FAVOURITE TRAITS AND WHY FAIRYTALES WITH BITE?

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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!

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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!

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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.

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ONE LINERS

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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.

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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!).

 

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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!

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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.

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A good reading pile! Pexels image.

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Doesn’t look comfortable to me. Pexels image.

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May require help turning the pages. Pexels image.

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

Allison Symes’s books on Goodreads

ALL THE FUN OF THE FAIR – AND NIGHTMARES!

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Went to our local Funtasia at one of our parks today. Very hot. You should’ve seen the queues for the icecream vans and the cold drink sellers! Good to catch up with friends at Bettermaths and Three Rivers Rail Community Partnership in particular. I’ll write more about this for CFT later this week (though I will put in now a quick nod to the lady selling old paperbacks for charity. Hope she did well. Mine wasn’t in there!).

What kind of fair/show would your fictional world have? Are they based on a religious festival or something decreed by the powers that be that should be celebrated? What would happen to those not taking part? Now I suspect there are quite a few stories to be had from answering those questions alone. Good luck!

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What would be your main character’s worst nightmare and what would happen if they had to face it? Now there’s a writing prompt for you (and I would guess it is the basis for most horror writing in particular).

Equally, success can corrupt so what would happen if your character’s ambitions came true and then they found what they had longed for wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be? Disappointment happens so how would they handle that? (Good question to ask yourself at times I think!).

Thinking about this kind of question will help make your characters seem more real to you, which is crucial. If you don’t believe in them, nobody else will!

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The perfect flash story is one which grips your readers, where nothing more could be said in that tale, but also where you have created such a character, it is easy to envisage further stories involving them.

I love it when characters come to life as you know your story has “legs” then. (A recent play performed by local group The Chameleons had the writer bringing their characters to life literally! Were the characters impressed by what their “boss” came out with? Not a bit of it!).

Another sign of a good story is when you re-read it after a suitable gap and you still enjoy it. Remember your first reader is you. If you can’t convince yourself with your story, you won’t convince anyone else, so if you enjoy the re-read, it is likely a reader would love the story too.

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One of the reasons for the need for escapism in any form of fiction is that real life can, of course, be pretty horrid at times. I can understand misery memoir can be therapeutic but I’m afraid it’s not for me. I have to have a story that entertains me (whether is by making me laugh, cry, or by making my blood run cold).

The great thing with flash, naturally, is you can do all of those things in a very short word count. Sometimes you have the “perfect” short story that would be ruined if you tried to pad it out to a more standard length for competitions etc. So never pad! It does show.

 

Goodreads Author Programme –

Blog – What is the Best Thing about Stories?

What would you say was the best thing about stories? The happy ever after/for now ending? The twist? The engaging characters?

Any decent story, to my mind, has to have at least some of those elements but, for me, the best stories reveal something about human nature that, for whatever reason, has not occurred to me before.

A good story will show you something about yourself and challenge you to think about whether you would have done what Character X did or not. A good story also shows consequences from action and, sometimes, inaction. You should be asking yourself what would I have done had I been the character in this story?

Do you find yourself a bit less quick to condemn when doing this? Putting yourself in the shoes of characters, whether you write them or not, can be enlightening.

I also love it when justice is seen to be done where the story calls for it given we all know that so often doesn’t happen in life. This is one reason for the continuing huge popularity of fairytales.

And you can’t beat pure escapism as one of the great joys of story reading and writing. So whatever the best thing for stories is for you, enjoy it all!

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