Festive Flash News and Author and Book Events

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes, as was the photo of my two flash collections at the BHP event. Many thanks to Lynn Clement for taking the photo of me reading at the Bridge House Publishing Celebration event. Always tricky doing that kind of thing yourself! 
Weather becoming significantly colder in my part of the world. Lady’s not bothered but is probably wondering why Mum is keen to keep moving rather than let her stop and sniff everything every five seconds or so!

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Glad to report one of my festive flash fiction pieces will be broadcast on Hannah Kate’s Three Minute Santas show on North Manchester FM on 17th December. Looking forward to sharing the link to the show later. Glad to hear other friends will also be having their stories on here – well done, all!

Now I will record myself on Zoom every so often to check if a story flows as well as I thought and for things like Hannah’s show, I want to make sure I’ve got my timings rights. (Maximum allowed is three minutes). The lovely thing with Zoom is if you set up a meeting with yourself, record yourself speaking, and then end that meeting, Zoom will convert the file to an mp4 for you. You also get an exact timing.

And in playing back your recording, you can literally hear the ebbs and flows of your story. Worth doing and it is also great practice to read aloud for Open Prose Mic Nights as well.

Last but not least, a big thank you for the anniversary congratulations yesterday. Much appreciated! (See below).

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5th December
Hope you have had a good day. Today is my 35th wedding anniversary. Better half and I can’t believe where the time has gone either.

Writing wise, I’m pleased to share the link to the super duper double issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads. Why such a large edition? Simply it is because this is the 50th edition and naturally that had to be celebrated with something special.

I use the theme of Fifty for my article in this issue and I set not one but two flash fiction challenges. One was to write on the subject of fifty up to a word count of 300 words. The second challenge was to write a fifty word story all in, including the title. Do check out the stories that came in – it was, as ever, a joy to be the editor on these.

 

Brrr…it’s cold out there. Nice to have a quieter day today after my trip yesterday. I hope my next trip will be in January when I’ll be giving a flash fiction workshop. (It will be in person ideally but may need to switch to Zoom. Am happy with both kinds of workshop).

Am looking forward to welcoming back Wendy H Jones to Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. She’ll be discussing Deadly Traditions, a cozy mystery at Christmas anthology, with me. I’ll be chatting about how she found writing shorter fiction given she is best known for her own crime series and marketing books in particular. Long and short fiction writing have their own challenges and joys.

Have not yet started work on my editing for my Flash NANO stories. I suspect I’ll get to this after Christmas. I won’t be that sorry about it as I do give myself time away from something recently written so I can come back and judge it objectively later.

 

Am writing this on way up to London for the annual Bridge House Publishing Celebration event. This is being held at the wonderfully named Theodore Bullfrog pub.

Am looking forward to seeing friends and listening to author readings. I’m taking part in that too but it is such a joy to relax and be read to – how often do you get to do that? Audio books are fab but listening to the author telling their tale live as they want it to come across is special and a treat.

Do support author reading events. They’re great fun and give you a chance to escape the world for a bit as well as being another way to support writers.

Update: Did indeed have a fabulous time at the BHP event. Loved the readings from the different authors and it was fun to take part myself. Hope to write more about this for a further Chandler’s Ford Today post. A big thanks to Lynn Clement for taking the picture of me on my phone as I read a story from each of my two flash collections.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to say a festive piece of mine will be on Three Minute Santas on Hannah Kate’s show on North Manchester FM on 17th December. Always a fun show to listen to – and I plan to share the link later. Flash works so well in an audio format.

Flash is also great to share as a reading because you can’t go on for too long yet it makes for a great introduction to you and your writing style. Win-win there!

I am planning to use my Flash NANO stories for a mixture of competitions and for a future collection. Nice to be off to a cracking start there!

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It’s Monday. It’s cold. There is still far too much to do before Christmas but it is time to take a break and enjoy a new flash fiction video. You know it makes sense, to quote Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses. Hope you enjoy Fourteen Days, my latest on YouTube.

 

Loved my trip out yesterday and it is always good to wave the flag for flash fiction. I hope to do so again in January when I’m due to run a workshop.

I took the opportunity yesterday to show how flash can mix up the moods so read a humorous tale and a serious one. Both tales have good emotional impact which is what you want from a story. Even as a kid, I wanted to get to the “happy ever after” in the fairytales but I was also intrigued as to how that would happen.

That should’ve been an early flag to me that writing would be what I’d end up doing!

From Light to Dark and Back Again - by nightTripping The Flash Fantastic - by night

Looking forward to reading some flash tales at the Bridge House Publishing Celebration event in London today. Nice to be back on the train again too. Always good for people watching and I have had inspiration for stories from things seen/overheard.

These things are always a starting point only as by the time I’ve written and edited my tale, my “unintentional inspirers” would never recognize they had inspired a story.

One key skill for any writer is to be observant and from that to think yes, I could use that. For example, I spotted someone hastily writing out a couple of Christmas cards. So my mind is thinking along the lines of who are these cards for and why it is vital my character gets these written now.

It’s a situation most of us can identify with and has the potential to be a funny tale and/or a heartwarming one. But I needed to spot someone doing this to get my ideas sparking.

(Again thanks to Lynn Clement for taking the picture of me reading).

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Goodreads Author Blog – Book Events

Book events are great fun and if you can get to go to any, please do.

As well as showing support for the authors (which is always appreciated), you may well get to hear readings. Also there will be the chance to get signed copies. These make for fab Christmas presents!

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes setting these up but book events are wonderful for bringing writers and readers together.

Any reader interacts with the author simply by reading their works of course but at events, you may be able to ask questions as you get your books signed.

That can give the writer useful feedback. I’ve had readers say something about my stories revealing hidden depths I hadn’t considered when writing the tale.

Was I pleased? Oh yes! Why? Because the readers had engaged with my stories and showed me they had.

We all love books for various reasons but engaging with stories like that is so special. And it is really nice for an author to find that out a book event.

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Book Brush – Reader Hub – Allison Symes

 

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The Writing Life, Schedules, and Fact or Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. The autumnal weather has really set in here in the UK. I look ahead this time to a flash fiction workshop I’m running, discuss the writing life, including when work is turned down, and ask if you like fact or fiction or both.

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Am looking forward to running a flash fiction workshop for Elgin Writers via Zoom tomorrow night.

As well as my Chandler’s Ford Today post coming up on Friday, I’ll also be blogging for More than Writers, the blog spot for the Association of Christian Writers. Link to that is due to go up on Thursday. I’ll be looking at Seasons of Mist and Mellow Fruitfulness for that one and the impact of this on writers.

