FAIR REPORT AND READING OUT LOUD

Facebook – General

Had a great time at the Hursley Park Book Fair today. Good number of visitors, chatted to people, sold some books, and my talk on flash fiction went well (albeit to a small audience). All positives to build on, I’m glad to say, and that’s also true for the Book Fair itself. I very much hope it becomes a regular event in the calendar.

It was lovely catching up with some writer friends too. I’ll be writing a fuller review for Chandler’s Ford Today later. Pics are from the sports hall at the venue, and the theatre where people gave talks etc. Nice place.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Many thanks to all who came and checked out the Hursley Park Book Fair. It was great fun and it was lovely to chat to people about the joys of flash fiction. It was also lovely to meet fellow authors.

I will be posting a review of the Fair up in a couple of weeks’ time on Chandler’s Ford Today but I want a little time to elapse before I do this. Exactly as I do with writing a story in fact – write it, leave it for a bit, edit it looking at the piece with a fresh pair of eyes and post/submit it!

Favourite moment from the Fair? To the lovely lady who bought a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again and then came back to me later in the afternoon. She wanted to show me one of my 100-worders that had made her laugh out loud (and yes it was meant to!). Now that IS a review!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Introduced a few people to the delights of flash fiction at the Hursley Park Book Fair today. What was lovely was when one person came back to me, having had time to dip into From Light to Dark and Back Again, and wanting to tell me she’d laughed out loud at one particular story! Now isn’t that the kind of feedback most of us writers want?!

One of the nice things about giving a talk on flash fiction, as I did yesterday at the Hursley Park Book Fair, is that reading some is often the best way to show what it is. And you get to choose what to read out! The 100-worders tend to work best.

One question I was asked was about the different forms of flash and whether the crafting was the same. Yes, it is, whether you write a 50-word or 500-word flash fiction story.

While you have more room for manoeuvre in the latter obviously, you still have to make every word count. Every word must serve a purpose in being in the story. (One of my guiding principles is write what I need to write and then get out! Anything you can cut without losing the story should be cut as it clearly isn’t necessary).

And yes you can have flash fiction written as a poem, I’ve written some of these myself, but you still need to put in the time on the editing. I find I tend to write my stories quickly, which is great, but it is the editing and the looking at how I can phrase things better to have a more powerful impact on the reader is where the time really gets eaten up.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Reading Out Loud

Do you ever read stories out loud when you are on your own? (I accept if you do this on the Tube, the bus, or what have you, you WILL get some funny looks, so probably best not go there! If you’re driving, stick to audio books for your sake and everyone else’s!).

I’m thinking of those times when you’re curled up at home with a cup or glass of something nice and have got a lovely book on the go.

I’m also not talking about reading to children (though this is one of the best things you can ever do as a parent. I cherish my love of books and stories, thanks to my mother doing this for me when I was a child. It was a great joy to share the joy of this with my son as he was growing up. Guess what, he loves books, though in totally different areas to me, which is fab.).

I sometimes read my own work out loud, record it, and play it back on something like Audacity to hear how my dialogue sounds. Does it sound natural? Am I tripping over something etc?

But why not read out loud with books you are reading for pleasure when you’re on your own? Why? I think you pick up nuances as you hear how the prose sounds. I think it can give you a deeper appreciation of how well the words have been put together. And there is something about reading out loud that calls to mind where we get our storytelling from – the oral tradition – so very much a case of revisiting our roots here.

Chandler’s Ford Today – Graham MacLean Art Series

I acted as series editor on this.  Am glad to share the links to all three parts of the series now.  If you would like to know a bit more about art, the media used, and some of the most well known artists, do have a look at these.  Graham’s own artwork is used throughout the series and is stunning.  See what you think.

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/graham-maclean-on-art-part-1-why-i-love-art/

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/graham-maclean-on-art-part-2-media-used-in-painting/

http://chandlersfordtoday.co.uk/graham-maclean-on-art-part-3-my-favourite-artists/

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting.

The Mekong River At Phnom Penh , Cambodia Oil painting. Just one of Graham MacLean’s fantastic artworks. Look at that light! Image kindly supplied by Graham MacLean

The Thames at Mortlake

Pi Toi O Fishing Village NT Hong Kong – image and original painting by Graham MacLean

The wild Croatian coastline outside Dubrovnik. The brilliant blue of the Adriatic Sea contrasted with the rocks and dark green foliage

The wild Croatian coastline outside Dubrovnik. Painting and image by Graham MacLean

These are just some of my favourite paintings by Graham.  There are many more fabulous pictures in the three part series.

 

Advertisements

WRITING, EDITING, AND WORLD BUILDING ISSUES

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

Looking forward to the Hursley Park Book Fair over the weekend (though sadly I can only be there on the Saturday). I hope I can get to listen to a couple of the other talks during the day too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I plan to read a few of my stories as part of my talk on flash fiction at the Hursley Park Book Fair tomorrow, 23rd June. (The event is on 24th as well but sadly I can’t make it for both days). Good opportunity to spread the word about what flash fiction is all about.

As with my longer fiction, I draft a flash piece first, give it an initial edit, and then leave it for a while before looking at it again. In the meantime, of course, I am writing more flash fiction and non-fiction posts. This generally means I always have something to write or to edit.

When I use Evernote, I tend to just write and have fun being creative. I tend to edit this work once I’m back at my desk again. I’ve found this method works best for me but the most important thing, I think, is to see the creative writing and editing of same as two separate tasks. I never try to write and edit at the same time, else I hamper myself. I need a bit of gap to be able to judge objectively if something is working or not.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fairytales with Bite – What Classifies a Fairytale as a Fairytale?

