Chandler’s Ford Today tomorrow. Looking forward to sharing that. I loved animal characters when I was a kid. I have a soft spot for them still (helped no end by being a dog owner I suspect). Give some thought as to the ones you loved in books. Comments are always welcome over on the CFT page – link up tomorrow – would love to hear your thoughts on this topic over on that page then.

I have written stories from the viewpoint of an animal though I mainly focus on humans/humanoids but every so often it is good to turn the tables. I can use animal stories to show what I think they might think of us!


How has Wednesday been? Lady’s had an okay day but she missed her best buddy today (and that’s because her pal isn’t feeling too well, poor thing. Very much keeping everything crossed, paws included, that all is well again soon). It is lovely to watch how dogs make friends with each other.

Talking of friends, how do your characters measure up here? Do they have plenty of them? Or do they believe in quality over quantity? Equally, how good a friend are they to others?

There are plenty of stories where friends come to the rescue but how about writing one where a friend lets someone down and then goes on later to make up for it? Could have a lovely emotional rollercoaster of a story there. Rebuilding trust is difficult though not impossible. How do your characters manage it?

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Pleased to share Dodging by Numbers, my new story on Friday Flash Fiction. I used a random number generator to come up with the number 766 and you can find out how I worked that into a flash fiction piece here. Hope you enjoy it.

The more observant may have noticed I used the same number for my YouTube story this week, Lucky Number.

You know how coincidences don’t really work in fiction, right?

You know you have to plant clues for the readers so when your event happens they know it was within the realms of possibilities for your character so don’t feel cheated, right?

So the wise author never ever uses coincidences because they know they won’t be believed by a reader, right?

Well, there was no coincidence here either!).

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Screenshot 2022-01-14 at 19-00-29 Dodging by Numbers, by Allison Symes

 

I have a “stock” of stories for reading out at Open Prose Mic Nights. Flash fiction works brilliantly for this as you can’t go on for too long – and everyone likes that!

Naturally I mix up the mood of the flash tales I read out. I like to start and finish with an amusing piece and have something darker and/or more reflective in the middle section. And I do practice reading the stories out loud first at home. (For one thing I have found knowing I’ve done that helps steady the old nerves a bit!)

Delighted to say I’ll be giving a Zoom talk on flash fiction again soon. Always happy to spread the word about what a wonderful format it is!

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I must admit I do a lot of my reading in bed – it’s a wonderful way to unwind. But we all get stressful days when perhaps it is more of an effort to read. This is where I do turn to flash fiction and short story collections. I am still reading wonderfully crafted stories. I’m just going for the shorter form. I also deliberately read collections in between novels. I like to mix up what I read in terms of author, genre, and length of story too.

Writing flash fiction gives me a great opportunity to mix up what I write too in terms of word count, genre I write in (as I’ve written crime flash, historical flash, fantasy flash etc). And it is such fun to do especially if you like creating people as I do. I’ve found flash has helped me to develop my show and not tell technique as well (which can of course be applied to any length of fiction).

Writing short is also marvellous practice in preparing material for blogs, advertising, blurbs etc.

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Fairytales With Bite – Time

How is time measured in your fictional world? Does it have the same divisions? I’ve used time in my flash fiction stories (and in one crime story I had 1a clock as a murder weapon!).

Do you use Time as a character? I’m drafting a story with this in mind and am showing Time as a character who cannot be cheated. The fun here is in showing how another character tries to be the one who will finally achieve that. There is always someone who will try to do that which has not been done before and you could make that a comedy story or a tragedy.

What impact does time have on your characters? Are they ruled by the clock or other time measuring device? How does time affect the way in which they live? In your fictional world, is there anyone who can control time and how do they do this? I would expect there to be a heavy price to pay for that ability (with great power should go a sense of great responsibility and, if not, misusing the ability to control time should have consequences. Note I said should there!).

How does time affect what your characters can do and when? Do different characters appear at differing times of the day/week/year etc? Why do they only come out at certain times?

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This World and Others – Reacting to Time

How does your world measure time? Does it worry about keeping “tabs” on time? Or do your characters just go with the flow? Do your characters age, as we understand the term? If they get to one age and then stop at that point until, presumably, they die, why does time stop for them?

