Writing Legacy

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My CFT post this week is about Writing Legacies. I look back at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and reflect on the wonderful writing legacy left by the late Barbara Large, MBE. I take the subject from her own legacy to the legacy she gave hundreds (possibly thousands) of writers she encouraged over the decades.

I also ask what legacy we should leave as writers, regardless of what we write in terms of genre. Link up tomorrow. This is one of those posts that is a privilege to write but then it was a huge privilege to know Barbara. The writing world needs more like her…

Image Credit:  Mostly Pixabay though the image of Barbara Large and Barbara with Anne Wan were kindly supplied by Anne Wan for a previous CFT post.  The selfie is of crime writer, Val Penny, and I at the Winchester Writers’ Festival on 15th June 2019.

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My CFT post this week is about Writing Legacies. I look back at the Winchester Writers’ Festival and reflect on the wonderful writing legacy left by the late Barbara Large, MBE. I take the subject from her own legacy to the legacy she gave hundreds (possibly thousands) of writers she encouraged over the decades.

I also ask what legacy we should leave as writers, regardless of what we write in terms of genre. Link up tomorrow. This is one of those posts that is a privilege to write but then it was a huge privilege to know Barbara. The writing world needs more like her…


What do you think your greatest achievement is as a writer? Is it publication? Is it repeated publication? Or is it knowing you’ve written without publication in mind but still produced work to a high standard.

All of that is wonderful. I’d say the real test is writing something, putting it away for a while, looking at your piece again, recognizing its flaws, and then editing it to improve it. And going through that process until you know that piece of work is as good as you can make it.

That, for me, is where the real writing lies.

Nobody but nobody produces a perfect piece of work at the first attempt. For me, there is great consolation in knowing that! What matters is putting the work into your story or article or book and doing what it takes to get it right. There’s a reason writers need stamina – and this is it.

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I had an unusual opportunity to discuss flash fiction (and the wonderful Cafelit today) – and that was while I was in the dentist’s chair waiting for the anaesthetic to work! Never miss an opportunity, folks…

The main point to come out of this was I was discussing how flash fiction are complete stories in and of themselves. They’re not cut off prose. Each flash story must make sense AS a story.

What flash does do is leave more gaps for the reader to fill in. It has to because of the word count restriction. There should be scope for a reader to wonder what might have happened after the story ends. Now that’s true for all forms of fiction (haven’t you wondered about characters in novels you love?) but with flash you just reach that point far quicker!

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Every so often I will jot down some promising opening lines and see where I can go with them. It’s one of the few times I don’t outline something. I wouldn’t call it the white knuckle ride of flash fiction writing exactly but it is the nearest I get to it given I do outline 90% of the time and am glad to do so. Outlining has saved me going off on too many tangents that don’t prove useful.

I am a firm believer in mixing up how you write your stories as it will keep things fresh and interesting for you. It’s a good way of avoiding being formulaic too. It is one of the great ironies of the writing life nobody wants you to be formulaic but they do want you to write more of the stories that have been published etc. More of the same but different… hmm…

One of the things I love most about Scrivener is setting my word count target. For flash fiction competitions and markets, this is invaluable.

Some include the word title as part of the allowable count, others do not, but whichever way it goes, I can set my target accordingly and know I’m not going to go over it.

You can even check how often you use a word if you want to do so. Yes, “the” and “and” are right up there! But if you use Scrivener and you know you use certain phrases or words a lot, this could be a great way of ensuring you don’t overdo it.

Image Credit: The shots of the Scrivener boxes were taken by me as screenshots, something else which is easy to do within the program. I love the traffic light system of red, amber and green as you approach your target.

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Fairytales with Bite – Writing Legacy

My CFT post this week, Writing Legacy, looks at the legacy of the much missed Barbara Large, MBE, who founded the Winchester Writers’ Festival. I also ask what legacy we as writers should try to leave behind.

From a character viewpoint, what is the legacy we as our creators should leave them with?

  1. Have we made them unforgettable characters? We should have done…

  2. Have we given them plenty to do in the story? We should have done…

  3. Have we tested them to see what they are really made of? We should have done…

  4. Have they got good dialogue? If not, why not?

  5. Do they come across well to a reader? They should do (and this applies equally to villains. They need to be convincing too).

  6. Are the motivations of the character strong enough?

  7. Will the reader feel a pang of regret when the story is over?

Better get to it then!

