Good Books and Steps and Contrasts

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

So what DO you look for in a good book? I share what I think and name three of my favourite tomes in this week’s CFT post.

I do love a self-explanatory blog post title!

The three books I name are Lord of the Rings, Pride and Prejudice, and Men at Arms (by the much missed Terry Pratchett). What elements do these books share? They do have some.

Do share your own three favourite books. Comments are always welcome on the CFT page.

Image Credit:  Images on the slideshow are all via Pixabay (wonderful site!).  Captions up on the CFT post itself.  I can confirm this is the first (and likely to be last) time I put up a picture of ants reading…

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One of the things I enjoyed doing for my CFT post this week was naming three of my favourite books and looking at what they have in common, despite being in different genres. My problem was limiting my selection to three but it was a nice problem to have! (I’ll put the link up tomorrow. The topic overall discusses what good books should be).

There are certain books I re-read periodically or at certain times of year (Hogfather by Terry Pratchett is always read or listened to in the run up to Christmas for example). I’m glad to say it is a very rare event for me not to be able to finish a book but when that happens it is because the book is awful and I’m at that stage where life is far too short to waste time on books like that. Mind, reading excellent works by other authors is a wonderful challenge to me to ensure I always “up my game” when it comes to writing my stories and that’s no bad thing.

 

Facebook – General – and More than Writers – Association of Christian Writers

I talk about Steps and Contrasts in my monthly spot on the More than Writers blog (Association of Christian Writers).

I look at how difficult it can be to have faith in the writing process when things are NOT going well and share some tips as to how I’ve got around this.

It is a case of getting around it. I see things not going well, writing wise, as a temporary obstacle. You go through it, bypass it, or what have you but you find ways of NOT letting it get in your way forever, including ignoring it, working on something else for a bit and then coming back to it.

I can’t count how many times I’ve come up with an idea to solve a problem I’ve had on one piece of work while working on something else! Distraction therapy works.

And I suspect most writers will identify with the second image in the picture below!

STEPS - Ideas have to be worked out, I have yet to have light bulb moments like this - Pixabay

I’ve yet to see an idea flash above my head like this! Pixabay

STEPS - Is there a writer who doesn't know how this feels = Pixabay

Most writers will know how this feels… Pixabay

STEPS - It will take time to work out where your writing journey will take you - Pixabay

The writing journey has to be taken a step at a time. Pixabay

STEPS - We all need to recharge at times - Pixabay

Recharge yourself when you need to. Your writing will be better for it. Pixabay

STEPS - Writing is made up of steps - Pixabay

The writing journey – upwards and onwards. Pixabay

STEPS - Writing is not black and white but it can be useful to contrast what your writing is with what you thought it would be - Pixabay

Contrasting can be a useful technique when trying to solve problems with your fiction. Pixabay

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

One of the things I love most about flash fiction is it is open to genres within it. I’ve written historical fiction tales, crime stories, fairytales, character studies etc all within the flash fiction limit of up to 1000 words.

Character is everything for me both in reading and writing stories. I don’t necessarily need to like the character I’m reading about or writing but there has to be something I can identify with so I can see why they are the way they are. I then want to find out how things work out for them. It’s that initial hook which is so important (and it is a lot of fun working out what that should be too!).

One technique I’ve found useful for writing flash fiction is to work out what I’ve loved in other very short stories and ask myself can I learn from this to help my writing.

The answer to that is inevitably “yes” as reading widely and absorbing, almost unconsciously, how other writers handle dialogue, changes of scene etc, is the best way to learn. The difference with flash fiction is there’s not so much material to get through!

What I’m looking for is the impact the flash tale has had on me and why it impacted that way. You can then look for clues in the story itself as to how the writer achieved that.

Almost inevitably, what I love most when reading other authors’ works is the strength of their characterisation. I’ve long believed getting the characters right is the key to good fiction. A weak character will let down even the strongest of plots.

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There are days when you have particularly nice writing things to do. Today, I proofread my story, The Professional, which will be in the Waterloo Arts Festival ebook in due course. Love doing things like that.

And other days you are wrestling with a knotty story problem but you will get through it. I’ve found jotting down possible solutions, going to work on something else, and then coming back to look at those possibilities with fresh eyes is a good way forward.

Two advantages here: working on something else frees up your creative juices to mull over your problem. I can’t tell you how often an idea to solve something has occurred while writing something else. The other advantage is you’ve started drafting a new piece of work too!

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Fairytales with Bite –

What Do You Look For in a Good Book?

What Do You Look For in a Good Book is my theme for this week’s CFT post. Hope you enjoy.

The challenge for any writer, whether they’re writing novels or story collections, is to ensure their book could be classed as “good”.  Allowing for differences in taste I think what writers need to achieve with their writing can be summarised as:-

  1. Believable characters.

  2. Characters we can identify with.

  3. A plot with twists and turns to keep a reader guessing.

  4. The story has to have a “got to find out what happens next” element to it. Without that, the whole thing falls down. This element, for me, works best when the characters are so gripping, I’ve got to find out what happens to them. I don’t need to like them. I just need to want to find out what happens to them. Sometimes it can be to follow a horrible character and experience great glee as they get their comeuppance at the end of the story!

  5. An easy to read style. I’ve got to enjoy the way the prose flows. Easy to read takes time to get right and I learned a long time ago that whenever someone makes writing look easy, that same someone has worked for years to get to that point.

Good luck with your own writing! And whoever said writing is easy has never done any…!

This World and Others Changing Direction

I’ve changed direction at different stages of my writing and anticipate doing so again (and probably a few times at that).

Why is this okay?  Sometimes you discover a new form of writing you just love doing (in my case this was flash fiction). At other times, a certain format is just not working for you no matter how hard you try so you focus your skills where you know you can achieve success.  (Incidentally you can define what success here is too.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be publication. It can be getting to a point where you know you could be published, it could be achieving writing X number of stories in a month etc etc).

Naturally, your characters can change direction too. Sometimes this is literally so (see any quest story for that – a map will come into the story somewhere too!). At other times, it can be a change of opinion (with repercussions. There should always be repercussions, that’s where the drama is).

Whatever the reason for the change of direction, and no matter what form it takes, there should be good reasons for it, reasons your readers will understand and accept. They don’t necessarily have to agree with your characters and neither do you (!), but the reasons for the changes should be well thought out, logical etc etc.