Time, of course, has a big impact on us all and governs so much – everything from when we get up to making the most of natural daylight before having to go inside for the night. We can’t keep going for 24/7 – sleep has to happen. Time tires and ages us. But when we are having a lovely time of it, don’t we want those times to last for ever?

Now think about your characters. What are their attitudes here? How do they react to time? Do they see it as kindly or as a cruel thing (and age would probably have a role here in how your characters respond to that)?

With time of course there comes the point when it has to stop. We’re mortal after all. How do your mortal characters handle this knowledge? Do they make the most of the time allotted to them?

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New – and Looking Forward


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books, Bridge House Publishing, and Wendy H.Jones.
Welcome to 2022! Hope you enjoyed the Christmas and New Year break. I did but am pleased to be back in the writing “saddle” once again. Oh and it was a real pleasure to include a certain YouTube clip below to tie in with one of my posts. Think Hebrides…

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Facebook – General

Bitterly cold today, not that Lady minded. Good to get back to swimming today after a Christmas break. You can always tell when it is really cold outside because it is the only time the water in the pool feels remotely warm! I’m sure they keep it at the temperature they do to ensure you get swimming quickly – it works!

Will be subbing a piece to Friday Flash Fiction shortly now that submissions are open again. Good to get back to that. Am thinking up ideas for a longer short story I want to do. The old brain is ticking over nicely!

Many thanks also for the views so far on my first YouTube video of the year. Appropriately the story is called New. Possibly I should create something for the end of the year so I can call that Old!

 

It has been a Bank Holiday today (and I believe the Scots have another one tomorrow – enjoy!). I find these days feel a bit surreal.

I get on with my usual bits and pieces so I can get them out of the way so I can then settle down to do what I really want to do – write – but the world outside my door is a lot quieter than it often is and it all feels a little odd. And I know I shall “feel” as if I am a day “out” all week! Ho hum… Mind you, I am looking forward to resuming swimming tomorrow after a break for Christmas. Could do with it too!

Christmas was very enjoyable! (Lady gets a bit confused too – she will wonder where my family are tomorrow- there is no way you can explain holidays to a dog).

Now writing wise this week, my Chandler’s Ford Today post will be called J is for January. I look at the positive and negative aspects and share some interesting “national days” associated with the month. Link up on Friday.

I’m back to creating my YouTube videos again and I will be sharing my latest one over on my book page (From Light to Dark and Back Again) shortly. Also see above!

Feels good to be back in the writing “saddle” again.

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What are you looking forward to most this year in terms of writing and/or books you want to read? I want to keep going with the blogging, get my third flash fiction book submitted, and try and submit a book proposal for the non-fiction project I’m working on.

I want to have another crack at the Bridport Prize flash fiction category later on in the year too. As mentioned yesterday, I hope to get to Swanwick in August and I hope there will be other writing days throughout the year. I’m also looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Golden Jubilee weekend at the beginning of June.

Reading wise, I want to bring my To Be Read piles down (and the one on my Kindle as well) significantly though I am making good progress here. (My main problem with reading is I tend to read in bed and when I am too tired, the reading gets put on standby for a bit. This is something I try to avoid as much as possible).

And I’d like to be published and published again and published again etc etc!

Better get my head down and get on with some writing then!

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1st January 2022 – New Year’s Day

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you have had a good start to the new year. Am looking forward to various writing events including the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August and getting out and about to day events again. It was nice to be able to start to do that again in 2021.

And the January edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now out – see link. My theme for the flash fiction column this month is New, an apt topic for this time of year.

You can take the topic in various directions – new beginnings for a character, a character having to face up to being forced to do something new and how they handle that, a character picking up an object new to them and how that changes them.

I also share a flash fiction tale of mine which involves a character having to get new furniture in thanks to the antics of a greedy golden-haired child – for more see the link.


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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope it has been a good first day back to “normal” where that applies. (So much depends on what you define as normal too!). I’ve mentioned before that I listen to classical music when writing and have just finished listening to The Hebrides Overture on Classic FM. It is my favourite Mendelssohn piece. Why? Because it really does conjure up images of that fantastically beautiful part of the world via music. Amazing work.

When writing flash fiction pieces, I do give careful thought as to the images I want to “plant” in the readers’ minds. If I’ve decided to write a humorous piece, I will think about how and where the laughs or smiles will come and then work out what images of my characters in action could lead to that. (I don’t always aim for outright laughter here. A story that makes someone smile is equally good. I remember those that make me smile and I know they always lift my mood).