This World and Others – The Longest Day

Today is the longest day (at least it is from my part of the world, the UK), but in writing terms, what would this mean for your characters?

  1. The longest day is taken literally and we follow the character through from getting up to going to bed.

  2. The longest day is taken metaphorically and we see a character going through all kinds of trials in a relatively short time span.

Whichever route you go, the character has to have enough to do and for that to be gripping enough to make the reader want to continue with your story. Their motivations must be strong enough and we need to see what makes them keep going when most would have given up. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a life or death scenario though a situation where the ability to leave is taken away from the character is always interesting and full of dramatic possibilities.

I find it more interesting though when a character could get out of a situation, you can understand why they would do so, but they continue on their current path. What drives that character? What makes them tick? Do they have any sense of failure? Who do they think they would be letting down if they did just walk away?

Definite story possibilities there!

Image Credit:  Pixabay.


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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.

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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.

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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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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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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!



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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.



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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!











The Highs and Lows

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I look at the highs and lows of the writing life in my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. It’s easy to forget that the writing journey isn’t a straight line going up and up and up etc. It twists and turns, goes up and down, and the one predictable thing about it is it isn’t predictable!

Hope you enjoy the post but also find it consoling to know you’re not alone on that bumpy road!

Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from the fantastic Pixabay.


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The writing life has its ups and downs (and that’s the theme of this week’s CFT post, link up tomorrow).

The irony is that without at least one of the downs, rejections, your writing is unlikely to progress. Why?

Because you do have to learn from what you do do wrong. Also because a rejection makes you look at a piece again and either try and improve it or submit it to another, relevant, market to test the water with it there. Onwards and upwards is a good motto to have here!

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I’m very fond of stories told from an alternative viewpoint. This works really well for fairytales and my A Helping Hand, the first story I ever had published (thanks Bridge House!), was a reworking of the Cinderella story but from the viewpoint of the youngest stepsister.

In The Outcome in From Light To Dark and Back Again, I tell the Cinderella story from the viewpoint of the fairy godmother. Both stories were great fun to write (and it shows how powerful the Cinderella tale is given it is capable of being adapted like that. Also, how many other stories over the years have had what we’d recognise as a Cinderella theme?).

If a story isn’t working for you, even after you’ve drafted and edited it, try rewriting it from the viewpoint of another character in it and see what happens. Does the story grip you NOW? Was it the case of the wrong character leading the tale initially? It is worth playing around with a story in this way. If the story STILL doesn’t work, then move on. (Even then it may be worth an occasional revisit later to re-read it and see if there is anything you can do then. There is NO use by date for stories and as you write more and gain more experience, you do pick up all sorts of useful tips to improve your work. You may find that kind of tip will be the key to finally sorting your story problem out.).

The other great thing is if you really do have to abandon a story altogether (which I’ve only done once or twice), you will still learn something from it. I realised with mine the character and situation simply wasn’t strong enough and as a result I realised that I can’t NOT outline. Winging it on stories just doesn’t work for me. I’ve got to put some prep in first. And yes I outline flash fiction too! A line or two to work out in which direction I’m heading with my character and away I go.

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Time for some more one-line stories then as it’s been a while since the last lot. I have great fun coming up with these (and I may or may not write them up into fuller flash fiction pieces later. I do love the flexibility of flash for things like this).

1. Sam would soon find out if there was a barrier against the cliff edge, given he’d decided not to bother looking.

2. When the collie rounded up the sheep, she included the shepherd as part of that process.

3. Gerry was sure wine bottles weren’t supposed to be cleaned out in one gulp and was unsure how Margaret could do it.

4. He’d have to report back there was no intelligent life on earth and that journalist’s stupid questioning put the tin lid on that conclusion.

5. The journalist watched the alien leave in their spaceship and smiled at the thought she’d just managed to give the thing the best fake news ever.

I don’t always name my characters in flash fiction. Sometimes this is due to my using the first person and it’s simply odd not to use anything but “I” for that.

Also a lot of my stories only feature the one character (though they often refer to other characters). This is due to the story only needing the one character and the one viewpoint. This is useful for oddball characters in particular.

The point of stories like that is not to challenge the oddball view but to show a reader why this character could be like that/do what they have. You are seeing right into that character’s mind. You don’t have to like what you see there though! I do like the immediacy first person gives you though and sometimes that is exactly what the story needs.