This is not a definitive list but what I think classifies a fairytale to be called a fairytale.  Comments welcome!

1.  Magic is involved.  This can be at a high level (Cinderella’s transformation – clothes, coach etc) to low level (a little magic is used to help a character succeed at something.  This is taken to its logical conclusion in Fantasia though there the character also needed to know how to stop but that’s another story!).

2.  There has to be a transformation of fortune.  Usually from being downtrodden to the happy ever after, but sometimes, such as in The Little Mermaid, the transformation can be seen not to have been what the character really wanted.  Or it failed to achieve what it is was meant to achieve.  However, the transformation of fortune has still happened.

3.  Generally, the good guys either win or fail heroically but leave the banner to someone else.  Always true.  I would describe a story where the villain won as a a nightmare, rather than  a fairytale.  Why?  Because with the villain winning, you can kiss goodbye to hope.  That villain will impose their will on their subjects say with nothing and nobody to stop them.  I fail to see the story in that.  Re the latter, remember in The Lord of the Rings, there had been a previous attempt to defeat Sauron once and for all.  That failed but it paved the way for the story to follow.

4.  Inanimate objects should be treated with caution.  This can include things like the Portals in the Harry Potter series, any shiny red apple, talking mirrors, and swords/rings etc that seem keen to be reunited with their former owners.  These always cause trouble but it is a major element of a fairytale.

5.  Expect the unexpected and/or what is unknown in our world to be known here.  This is especially true for the existence of magical creatures, universes far far away, and so on.

This World and Others – World Building Issues

Some issues relating to world building can include:-

1.  Not giving enough information for your reader to be able to picture the world in their own minds.  As with flash fiction, it is the telling detail that matters here.  Your story should ensure it has everything in it the reader will need to know.

2.  Not making the world attractive enough for the reader to care what happens to it.  The details you give them have to matter.  The readers need to see what is appealing about World X always doing this or that on their equivalent of a Tuesday, to name one example.  They also need to see why it matters.  In this case, would the world collapse if the tradition changed?

3.  Not having the right balance of character types.  You do need a decent villain.  You also need a hero/heroine with the right “can do it” attitude.  Yet if you just have the good guys, there is literally nothing for the good guys to fight.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

View from near where I was staying in Scotland. You wouldn't want to rush away from this. Image by Allison Symes

WHAT I’VE LEARNED SO FAR AS A WRITER

Facebook – General

Back to the A-Z of characters and I’m at L.

L = Love. Okay there’s the obvious romantic leads, and as long as they’re interesting characters, fine, but I love (aptly!) those characters who show love beyond that. For example, the love of someone caring for a parent or spouse with dementia etc. That kind of love, for me, is deeper and more meaningful. The stresses and tensions in that kind of character should make for a great story.

M = Mentors. Do you have any in your stories? If so, do they accept being a mentor or has that, like greatness, been thrust upon them? How do they manage?

N = Nobility. Again, as with love, you can have the obvious and direct noble characters. I prefer characters like Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings who are truly noble (and brave with it) in character. Are your characters truly noble like that? What brought this about?

All ideas worth exploring as you develop your characters.

 

If there is anything I have learned as a writer, it is to be open to (a) opportunities and (b) not to be afraid to try something different. That was how I discovered the joys of flash fiction after all. It is also how I got into blogging.

I’m currently preparing a post about Why I Blog for Chandler’s Ford Today with contributions from many writer friends. Blogging is really the modern equivalent of journal keeping – at least that is how I see it – but it is fun to do and I find it useful as a way into writing before I get on to further fiction work.

Looking forward to the Hursley Park Book Fair at the weekend. Am giving a talk on flash fiction at 10.55. Am nervous and excited about it all at the same time but I guess a lot of writers feel that way!

I will be posting a shorter reminder post on Friday night on CFT about it but it is a pleasure to (a) share news about a book event, especially one I’m taking part in and (b) share news about an event which is FREE and has FREE PARKING! How often can you say that these days?

One great thing is there are lots of authors taking part across a wide range of genres so there is bound to be something to suit you. Come along and see! We’d all be pleased to see you.

Reasons to go?

 

1. Wide range of books to choose from.
2. Plenty of author talks.
3. There’s a book quiz (who doesn’t like a good quiz?).
4. The event is free and has free parking.
5. There are competitions aimed at adults and children.
6. There are also workshops.
7. You can meet the authors.
8. There will be readings.
9. There is a restaurant and bar on site.
10. Plenty of opportunities to discover writers new to you.

(Oh and if you do want to escape a certain sporting event, that’s point 11!).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Really looking forward to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. Always learn a lot and come away inspired and reinvigorated. I find by the late summer, I need inspiring and reinvigorating!

Wrote several new flash fiction stories while travelling to and from Scotland last week. I really do bless Evernote and my smartphone. One lovely thing about being a writer is boredom is a thing of the past. There is always something to write – whether it is flash fiction, ideas for future blog and CFT posts etc. Know it will come in handy later.

Am planning to write a lot while travelling to Swanwick too! (Images below by Allison Symes). The tent image is from a Medieval Weekend I went to and is the scrivener’s tent. They used to have some of the best accommodation, something I’ll bear in mind the next time I check in anywhere!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I like to experiment a little with flash fiction. I have written some in poem format and, in the book I’m currently putting together, have written a few stories, told from the viewpoints of members of the same family. This is a first for me but it has proved great fun to do.