For the various blogs I write for, I work out a writing schedule so I draft my pieces in good time. Again, as with my fiction, I give myself enough time to edit properly before submitting the posts. It pays to do that. Often I have had useful additional ideas to strengthen a piece on having another look through my original draft.

You have to give your imagination time to work. And imagination still comes into play with non-fiction writing, even if it is a case of asking myself have I presented the information in the best way possible? Sometimes changing a bit of the running order can help something I’ve said stand out more so creativity I think comes into play there.

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Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Strange weather here today – sunny, blustery, windy, cold – a right old mix. Not that Lady cared. She got to see her Hungarian Vizler pal again today so she (and her pal) were happy.

For Chandler’s Ford Today this week, I’m looking at the topic of Favourites. I wanted, after a rightly more thoughtful piece last week, to show that reflection can have its positive side too. I enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane for this week’s post and hope you do too as I look at favourite books, films, sweets etc. As ever comments are very welcome in the CFT box. Link up on Friday.

Heard today my flash story didn’t make it on to the listings for The Bridport Prize. At some point, I’ll take another look at my entry, see what I can do to improve it, and submit it somewhere else. I’ve mentioned before I have gone on to have work published doing this.

Rejection doesn’t have to be the final word. It can be the chance to polish a piece of work up and try it out there in the big bad world once more. (Incidentally I’m sure I’ve heard later than usual for this – I hope that means something positive!).

I have found you get more used to this kind of thing and that helps. It is all part and parcel of the writing life. Having been on the other side of the judging rostrum, I know it isn’t easy for judges to make their selections. And that’s how it should be. The stories should be as good as possible.

And there is nothing to stop you submitting the piece elsewhere. Another judge may think differently about your work but do take the chance to review your story before sending it out again. I’ve found ways of strengthening a piece when I’ve done this and I’m sure that is what has led to the story then going on to be accepted elsewhere.

 

Many thanks for the comments coming in on Good For Something, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Feedback is very welcome and the support from the writing community on this website is great. Do check it out.

Every writer needs some sort of affirmation that their writing is hitting the right note with readers. We know we’re not going to please all of the people all of the time. Nobody does that. What we’re after is knowing we are pleasing someone! So it is a joy to receive feedback and I enjoy giving feedback too.

There is nobody like another writer who will understand the ups and downs of the writing life. Added reason to go to writing groups, courses etc and meet up with other writers. I’ve made many friends this way (bless you, all!) and I hope to continue making other writer pals along my own writing journey.

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

Today would have been the 62nd wedding anniversary of my parents. Do you use special dates in your fiction at all?

I’ve sometimes written stories involving a birthday. I ought to try and do more with anniversaries as that can cover all manner of things – weddings obviously but also the anniversary of when you met someone special, a historical event and so on.

Also your characters can give a date meaning so stories could be found from exploring that meaning and whether your character treasures it or dreads it but can’t avoid it.

You can also use a a date as a deadline for your characters and put time pressure on them. Okay not so dramatic as a countdown in minutes but you could give them less than 24 hours to achieve something.

You could also think about something that makes a date special for you but would have not meaning to anyone else and try the same kind of thing with your characters. The date can be their driving force to do something because…. Fill in the blanks!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have had a good day. Lady and I got a bit of a soaking (I say bit because it could have been worse!) earlier. Not that she worries – one good shake off her coat and she’s done (according to her anyway!).

Looking forward to giving my flash fiction workshop to Elgin Writers via Zoom tomorrow night. I often read a couple of my flash tales as part of things like this. The best way to show what flash is, and can be capable of doing in terms of impact on a reader, is to read some.

Often when I am at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, it take the opportunity of picking up flash collections there to add to my own reading list. Love reading them and I learn a lot from them myself.

You do need to read widely but I would also say you need to read in your genre as well as out of it. Best of all, it’s fun and I find doing this inspiriting. There is never a time when being inspired is ever a bad idea (at least not when it comes to reading books and stories!).

 

It’s Monday. It’s been a blustery day weather wise. It’s getting darker earlier. We haven’t even turned the clocks back yet here in the UK. Definitely time for a story and here is my latest on YouTube. Hope you enjoy Glad to Get Away. Members of the ACW Flash Fiction Group may recognize this as this tale is based on an exercise I set last week based on the closing line.

 

One of the joys of leading the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group is setting exercises. Usually I prepare my “answers” in advance to give an example of what can be done with the topic I’ve been talking about. I’ve found having examples has helped me a lot when someone has set a writing exercise for me. It gives you a kind of rough route map and I’ve always found that useful. I then get on with a draft knowing I am heading in the right kind of direction. I don’t want to be “way out” on this.

This time I did something different (and it will certainly be something I will do again). This time I set the exercises but didn’t prepare my answers. I wrote “live” when the others at the group did so we all had rough drafts to take with us and work up into something. So I have a few drafts to work on which will be fun to do.

Time away

Don’t forget I issue an author newsletter on the first of the month where I share tips (many of them as relevant to flash fiction as to standard length short stories), links to my flash stories, and so on. If you’d like to sign up head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com – would be glad to have you aboard!

Just occasionally when I set an opening line writing exercise or respond to one, I come up with a line which makes a story all by itself. Those are great for sharing on Twitter. Sometimes I go on to extend the story out but it is lovely to have the choice here.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Fact or Fiction?

A good book is a good book regardless of whether it is factual or not. I was late to the party when it comes to reading non-fiction but I am glad I’ve discovered the form, I’m also fond of those stories which are based on truth – historical fiction is wonderful for this. I was sorry to hear of the death of Dame Hilary Mantel. I loved Wolf Hall.

The best non-fiction books often read as if they could be a novel (and this is where creative non-fiction is a genre I definitely want to read more of). The irony here though is that fiction can share truths which non-fiction cannot because those truths can’t be “scientifically” verified.

I love it when a character “rings true” and I can put myself in their stead and think yes I would’ve done that too. Of course you sometimes come across a character where you almost want to shout at them “don’t do that”. That’s the fun of fiction though! You can get behind the characters. You don’t necessarily need to agree with all they say and do.

The best non-fiction will show you aspects of a historical character you might not have considered before. The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey is fiction but it is a rare example, for me, of doing just that for Richard III.