Flash fiction is great for showing you a complete little world in a few sentences. This is why I think the form is addictive. You want to see what else you can do with it and push yourself (never a bad thing to do in writing!). Also having tried 100-word stories, can you manage 75-worders or 25-worders and so on?

Another enjoyable challenge is coming up with a suitable title which has a powerful impact on the reader. I like titles which draw readers in, can convey something of the setting or mood of the story (saves word count in the story itself doing that), or is a well known phrase or proverb. (The hope there is the reader will find out how that well known phrase applies to my story).

Fairytales with Bite – Dealing with the Highs and Lows

My CFT post this week looks at The Highs and Lows of the Writing Life from the viewpoint of a writer (though there are some thoughts in there as to how readers can help too.  Okay, buying our books is the obvious way to help but there are others!).

For this post, I want to look at this from a character’s viewpoint.  Your characters are not going to have an easy life where nothing ever troubles them, otherwise you have no story.  Who would want to read about characters like that?  So what a reader is after then is a situation your characters have to cope with.  It can be a threat to life of course, but there are other ways of turning your character’s life upside down, and it is how your people respond to that which will keep readers turning the pages to find out more.

How do your characters cope with the highs and lows of their life? What situations do they find easier to cope with and others nigh on impossible?  (The latter incidentally could be something simple.  They have no problems crossing a haunted forest to get to where they need to be but struggle with communicating with others, which could put them and the others in danger if taken to a logical conclusion).

What are your characters’ emotional strengths and weaknesses?  Do they learn from their mistakes immediately or do they need several “goes” to get something right?  If their core trait is courage, what opportunities do they get to show that and does that trait ever fail them?

Answer questions like that and you should get some interesting story scenarios to write up!

This World and Others –

The A to Z of Story Essentials Part 5

Now for the final section covering U to Z.  Hmm…

U = Uniformity.  Not to hasten to add of characters, readers should be able to tell them apart easily.  What I mean here is if you have decided Character A is going to have a yellow bulging neck because that is how his species is made, then that should be shown uniformly throughout the story. Character A can’t suddenly NOT have a yellow bulging neck by the end of the story.  Whatever is vital to your character in terms of physical existence should be uniformly shown (and for the other characters who will be affected by the same things).

V = Variety.  It had to be this really as it follows on from U above in every sense!  Where variety does come in is via the traits your characters have.  Not everyone is going to be meek and mild (just as well really, there’d be no story!).  Not everyone is going to be hot tempered and causing fights all the time.  The secret to a good story, of whatever length, is getting the balance right.

W = Writing that Flows. Every good story has this.  Readers turn the pages, gripped by your characters, their world, and the situations you’ve put them in and your prose flows.  The pace should be appropriate. The style of words used should be appropriate to the story and your intended audience.  Nothing should jar the reader experience.  And yes it is tough to achieve.  It’s never done on one edit!

X = Xeno.  I’ve been looking forward to using this word again after having discovered it means strange!  A really good story has to grip the reader.  Something about your characters and situation should stir up their “HAVE to know what happens next” gene.  Strangeness can do that in terms of strange characters, strange worlds etc. Sci-fi and fantasy depends on this.  But even in an everyday setting, there should be something that draws your reader in.  I’ve found this is generally down to an intriguing character that I’ve got to know more about.  So what intrigues?  There must be something “xeno” about them.  For example, a fairy godmother who refuses to use magic.  Now that’s strange!  Got to know more… you get the idea.

Y = You.  I might be cheating a little here but I’ll plough on anyway.  What I mean here is you, as the writer, need to decide what tense you’re writing your story in – fine, that’s done, good.  Okay next task is to make sure it is your characters’ voices that your reader hears, not yours at all.  From a reader’s viewpoint, you here is to symbolize being totally engrossed with that story.  The story should entice you in and keep you there until it is finished.  So you and your reaction to a story is hugely important.  A writer should be looking to make impact on the “you” they think will read their story.

And last but not least…

Z = Zest.  A story essential, regardless of genre, is that it should be an enjoyable read.  There should be a zest to it that gives the sense the writer loved writing it.  (It does show).  I’ve also found characters that have some zest to them are more lively and therefore better to read about than those without that quality.