Given flash fiction really does have to be character led as there’s not much room for world building, the more interesting the character, the better the story.

Am putting finishing touches to my talk on flash fiction which I will be giving at the weekend at the Hursley Park Book Fair. I’m “on” at 10.55 am on Saturday 23rd June. I prepared a draft a while ago, but as with my fiction writing, I like to come back and look at my text with fresh eyes. There is always something to pick up and tweak so it comes across better etc. You really do need a gap between first preparing something and then editing it.

A sign of a good story, from the writer’s viewpoint, is when you can’t wait to write it. You get this with flash fiction too, but of course you don’t have so long to wait until you get to “the end”! 😁

Here, the trick is to look forward to writing the next one, the one after that, and so on. Manage that and you know you are on to something!

books tunnel school endless

The ultimate book tunnel? Image via Pexels

read under a tree signage hanging on branch tree

Unless in a thunder storm or high winds, this is a good idea! Image via Pexels

woman wearing grey spaghetti strap top

See! It is a good idea, weather permitting! Image via Pexels

brown clay pot on black and blue laptop

A nice clear desk (not mine!). Image via Pexels

Let creativity spill out - image via Pixabay

Let the creative process flow! Image via Pixabay

Writing directly to screen

What are the changes your characters seek to make? Are you showing your characters doing this rather than telling us? Image via Pixabay.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – The Joy of Paperbacks

I’ve not long got back from a wonderful break in the Far North of Scotland and I caught up with a lot of reading on my Kindle during this.

However, I also treated myself to three new paperbacks just before my break and I’m really enjoying those too, having deliberated “saved” them to start reading during my break. Why choose over an ebook or a “real” book? Be greedy, have both!

Am currently reading Peter Ackroyd’s Biography of London (fascinating way of showing a history of a city), Neil Gaiman’s View from the Cheap Seats (a collection of his non-fiction articles), and Ben Macintyres’ Double Cross. Good sized tomes all of them and a lovely read. Hope to review at a later date.

I like a good mix of things to read and am developing a real taste for well written non-fiction. Books can take you into other worlds. Sometimes the world they show you is this one but from an angle you’ve not considered before. For me, this is an acid test of a good read. A good read will enlighten you.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

Fairytales and “Planned” Writing

Have had a lot of fun with slideshows on my Facebook author page this week!

Facebook – General

Loved the Royal Wedding. Loved the music and the sermon especially. A modern fairytale? Absolutely fine by me.

Ironically, I think one thing that can be overlooked about fairytales by some is the fact that they are based on a sound knowledge of human nature. The classic fairytales call a spade a spade when it comes to jealousy, cruelty etc. There is no pretence about the fate Snow White faced at the hands of the Wicked Queen, or that Cinderella really loved being treated the way she was by her stepmother and stepsisters.

Fairytales, I think, can be amongst some of the most honest fiction there is when it comes to holding a mirror up and reflecting what humanity can be like.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General

Looking forward to taking part in the Hursley Park Book Fair next month. I’ll also be giving a talk on flash fiction as part of this. Will be posting more details a little nearer the time (here and via Chandler’s Ford Today).

Pleased I’ve sent off two flash fiction stories for the Bridport Prize. (Nothing ventured, nothing gained). Getting quite a few stories together now for a future third collection, which is great. I also hope to spend some time on non-fiction later this year too. Always good to have plenty to be getting on with writing wise!

Facebook – General

I like a mixture of planned writing to a topic and “free” writing. These posts are always in the latter category as, with the exception of flagging up my CFT posts, I never know quite what I’ll be writing until a few minutes before I get started. It keeps it fresh!

For CFT and other blogs, I do have to think well ahead for topics. How far ahead depends on how much research I need to do and things like the date the post will go out. For example, I know when the Fryern Funtasia will be each year so that tells me what my post for that week will be.

I like the mixture of planning and NOT planning – it keeps me on my toes! As for my flash fiction, I brainstorm opening lines every so often but deliberately don’t write the stories up until later. I want to give myself some thinking time here. I then set aside time (often on a train journey!) to get on and write those stories down. I know the theme, how I’m starting and likely possibilities of where that opening line can take me but that’s all. And away I go!

Facebook – General

My CFT post later this week will be the last in my series 101 Things to Put Into Room 101. I’ve had no trouble whatsoever coming up with 101 things… that DOES say a lot about me/human nature in general I think.

Will be talking about flash fiction at the Hursley Park Book Fair in June. Hursley Park is the home of IBM and is a well known landmark between Hursley and Winchester. Looking forward to this a lot. A number of local writers will be taking part – and the event is free and there is parking! More details a bit nearer the time. (Will be the biggest event I’ve taken part in to date).

Writing wise, do you find it easiest to have a good opening line to “peg” your story to or have a cracking ending that you work backwards from to get to the start point? I use both methods and like them both, though numerically I’ve written more from the starting point of a good opening line. I suppose it does feel more natural to write a story that way.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Busy preparing a couple of flash fiction pieces for a competition. Been a while since I submitted competition entries (not deliberately, you know how it is. You become engrossed with other writing work etc). Want to do better on this front so am starting to make diary notes to remind me to do it.

Really pleased that my last competition entry, for the Waterloo Festival anthology, did well and will be included in that ebook when it comes out. Naturally I shall post about it nearer the time!