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Looking Back

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

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Facebook – General and – Chandler’s Ford Today

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

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

Looking Back

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Always a joy to talk or write about flash fiction

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fairytales with Bite – A New Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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This World and Others – Continuity

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

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

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

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

Definite story ideas there!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Networking encourages your zest for writing


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

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

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

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


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

 

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

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

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

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

How do characters see themselves

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

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

AE - Jan 2022 - Random question generators

Goodreads Author Blog – What Does a Book Give You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stories, Naming Characters, and Addictive Flash Fiction

Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you had a good weekend. Nice to have publication news to share this week. Glad to share two links to two of my stories as part of that.

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Hope you have had a good Tuesday. Loved a swim earlier on today and Lady got to play with her best buddies, the Rhodesian Ridgeback, and the Hungarian Vizler. Lovely dogs. Girls had a great time. Good day all round here then!

Looking forward to leading the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group tomorrow (so my posts may be up late or early tomorrow depending on what kind of day I have!). I’ve used PowerPoint more in the last twelve months or so (as it is so useful to use on Zoom) than I have in the last twelve years. That really isn’t an exaggeration.

Many thanks for the lovely responses (especially on Twitter) to Jubilee, my latest story on CafeLit. Link below. This tale was one where I knew the name of the character immediately (I don’t always). Here I anted an older lady, who is a little posh but well meaning with it – Dorothy it had to be then!

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Publication News – CafeLit
Delighted to be back on CafeLit with my new story, Jubilee. I wrote this as a homework exercise I set for the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction group which I lead. Dorothy is one of those characters who grow on you – see what you make of her here. Hope you enjoy.

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Today would have been my father’s 85th birthday. He is much missed by all the family. What was nice was my late Mum got to see my first story in print and Dad got to see my first book. Don’t think they’d be too impressed with the state of the world right now, especially since both of them were child evacuees.

On a happier note I am glad to say I will have a new story up on CafeLit tomorrow. Am looking forward to sharing the link then. See above!

And I think I may have found what may be my favourite title for a Chandler’s Ford Today post. My blog this week will be called Verbs and Verbosity In Fiction! Link up on Friday. (Wish me luck for when I get to the letter X by the way!).

My author newsletter will also be going out later this week so if you would like to sign up for that, do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com

 

Hope you’ve had a good Saturday. I’ve spent the day mowing the lawn, playing ball with the dog (and while mowing the lawn too – it is quite a sight!), washing, ironing, cooking etc. Now it’s writing time. I am one of those writers who can only relax into writing when I know the major things of the day are behind me.

So could I procrastinate with doing “essential” jobs while putting off doing any writing? Not really. I do have a saving grace here – I loathe housework! There is no way I’m using that as an excuse not to write! If anything the opposite is true in that I get the dreaded chores done as soon as I can to expand my writing time.

And talking of writing, I am glad to say I now have an author bio up on the Friday Flash Fiction site under their Authors section. See the link and screenshot. Also, a big thanks to all for the comments in on my new story here, A Picture Paints A Hundred Words.

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It doesn’t take long to become addicted to writing flash fiction. I found after writing my first 100 word piece, I wanted to see if I could do it again (partly to prove to myself it wasn’t a fluke I think). Then I wanted to do another, then another, and then I tried to write to 50 words and then again to 500, and on to the upper limit of 1000 and all kinds of word counts in between. All great fun!

It has been lovely getting back to the drabble for Friday Flash Fiction especially since writing to that length was my way into flash fiction in the first place. There’s a pleasing symmetry to that I think.

So be warned! Flash can prove surprisingly addictive for such a short form of writing. I also wanted to explore (and still do) what kinds of characters would work well in such a tiny tale, whether I could write linked flashes (where the same character turns up in more than one story) and so on. Always plenty to try here and that too is part of the charm of flash fiction.

Allison Symes - Flash Fiction Collections

It’s Monday. It has been hectic (and stormy here in my part of the world). Definitely time for a story I think. Hope you enjoy my latest on YouTube – Many Happy Returns.

Interesting thought for a writing prompt here. Anniversaries, birthdays and the like can be sad or happy or a mixture of both, depending on exact circumstances. Is there a special day for a character of yours? What would be the story behind that being a special day? Does your character change their views on a special day and, if so why? Can other characters help them to see things more positively where that might be needed? Hmm…story ideas there I’m sure – good luck!

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The challenge of writing to a specific word count (such as my drabbles for Friday Flash Fiction) is also in making sure that I am getting the maximum impact from my story. Every one of those one hundred words has to punch its weight to justify its place in my tale. This is where I admit I love it when the title is not included in the overall word count. I can use that title to give extra nuances and indicate the likely mood of the story without using up my “allowance”.

Ironically my story this week on Friday Flash Fiction is one of my rarer stories with a fairly long title – A Picture Paints a Hundred Words. I used that one because it is a play on the usual phrase (it’s usually a thousand words but I wanted to play on the fact the drabble is only one hundred words long. Because a standard phrase is being subverted a little bit here, that will help make it more memorable. My favourite word counts for titles are usually between one to four words. They’re even easier to remember as a rule.

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Good Old Paperback

The good old paperback has long been my favourite book format. Easier to carry around than a hardback (and certainly less damaging if you drop it on your foot!). That love was intensified when my own flash fiction collections came out in good old paperback! Okay, I’m biased but it is a good reason to be biased!

The first paperbacks I remember buying were the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton in the days when you could buy books from your local newsagent. Southern TV had been adapting the books and of course the publishers brought out the books in an edition to match the TV series.

I then bought my own paperback of Pride and Prejudice by the wonderful Jane Austen. Later I went on to the paperbacks of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett and the P.G. Wodehouse books (though I haven’t got all of those. Still it gives me something to aim for!). All a joy to buy and to read and re-read (a sign of a good book is that is it one you can always re-read).

Which paperbacks are your favourites and why? Are there any you regret buying? (Sometimes you can find the answer to that one by looking at the books given to charity shops. Every so often a book is a big hit and then it just drops out of favour and ends up in said charity shops!).

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Heading North Again Soon and Frameworks in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Most images created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes, as were the photos of the wonderful view as you come into Dundee Railway station and of my table at the Brechin/Angus Book Festival. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing.
Hope you have had a good weekend. Went to see a live comedy gig over the weekend, booked my tickets for a very special event in March, and got soaked with the dog – so a mixed bag here!

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Lady and I had a soaking while out this morning at the Recreation Ground but other than that it has been a good day.

Am looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group Zoom meeting tomorrow night. I’ve mentioned before that one reason I think for the growth in the popularity of flash fiction is that people read more on screens now and flash works brilliantly for that. It is also easy to screen share on Zoom!