Phew!  Got there!  Whatever you read and write, enjoy it.  It’s the single most important thing about the story.  If you’re the writer and you’re not enjoying the process of writing it, why would anyone else enjoy reading it?  If you’re the reader and the story’s not gripping you, put it aside for a while.  Look at it again after a break. Does it still not grip you?  Then read something else. Sometimes it can be a case of timing.  I recall trying to read books when I was younger, not getting on with them, coming back to them later (sometimes via film adaptations) and loving them then.

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Experimenting with Words and Form

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My latest CFT post is Experimenting with Words and Form. I also look at favourite new words. If you have any, do share in the comments box.

I look at why playing with words (and I include things like playing Scrabble here) is a great thing for writers to do. As for experimenting with the form your writing takes, it can open your eyes to new forms of storytelling. What is there not to like about that?

Hope you enjoy.


Image Credit:  As ever, the images are from the marvellous Pixabay.

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I suppose most people start their reading “careers” off by loving the fairytales/nursery rhymes etc read to them in childhood. Where do you go from there?

For me it was the Famous Five by Enid Blyton, the Little Women series by Louisa May Alcott, Heidi, Black Beauty – pretty much staple fare, or should that be stable fare?! 🤩.

Then later came Agatha Christie, Tolkein, CS Lewis, Wodehouse, Pratchett. Now I read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, especially on the KIndle. I like to use that to try out books by non-fiction authors who are new to me.

It’s a pretty even split between books and magazine reading overall, though I find one week I’m in “book mode”, other weeks I’m not.

But what matters is I’m reading (and writing, naturally).

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I’m looking at experimenting with words and form in my CFT post later this week. Word games from Scrabble to crosswords to Boggle I think are great things for writers to indulge in.

Why? Because at some point you are bound to reach for the dictionary to check if a word really is a word or not! (It’s amazing what can get through in Scrabble for a start!). Link up on Friday. (I also share favourite new words).

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I talk about experimenting with form as part of my CFT post this week. Flash fiction is particularly versatile here.

Not only can you select which word count you’re going for (and I mix them up, despite my overall preference being for the 100-worders), you can mix up the form too. I’ve written one-liners, acrostics, flash in the form of a rhyme and so on.

It’s important to have fun with what you write. Mixing things up can and does increase that sense of fun.

What are the joys of writing flash fiction?

1. Knowing you’ve come up with a story which makes a huge (usually emotional) impact because of its tight word count.

2. Knowing there isn’t a word out of place and that every one punches its weight and carries the story along.

3. Memorable characters you might want to do more with in other flash fiction or longer stories. Absolutely nothing to stop you developing ideas and characters further.

What are the woes of writing flash fiction?

1. Ensuring you DO make that emotional impact on your reader AND in the way you intend. If a story is meant to make them laugh, you want them to laugh as you intended and NOT at the story effort you’ve come up with!

2. The word count can work against you sometimes where a character really does deserve a longer “run” but you can still go to 1000 words. Even where that isn’t feasible, celebrate having a fabulous character to work with and accept this one is going to be a standard length short story, novella or what have you. Oh and good luck!

3. Making sure your story idea is strong enough to be a flash fiction piece. Flash is very intense due to its brevity. Is the idea up to that intense scrutiny?

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For obvious reasons I’m pleased to see the short story anthologies and flash fiction collections have a ready market. Even if I wasn’t writing in either market, yet alone both (!), I’d still want these to do well. Why?

I think it’s healthy to have a wide range of fiction available and collections are a convenient way of “storing” shorter stories. They also make the perfect books to read/dip into when time is short or, having finished one novel, you’re not sure what you’re going to read next.

And, as with all writers of novels, writers of the shorter fiction do appreciate reviews in the usual places whether it’s a one line review or a paragraph!

Fairytales with Bite –

Experimenting with Words and Form

My CFT post this week looks at Experimenting with Words and Form and why this is good for writers.

Especially when starting out, experimenting with different kinds of writing is a great idea as it will help you find your niche.  Later, when you have discovered what that niche is, you can hone it and playing with form is a fantastic way of doing that honing.  Also, if you write flash fiction, as I do, there’s nothing to stop you having a go at the standard length short story (which I also do from time to time).