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Nice to get back to creating the YouTube videos again after a brief Christmas break. Hope you enjoy the latest one called NewAnd the Mendelssohn clip above may be “old” music but it is still pretty wonderful. In with the New AND in with the Old!


My column in Mom’s Favorite Reads this month talks about New. I set a different challenge this time too. As well as inviting fiction pieces in on my theme, I have also opened it up to include flash non-fiction pieces on the same topic of up to 300 words. And if you want to check out the magazine, do see the link. Also see the Facebook link below.

It is great fun choosing a topic and writing an article around it. I like themes which are open to interpretation. It gives writers more to work with. I think you’re more likely to come up with something unique too.

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1st January – New Year’s Day

Happy New Year, everyone. This time of year reminds me of a pivot because this is the point where many of us take time out to consider change etc. It’s what New Year resolutions are for after all. Flash fiction by its nature has to have one pivot which changes the character and the course they are on, though it can come right at the end of the story and be a twist ending.

Equally you can set the character what seems like an impossible challenge they have to meet right at the start of the story. That’s the pivot, the point of change, which must come in any length of story. And both types of pivot are great fun to write up! Hope you have a fabulous writing and reading New Year.

Goodreads Author Blog – New Year, New Books, New Authors?

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope you received lots of lovely books for Christmas. Am currently working my way through the latest Richard Osman one and a couple of flash fiction collections, and am loving them all. The To Be Read pile shows no sign of going down much though I think that is how it should be!

So with a new year ahead of us are there new books you’re looking forward to? Are there new authors you discovered in 2021 whose works you really enjoyed? A new year gives us the chance to try new books and writers new to us and I hope to do plenty of that over the next twelve months.

I like to mix up classic and contemporary reading and going to book events, whether I take part in them myself or not, gives me plenty of opportunity to boost my contemporary To Be Read pile!

What matters is enjoying plenty of stories. And I must admit I have finally got to watch the latest Bond film No Time to Die. I thought the storyline there was excellent. However you take your stories “in”, whether you read them, watch them, listen to them, or do a mixture, as long as the tale grips you, you are on to a winner. And I was gripped by this one. As ever with any great story, the characters make it work. They are the story.

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Random Generators, Endings, and Exercise

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A good start to the week – new story up on Friday Flash Fiction and a new video to share. Also getting closer to the Brechin/Angus Book Festival (19th to 21st November 2021) and am so looking forward to taking part in that.

Facebook – General

Hope you have had a good day. Busy but enjoyable one here. Managed to get out for a swim today and set a personal best so well pleased with that. When I started swimming regularly, I did think I would use the time in the pool to think out story ideas etc. Not a bit of it!

I just don’t think of anything other than trying to keep count of what number length I’m up to but I guess in some ways that is the point. I come out of the pool refreshed and it is that which helps get the writing brain going again after a break from the desk.

So having found this to be the case, it gives me reason to plan out my exercise spots to ensure I do get regular breaks from the desk. Writing is wonderful, great for the brain, but is stationary so the swimming and walking the dog are the two things I do to balance that out a bit.

Busy start to the working week. I submitted a new story to Friday Flash Fiction yesterday and created a new story video for my YouTube channel. Sunday is rapidly becoming flash fiction and story day! Not that I mind. I find it helpful to have a writing structure for the week as a whole. It also means I tend to get straight into my writing day by day and end up getting more done so it does pay to plan out what you’re doing over a week.

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be about book lists. I prepare two of these a year – one for my birthday and the other for Christmas. I look at the value of lists like this. Let’s just say it makes me easy to buy for! But posts like this are great fun to write as it is a celebration of books in general and there is always time to write posts like that!

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Pleased to share a link to my recent feature in Mom’s Favorite Reads. My theme for this month was Light and Dark in Flash Fiction. You can have a lot of fun with both of those themes. I share several ways in which you can take these themes too. When I was putting my debut flash collection together for Chapeltown Books, I found my stories fell into these two basic categories so used that to inspire the title – From Light to Dark and Back Again.

Do check out the flash fiction stories other writers have come up with to my theme. There are some fabulous stories coming into the magazine. Don’t miss out. It is free and a good read.


Hope you are having a good weekend. Can’t get over how quickly it gets dark now and we haven’t even turned the clocks back in the UK yet.