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Editing, Dream Characters, and Story Collections

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I’ve never understood writers who edit as they write. I know full well I would stymie myself if I tried that. When would I ever accept I had written a good enough first line yet alone a first page etc?

It has helped me enormously to know you don’t have to get it right all in one go. Indeed, the one guarantee is you won’t! So I write and focus on getting the story written.

Then I worry about:-

1. Does the story work?

2. Does the structure make sense?

3. Have I overwritten anything? (The answer to that is always yes!).

4. What “flabby prose” can I tighten up by better choices of words, phrases etc? (There is always something to be improved here but that’s fine. You get better over time at knowing what to look for here and how you can put it right. It is slightly annoying you can’t stop yourself writing flabby prose but at least nobody else has to see it!).

5. Do my characters come across the way I want them to do? (There’s nearly always room for improvement here).

I love editing. It’s a great feeling when you know your story has improved dramatically because you’ve dealt with the 5 points above properly.

But it is a case of one thing at a time. Write first, edit later.

 

Pleased I’ve submitted a couple of flash fiction pieces. Won’t know results for a while but it’s such a joy being able to submit work online.

When I first started out (and the dinosaurs had just left the planet etc etc), all submissions had to be done by snail mail. When I think of the costs and time tied up in that, the mind boggles!

The great thing is I have acknowledgement of receipt of entries pretty much straight away too. I recall having to put in stamped addressed postcards to publishers when I was particularly keen to know if something had reached them.

So am I pleased at the development of email submissions etc? You bet! Technological change is often a good thing.

What would you class as a dream character? For me this would be someone who was:-

1. Feisty and honourable. (Funnily enough, that can apply to villains too. They will have a code they adhere to no matter what. It may not be one we as readers like or agree with but there will be something there where we can see why the villain would act the way they are. What I can’t stand are characters who do things for no apparent reason. They leave me thinking “What….?!”).

2. Comes up with all the best one-liners

3. Gets on with most other characters because they’re not full of themselves or, in the case of a villain, is able to charm other characters into obeying them. The fascination there is how they draw people in.

4. Is the type of person you would definitely want on your side in a fight/life or death scenario. In the case of a villain. who is the cause of said fight/life or death scenario, they are the kind of person you would run a million miles from. They have got to be PROPER villains.

5. Fascinate YOU as the writer. You are your own first audience.

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I’ll be looking at What Do You Think Makes a Good Book in my CFT post later this week. I’ll also be naming three of my all-time favourites, which are varied in genre and era, and look at what they have in common. Link up on Friday. I love writing for CFT but posts this like are especially fun to write!

How to spot a committed writer (and possibly one that should be!):-

1. Their book shelves are piled high with books from across the genres

2. They have notebooks everywhere (but can have trouble finding a pen when asked).

3. They can go on about stories for ever and ever amen (and do given half a chance).

Hmm…

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Editing is my theme for tonight. One of the issues with flash fiction is how far do you edit? It is too easy just to focus on getting the word count right and not look at the balance of the story overall. It’s something I have to watch out for.

If a phrase, say, tells me something more about a character than a shorter expression would, the longer phrase stays in. It’s all about the relevant details. Focus on what HAS to be in your story. What’s left is where you can cut back.

But look at how the story flows and do read it aloud to hear this for yourself. An edit doesn’t work if you’ve taken out ALL that makes the story flow. This is the point if I decide a story works better at 250 words than 100, it stays at 250.

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What are the advantages of using the first person in flash fiction?

1. I can take you straight into that character’s thoughts.

2. That in turn will show you their attitudes (which will also give clues as to what their significant traits are likely to be).

3. I show you the story through that character’s eyes and I think it creates immediacy.

4. I can vary how my “I” character talks to you as a reader – and that can in turn help you guess at likely age and so on. My Calling the Doctor has a confiding tone to it. My They Don’t Understand has my narrator looking back at life with regret. I don’t need to tell you the latter is going to be a senior citizen as a result. It is all implied in how they “talk”.

5. As first person is so direct, it can save a lot on the word count!

What do I look for in a writing prompt? The obvious answer is something to stretch me (no, not a rack or a huge elastic band!). The format of that prompt matters less.

I’ve used picture prompts, opening line and closing line prompts, list so many words connected to a theme prompts and so on.

I do think it a good idea to mix up which prompts you use to keep things interesting for you and also to ensure you ARE challenging yourself frequently enough. It can be easy to get into a rut of using only certain kinds of prompts/ideas to get you started.

Mix things up, have fun, play with words. Once you’ve got your thoughts down, then stand back and put your editor’s hat on.

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I’ve long been an advocate of reading work out loud. I’ve picked up errors this way and find out if my dialogue really is as smooth as I thought it was when I wrote it. If I stumble over it, a reader will too, and out comes the editing pen again.

It is one of those oddballs that something which looks great written down does not necessarily transfer well to speech.

The other advantage of reading work out loud is you hear the rhythm within the prose and you can tweak that to the advantage of the story’s overall impact.

The great thing with flash fiction?

Reading work out loud doesn’t take long!

 

Goodreads Author Blog – Story Collections

I have got a very soft spot for story collections for several reasons:-

1. My first real reading loves was the Reader’s Digest Collection of Fairytales, which I still have.

2. You get a lovely mixture of tones and length of story in an anthlogy.

3. I’ve been published in such anthologies (and am due to be so again) so am not unbiased here!

4. If you’re not sure what to read next novel wise, why not switch to short story collections for a while? I’ve found reading a collection makes a nice “refresher” before I pick which novel I’ll read next. You also get to mix up your reading here (which I think is always a good thing as it can be a great way to discover authors new to you).

5. You can have collections on a single theme or genre so it is easy enough to go with what you fancy here.

6. You can support the indie presses who bring out such anthologies as these give more authors a voice (and readers more choice too).

7. It’s my belief short stories and flash fiction can encourage reluctant readers to venture further into the wonderful world of books. You’re not asking them to commit to too much at the start. Hopefully by the time they’ve finished a collection, they’ll be hooked and will want to read more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maps and Truth

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is Maps in Fiction and History.

I discuss, amongst other things, maps -v- sat navs (are the latter little devils out to get you?), the wonders of street names in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, and why old maps are a joy.

Maps also play a big role in children’s fiction and fantasy especially. I would be a little surprised if you’ve not read a fictional work with a map involved somewhere.

Hope you enjoy.

 

Image Credit:  Pixabay – do see the post for the captions.  I will add though this is likely to be the only post I ever write which involves maps, Komodo dragons, and Discworld street names!