I’ve been making greater use of my writing diary since earlier this year for sending in work to Cafelit and that has worked well. Why is it that almost making an appointment with yourself to do something like this can and does make all the difference to whether you actually do it or not?

I suppose it is because seeing it in the diary makes me block out time to actually get the job done. I need to block out more time!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What do you like most about flash fiction? I love being able to suggest a whole world in a few words and leave readers to fill in the gaps. I really enjoy having the boot on the other foot as well and filling in the gaps my fellow flash authors leave in their stories. I don’t want the writer doing all the work for me and so I try in my writing to make sure I’m not doing that.

Having the reader fill in the gaps keeps them hooked and reading your stories! The main thing to remember is to make sure they have the crucial points they will need to know to able to fill in those gaps.

Use what you know of our natural world and blend it with some imagination to create your own fictional one - image via Pixabay

Use what you know of our world and your imagination to create something really special. Image via Pixabay

Humans are immensely creative - image via Pixabay

Let those ideas flow! Image via Pixabay,

The fantastic world of books must include non-fiction too - image via Pixabay

The wonderful world of writing should include non-fiction, which benefits from creative techniques too. Image via Pixabay.

A wonderful palette of colours - image via Pixabay

A wonderful palette of colours. Image via Pixabay.

book-2134779_640

Grow as a writer? Grow your reading! Image via Pixabay

stones-244244_640

What impact do your stories have on your readers? Image via Pixabay

Themes pour out of good books - image via Pixabay

Let the writing flow and if music can help it along even better! Image via Pixabay

castle-2115425_640

There can be reality behind fairytales. Image via Pixabay (and image used as part of book trailer for From Light to Dark and Back Again)

wizzard-1818815_640

Flash fiction for impact. Image via Pixabay

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Need to send more material off for flash fiction competitions. Have just sent off two new stories for the Bridport Prize. Would love to have a shortlisting there. I know, who wouldn’t?!😀

Am pleased with the stage I’m at for a potential third flash fiction book. Going on all those train journeys has helped no end! Alas, I’m not due on a train again for a while…

I find when I’m writing the stories, I tend to write a “batch”, then have to switch back to non-fiction for while, before getting on with the next “batch”. Not sure why that is but I have found switching like this keeps me alert to the challenges of both forms of writing. The other advantage, of course, is there is zero chance of becoming bored!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

What is your favourite way of opening a flash fiction story? I am very fond of using the first person and taking you straight into the character’s head. In the space of a few words, you will know what that character is like and what dilemma they’re facing. I like efficiency (and you have to be spot on here when writing flash).

The other major way I use to start a story is to set the scene quickly. For example, from Pressing the Flesh, I start with “It was 3 am. The neighbours were sleeping”. (I would hope they were incidentally but this tells you that the character has somehow made sure of this point. That should immediately make you want to know why they would do that and what on earth they’re up to!).

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Do you set out to write a collection of stories based on a specific theme or wait and see what emerges from the stories you have written? FLTDBA was really a case of the latter, though I did surprise myself a bit at how many of my stories involved rough/poetic justice of some kind!

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way here incidentally. It’s just I can’t see myself writing to a specific mood of story. You do have to write with conviction, whether you are writing funny tales or deeply serious ones. I suppose the answer if you prefer to write to a theme is to set one which is fairly broad and can be interpreted in different ways/moods/settings to give yourself as much flexibility as possible. I do know you’d need that! Writing can be hard enough without putting too narrow a restriction on yourself.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

This post has been inspired by the Royal Wedding (which I loved). I suspect there will be a book about it before long! There was a lot of talk during the commentaries about modern fairytales, which is fine with me. I’m all for fairytales, ancient and modern. My first reading love was the classic fairytales.

Thinking about it further, maybe children are drawn to the classic fairytales because they know they are honestly written?

Your average fairytale does not pull any punches about exposing what is wrong. There is no pretence Snow White didn’t face an awful fate at the hands of the Wicked Queen. There is no “acceptance of her situation” by Cinderella! Change has to happen, injustices need to be righted, but in this world some magic is needed to make that happen.

Now if we could only make it happen in this one! Mind, if I could bring my fictional fairy godmothers and the like to life, they’d have a huge shopping list of things to put right, so it is probably just as well I can’t.

Back to the reading and writing of books then!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being Creative

Facebook – General

I think most of us need to find some form of being creative – whether that’s using a pen to write or gardening tools to make the “perfect plot” (pun intentional, no apologies!).

I suppose it is because creativity gives us an outlet, especially if most of the time we are doing something far more humdrum. (I love that word humdrum, just sounds good, and conjures up the exact image of what it means).

Creativity is good for mental and physical health so why does it seem sometimes as if it is something that is “indulged in”? (I don’t have that problem, my family are very supportive of my writing, for which I am enormously grateful as I know not every writer can say that).

 

Facebook – General

Pleased with writing achievements on the train yesterday. A whole CFT post written for next week and a flash fiction story (though one at the higher word count end for me). Hope to have a good look and edit of the latter during the week and submit it somewhere.

Looking forward to taking part in the inaugural Hursley Park Book Fair in June. Over 40 authors are taking part and I will have more details nearer the time via a CFT post about it.

Reading, for me at the moment, is pretty much split 50/50 between paper and Kindle. That is a change for me as it used to be 80/20 paper to Kindle. (But you can’t beat the convenience of slipping your Kindle into a bag with loads of books to choose from over having to limit yourself to one or two paperbacks, depending on the size of one’s bag of course. Goodness knows how men manage here. Is that a paperback in your pocket or…. well you can fill in the rest!😁).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General

I’ll be resuming my 101 Things to Put into Room 101 series for CFT this week. Up to No. 76 already! Drafted this on the train at the weekend. Had no problem thinking of things to shove (hard) into the vault of doom.