Now when it comes to thinking of topics for blog posts, I start by looking at what I think might interest other writers. (For the moment for Chandler’s Ford Today I am writing an In Fiction series). I then think about what might encourage people to join in with their comments and I also aim for my blogs to be both useful and entertaining. I do know from years of going to writing conferences etc that a topic which grabs one writer is likely to hook in others!

And for my fiction and non-fiction work, I ask myself one vital question. What will the reader get from this? It is crucial there is something in your writing that is of benefit to them, whether it is to amuse/entertain or to give them information which will be useful for their own writing. Do that and it is far more likely people will come back to you and read more of what you do.

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Hope you have had a good Monday and happy St. Valentine’s Day to all who celebrate.

Had a hilarious time at the Mayflower Theatre last night and it was good to see the entertainment industry coming back to life too.

Am pleased to say the February 2022 edition of Mom’s Favorite Reads is now free to download on Amazon.

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Am looking forward to the Association of Christian Writers Flash Fiction Group meeting on Zoom on Wednesday night. Meanwhile I’ll be enjoying meeting up with the History Writers on Zoom tonight. I’ve been very grateful for how Zoom has made things possible – with both of these groups I would not be able to get to these events in person (well, maybe once a year but that would be about it).

I’ve used a number generator as the focus for my stories for Friday Flash Fiction this week and for my new YouTube video which I’ll be sharing over on my book page shortly. See further down for the link. The number generated was 64. What could I do with that? Well, pop over to my book page in a moment and pick up the link for the video and I hope to share the second part of the answer to this on Friday!

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Am posting early today as am off with better half and other family members to see Jack Dee at The Mayflower Theatre later. Has been such a long time since we were last there.

A huge thanks for the fantastic response to my post yesterday about my forthcoming trip to the Scottish Association of Writers Conference. See below.

I’ll be looking at Frameworks in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week – link up on Friday.

A big thanks also to the response to Misunderstanding, my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. Feedback always appreciated.

Hope this week proves to be a good one (though Lady and I were none too impressed with the weather today – let’s just say the bedraggled look is in!)

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Thrilled to say I have booked my train tickets for the Scottish Association of Writers Conference which takes place in March (18th to 20th). See link.

Now you may well be thinking that’s all very nice, Allison, but you’re a Hampshire lass so how come you’re heading north?

(Not for the first time either, missus. Quite right as I was at the Brechin/Angus Festival in November which was great fun and I must admit my breath was taken away by the stunning view as you come into Dundee Railway Station – see pic below!).

Stunning views as I came into Dundee station

Another view as I came into Dundee.

I thought Dundee Station looked rather splendid

I thought Dundee Station was rather grand.


Well, I joined the History Writers group who are part of the SAW and indeed I will be giving a talk to them very soon via the wonders of Zoom about historical flash fiction. Very much looking forward to that. Now you may be suspecting there is probably a common link somewhere amongst all of this and there is – the lovely #WendyHJones links SAW, History Writers, and the Brechin/Angus Festival.

At the Conference in March, I will be running a flash fiction workshop. I’m also one of the judges for one of the SAW’s competitions.

So lots going on behind the scenes for me right now, all very exciting, and I am looking forward to meeting everyone at the Conference in March.

 

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I need to know my character before I start writing up their story but I also need to know the framework of the story in which I am going to put them.

Will it be a linear narrative, a circular story, a twist in the tale, a diary format, or should I write the story in the form of a letter? (I’ve used all of those frameworks in my time and will do so again!). I’ll be looking at Frameworks in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today this week where I’ll discuss this further but I do find frameworks so useful. I like to have a rough road map of where I am going. And sometimes I know what the story is going to be and then have to decide which is the best way to tell it for the character I’m writing about.

I do usually write A to B but for twist endings/punchline endings, I write B to A because it is simpler to get that kind of ending down first and then work out what could have led to it. It is also a relief to know I have got my ending in place and just have to work out the starting point.

There are often several options there and this is why I use spider diagrams to help me work out which would be best. And when I say best, I am thinking best for the character and best for the future reader. It isn’t the same as what would be easiest for me, the writer, to actually do (and I always dismiss this anyway because the idea is to stretch myself and not make life easy for me or my unfortunate character I’ve chosen to drop right in it!).

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Hope you enjoy my new YouTube story, At Number 64. I’ve submitted a linked story to this for Friday Flash Fiction this week and I hope to share the link on that on Friday if I can. I am enjoying using the same theme generated for two stories per week but it is also great to have a story with connections to another one, yet both stand alone.

 

The joy of flash is having a completed bit of work to hand relatively quickly but there is a difference between “completed” and “first draft”. I can draft a story in about ten/fifteen minutes (for say a 100 to 150 word count) but I will spend considerably more time after that honing and improving that draft. And that is how it should be.

The first draft is to get the idea down. Then and only then do you look at ways of making that better. Guess what? There are always ways of making things better! But you yourself get better in spotting what can be improved and sharpened over time. You get better at knowing what your writing flaws are and then making a beeline on the first edit to get rid of those.


Hope you have had a good Saturday. I mentioned this on my main author page the other day but I will repeat it here – Amazon have a good offer on the paperback of Tripping the Flash Fantastic at the moment. See the link for more information.

Looking forward to talking about historical flash fiction at the History Writers group I’m part of on Zoom soon. Given flash is focused on characters there is no reason why some of those characters can’t live in the past! And you can use characters to explore that past too. It is something I am hoping to do more of in due course.

History is made up of so many stories, of course, and as long as you are accurate, I see no reason why you can’t explore history via fiction. After all one of my favourite books The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey led me to change my mind about Richard III and take more of an interest in his life and times. Flash illuminates briefly. Why not illuminate a small section of history?

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Visualising Characters

I started reading Dickens as a result of watching Oliver Twist on TV. The film version being shown starred Sir Alec Guinness and Oliver Reed (Fagan and Sykes). Both were brilliant and I absolutely had to read the book after seeing this.

And, again with Dickens, I loved The Muppet Christmas Carol (and still do, it’s a must see at Christmas) with Sir Michael Caine as Scrooge. What I loved best, with my reader’s and writer’s hats on, is where Gonzo acting as Dickens the narrator tells us all to go and read the original book. Quite right too!

I don’t need a film or TV adaptation to visualise a well portrayed character but where adaptations are thoughtfully done, those TV and film portrayals add something special to the book when I then go on to re-read it again. I do visualise the well cast actors. I can’t read a Poirot novel now without visualising Sir David Suchet in the role or a Miss Marple without seeing in my mind’s eye the wonderfully cast Joan HIckson.