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I’ll be looking at maps in fiction and history for my CFT post this week. (Can’t imagine Treasure Island without a map!). Will share the link tomorrow but the big “fight” here is maps -v- sat navs.

Are maps old hat and doomed or are sat navs malicious little devils? All I’ll say on the latter is one has tried to send my family and I through what it laughingly called a ford. Think raging torrent and you’d have a better idea!

Comments will be welcome over on the CFT page once the link goes up.

The best story ideas always have an element of truth to them, regardless of what genre they’re set in, and that truth is based on our experiences of life.

Crime fiction will always resonate with people as we know about crime and there’s always a wish to see justice done. In the pages of a book, that’s usually guaranteed.

Fantasy fiction and science fiction can reflect the wish to escape this world and explore what might be out there somewhere (we simply haven’t discovered it “for real” yet). Also, alternative realities can explore ideas which might become possibilities for real later. It’s why time travel fascinates. There’s always the thought that one day someone might find the ways and means.

Horror for me can reflect the human condition and ask very pertinent questions. Frankenstein is a great example of that.

The bedrock of fiction then, ironically, is truth which is NOT made up!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I discuss maps in fiction in my latest CFT post/.

It led me to wonder about mapping out your flash stories ahead of writing them. When I write a batch of stories in one go (usually 3 or so), I sometimes plan a theme for all of them but with different takes.

For example, if my theme is poetic justice (which is a favourite I admit), I will write a serious story, a funny one, and a sad or dark one to that topic. Readers will pick up on the common thread and I feel doing this makes for a smooth, seamless read.

Sometimes I will map out character types. For example, I want to write about a feisty OAP (always good fun!), so again I will write, say, three funny stories around such a character but change settings/time periods etc. The great thing here is you can also use the same character in different settings.

Mix it up and have fun!

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Favourite themes for flash fiction stories:-

1. Poetic justice
2. Revenge
3. A look at life from the viewpoint of an alien (literally so in many of my flash pieces).
4. Irony (often used in the twist ending stories).
5. Fairytales/nursery rhymes from an alternative viewpoint.
6. History (and often via the viewpoint of another character looking at what we “know” as history but through their eyes).

I think you’ve got to write to the themes that appeal to you most. Because you love these themes, you will pour heart and soul into creating the characters and that shows through in your writing. Take time to work out what themes appeal to you most and dig deep to write to/for them with conviction.

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Sometimes opportunities to explain what flash fiction is crop up when I don’t really expect them. One example of this occurred this morning when exercising Lady in the park (though to be fair I should add Lady does pretty well in running around all by herself without any assistance from me).

A flash fiction story should be a complete story in and of itself. Yes, it should leave you wondering and see how the story could be extended but it should be a satisfying read in and of itself. It is the Polaroid snapshot of a story as compared to a “proper” portrait of a novel kind of tale! You capture the instance. A portrait can cover much more detail.

I also like to think of flash fiction stories as precision writing. Every word really must punch its weight and deserve its place.

 

Fairytales with Bite – Reasons to Love Fairytales

Nobody really needs a reason to love fairytales, of course, but for the less convinced I offer the following:-

1.  They are often the first stories youngsters come across and are a gateway into the wonderful world of reading. Once that spark is lit, there should be no turning back.  It is no coincidence that those who read more develop a larger and more wide ranging vocabulary.

2.  There is a clear sense of right and wrong in fairytales. (That appeals to children and those who decided growing up was overrated).

3.  Some stories can act as warnings.

4.  The stories can reflect injustice and cruelty but also usually have those things stopped by the end. (In life so often these things are not stopped.  It is good to have stories where matters are rectified, justice is done etc.  This is something shared with good crime stories too).

5.  They’re great stories (reason enough!).

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This World and Others – Can Cliches Ever Be Useful?

The answer to the above question should be “like the plague” really!  But to be serious can cliches have a place in fiction?

Yes, they can but in different ways.

1.  Above all else, they should be used sparingly.  Too many of them spoils any good effect you might want to use them for and will just switch readers off.  Also, don’t use them in every story you write either.  Every now and again but more on this in 2 below.

2.  A cliche can be a useful shortcut but choose the right one and aim for it to have a positive impact on your readers.  You want them to be able to see why you used it and for there to be no stronger alternative.  Most of the time there will be as you come up with your own expressions and these should be the ones you always go for first.

3.  You can subvert a cliche.  I’ve used “take the Garibaldi” as a subversion of “take the biscuit”.  This approach can also help you convey something of character too.  Someone who takes the Garibaldi is going to be of a different social standing to someone who “takes the Lidl Rich Tea” for one thing and you can then play on that for effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogging on the Move

I was away in the stunning far North of Scotland last week and was pleased I managed to blog most of what I would usually do most of the time.  Tonight’s roundup will include two Goodreads blog posts I wasn’t able to share while on the move last week.  I’ll also include the Fairytales with Bite and This World and Others links I also wasn’t able to share last week (and repeat the copy from each blog).

Must say I found the Word Press mobile app a joy to use though and that is encouraging.  (Only things I couldn’t do were coloured headings which is not overly crucial when all is said and done, nor could I share slideshows, so got around that with various individual images instead.  That worked a treat.).

First things first though.

Facebook – General

Learned a lot this week as to which mobile apps really are mobile friendly and those will be the ones I’ll stick to when next blogging on the move.

Having said that, it has been lovely writing overlooking a beautiful loch. From tomorrow it will be back to looking at my study wall! Mind, I can turn and look at the garden.

What matters when writing is being in the right frame of mind. That is, you are ready to write and you want to write because you can’t stop yourself from writing.

No photo description available.

Loved this when I found it on Pixabay.

Back to my desk and now it is time to catch up with my usual writing (though I drafted a lot while on the move last week, which I am going to be so thankful for this week!). Have smartphone, have Evernote, am dab hand with a stylus, and away I go.

I’m planning on submitting a couple of flash fiction stories this week, having drafted them while away. Later this week will be about the right time to look at them again with a “clear view” and if they still grab me, I will submit them. You do have to be grabbed by your own stories. You are your own first audience. If you don’t like what you write, why should anyone else?

The important point is to be objective and above all be honest. What did you like about your story and why? Are there any points you think need strengthening? Do trust your gut instincts here by the way, they’re nearly always right.