Am hoping to get a couple of flash fiction stories off for competition later this week. I am pleased (and frankly relieved) so many competitions now accept online submissions. I used to spend a small fortune in postage when I first started writing – and yes, the dinosaurs did still walk the earth then. I was one of them – easily spotted. I was part of that sad group forever in a Post Office queue! (I could almost guarantee I’d be out of stamps when I needed them for a competition. I guess the online equivalent would be finding out your server is down just as you’re trying to send your story in. Murphy’s Law does get everywhere).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Glad to say I’ve had to order more copies of From Light to Dark and Back Again ready for book events coming up over the summer months. Will post more about those nearer to the time of each though I am glad that at one of them in particular, I should have the chance to catch up with friends, which is always a lovely bonus.

I did manage to write some flash fiction on my train journey today – one of my longer pieces. (I also wrote an entire CFT post too so a productive day!)

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I am definitely going to have to go on more train journeys as all of the ones I’ve taken so far this year have meant I’ve drafted LOADS of flash fiction stories, which I hope will end up in a third collection eventually. Just a pity my Swanwick trip in August is going to involve a replacement bus service due to major works happening at Derby Station over the summer. Will be interesting to see how I write while on a bus – assuming I can of course.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The nature of flash fiction in that it gives only a glimpse into the world of its story makes it useful for when you want to imply your character is a time travelling alien or what have you but don’t need to set up a lot of details as to the world they’ve come from.

I’ve found the odd line showing the character’s reaction to the world they’ve left can be telling. It can be a case of what they don’t say that will imply to the reader the world they left was horrendous. Equally a comment, a throwaway line from the character will show their attitude and from that a lot can be deduced.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog – Broadening the Mind

The old saying goes that travel broadens the mind and, of course, it can do. But so can reading widely across genres and non-fiction.

Also reading contemporary AND classic fiction is useful here as the former keeps you in touch with what is out there now, and the other keeps you in touch with where writing has come from.

Also I’d argue that writers such as Wodehouse, Austen, Dickens etc have all stood the test of time and will continue to do so. What is fun is to watch out for those contemporary (or near contemporary) authors who will go on to stand the test of time. (I’d have the late, great Terry Pratchett as a certainty here. Also J.K. Rowling for Harry Potter.).

Writing, especially when it involves any kind of research, also encourages mind broadening. (The great thing with this is most of us don’t want our waists to broaden, but you can broaden the mind as much as you like! No calories involved whatsoever…!).

So read and write away!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FAVOURITE TRAITS AND WHY FAIRYTALES WITH BITE?

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post is a review of the Fryern Funtasia held on Bank Holiday Monday. It is just one of those things I know but there is either heavy rain or baking heat when the FF is held! No happy medium. It’s either a big coat or the sun cream!

Having said that, the Funtasia WAS great fun and it was good to catch up with friends at Bettermaths and the Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership especially.

It was also good to see the Fair Oak dog display team, though none of the dogs were running around the agility course. They were trotting – quite rightly too – and there were several huge buckets of water for them around their arena. As for human refreshments, you should’ve seen the queues for the icecream and cold drinks!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Have got my schedule of writing for my train journeys all lined up for tomorrow. I’d like to come back home again with at least three new flash stories and an article drafted. Will report back on how I did but I am pleased to be able to make more use of travelling time like this, especially as by the time I get back home again, I usually just want to crash out. Should do even better when I go to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August. The journey is longer!

I need to get back to entering more flash competitions so, depending on how well I actually do on the train tomorrow, I may well have some stories to submit. Hope so anyway.

Fairytales With Bite – Why Fairytales with Bite?

The reason I refer to what I write as fairytales with bite (and so giving this website its name) is (a) it is a very accurate description of what I do and (b) I was fed up with fairytales being dismissed as “twee” or “just for kids”.  I’ve written posts on this topic before but I thought I’d add here those elements I think make for a good fairytale.

1.  Magic.   There has to be magic somewhere but it is not the be all and end all in a fairytale either.  See below.  Also it is usually acknowledged there are limits to what magic can do.

2.  Characters have to make choices.  This is generally true of all fiction but in fairytales, the characters still have to decide something has to change.  Cinderella wanted to escape her horrible life but still needed to be willing to do what the fairy godmother told her.  (Couldn’t you just see the ugly sisters arguing with the godmother?  I could!).

3.  An appropriate ending.  Most of the time in fairytales this is the traditional happy one, but not always, as Hans Christen Andersen proved with The Little Mermaid amongst others.  Having said that, his ending to that story was apt for the way he’d written all that came before.

4.  There has to be some hope.  There has to be hope for the characters to achieve their happy ever after ending or, if they know this is not going to be the case, what can they salvage to make things as good as they can be?  If you have to settle for second best, you are still going to want that second best to be as good as possible.

There are other elements of course but these strike me as being amongst the most important ones.  Comments welcome!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This World and Others – Favourite Traits in Characters

What are your favourite traits in characters (your own or those from other writers)?  I think mine would have to include:-

1.  The ability to prove the doubters wrong.  I love it when the underdog wins the day. Whenever I read of a character being “written off”, I am on the look out for that character turning out to be the hero (usually) or the villain (sometimes, and inevitably reacting against being written off!  I do have some sneaking sympathy here.  You can see why they would react that way at least.).