The watchword here is to have fun with your writing.  Sometimes give yourself a break from what you usually do and be creative in other writing fields.  At worst, it’ll act as a brief break and you’ll find you really do want to stick to what you usually do.  At best, you’ll find a whole new world of writing to enjoy.  This is what happened to me with flash fiction and I’ve ended up being published in it!  So be open!

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This World and Others –

The A to Z of Story Essentials Part 4

A slightly shorter number of letters to cover this week so I can finish with some of the awkward ones next week i.e. U to Z with a stopover at V, X and Y on the way. It’ll be a good challenge.  Meanwhile…

P = Promise.  Does the story live up to the promise of its tagline/blurb?  If it does, great.  Okay this is subjective.  No two readers will ever agree on every book they’ve read.  Personal likes and dislikes have to come into it somewhere but the general principle here is “does the writer deliver”?  For me, a good story is where that promise is easily fulfilled, even if you don’t like how the writer does it!

Q = Queries.  A good story should wrap these up by its end.  Leaving a reader wondering how the characters get on after the story ends is fine (and is a great sign) but the problems set up in the story should’ve been resolved.  There should be no unresolved queries here.

R = Reading Flow. A good story for me is one where I’ll be anxious to get to the next page for the “what happens next” moment.  The flow of the story should be a good one.  You want nothing to drag the story down. The story should read easily too, though don’t mistake simplistic reading/writing for simple reading/writing.  It is generally true if someone has made something look easy, such as making their prose look easy to reproduce, you can guarantee that same someone has worked hard for years to develop that skill. Getting the reading flow right requires precision with words and an awful lot of editing.  When it is done well, no reader will ever notice!

S = Set-up. The story set-up has to be intriguing enough to entice me into reading it. Anything with a fairytale/fantasy world basis will pique my curiosity enough to have a good look at the book.  It’s then when the blurb and opening paragraph kick in.  If they intrigue me, I’ll go on to buy the book.  So the set-up has got to be strong enough to intrigue me at all. That set-up must include there being something special about the characters to draw me in.

T = Tension.  There has to be lots of it and it should arise naturally from the characters.  If you have an awkward character, you know they’re going to clash with others in the story.  Fine.  What I also need to know is what makes that character awkward.  There is always a reason for it!

Final part next week…




Many apologies for not being able to share my CFT post yesterday.  I’m glad to say the site is now up and running again, hence this extra post.


Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Glad to say I can now share my CFT post for this week. I look at what I think are the Top Ten Accomplishments of mankind. I don’t stick to one particular field and my comments have to be a summary but I have picked photography, the domestication of the dog, and space exploration amongst others.

As ever, comments welcome on the CFT page.

Image Credit:  All images in the following slideshow are from Pixabay and are related to my CFT post.  You could play “guess the accomplishment” by looking at the slideshow first!

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

With flash fiction, you are focusing on one specific moment of change for a character. There literally isn’t the word count for more so the challenge is to make sure that specific moment is strong enough to be worthy of having a story written around it.

I look for impact on me as the writer, and then on what I think the impact will be on readers, when I decide on whether a story idea is strong enough or not. That idea has to generate a strong emotional reaction whether it is to make me laugh, cry, scream or what have you.

Goodreads Author Programme Blog – Books to Dip Into

I love books you read straight through from cover to cover but I also adore those where you dip into them as and when.

Things like the Guinness Book of Records come into that category. I’m currently reading a “big book of facts” produced by Classic FM but will almost certainly have regular dips into this, rather than read it straight though. (To be fair it is a HUGE book).

I also like the way this mixes up my reading a bit as I read flash fiction (as well as write it), short stories, and novels. I also dip read. Dip reading is also useful when I’ve finished a book and am not quite sure what I’m going to read next.

I often fancy a change of mood after completing a novel and until I know what is next on my reading “menu”, I will dip into books like this until such time as I do know.

But the important thing is I keep reading!


Gremlins and Hiccups!

Facebook – General

Sorry, can’t share my CFT post for this week as usual. There’s a site issue which is being looked into. Will share the post when I can (I hope at some point over the weekend).

I’ve written about what I think are mankind’s Top 10 achievements and am looking forward to sharing it. It is not a comprehensive list (it can’t be) nor is it in one particular field but I will invite comments once I can share the post!

Meanwhile, a huge thank you to all for the birthday wishes. All very much appreciated.