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I’ve got a few writing prompts in my diary to catch up on later this week. The one that takes my fancy the most is the picture of the white terrier running along a sandy beach – now I wonder why that is!

Another prompt is to select ten words associated with a train journey and write these up into a piece of writing. The nice thing with this one is you can easily make that fiction or non-fiction. (I suspect for anyone caught up in train delays, broken down trains etc that they’d have no trouble coming up with at least 10 words on the subject! How many of them would be non-swearing is another matter though…).

Am delighted to say I’ll be going to the Waterloo Arts Festival on 8th June. I missed it last year due to holiday.

My story, The Professional, is one of the 16 winners in the Waterloo writing competition. I’m looking forward to meeting up with friends and there will be the opportunity to read out extracts of the winning stories at the event.

I look forward to reading some of my story but also hearing the others. It is a treat to be read to!

If last year’s collection To Be…To Become (where I also had a story published) is anything to go by, it’ll be a good eclectic mix of tales.

Will share the link to the ebook when it is available.

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

My favourite kind of flash fiction is where it ends with a punchline that makes me smile. That’s partly because I’ve got a very soft spot for any kind of humorous prose. It’s also because having something that “just” makes you laugh is worth so much. Escapism, especially in humour, is invaluable.

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Haven’t seen this one round my way.  Pixabay

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Good idea!  Pixabay

Looking forward to reviewing some flash pieces I drafted while away last week. (Have smartphone and Evernote, the free version, love both!). Once done, I’ll be sending them off to a couple of competitions. Then it’ll be a case of working out which competitions I’d like to have a go at and getting on with the next batch of stories.

The nice thing with short fiction is being able to get work out there far more quickly than you can with novels.

One of the frequent reminders on the motorway is “Tiredness kills, take a break”. In terms of writing, tiredness saps your mental energy and it can be tough to write when you feel like that.

What has helped me has been seeing writing as something that helps me unwind, whatever I come up with now doesn’t have to be “perfect” now (which is just as well!), and that I always feel a bit better once I have written something, even if it is only a few lines.

I see the writing as the “taking the break” bit of the above phrase. When a day has been particularly tough, I jot down ideas for future blogs and stories, and find it is almost like clearing my mind out for a while. (That in itself can help with unwinding). And, of course, when feeling brighter, there are ideas ready for me to write up into what I hope will be something special!

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June is going to be a busy month. I’ll be going to the Waterloo Arts Festival (where winners of their writing competition will read extracts from their stories – really looking forward to taking part in that and listening to the others).

A week later I’ll be at the Winchester Writers’ Festival.

At both, I’ll look forward to meeting up with friends as well as enjoying the events. I’ve no doubt I’ll learn plenty from them too.

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A Double Dose of Goodreads Author Blogs!

Reading and Travelling

I was never able to read while on a car journey when I was a kid as it used to make me feel sick. Now it’s not a problem and is one of the joys of a long journey.

It is also where the Kindle does come into its own. Not much to pack either, just don’t forget the charger!

I catch up with reading, as well as draft stories, when travelling and have a lovely time doing so.

Do you remember the old I-Spy books? I used to love them but they were no good to me on a trip! I had to remember what I’d seen and fill my books in on getting home!

I don’t pick specific holiday reading as I always have books to catch up on but the joy of holidays is having the time to do that.

Wherever you go this summer, happy reading!

What Do You Love Most About a Story?

My favourite part of any story is in the middle. The characters and situation are set up, the (usually) life versus death scenario is well under way, and it is a question of whether you can outguess the author as to the resolution.

I love it when I guess correctly but love it more when a writer wrongfoots me here. I then go back and re-read the story and inevitably find clues over the unexpected resolution that had been there. I just hadn’t paid enough attention, which is an object lesson in itself!

Naturally, I can apply what I learn here to my own writing, but it is also no coincidence the stories I re-read are the ones that have kept me on my toes. There is just so much enjoyment to be had here.

The great thing with twist in the tail stories is the simpler the twist the better and more effective it is. Simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy to guess at either, as it is easy to overlook or forget the “obvious”.

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Fairytales with Bite – Character Values

In my CFT post this week, I’ve looked at what I value most. It won’t come as a huge surprise to know I’ve included family, friends, and literacy in this, amongst other important things.

What is it that your characters value most? As with me, it is highly unlikely to be just one thing, but you should be able to deduce which your characters would fight for and which they wouldn’t. It should also be apparent why they would feel this way.

It can be useful information for an enemy, of course. What can they use against your heroes here? What does the enemy value that could be used against them? (It’s never a one-way street in fiction but you can exploit that).

See this as an invaluable part of an outline and have fun working out how you can use a character’s values to strengthen their portrayal and against them to generate conflict.

This World and Others – Pointer Checklist

Hope you find the following useful.  The following list is a guide to checking if your created world makes sense to a reader.

  1. Can a reader picture your world in their imagination?
  2. Can a reader identify with your characters? They don’t have to like them though!
  3. Does your world have a system of government that makes sense to your reader? Someone has to be in charge. Your characters should know who they would be answerable to!
  4. How do your characters survive on a daily basis? They will have to eat, drink, breath, excrete, reproduce, and die (unless they’re immortals of course but could anything threaten that?).

By ensuring you can answer these points, you will have a functioning created world of your own.

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What I Value Most

Sorry will be a condensed round up as some mobile apps are proving to be not that mobile!

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford

Busy night tonight. I look at What I Value Most in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. See http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/what-you-value-most/

A huge thank you to Patricia M Osborne for putting my 100-words story Views on her blog. See https://patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com/2019/05/17/challenge-write-a-story-in-less-than-one-hundred-words-2/
It’s also lovely to give a shout out to Paula Readman and her For Writers Only, who write without Fear of Rejection Facebook group for also putting the word out about Views earlier. As a certain supermarket would say, “every little bit helps”.

The generally mutual support within the writing community is the thing I love most about it.

https://www.facebook.com/501180463318271/posts/1761831773919794/?app=fbl

Sorry above link will take you to my author FB post for 15th May 2019. I’ve been pleased with how much I have been able to blog etc while on the move, but I haven’t got it right completely!

Lovely day spent on Dunnet beach. Lady had a fab time. The sheer expanse is amazing. You really have got away from it all up here, which leads me to wonder what do your characters do to escape the everyday toil and struggle? What are their interests and how did they develop these?

When adventure comes their way, do they have to abandon all of this or can their escape options help them cope with the unexpected?