So are there any adaptations that bring a book more to life for you? Or will you always prefer the book over any adaptation?

 

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Character Types in Fiction


Image Credits:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
A huge thanks to Geoff Parkes for the picture of me taking part in the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School Open Prose Mic Night back in 2018. (That does feel a world away – so much has happened since!).
Hope you have had a good week. Not been a bad one here and Lady has got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback pal a lot this week so all is well with her world. Am busily blogging, story judging, and drafting short stories at the moment – all fun!

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Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

I’m pleased to share Character Types in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today. I take a broad look at heroes, villains, narrators, and minor characters and their role in fiction. I also take a brief look at those with the power to help or hinder the lead character. Hope you enjoy (and by all means share some of your favourites of these kinds in the CFT comments box).

Character Types in Fiction

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So sorry to hear of the passing of Barry Cryer. I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue remains a favourite of my other half and I – and we adore Morecombe and Wise, The Two Ronnies, and so many other shows Barry wrote for.

I’ve always adored word play and puns so shows like this were always bound to appeal but I wonder if a love for creative writing can come from simply loving to play with words like that? Maybe it is a key ingredient (and even more so for anyone wanting to write humour).

I also learned a long time ago that if someone makes something look easy, whether it is writing of any kind or any other skill, that same someone has worked their socks (or other hosiery items of choice) off for years to get to that point.

There are no shortcuts but practice, being willing to learn from others, and perseverance are so important. Not at all glamorous or exciting but behind the writing there needs to be a certain amount of grit and acceptance you are in for the long haul and then you still keep on going…! But that is where the support of fellow writers is so invaluable.

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Hope you have had a good Wednesday. Will be sharing Character Types in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today on Friday. See link above.

This will take a broad look at main character types (otherwise such a post could carry on indefinitely as could one asking for favourite characters. I will make a mental note to not write that one up when I get to the letter F as I am writing an “In Fiction” alphabetical series for CFT at the moment – you can see I am going to be busy for the next 20 odd weeks or so! Wish me luck when I get to Q and X!).

Am happily drafting a short story at the moment too and I hope to have a first draft of that done shortly. I will then rest it for a bit before coming back to it for editing. I do find the break away does help me see the faults and virtues of a piece that much more easily. I am really enjoying writing my lead character’s voice in this story which I trust is a good sign.

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My latest Friday Flash Fiction story is called Tears Before Lunch. This one was inspired by a question I chose from a random question generator – what makes you cry? I decided to get a character to answer that one and this is the result. Hope you enjoy it. (Also huge thanks for the fabulous comments coming in on it so far – the feedback on this site is amazing and so encouraging).

Screenshot 2022-01-28 at 11-48-35 Tears Before Lunch, by Allison Symes

 

Hope you have had a good day and many thanks for a wonderful response to my post yesterday about having a stock of stories ready for use at Open Prose Mic Nights.

Whether you take part in these things or not, reading your work out loud is a great idea. If you stumble over dialogue etc., so will your readers. It is an oddity that what looks good written down does not always translate into something that is easy to read. But reading work out loud helps you spot that.

I used to record some of my stories on Audacity back in the day so I could play them back. Even easier to do it on Zoom of course which handily converts your file to an mp4 for you. And if you are taking part in reading events, you can play your recording back to hear how you sound to yourself. It is odd to hear yourself but it does show up whether you’re reading too fast, too slow, are clear enough or not etc.

The great thing with flash pieces of course is they don’t take too long to read out but it does mean you have to grab your audience’s attention literally from the first word.

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I’ve mentioned before I have a stock of stories I use for reading at Open Prose Mic Nights, for author talks etc. It pays to regularly rehearse these and I also like to mix them up to keep things fresh and interesting. I also use stories I hope will make it into a further collection – I know I like a balance of old and new material when someone is reading to me so I do the same here.

Putting yourself into your readers’ shoes is a good idea for when you’re writing the story or performing it. Doing this when writing means you are thinking about what your reader would want from the tale and helps no end in keeping your tale relevant and to the point. Doing it when performing a story I’ve found helps me “project” the character’s voice better. It is their voice I want to get across to those I’m reading to after all.

The Open Mic for Prose night

Fairytales With Bite – Dark Days

One of the downsides to January in my part of the world is the days are dark (though towards the end of the month you do start to spot the evenings becoming lighter). In your fictional world, are dark days a seasonal thing, as we know here, or is it a part of your world’s geography that days are naturally short and extended periods of darkness is something that everyone has to cope with? How do your characters cope with those dark days?

From a historical viewpoint, does your fictional world consider a part of its past as “dark days”? Why? How have they moved on from this? What has got better since then? What might be considered to be worse?

What kind of “dark days” do your characters face and how do they get through these? This can take the form of that stage in the story where their quest is looking lost and all seems lost. It can also take the form of loss of confidence by a character in themselves and their ability to carry out the task they’ve been set. How do they overcome that? Who helps them? Who hinders them?

You can then take the idea of dark days several ways to create new story ideas. Good luck!

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This World and Others – Seasonal Activities

What kind of seasonal activities take place in your created world? Is there a planting time and a harvest time, for example? Are there harvest celebrations? Does everyone take part in these?

What kind of holidays are held in your world and what are the purpose of them? Bearing in mind the Romans famously said that what people needed were bread and circuses, how does the government of your created world apply that principle? Does it work?!

Think about the geography of your created world too. A lot will depend on how much natural light is available for plant and food growth and seasonal activities will follow that of course.

But in the “down times” when things cannot be grown, for example. are there events specifically designed to get your people through those times? Something like a winter festival to give people something to look forward to (Christmas etc for us)?

Are there political seasonal activities everyone has to take part in regardless of their personal feelings on them? How did these come into being?

Again, plenty of story thoughts there I think!

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Random Questions and Feedback


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.
Good to see the evenings slowly becoming lighter in my part of the world. It’s still January though… aka the month that goes on for what seems like forever!

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Facebook – General

So cold out there today in my part of the world – even the dog wasn’t impressed.

Had a lovely time talking about flash fiction via Zoom to an ACW-affiliated group last night. I do hope it leads to more people trying flash fiction for themselves – it is good fun, addictive, and helps you sharpen your writing skills.

Certainly I’m not afraid of editing thanks to writing flash and it also makes me think about the impact of my stories and characters from the start. Doing that means I am thinking about the reader’s needs immediately. It also means I am less likely to go off at unhelpful tangents which only slow stories down.