2.  The ability to stick with the right path, no matter what.  The ultimate example of this for me is both Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings.  (Sam was just as determined to do right as Frodo was, even though Sam was doing this for his friend, rather than for the “cause” directly).

3.  Being the best friend/sidekick the hero didn’t know they needed until undergoing the quest.  If awards were being given out for this, it would have to go to Sam Gamgee.  Never ever overlook the sidekick.  They’re in the story for a good reason and it is almost always a pivotal moment the hero needs.

4.  Honest characters.  I love those moments when, usually the sidekick, gives the hero/heroine a verbal bashing for missing something important or taking others for granted or for becoming arrogant etc.  The lead characters do need others who can rein them in – nobody gets it right in life all the time so why should they in fiction?  Just as we need others to tell us “hang on a moment there”, so do characters need other characters to tell them when they’re at risk of going off track.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ONE LINERS

Facebook – General

How can you tell when you’ve written a good one-liner for a character?

When you can’t imagine anyone other than that character saying it, when the words reflect something of that character’s state of mind/beliefs, when you know deep down the character could keep on talking like this for ages (not that you’ll need all of this for your story).

I love writing dialogue for my “people”. My problem is I can make them go on and on because I’m loving the writing of the dialogue so much. So when it comes to editing, anything that doesn’t move the story on in some way gets chopped.

I’ve still enjoyed writing the dialogue but am realistic enough to know it isn’t really needed for the story so out it goes. This is one reason why I believe writing and editing should be treated as separate tasks. When in creative mood, so to speak, are you going to be able to see the wood for the trees when it comes to working out what is really needed and what isn’t? In my case, the answer to that is “no” so I come back to my stories, after a suitable gap, so I look at them afresh and not in the “hot glow” of creativity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General

My Chandler’s Ford Today post this week will be a review of the Fryern Funtasia held on Bank Holiday Monday. All the fun of the show and it was great to catch up with some old friends too. Link to go up tomorrow.

Am off on another train journey this weekend so am planning to get on with more flash fiction stories. I am averaging 3 to 4 a trip now, depending on whether I draft some thoughts for future CFT posts as well. (I often do both). Better half reminds me every so often I was the one who couldn’t see a need for a smartphone!! Oh well… (glad to be wrong on that one incidentally).

And now I’ve figured out how to use the headphones (!), I can tune into the radio too. Before you ask, I discovered I wasn’t plugging the things in properly. She SHALL have music (classical) wherever she goes (unless it is through a tunnel!).

 

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Looking forward to taking part in writing events in the next few months. More details nearer the time of each one.

Am glad to say a copy of From Light to Dark and Back Again will be a prize in the raffle which will be part of fellow Swanwicker Elizabeth Hopkinson’s e-book launch for her Tiny Tales Virtual Launch on 13th July. More details to come nearer the time. And good luck, Elizabeth, with the launch. I loved my cyber launch, it was great fun!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am glad to see that the Quick Reads scheme is being saved by JoJo Moyes for the next couple of years. Reading schemes are never a waste of money (how is literacy ever a bad thing?), so whoever thought scrapping this was a good idea needs their head examining.

It is one fond hope of mine that flash fiction as a whole might encourage those who might be reluctant to read bigger works. We’re not asking readers to commit to too much in one go for a start and, from my experience, once you’ve found a book you like, you look for others you’ll like too. I started off reading short stories, I progressed to longer stories and then novels of course. It is getting that initial spark, the wish to read at all, that is so important.

pexels-photo-261909.jpeg

A good reading pile! Pexels image.

pexels-photo-267684.jpeg

Doesn’t look comfortable to me. Pexels image.

still-life-teddy-white-read.jpg

May require help turning the pages. Pexels image.

pexels-photo-880720.jpeg

Great topic but then I am a dog owner! Pexels image.

Allison Symes’s books on Goodreads

Reviews and Characterisation

Facebook – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My post for Chandler’s Ford Today this week is a review of three different plays staged in one production by The Chameleon Theatre Group. There was Oh What a Lovers’ War (set against the background of August 1914), The Dreaming (a surreal play), and Pina Coladas (a mystery). All were very good and I loved the mixture of plays. More details and pics in the post. Well done to the Chameleons for a great evening.

Image Credit:  Many thanks to the Chameleons, especially Lionel Elliott, for kind permission to use the images, which were taken by them.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

There will be a new flash fiction piece from me up on Cafelit tomorrow (sometime during the early evening onwards) called Getting Lost. Must try and enter more flash fiction competitions this year too.

I tend to draft promising first lines and then draft stories to fit them (often when on train journeys). It definitely beats doing the crossword by a very long margin! Often that promising first line sparks ideas for the title of the piece too.

How do I decide whether a story will be a drabble at 100 words or a longer one? Basically when I know I cannot edit the piece any more without it losing something that contributes to the characters or the overall story. I then leave the piece be and whatever the word count is remains the word count! Often this will be at 100 words or under but sometimes a piece really does work better as a 250-300 worder. This is where reading a piece out loud can show you how well the whole thing “flows” and if it “flows” well, that is when it is time to drop the editing pen.

 

Fairytales with Bite – Describing Your Characters

If you were asked to talk about your characters, how would you describe them (and without sending whoever questioned you to sleep!)?