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Making the most of the wonderful views in the far north of Scotland on a gorgeous sunny evening. I’ve been writing posts using natural light up to 10/10.30 pm. Give it a month here and you can add an hour to that.

You get to see the moon rising on one side of the hills here while the sun is setting on the other side. It’s almost as if the moon wants to usher the sun off the stage and it is not ready to go!

Talking of which, when can you tell if your characters are ready to go on the page/screen? Do you need to know every little detail about them first?

The good news there is no but you do need to know enough about them so you can work out how they would act and react in most circumstances. That still gives room for them to surprise you but that surprise should come out of some aspect of their personality which you’ve not written in the story but which you know they could be capable of when pushed too far.

For example, you know Character A is placid usually but gets riled when injustice rears its ugly head. In your story, they suddenly face injustice and throw a vase against a wall, startling whoever they’re with at the time (especially if they just miss them!). You know that capacity is there. It will be just how angrily they react which is where the surprise will be.

It’s funny how odd moments can inspire stories. Today I discovered Lady thought slowworms were a kind of wriggly stick she could either play with or eat! Not to worry. No slowworms were harmed and I just need to keep Lady away from them.

I suspect there could be comic potential here! I also have forewarning of how she is likely to be towards grass snakes! Now the obvious story here would be from the viewpoint of a dog owner, the dog, or even the slowworm (“good grief, what was that monstrous thing?). But there is a bigger well to drain from here based on the theme of unexpected discoveries and there should be plenty of story ideas there.

Pushing your characters to breaking point is fun! Hey, nobody said writers had to be nice, did they?
The fun comes in as you find out just what your people are made of. Do they have a core of granite or one of melted jelly? Once you know, how can you bring that into your story to increase the drama?
Conflict, the lifeblood of all storytelling, doesn’t just have to be about external clashes after all.

Fairytales With Bite

CHARACTER VALUES
In my CFT post this week, I’ve looked at what I value most. It won’t come as a huge surprise to know I’ve included family, friends, and literacy in this, amongst other important things.
What is it that your characters value most? As with me, it is highly unlikely to be just one thing, but you should be able to deduce which your characters would fight for and which they wouldn’t. It should also be apparent why they would feel this way.
It can be useful information for an enemy, of course. What can they use against your heroes here? What does the enemy value that could be used against them? (It’s never a one-way street in fiction but you can exploit that).
See this as an invaluable part of an outline and have fun working out how you can use a character’s values to strengthen their portrayal and against them to generate conflict.

This World

POINTER CHECKLIST
Hope you find the following useful. The following list is a guide to checking if your created world makes sense to a reader.
  1. Can a reader picture your world in their imagination?
  2. Can a reader identify with your characters? They don’t have to like them though!
  3. Does your world have a system of government that makes sense to your reader? Someone has to be in charge. Your characters should know who they would be answerable to!
  4. How do your characters survive on a daily basis? They will have to eat, drink, breath, excrete, reproduce, and die (unless they’re immortals of course but could anything threaten that?).
By ensuring you can answer these points, you will have a functioning created world of your own.

Contrasts and Prejudices

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Writing not only encourages reading, it develops story analysis skills. By working out why a story grabs you (or not!), you can apply good points to your own work and avoid those things which made you feel a tale had failed.
Also be prepared to confront your own prejudices when assessing what makes a story work or not. If you’re not keen on dialogue, a story which has a lot of this may not grab you but that in itself does not mean the story hasn’t worked. You need to look at why the writer has written the story the way they have. Have they achieved what they thought their story would?
Think about how you approach your own story writing. Do you need to mix up your approaches? Do certain phrases crop up time and again?
Read your work against a story you love and work out what elements they have in common. Hopefully this will cheer you!

Am writing this looking out over a lovely loch and enjoying some warm May sunshine (yes, really). But if I look in the opposite direction I can see mountains which still have a decent covering of snow (yes, really!). A beautiful contrast.
Contrasts are great in writing too. There’s the obvious one between good and evil and so many wonderful stories have come from that (The Lord of the Rings is the obvious example here).
But contrasts can be more subtle. There can be the contrasts in attitude between characters. One never lies. One only does if it spares others unnecessary grief. What would those characters do in extremis? How would they get on with each other? What are the consequences of their attitudes?
There should be good story ideas just out of that one contrast.

Drafted a flash fiction story on a fantastic train journey from Wick, the most northerly town on mainland UK.
You get to see the whole of Scotland’s fantastic scenery in one trip – farmland, moors, lochs, mountains and back again. Got to see loads of red deer, cormorants, and there were a couple of seals on the Brora/Golspie coastline. And I wrote a story too!
Pleased with story but wanted to get it to a 100 worder. As ever, getting it to the right length without losing meaning took more time than the initial draft, but that is the way of it!

Sometimes you come across a story that could’ve been written just for you. I came across a flash fiction piece that did this for me today. It was by Anita Hunt and called A Wish For Dad.
It is a special moment as a reader to come across a story like that. It is even more special for the writer to know you’ve connected with a reader like that. Of course most of the time most writers will never know but if you get the chance to tell the author so, please do.
It really does mean the world.

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I love to portray my flash fiction characters via their thoughts. It gives me a direct way into their personalities and from there I can work out what makes them tick. I can also work out their fears and loathings. That can be fun! I can use those to drop my characters right in it and I do!

I’m getting to see a reasonable amount of wildlife at the moment. I’ve seen red admiral and orange tip butterflies and, at the other end of the scale, red deer hinds, including a youngster.
Naturally I see these lovely creatures in passing but they still make an impact on me and, I think, enrichen my life a little.
A good flash fiction story should be like that. Brief doesn’t mean lesser in some way. It should mean, for flash fiction purposes, intense impact hitting the reader quickly.
Therein lies the challenge of writing it too!

Sometimes a flash piece works better at a specific length, say 250 words rather than the 100 words you’d set your heart on for a competition or market.
The good news is that there is a range of competitions and markets so if one doesn’t suit, try another. Check out terms and conditions carefully. If in doubt about anything, ask, but don’t compromise the story. It never pays!

What can make a flash fiction piece work so well is when a phrase sums up a character so well, a reader can visualise them by that alone.
For example:-
Mary looked as warm as granite.
Bob thought the pound shop expensive.
Tells you all you need to know about those two!
Exaggeration and metaphor can work really well here but I treat these as I do chilli powder and use sparingly!

Brainstorming, Historical Links, and Publication News

Really exciting week publication wise – more later.