And it is the perfect format for those times when you don’t have much time to write. You can get something drafted in a few minutes. The great thing is it doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s what the editing stages are for!

 

Has been a good Monday for me – as busy as ever but I seemed to get more things done more quickly. I wish all Mondays were like that. Still you treasure the good ones you get!

I’ve used the same prompt (from a random question generator) to trigger two stories. One I’ve submitted to Friday Flash Fiction and the other one I’ll share on my book page shortly as it is the latest in my YouTube videos. The question generated was what makes you cry? Link further down.

Interesting one as you can take this in a tragic direction but there is a possibility for comedy too (which is the direction I’ve taken). And of course you can adjust it to think about what would make your character cry.

I love random generators. They really make me put my thinking cap on.

 

Have been enjoying a quiet weekend. I’ll be taking a broad look at Characters in Fiction for Chandler’s Ford Today later this week. Looking forward to sharing that on Friday. Have been spending time preparing pieces for different blog spots – plenty to keep me out of mischief anyway!

And I am also getting my author newsletter together ready for that to go out on 1st February. (Do head over to my landing page at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com if you would like to sign up – I share news, tips, prompts, videos etc here).

What is the one thing you like most about writing? I know it’s hard to say but for me that feeling of knowing you’ve created a piece of work that you can’t improve any more and someone else has accepted it – well, it is hard to beat that one!

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Hope you have had a good Saturday. Many thanks for the comments coming in on Someone Like Her my latest tale on Friday Flash Fiction. It is lovely receiving feedback from other readers on this site and I love reading through the other stories too.

What I find helpful in feedback I receive is in finding out what readers responded to – was it the character, the twist ending etc? (This is another reason why book reviews matter – it isn’t just the number received, it is what is said here as well).

And in giving feedback, I look to stress the positives, share what I think can be improved, and maybe make market suggestions if something obvious comes to mind. Sometimes a story you’re reading for a competition just calls into mind a possible market for it.

Am looking forward to giving a Zoom talk on Monday night too. So all go at the moment but in a very good way.

Screenshot 2022-01-21 at 19-08-10 Someone Like Her, by Allison SymesBookBrushImage-2022-1-25-20-3855

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Many thanks for the views coming in so far on Crying, my latest YouTube video. Much appreciated, always.  See video link below.

For a short story like this one, I nearly always go for using the first person. I can take you straight into my character’s head and show you their thoughts, attitudes and actions. I like to think of it as “hitting the ground running”.

The funny thing here though is I had barely used first person before writing flash fiction. I suppose for a short word count format the immediacy of the “I” character has more impact than it would do in a longer piece where its effect might be “diluted” a bit. I do know it works really well in flash though.

 

Pleased to be sharing my latest YouTube story called Crying. This came from a random question generator and the question that came up was what makes you cry? Find out here what makes my character cry. Hope you enjoy it.


I’ve never liked those stories where the description seems to go on for ever and ever, amen. Funnily enough I have no problems here with classic novels where the writers had to spell everything out for their readers (no TV, no film, no easy way of a reader visualising what London looks like etc).

But in this day and age where we can get a good idea of what a place looks like because of our experiences with TV and film, I certainly don’t want to see that kind of description in any kind of story.

This is where flash fiction comes into its own. It makes you focus on only the most important things that have to go into the story for it to make sense. Having to work to a tight word count means you have to make choices but it is all for the good of the story – and that is always a great thing. Regardless of what we write, we should always be focusing on what is for the good of the story (which is where that famous phrase about “killing your darlings” comes in I suspect).

(But if you do want a great read right now and one which is free how about following this link to Mom’s Favorite Reads?).

 

Am giving a Zoom talk on Monday night about flash fiction. Love talking about that. I also think it is a great form for people who don’t have a lot of time to write but know they want to write something! And you can. Over time you can build up another flash stories for your own collections etc. I remain convinced in learning to write to a tight word count, that skill will carry over into writing query letters, synopses etc that also have to “not go on for too long” and convey information to attract an agent/publisher quickly.

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Goodreads Author Blog – Best Friends in Fiction

With my other writing hat on, I blog including for a weekly online magazine. My current topic for them is Best Friends in Fiction but I realised it would be a good topic for Goodreads too. When a lead character and their best friend/sidekick character are well portrayed, it is a joy to read their adventures and the interactions between them.

Can you imagine Holmes without Watson or Wooster without Jeeves? So many classic stories depend on the best friend character – and across genres too. Think Sam Gamgee and his support of Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. (It was literal support at some points too).

Characterisation has always been what makes or breaks a story (of any length) for me. I have got to understand where the characters are coming from, even if I disagree with their attitudes and actions. And for lead and best friend characters I have got to see why the lead has the best friend character they do.

Holmes is a genius but needs Watson to temper that but Holmes does recognise that. Watson knows he can never be as brilliant as Holmes but knows he has his own role to play that could not be fulfilled by Holmes. Can you imagine Holmes trying to narrate a story for the masses? Err… no I think!

Do you have any favourite best friend fictional characters and if so why have you chosen these? Mine is Sam Gamgee – you can’t beat the guy for loyalty and guts when it matters.

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Merry Christmas!

Image Credits:-

All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated. Some images created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes. I also took photos from my Scottish break this year to illustrate light and dark. See further down. Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. I hope you have a lovely Christmas, however you celebrate it, and I hope there are plenty of books amongst your presents!

 

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Pleased to share my Merry Christmas post on Chandler’s Ford Today. I share the link to the Three Minute Santas festive flash fiction broadcast on North Manchester FM hosted by Hannah Kate and another story called Festivities.

I also discuss the joy of writing festive pieces and share some thoughts about “baking the perfect story”. I mention ingredients and method too! Hope you enjoy the post. And as the post says, Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

 

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Other half and I have now had the booster. Rest of family will be “done” tomorrow. Will be a relief to have it dealt with. And a big thanks to the lovely folk at Salisbury City Hall today. Hubby and I jabbed and out in under 10 minutes.

I’m sharing festive flash fiction on Chandler’s Ford Today this week. Link up tomorrow. See above!

To all who were shortlisted in the Friday Flash Fiction festive competition, well done.

Best writing tip of the year for me was to record on Zoom a practice run of any talks/presentations ahead of giving them. Zoom converts any recording into a mp4 file. I found on playing things back I was speaking too fast. Yet it didn’t seem as if I was when recording.

Lesson learned here: you are not always the best judge of how you come across. You can’t fool a recording on play back! But worth noting and learning from.