I like to start with traits – for example, Eileen is brave, resourceful, and rebellious.  Those three words alone give you a good starting point for portraying Eileen.  Getting your characterisation right is everything in getting the story right (and therefore give it much more chance of being accepted somewhere).  A good plot needs great characters to make it work.

It is useful to outline a character whether you put all you detail into a story or not.  (The likelihood is you wouldn’t.  I know I need to know this and that about a character, your readers might only to know “this”).  However, outlining a character gives you all the information you need to work out what kind of story they would be in, how they would handle a situation (or mishandle it), and what their “happy ever after” ending is likely to be.  It is then up to you if they achieve it!  (Great stories can be found in a character attempting to get to this point but never quite making it so they have to adjust their “happy ever after” for something more sustainable over the long term.  I guess this is where the “happy for now” endings, especially in romance novels, comes from).

I’ve found it does pay to take time outlining.  I find when ready to write the story itself, I write it quicker because I’ve already got the “building blocks” in place ready to go with my tale.

 

This World and Others – Ten Things a Great Character Must Have

1.  A sense of purpose – whether they’re the hero or villain.
2.  Determination (without it, there’s no chance of fulfilling their purpose).
3.  A worthy opponent.  (Sherlock Holmes is wonderful but Moriarty challenged him and Holmes needed that challenge.  Your leads need those who will get in their way, try to thwart their plans etc.  That’s where the story comes alive).
4.  A cause worth supporting (even if they are the only ones supporting it!  Not quite the same as 1 above as a character can have a sense of purpose even without a cause.  The great sidekicks in literature are often like this.  Sam Gamgee in Lord of the Rings saw his cause as being supporting Frodo.  It was Frodo who really had the sense of purpose and Sam didn’t always understand Frodo’s “intensity”,  Frodo had both the sense of purpose in that he had a job to do no matter what, which was at one and the same time also a cause worth supporting).
5.  Courage.  This comes into it somewhere in the story.  It has to.  The kind of courage can vary from the obvious courage in battle to the quieter kind where someone will keep going to support someone no matter what the hellish circumstances.
6.  The ability to ask for help.  Not every character has this.  Recognising you need help and the best people to give it shows humility and pragmatism (as the character comes to terms with knowing they need help if they are going to fulfil their objective at all).
7.  A mentor/adviserThis ties in with 6.  A great character is going to need guidance to help them meet their goal and knows who to get that guidance from.
8.  The ability to get on with most characters.  This ties in with 6 and 7.  Nobody is going to want to guide or assist a character who is arrogant or overbearing.
9.  Planning. The character must work out how they’re going to meet their commitments and then just get on with it.
10 .  A cool head.  Given the undoubtedly hellish situations, you are going to put your character through, they will still need a cool head to face down those challenges and press on towards their goal.

The Word Fairy

Facebook – General

So if the word fairy turned up and granted you three wishes but they had to be related to writing in some way, what would you ask for? My choices would be:-

1. To never run out of ideas that will work!
2. To edit perfectly in one big edit. (Fat chance but just think of the time saved!).
3. To always be proud of what I have published.

Funnily enough, I don’t think I would ask for everything of mine to be automatically published. The quality has to be there and you as the writer should be proud of what you’ve written long after you’ve moved on to other writing projects.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General

Many thanks to all who commented or liked my post yesterday on the three wishes I would go for if the word fairy turned up.

So turning this idea on its head, what three things related to writing would you ask the word fairy to take and dump somewhere inaccessible with no chance of said items ever coming back? (Naturally no pollution would be caused).

My choices would be:-

1. Amazon saying your book is temporarily out of stock when it is easily available. Grrr…

2. All snobbery relating to genre fiction.

3. All snobbery relating to the independent press.

Now before you say, hang on, Allison is published by the independent press and her stories would count as genre fiction, yes, yes I know. It just gives me added reason to dump these things! I am not pretending to be unbiased here (just as well really).

So what would you choose? (We’ll assume nasty reviews that are clearly having a go at the author rather than trying to be objective about the book have already been dumped by the word fairy. She’s good about things like that or will be when I’ve had a word in her ear…).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Facebook – General

My Chandler’s Ford Today this week is a review of the latest production by The Chameleons. This was a set of three plays, all different in mood and setting, called an April Trio of Plays. More tomorrow but it was intriguing to see three different stories performed.

Contrasts in mood can also work well in stories generally, of course. If there could be said to be a golden rule, it is that there has to be at least one good reason for the mood to be shown. Mind, there has to be at least one good reason for any character to be in a story. If they are not contributing, out they go!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

The delights of short fiction
Are in all of the friction
Contained in fewer words
That please us writing nerds
Who want to have a ball
With their tales and, in all,
Show cynics it can be done
In 100 words – it’s fun!

Allison Symes – 1st May 2018

For all you fellow drabblers out there! (Who did come up with the terms for flash fiction categories? Above all, why?! I still don’t see how 100-word stories could be called drabbles. What is the link there? If anyone knows, please let me know. Mind, I feel more sorry for the 50-word writers. To be a dribbler doesn’t sound right, does it? You just want to reach for some tissue…).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am delighted to say I am one of the authors chosen to appear in the Waterloo Festival anthology. Am gutted I can’t get to the launch event in June due to a much looked forward to holiday! Murphy’s Law for writers strikes again… ah well.

Timing being “off” sometimes is just one of those things that happens to most writers at some point. Sometimes a story can be rejected not because there’s anything particularly wrong with it, but because the editor has chosen another on a similar topic so doesn’t want two close together like that. So definitely time to see if you can find another home for your story then.