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I love historical links and going to events like the Fryern Funtasia on Bank Holiday Monday for CFT makes for a nice link with the medieval fairs.

What our ancestors would make of inflatable slides, train rides etc, makes the mind boggle though I suspect the Hog Roast would go down very well!

Images Credit:  Unless otherwise named, all images were taken by Allison Symes (so you know who to blame).

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Facebook – General – and Publication News

Am thrilled to bits to share more publication news following the news my two stories, Dignity and Injustice and The Art Critic, will be included in the Best of Cafelit 8 due to be launched later this year.

My story The Professional is one of the winners of this year’s Waterloo Festival Writing Competition. Yay!

I was also in last year’s Waterloo Festival ebook To Be… To Become with my story, Progressing.

The full list of Waterloo Festival Winners is below.

Irene Lofthouse Cat and Mouse
Linda Flynn Climbing Rainbows
J S Brown Disarray
Jeanne Davies Everything has changed
Helen Price Havens
Amelia Brown Heat
Laure Van Rensburg Of Salt and the Raw Flesh of Fish
Beverly Byrne Old Masters
Paula R C Readman Over The Wall
Jessica Joy Russian Doll
Sinéad Kennedy Krebs Steam
Gail Aldwin Take Your Place
Yvonne Walus The Father Daughter Club
Allison Symes The Professional
Christopher Bowles The Side of Blue
Louise Rimmer The Undermen
Hannah Retallick The Word Has It
Madeleine McDonald They Lied to Me
Michael Baez Time Will Tell

Many congratulations to all of the other writers who are winners here.

What will be lovely this year will be getting to go to the Waterloo Festival. I missed it last year due to being in the stunning far North of Scotland on holiday.

Am already keenly anticipating going to the Festival AND having the great joy of meeting up with writer friends again, well ahead of when I’d usually see them for the Bridge House Publishing event in December. Win-win in every sense then.

And it is a really happy author who can report she has had a very good writing week!

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I’ll be sharing a look back at the Fryern Funtasia (held on Bank Holiday) Monday for my CFT post this week.

But meanwhile, my lovely editor, Janet Williams (who founded the site to bring people together), has prepared a very different summary of it including a great selfie pic of the two of us having a fab time. Pic taken by Janet, not me.

Naturally we got to have a good chat about writing, CFT etc over a cup of tea. An outdoor editorial meeting if you like!

If anyone tells you the writing life is glamorous…

If however they tell you it is a lot of fun, then DO believe that!

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/fryern-funtasia-6th-may-20…/

 

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Janet Williams, my lovely CFT editor, and I at the Fryern Funtasia.  Many thanks to Janet for kind permission to use the selfie which she took.

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Have got a long car journey coming up so am I planning to draft flash fiction, blog posts etc while in transit? You bet! The time will fly by and I’ll get lots done, I hope! Naturally I am NOT driving…!

Also hope to catch up with Kindle reading and to write some reviews. All of that should take care of the motorway stint!

The lovely thing with writing is you are never short of things to while away “dead” time and drafting work is always profitable for later on, if only in terms of having more work to submit.

Thrilled to bits to be a winner in the Waterloo Festival again. My story The Professional will appear in an ebook compilation later in the year and I’ll be only too pleased to share further details when I have them!

The Professional is one of my longer flash fiction pieces as it comes in at just a tad under 1000 words but the thing to remember with flash is the word count has to fit the story and NOT the other way round. If a flash piece works better at 500 words than say 250, then go for the former, always. Your story and characters will be sharper and better for it. (I’d say it’d stand better chance of being published too).

When writing to a very small word count (100 words or under), then I’ve found it helpful to select the ONE moment that has to be written about in my character’s life and focus intently on that. There is no room for anything else. But the story still has to be complete in and of itself.

Get the story right in terms of what details you HAVE to include, edit to sharpen it (you will find better ways of phrasing things while keeping the same meaning), and then get it out there and see what happens. Good luck!

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How can I tell if a flash fiction story has worked, whether I’ve written it or not?

Simples to quote a certain advert. (Though if I ever see a meerkat reading or writing stories, I’ll double check what goes in my cups of tea!).

If it makes me react either in support of the character I’ve just read about/written for OR against them. Which way round it is depends on the nature of the story of course but that reaction must be there.

Sometimes the reaction can change as I read the story through. A character I thought to be a villain proves not to be etc but the reaction is there. The writer has successfully connected with me via their prose.

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Fairytales with Bite – Using Historical Links in Fiction

My latest CFT post is a review of the annual Fryern Funtasia, which is a great fun event for all ages.  What I particularly love about events like this is the ongoing links with the medieval fairs.  It was appropriate there was a Hog Roast and an archery practice range (for children) at the event which was held on Bank Holiday Monday, 6th May 2019.

Historical links can be great for inspiring story ideas.  These can range from timeslip novels to ghost stories involving historical characters (do check out the works of Jennifer C Wilson for some great examples here).

I use historical links in flash fiction as a quick way to show when a story is set.  For example, if I mentioned someone’s ruff was distinguished, you’d know from that one detail alone the tale was set in the Tudor court (Elizabeth’s).

You can also be inspired by the stories of historical characters.  Anne Boleyn inspired my Dignity and Injustice which is on Cafelit (and will be in their Best of Cafelit  8 due out later this year).

So think about how you can use history to shape your own fiction. And a character’s sense of history (their own, their country’s etc) will affect how they think and act and can add great drama to your story.

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This World and Others – Brainstorming

Following on from recent posts about writing exercises, another favourite way of generating story ideas for me is to have brainstorming sessions every so often.

I set myself a time limit and just write what comes into mind. It doesn’t matter if the ideas prove to be rubbish later on (most will be!) but out of all of that will come ideas I really can use.

I’ve found I need to give myself permission to just write freely and kick the inner editor out of the arena of my head for a while. It pays to put this writing aside and come back and look at it later with a cold, logical head. That’s where your inner editor is useful. But don’t try to free write and edit together, they really are separate processes.

If you’re not sure where to start on a brainstorming session, think of a character. Jot down anything about them – what they look like, what their habits are, what they think they are like, what others around them think they are like and so on. If it helps to use pictures to think of a character than do so. I tend not to do that. I think of a character who is awkward, for example, and look at reasons why they might be that way.

But whatever method works for you when it comes to starting a useful brainstorming session, stick with it. See what you come out with and have fun with this!