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Indulged in some alternative creative therapy earlier – Christmas baking! Best of all, it meant I had to be in the warm on what has been a bitterly cold day for a lot of the UK. It is another advantage to writing – generally you do it indoors!

Have started indulging in my favourite Christmas stories – watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is just brilliant. Next up on my list will be Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.

No YouTube video from me this week and I will probably not submit anything to Friday Flash Fiction over the Christmas period but I will look forward to resuming both of those after a bit of a break.

Am currently reading two excellent flash fiction collections by other authors and hope to review those in due course. Yes, I read in my genre as well as outside of it. You do need to know what is going on in your field too. No two writers go about their storytelling in exactly the same way and I find the differences in style and approach fascinating.

What we can do is learn from one another – what works well, what doesn’t and so on. I know I’ve been grateful (and will continue to be) for learning this way. One aspect to creative writing is we keep on learning – how to improve our craft, get better at spotting what markets are best suited for our work etc – and that is so good for us in terms of this keeping our brains active and in terms of encouraging and developing our own creativity.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Hope you have a lovely Christmas and get to enjoy plenty of books, stories, flash fiction tales etc. The latter is of course ideal for a quick read when time is tight! I’ll be back posting on here again next week.

Meantime, I’m sharing the link to my page on CafeLit where you will find a mixture of flash pieces and short stories. Hope you enjoy. Merry Christmas! (And yes it is a good reminder to me to submit more work to CafeLit next year!).Screenshot 2021-12-24 at 19-56-10 CafeLitMagazineM = More flash tales for 2022.
E = Exploring more genres and varying word counts
R= Remembering not to exceed the 1000 word limit for flash.
R = Rules can be stretched a bit – hyphenated words count as one word in flash.
Y = Yet noting you do still have to hyphenate where that is legitimate – no cheating!

C = Characters are the stars of the stories.
H = Hearing their tales, their voices is what readers want.
R = Readers are your audience of course so write with them in mind.
I = Imaginative characters in unique settings will grab readers’ attention.
S = Stories – it is all about the story and its impact on readers.
T = Truth is often revealed by characters, usually showing some aspect of our nature.
M = Mirroring life, stories can share what we might not like to discuss in more palatable ways.
A = Always be truthful in your writing even when telling stories – you have to believe it first.
S = Structure and editing – don’t rush either as it pays to get these right.

Merry Christmas!

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Turning the tables on a character is great fun to do and I’ve used this for my longer short stories too. (My It Is Time from Mulling It Over by Bridge House Publishing is a good example of this).

You have the ending set up in advance – the moment the tables are turned and this is especially true for a flash story where it works best as the last line. What you need to work out is whether the character deserves having the tables turned like that or whether you are going to leave your readers with a sense of pity for your character where such a thing is undeserved.

If your character does deserve what is coming to them (and most of mine do), then you need to work out why. Also are your characters going to have a chance to redeem themselves, say, or do they blithely ignore all of that and what hits them hits them?

One of the reasons I love A Christmas Carol is because Scrooge does deserve the fright he gets but he recognizes this and accepts the need to change. That kind of story is so positive and I love them.

And it’s perfectly feasible to do this in flash. This kind of story is where I do work from the ending back to the start and use a spider diagram to help me work out the best start. I’ve found that technique for this kind of story is especially effective as it ensures I have the “turn around” written and good to go. I can then work out what led to that. You don’t have to always write A to Be. B to A can work really well too. Give it a go!

Fairytales with Bite – Light and Dark of Fairytales

Fairytales reflect the light and dark side of life. They show cruelty up for what it is and ensure the villains get their comeuppance, though this doesn’t usually happen for a while. Pantomime, which so often uses fairytales as the story base, adds humour into the mix. But both of these don’t shy away for calling out the dark and ensuring the light triumphs.

Maybe, because we know so often that doesn’t happen in real life, the appeal of fairytales is very long lasting. I think there is a deep-rooted need to see wrong being righted. I know I feel that way.

Fairytales are also realistic about what human nature can be. We don’t question Snow White’s stepmother’s murderous intent. We just know some people are just like that, again motivated by envy a lot of the time, or being unable to accept the person they’re feeling murderous towards for other reasons.

But fairytales can also show virtue being rewarded and I’ve always loved that aspect, again because it so often doesn’t happen for real (even though it should!).

So fairytales are far from twee then. They’re open to interpretation and cover a wide range of emotions we recognise in ourselves. Light and dark both have to be shown – and shown honestly – and I feel fairytales are brilliant at that. I don’t feel they will ever lose their appeal simply due to that.

 

This World and Others – Deciding What You Need to Know

Every writer, regardless of what they write, needs to decide what they need to know before bringing their story to life. I need to know my character’s major traits (and as a result what can come from those). I don’t need to know what they look like and, even when I do, that comes in later for me. Other writers need to have an idea of what their people look like before fleshing them out more. Different strokes and all that.

When it comes to world building, what do you need to know there? Do you need to know the physical geography of your setting or its political make up? Do you need to know both and one directly affects the other? If so, how? What will make your fictional world seem real to you? You have to believe it first before any reader might.

It would pay to take time out then. You have this great idea. You have fantastic characters you can’t wait to bring to life on the page. So what do you need to know to make the most of these, to get the best out of them? Even if you don’t usually plan, a little forward planning could save you considerable time on the editing later on.

And it may well be you will need to know things the reader does not but that knowledge will help you write your characters with more conviction. It is my belief (as a reader and a writer) that sense of conviction does come through.

It is what I think keeps readers glues to characters and their stories. It definitely pays to work out in advance what you need to know to convince yourself. You will write with more confidence. You will know this character. You will know their story. I hope you find a bit of forward planning helps you against the wretched Imposter Syndrome which affects most writers at some point.

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Learning, Back at an ACW Event, and North Manchester FM

Image Credit:-
All images from Pixabay/Pexels unless otherwise stated (and most created via Book Brush using Pixabay photos). Book cover images from Chapeltown Books and Bridge House Publishing. Screenshots were taken by me, Allison Symes.
Hope you have had a good start to the working week. Lovely autumnal weather here in the UK right now – just the kind the dog and I like most.

Facebook – General

Enjoying the lovely autumnal weather at the moment – dry, sunny, crisp – my kind of weather at this time of year.

Writers are often advised (and I’ve done it too) to read widely as sparks for story and article ideas will often crop up from what you enjoy reading. But I was at a fascinating Zoom talk last night about Cistercian Abbeys. Not something I write about. Nor am I likely to do so but the talk was interesting and revealed plenty I did not know especially about life in a community.