Pleased I’ve managed to draft flash fiction pieces this week (I like the acrostic form and will use it again). Won’t be around much tomorrow but looking forward to next writing session on Sunday. I like the occasional break but always look forward to writing again and I think that’s a nice position to be in.


NB.  Once I can share the CFT post on Facebook, I will prepare a short separate post here to cover it.  I hope this can be sometime over the weekend.  Meanwhile, I’ve managed to write a blog about gremlins, more below!

I often find getting started with writing is the difficult bit but, once away, there’s no stopping me! This is why I will sometimes leave lines for me to finish or an odd note so that when I resume writing the next day I overcome that starting “hiccup” and can get straight on with things.

It is useful to work out what your writing “hiccups” are and then think of strategies to overcome/minimise them.

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My CFT post this week will be looking at what I think are amongst mankind’s top accomplishments. Link up on Friday. I will say now amongst other things the domestication of the dog comes into it.

Talking of dogs and having owned three collies now, I’ve spotted the similarities and differences in the characters of Gracie, Mabel, and Lady. Gracie and Lady are both champion cushion throwers (right off the sofa and into the middle of the carpet. I’m not talking sissy little cushions here either! They go for the big ones and don’t muck about). Mabel couldn’t wait to get her head down ON a cushion for her evening nap and wouldn’t dream of throwing them anywhere. She’d be very disapproving of Gracie and Lady for that!

Dogs come into my stories sometimes as pets of the main character. Sometimes they’re the driving force of a story (as in my She Did It Her Way, Kind Of). I do believe in writing what I know – well some of the time anyway!

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A technical glitch has hit the CFT website tonight so I hope to share my post for this week later on this weekend, all being well.

The nice thing with flash fiction is you can write it regardless of technology. Pen and paper can be ideal for jotting down story ideas for typing up later. (It’s less useful when trying to write a novel – and yes I have written a novel by longhand. Now, I wouldn’t. I’d outline and go straight to screen).

Whatever writing you’re doing over the weekend, enjoy it! Not around much tomorrow but will look forward to my next “proper” session on Sunday. I’m always refreshed by mini breaks but then raring to write again. Never lose the love of writing!

Time for another acrostic flash fiction piece. I’m enjoying these. They’re stretching the imaginative little grey cells, which is always a good thing! Hope you enjoy. I think the mood of this one reflects general moods in the country at the moment, what with the Brexit uncertainty etc.


Truth is what you make it, I was told.
Rubbish, I replied, if you’re right, truth can be manipulated.
Under certain circumstances it’s needed, truth can be sold.
Then I want no part of it, I told the electioneer at my door.
Honestly, he sighed, I was honest then and you still want no part of it!

Allison Symes – 21st March 2019


Time for another acrostic piece then.


Fabulous in pink, she whirled around,
Irritating her drab neighbours who stuck to their grey.
Carefree, unlike them, she ignored their shouts to stop
Trouble happened to others, never to her.
In a moment that situation changed
Oh my… dancing straight into traffic like that
Now on the national news for all the wrong reasons.

Allison Symes – 20th March 2019

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Publication News:  Cafelit – If It’s Too Good to be True

This was a fun story to write.  Hope you enjoy it.

Fairytales With Bite – Gremlins!

Gremlins have hit the CFT website tonight so I hope to share a double bill of posts with you next week but I thought I’d look at gremlins that can hit a writer.

The Indecision Gremlin
And a right pain this one is too.  You have two good story ideas to work on.  Which to pursue first?  I look at deadlines here and prioritise the one with the closest deadline.  If it’s a choice between a short piece and the novel, I plan out my writing time so I carve out slots specifically for the novel and other time periods I use for shorter pieces.  Over the course of a week, I’ve got done (most of the time) most of the work I’ve wanted to do .  It means I know what I’m doing with each day’s writing session and it kicks the indecision gremlin where it hurts as I don’t give it house room!

The Social Media Gremlin
How much time is the right time to spend on social media?  There’s no definitive answer to that one but I’ve found it has paid me to allow so long on it before I switch it off to write.

The Editing Gremlin
Otherwise known as the “I’ll just edit this one more time” gremlin. Is a very close relative of the indecision gremlin and can be just as much of a pain.  There is no hard and fast rule here but if you find you are just tinkering with a story, stop!  Send it out to the relevant market/competition and see you how do with it.  Remember this gremlin has the power to stop you moving on with new work if you let it.

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