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Publication News and Starting a Story

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I’m thrilled to say two of my flash stories, Dignity and Injustice, and The Art Critic, will be in the Best of Cafelit 8, which will be launched in December. All of the stories included in this book have been voted on by readers too so that makes it even more special. Thank you, everyone.

And a huge congratulations to all my fellow authors, who are as eager to see their stories in this book as I am with mine!

A special thank you to PaulaReadman for putting up the following list on Facebook earlier today. Am cheerfully swiping it to include here. Well done all!

The Best of CafeLit 8
Salisbury Plain, February 1946 by Laura Gray
No Room for Them by Dawn Knox
She Says We’ll Get There Soon by Hannah Retallick
Jeopardy in Pink,by Penny Rogers
Marking Time by Janet Howson
Rose Tinted Glass by Linda Payne
Remembrance Day by Jim Bates
Yellowjackets by James Bates
God works in mysterious ways especially at Christmas by Robin Wrigley
Goodbye My Lush by Shawn Klimek
Losing Tony by Gill James
Self Assessment by Peppy Barlow
Years & Years by Kim Martins
Airport Sandwiches by Pat Jourdan
Budgies and Bingo by Alyson Faye
Dignity and Injustice by Allison Symes
The Lady in Red by Caroline S Kent
Untrodden Snow by Paula Readman
A Walk in the Woods by Jo Deardon
Father Van Der Bosch’s Last Christmas by Robin Wrigley
Gemini Rising by Paula Readman
The First Time by Patricia Gallagher
Bats Downunder by Mehreen Ahmed
Induction Day by Janet Howson
Life Begins at the 250 Bus Stop by Jacqueline Ewers
On Time by Lisa Williams
Redemption by Richard Hough
The Art Critic by Allison Symes

And in the meantime, if you like an ecletic mix of stories in terms of mood, word count, genre etc., do check out the rest of the Cafelit series.

https://www.bookdepository.com/search…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/…/B01…/ref=as_sl_pc_qf_sp_asin_til…

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How do you start a story? I have to know the voice of my character/narrator. Are they brusque? Are they feisty? Are they hard done by (or feel they are – of course it doesn’t mean they’re right!)?

I also have to know what their main trait is – are they brave? Selfish? Kind to animals but rotten to their fellow man?

With those two things firmly in place, I can then outline more about this character and as they come to life, I can work out the best situations to dump them in to bring out both the best and worst of their personalities.

I find the Scrivener outlining tool on their fiction template really useful for this but you can create your own. Decide on what you need to know about your character before you write them up and turn that into a template. Prep work pays!

Enjoyed the Fryern Funtasia today. Will be writing about that for CFT for Friday. Good to catch up with my lovely CFT editor, Janet Williams, too.

Other events I’m looking forward to are the Winchester Writers’ Festival and Swanwick and I hope to get along to the Waterloo Arts Festival as well. I had a piece in their writing competition ebook To Be…To Become last year.

Right at the end of the year will be the launch of The Best of Cafelit 8 in which I will have two stories. A great time is had by all who go to that!

Whatever writing events you are off to over the next few months, have a fab time!

Image Credit:  Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture of me reading at last year’s Bridge House event.

 

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How do your characters handle disappointment? Are they of the “have it all out in one almighty tantrum” school of thought or do they prefer the quiet sulk? What drives them to react the way they do?

Do they use setbacks to find different ways of overcoming problems or do they give up? (If the latter, they’re not going to be of much interest as a character, unless the giving up is temporary, they start again and go on to find better ways of doing things, which can be a great story in itself).

Give some thought as to what really motivates your characters to react the way they do. Are they reacting the way their families have always done/expect them to or rebel against that?

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Two of my flash stories, The Art Critic, and Dignity and Injustice, will be appearing in The Best of Cafelit 8 in December. Am thrilled, naturally.

Dignity and Injustice is one of my favourite historical pieces. The Art Critic is very different!

Days like this are wonderful for all sorts of reasons, not least in that it encourages you to get back on and write more flash fiction!

Congratulations to all my fellow authors, who will be appearing in the book too. A special well done to those who are appearing in print for the first time. It is such a special moment!

I am looking forward to catching up with as many of my fellow contributors as possible for a very convivial time at the launch of the book in December! As for the second picture below, well I would say that, wouldn’t I?

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The best stories reveal something about ourselves. What flash fiction does is focus on one particular point and leave the reader to draw their own conclusions, both from what has been said, and what is inferred but not spelt out.

This was one thing I loved about the plays staged by the Chameleon Theatre Group I reviewed last week. Each play had plenty of inferences. I love filling in the gaps. I just need enough information to be able to do so.

So how do you decide what IS enough information? Well, this is where the restricted word count of flash fiction can be your friend as it imposes a limit. You really do have to work out what a reader has to know to be able to make inferences and leave anything not achieving that out. Best of all, you get to decide what the reader has to know!

 

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Things flash fiction should not be:-

1. Too long! (You have up to 1K words).
2. Truncated prose. (The story must have a proper beginning, middle and end, same as with any other form of writing).
3. Too many characters. (You really don’t have the word count for them).
4. Sub plots. (As for 3 above!).
5. Too clever! (A story illuminates a moment of change, flash fiction focuses INTENSELY on one specific moment so you have to focus on what achieves that and nothing else).

Repeating a word to start consecutive sentences in story can be a great way to set a rhythm for the tale, as well as provide emphasis. I do this with Watching Myself.

I also like to use a character’s thoughts sometimes as a great way into the story. You get to see something of the character immediately that way. I do this in Rewards.

It is a good idea to mix up how you start your tales as it keeps things interesting for you (and as a result your reader) and you will get different things from varying the way you start.

Beginning with a character’s thoughts takes you right into their mindset and attitudes and a reader can begin to make conclusions from that.

Beginning with the same word in consecutive sentences sets up a “beat” and should trigger anticipation in the reader. What is important about this word? It must have some bearing on the story (and of course it will).

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Goodreads Author Blog – The Dangers of Reading

Reading is wonderful but it can also be dangerous. Why?

1. Reading widely will open your mind and challenge thoughts and ideas. That is why in repressive regimes writers and journalists have been amongst the first to suffer. It’s why I admire George Orwell. He got on the nerves of both the far left and far right! That’s the way to do it…

2. Reading widely is often the trigger for creative writing. Once the bug bites you, it doesn’t let go! The challenge of creating your own stories is a wonderful one. The challenge of trying to write better, whether it is for publication or not, makes you try to up your game. You WILL be stretched mentally and imaginatively. That is how it should be.