Am very pleased to see there are so many more flash story competitions around these days so hopefully that gives us all more scope to find what suits our writing best. Good luck!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Of all the sayings that flash fiction justifies, less is more is probably the best one!

You can only use the most important details in a story. I often don’t name a character either but write in the first person. (I tend not to use that at all for longer short fiction).

You have to get to the point of the story quickly (or if writing a twist ending, everything must be seen to build up to that point. There must be a sense of “movement” in the story getting your readers to where you want them to be).

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

One Book To Rule Them All?

A good writing diet includes plenty of reading, in and out of the genre you focus on, and should include non-fiction too.

Why? Because ideas for stories spark from all over the place and by reading widely, you are effectively casting your net further. You are giving yourself more opportunities to be inspired. What’s not to like about that?

It is also a good idea to read contemporary as well as classic fiction. Again you are mixing up your reading and, especially if you’re a writer seeking publication, it does make enormous sense to support the industry you are trying to join by reading some of the books that come out of it!

I also think it a good idea to mix things up still further when reading fiction by reading novels, short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. I love reading things I know I couldn’t write myself because the joy of being creative in writing is enjoying the creativity of others. After all, what inspired you to write? Almost certainly something you’ve read.

REAL WRITING POST - Let your characters live

Books should keep you gripped and that is down to the characters. Image via Pixabay

Or you could just ask a few simple questions - image via Pixabay

Or you could ask some simple questions! Image via Pixabay.

Nobody gets their ideas spot on immediately, image via Pixabay

Nobody gets their ideas right first go. Image via Pixabay.

My stories are in The Best of Cafelit 4, 5 and now 6 and also by Bridge House Publishing (Alternative Renditions). My first collection From Light to Dark and Back Again is published by Chapeltown Books.

Where my stories are in print. Image by Allison Symes

The best advice for any writer - image via Pixabay

And prepare well!

Writing in many forms... Image via Pixabay

Writing in many forms… Image via Pixabay

Images from the magical world... Image via Pixabay

Images from the magical world… Image via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Likes, Dislikes and Using “Dead Time”

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My latest CFT post is Part 4 of my 101 Things to Put into Room 101. I’m up to No. 60! Tonight’s “delights” to go into the vault of doom include rats, overpriced clothing for those of us with height issues (in either direction) and those people who dislike fake flowers. I bet they don’t suffer from hayfever!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am planning to get on with some flash fiction writing whilst out and about on the train tomorrow. Great use of dead time and on my last trip out like this, I managed to write at least five stories (which are in the second collection I’ve submitted to Chapeltown Books). I can’t give you an exact number as I stopped counting after that.

One lovely thing about writing, regardless of genre or whether you write fiction, non-fiction or both, is you are never short of things to be getting on with while out and about on public transport! I also use dead time like this to draft future ideas for Chandler’s Ford Today and Association of Christian Writers’ blog posts.

Am I a convert to the smartphone? You bet! Picture below from one of my CFT posts from late last year but given the topic of this post, I thought it apt to use it again!

Fairytales with Bite – Character Likes and Dislikes

In my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post, I consign various items to Room 101. Amongst the items in Part 4 of my series are rats, people who dislike fake flowers, and overpriced clothing for those of us with height issues (in either direction.  Am not unbiased here!).

I love fake flowers because (a) they are of a much higher quality than they once were and (b) I’m a hayfever sufferer!  Thinking about this made me wonder about what quirky likes and dislikes your characters have.  I’m thinking of those things that would really make them stand out to a reader.  It is vital readers can tell characters apart and distinctive personality traits, likes and dislikes are great ways to achieve those necessary differences.  We’re not all clones after all, so our characters mustn’t be either.

Think about also why your characters have their likes and dislikes.  (Yes, people can and do have irrational likes and dislikes but, in fiction, you have got to convince the reader your characters are believable.  I find having a good reason for them to be the way they are, which would include their tastes, is a surefire way of achieving believability).

Part 4 - I'm all for stopping spam, the electronic and the meat kinds

I loathe spam – the electronic or the meat kind! Image via Pixabay

Part 4 - Success is one thing but being famous for being famous is beyond me

Success but should it be because you’re famous for being famous? Image via Pixabay

Part 4- Ambition is not the same thing as talent or being famous on merit

Ambition is no substitute for genuine talent. Image via Pixabay.

Part 4 - Wastefulness

This sums up humanity’s wastefulness. Image via Pixabay

This World and Others – Using “Dead Time”

Using “dead time” in a more efficient way so I can get more writing done is something I have improved on in the last six months or so. This is partly because I’ve finally got a smartphone (!) and I also use Evernote as an app to draft stories, articles etc when I’m out and about on train journeys etc.

The nice thing with this is not only do I get more work done, I haven’t got the distractions of all I have to do at home getting in the way. I can focus purely on writing for a while, which is bliss. One lovely thing about writing, which I touch on in a Facebook post tonight as well, is that whether you write fiction, non-fiction or both, there are always things to work on, edit or write!

On my last big train journey, I managed to write at least five flash fiction stories (I admit I gave up counting after that). So think about your pockets of time that can easily be lost. How could you use those? I remember being annoyed when I took my car in for service as I was happily drafting stories while waiting for that to be done. I was well into the writing zone when they told me the car was ready!

Main task for me now here is to submit more flash fiction to Cafelit as well as get on with ideas for my third book. My second book is in with Chapeltown Books now so fingers crossed!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.