A huge thanks for all the comments coming in on Clockwork, my latest #FridayFlashFiction tale. Much appreciated.

Advance notice: I’m not going to be about on 1st November so I will be sending out my author newsletter on 29th October, a couple of days early. This time I’m doing this deliberately! If you’d like to receive said newsletter, please head over to my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – the landing page takes you straight to the sign up form.

It’s going to be a busy few weeks. I’m off to see Murder with Ghosts staged by The Chameleon Theatre Group on Thursday and I’ve a number of writing things I want to either wrap up and schedule or prepare to take with me as I enjoy a short break from the end of next week.

And I’m getting ready for the Brechin/Angus Book Fest too in November and am looking forward to that and joining up with fellow Bridge House Publishing authors at their celebration event in December. In between all of that, I might just get ready for Christmas!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I use a variety of random generator (words, numbers, adjectives, questions, nouns – just to list a few) as all of these give me different trigger points for getting “into” a story. They also make me think outside the box a bit too which is a good thing. It keeps me on my toes. It also means I will never run out of prompts!

And practicing writing to these different types also gives useful practice at writing to different prompts set in writing classes, conferences, and the like because you can never know what will come up with those. (Well, not unless you’re the speaker and you set the things anyway!).

I’ve found it gives me even more fun in coming up with stories precisely because I’m stretching myself here to use things I would not ordinarily have come up with by myself. I’ve written a story this week where I had to use the words egg and bear in it. Done. Submitted it. But I would not have come up with those two things in one story. They’re not an obvious combination.

You can also think of using generators as a warm up writing exercise. Write for five/ten minutes on what comes up. Edit and polish later. Submit later!

Hope you enjoy my latest YouTube story, About Time. This story was triggered by my using a random time generator (yes, really!) to give me the time that appears in this tale. I realised after coming up with the title that it was even more appropriate than I realised when I first read through my initial draft of this. Serendipity perhaps? Maybe but I like it when it happens.


Endings don’t have to be happy in stories. They do have to be satisfying though. The ending has to make sense of what has gone before and be appropriate for the character. In the case of A Christmas Carol, that ending would not have worked unless we had seen Scrooge undergo his transformation from the greatest miser to someone who has learned the value of generosity and kindness. It took something spectacular to shake Scrooge up – and he got that in the form of the three spirits. (I refuse to believe that’s a spoiler now after all this time!).

All stories pivot on a point of change and it is the character who changes in some way. Not all change has to be positive though!

In my story Rewards from From Light to Dark and Back Again, my character’s point of change is when she gets rid of someone who has been in her way for far too long. You’ll have to read the story to find out what my character did and why and what the outcome of that was but the point remains – change does not have to be positive. We read stories to find out what happens so must ensure that something does happen!

This is why for my twist tales I write that twist down first and then work out what could have led to it. This ensures I do go the best plot line leading to this point. And it means I have my appropriate ending all set up good to go. I just need to go back to the beginning and fill the rest in but I do know where I am heading.

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I’m busy preparing for the Brechin/Angus Book Fest which is from 19th to 21st November 2021. I’m running a flash fiction workshop here and giving an author talk.

So looking forward to doing that and catching up with writer friends at this event too. Always happy to spread the word about flash fiction (and often at events one of the best ways of showing what flash is and can be is to read some. That has always gone down well. I’ve often felt adults like being read to as much as children love being read to – it’s just it doesn’t happen so often for us).

See below for more details on the Brechin event. There is a rather familiar looking book in the top right hand corner! This festival will be my first in-person book fair kind of event for at least two years and it will be lovely chatting to people in that kind of environment again. Book festivals are always great fun (and of course are great places to go if you want to get on with your Christmas shopping!).

Goodreads Author Blog – The Role of the Indie Press

Now I’m not unbiased here. I’m published by the indie press and the big thing they do for the world of literature is give many more authors a voice. The world of books is richer for that. There is more choice out there. It is just a question of knowing where to look (and why it is even more vital for authors to have their own websites so we can point people in the right direction!).

Naturally authors like me who are published by the indie press will support said indie press. It is literally in our own interests to do so but I would like to encourage others to try out books brought out by them too. The indie press does provide more variety so why shouldn’t we have that on our book shelves?

And a lot of the indie press will bring out short story, flash fiction, and poetry collections. That give us so much more variety in our reading and what’s not to like about that?

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