3. Reading across the genres will help you discover what you like and dislike or, more accurately, what you THINK you like and dislike. I’d never heard of flash fiction when I first started writing (and it wasn’t around as a form when I started reading independently!). But in coming across the form and trying it in terms of reading it as well as writing it, I’ve discovered a love of the very short story form I never anticipated developing.

Where will your reading journey take you?

How will it surprise you and are you ready to be surprised?

Have fun finding out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plays, Ingesting Stories, and Writing Games

Now there’s an eclectic mix just in the title alone!

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My CFT post this week is a review of the latest production from The Chameleon Theatre Group – Spring Trio of Plays.

One of the reasons I love going along to their performances is that the shows give me a chance to enjoy stories in a different format – i.e. plays.

Reading widely will always be important for a writer to help feed and nuture their own imagination BUT taking stories in via different media is also very useful. Particularly with plays, you get to “see” how dialogue works, how pauses are used to good effect and so on. This is obviously directly useful if you plan to write plays yourself, but even if you’re not, listening to dialogue and how it comes across can be a useful aid for how YOU write it when it comes to your stories and books.

So support your local theatre company. As well as being a good night out, it can and should benefit your own writing.

Image Credit:  Many thanks as ever to Stuart Wineberg, Lionel Elliott and the Chameleons for kind permission to use their excellent photos.  Captions on my CFT post!

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Fiction books of the alphabet:-

A = Anne of Green Gables
B = Black Beauty
C = Carpe Jugulum (Discworld’s approach to vampires!)
D = Death on the Nile
E = Emma
F = From Light to Dark and Back Again (I kind of had to!)
G = Great Expectations
H = Hogfather (Discworld’s approach to Christmas)
I = Interesting Times (Discworld again and to my mind the best of the Rincewind books)
J = Jane Eyre
K = King Solomon’s Mines
L = Lord of the Rings (I usually DO drop The!).
M = Murder on the Orient Express
N = Nemesis
O = Of Mice and Men
P = Pride and Prejudice
Q = Queen’s Nose
R = Rebecca
S = Sourcery (Discworld again)
T = Thud (and again!)
U = Uncle Tom’s Cabin
V = Very Hungry Caterpillar
W = Wind in the Willows
X = Xena – Warrior Princess
Y = You Only Live Twice
Z = Zorro

I can’t claim to have read all of these (though I have read most). It is a quite a reading list though! What would be on yours?

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When do you find writing the toughest thing to do? For me, it’s after a day of niggling admin tasks (you can guess what kind of day I’ve had now, can’t you!) and I feel tired and just want to stop (yes, you guessed right). The kind of day where you don’t want to think any more so writing creatively seems to be a VERY big effort…

However, I’ve also found it pays to make myself write. Why? Because I inevitably feel better once I’ve got going on a piece and that’s usually within a minute or two. I can also escape into the lives of my characters and the horrible problems I’ve set them (fiendish laugh can be inserted here!).

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I wonder if sketches (such as for radio comedy shows) could count as “flash plays”! Just a thought…!

There are certain things flash fiction has in common with plays. I’ve been “gallivanting” this week, having had a wonderful time at a local theatre company’s latest production.

One common aspect is having to select the most powerful points to get across to an audience and inevitably you will select those that will have the most impact on the story you’re trying to tell and those watching/reading it.

Another is when you do use dialogue, it can only resemble speech not be an accurate copy of it. So no ahs and ums (the odd one or two would be okay in a play, there’s no room at all in flash for them as they would literally be wasted words).

There should be some sort of emotional impact from the flash story or play. Doesn’t have to be a happy one but it should be a logical impact given the nature of the story you’re telling.

Twists, of course, feature in both.

There should be a satisfactory outcome, though again it doesn’t have to be a happy one (as Shakespeare proved time and again).

Flash by day, flash by night
Flash is such fun to write.
Outline your special ideas
Work out your character’s fears.
Put them through hell, time and again.
We’ve really got to feel their pain.
Who said a writer must be nice?
We just write and edit and splice
To get the tale that must be told.
We dig to get that story gold.

Allison Symes – 2nd May 2019

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One thing I must try and do is enter more flash fiction writing competitions. I do enter a few throughout the year and I’m pleased to see that places such as The Bridport Prize now have flash as a specific category. It’s nice to see the form recognised more widely and, of course, it gives more opportunities for flash fiction writers.

The rules I set myself on entering writing competitions are:-

1. They mustn’t cost too much. (The exception to this are novel competitions but ALWAYS check the terms and conditions carefully, which you should do for ANY competition, but that is even more important, the higher the entry fee is).

2. The background of the competition can be checked out and verified. I enter competitions which have been established for some time. I’m wary of new ones and wait for them to be established after 3 years or so. You do hear horror stories from time to time of a new writing competition and then it folds, taking all the entry monies with it. So be careful.

3. You know what you are getting for your entry fee. Some places will give critiques. I sometimes go for these but only after I’ve asked myself the following questions and got answers to them. Does the competition give you an idea of how detailed this critique will be? If the fee for it is low, it won’t be much but will that be enough to be useful to you?

4. The competition does NOT ask for all rights for ever and ever, amen.

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Fairytales with Bite – Ingesting Stories!

My CFT post is a review of The Chameleon Theatre Group’s latest production, Spring Trio of Plays.  This included Effie’s Burning, Ghost of a Chance, and In For the Half.  The performances and the impact of the plays were fabulous.

I like going to productions like these as they are another way for me to take in story.  Reading will always be phenomenally important to any writer but that doesn’t mean you can’t take in stories in other media.  With plays particularly, you get to “see” the impact of well written dialogue and that can help inspire you with your own writing, whether you write scripts or not.  You get to hear what works.  Memorable lines stay with you for a reason!  The goal of course is to be able to create your own memorable lines in whatever format you choose to write.

Another favourite form of storytelling for me is audio books.  Being told a story by someone else is one of the great joys of human existence for me. Again you get to hear what works.  If you listen to an abridged version, and you have the unabridged book version, find out what they cut and see if you can work out why.  Does this have an impact on what you put into your story or leave out of it?

I don’t watch a lot of film but it’s a very valid way of exploring stories.  Learn to spot where the Three Act Structure is in the movie you’re watching!

This World and Others – Useful Writing Games