Now I can see I might get something from that for a story or two later on. Fabulous if I do. Still improving my knowledge even if not. Win-win basically. So why not try a Zoom or other kind of talk on a topic that might be a little outside of your own box but where you have some underlying interest? (In my case, I love history).

I’ve talked before about mixing up how you approach story writing to keep things (a) fresh and interesting for you and (b) to encourage lateral thinking and even more creativity. Why not use talks as another way into that mixing up your approach?

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Hope you had a good Monday. Not bad here. Nice autumnal day, plenty of sunshine, and Lady got to play with her Rhodesian Ridgeback buddy and her Labradoodle pal. All is well in her world at least!

Coming back to earth after a wonderful ACW event on Saturday but I find I always do need a bit of a breathing space after an event like that to take stock and then get on with my writing again.

Many thanks for the lovely comments so far on my Leaving It Late, which is my most recent tale on #FridayFlashFiction. Am so loving writing the drabbles again – and this particular tale shows just how far one character can take stubbornness.

Screenshot 2021-10-08 at 16-41-23 Leaving It Late, by Allison Symes

It was lovely getting back to using Evernote properly on my train trips to/from London for the Association of Christian Writers day yesterday. I’ll be out and about on the train again next month when I go to the Brechin/Angus Book Fest and again in December because Bridge House Publishing are having their annual celebration event, hooray!

Mind you, some things don’t change over the years. I always used to become irritated when bad radio reception would hit right during the middle of my favourite song. These days my irritation is aimed at when the internet connection drops out just as I’m trying to post something (and you don’t always know when a tunnel is coming up!).

It was fantastic catching up with so many friends yesterday and I look forward to catching up with more over the next couple of months. I also managed to draft a flash piece yesterday which I’m going to use for my YouTube video this week. Hope to share the link for that tomorrow over on my book page at From Light to Dark and Back Again. See further down.

Oh and it has been lovely listening to Gill James being interviewed by Hannah Kate on North Manchester FM. Plenty of plugs for Bridge House, Chapeltown, CafeLit etc (and a couple for me too – thank you, Gill and Hannah). Give it a listen and discover insights into how a small independent publisher works.

Gill James Interview Here
Screenshot 2021-10-12 at 20-56-33 North Manchester FM Hannah's Bookshelf, Saturday 9 October, 2-4pm - Hannah Kate

Am on way to my first in-person event for the Association of Christian Writers today. Event is being held in London. I am so looking forward to catching up with friends I’ve either not seen or only seen through Zoom for the past two years. Am drafting this via Evernote on train up. Will probably post on train home.

As well as what you learn from the speaker(s), you pick up loads of tips, sites to check out etc., when chatting with other writers over a cuppa or several. You also sense a creative buzz at the event which you can draw on to inspire you when you’re back home again.

So it will be a tiring, inspirational, and fantastic trip out. ACW are also celebrating the launch of Write Well! This will be launched during the latter half of today’s event. The book is written by various ACW members about aspects of writing and I am looking forward to reading it.

The lovely thing with writing is you don’t stop learning or developing what you do. This is so good for the old brain!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Giving your character an immediate problem they have to resolve is a great way to get into a story. Your reader has to read on to find out what happens, which is exactly what you want. But you can also add intrigue by hinting at an unusual setting for the problem.

I did this with my Decisions from Tripping the Flash Fantastic. My opening line to this is “He could watch the world end or jump on the alien spacecraft that encouraged visitors.”.

Well, firstly, what would you do if you faced that? Whatever you decide, hopefully the hook is there for you to want to find out what my character did. Secondly, I’ve managed to give you the genre in four words – world end and alien spacecraft. This confirms the genre has to be sci-fi and this is an apocalyptic tale.

The setting is here on Earth – that is confirmed by my character’s name (Jeff). So little things like this give your readers plenty of information to take in and you don’t info-dump on them either. That was something I did use to do when I first started out. Great big blocks of description and/or “have to tell the reader this so I will give it to them all in one go right here and now”. Uhh… no!

Drip-feeding information is better by far, more interesting, and helps keep your word count down, invaluable for flash of course.

Pleased to share my latest YouTube story, The Package. Who do you feel the most for here? Comments welcome here on over on my channel page. Hope you enjoy the tale.

 

Nice to have a quieter day after a wonderful day in London yesterday with the Association of Christian Writers. Will be returning to the capital in December for a Bridge House Publishing celebration event – can’t wait for that. Have been in contact with people over Facebook and Zoom, of course, but it will be so nice to get together in person again.

I’ll be sharing tomorrow my latest YouTube video which was inspired by a snippet of conversation I overheard on the train yesterday! Good fun to write and I look forward to sharing the story. (I say overhear, it was more a case of not being able to miss the conversation, but it can all be useful material for sparking off story ideas!).

 

Am back on the train for an Association of Christian Writers event so am resuming using Evernote for jotting down blog posts and flash fiction pieces. It’s lovely getting to use the app again after a long gap. I used it for the first time since lockdown for my trip to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School back in August but with today’s event, it feels like it’s going to be a regular thing again. And that’s nice.

I will often use train writing sessions to brainstorm ideas for titles and/or opening lines. Course it’s a great chance to people watch again! Have just heard someone saying they had to go to their old house to pick up a delivery they sent to their old place by mistake and the person now living there was a “really old lady”. I suspect they mean someone of my age – fifties!! But could I get a story from that?

Oh yes! Firstly, the old lady could be something not of this world and my character has no idea what to do when they discover this. Far from getting one over on an old lady, she is the one turning tables here. Secondly, I could do something with the delivery itself. What is it? Why does my character need it? What would happen if the old lady opens it as it came to her house?

So will be keeping ears and eyes open for this trip ready to jot down ideas!  See YouTube video above – I did do something with this!

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Goodreads Author Blog – New Books

One lovely thing about going to events, as I’ve done this week, is exploring the book stalls and bringing home a new book or several! (Naturally I hope to sell some of mine too!).

It is great being able to go to events again. I missed this so much in 2020. And I know I will be picking up a very good read indeed when I go to the book stalls.

I’ve yet to go back to bookshops again but that will only be a matter of time! I may get to do so as part of my travels as there is a Foyles bookshop at London Waterloo. I think a lot will depend on how much I spend at the book stalls first!

The downside is every time I pick up new books like this, it reminds me I should sort my bookshelves out! I guess into every reader’s and writer’s life a little rain must fall!

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