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.

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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.

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Looking into the past... Image via Pixabay

PRIORITIES, REMEMBERING, AND A REVIEW

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

This week’s Chandler’s Ford Today post is my review of Murdered to Death by Peter Gordon, recently performed by the Chameleon Theatre Group. I look at what you look for in great spoofs and discuss the wonderful Agatha Christie send-ups in this highly enjoyable play, which was brilliantly performed by the Chameleons to a packed house. I hope they put on more spoofs. I have a very soft spot for funny plays (funny books too come to that) and spoofs are a fantastic part of this.

Image Credit:

All images for Murdered to Death kindly supplied to Chandler’s Ford Today by Lionel Elliott and taken by Liz Strevens and Marilyn Dunbar, all of The Chameleon Theatre Group.

Many thanks.

Image Credit:  All images below are from Pixabay.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

When is less is more? Certainly in flash fiction. Also on Twitter (I’ve been following the debate on the increase in characters from 140 to 280 and agree that the tighter character limit increases creativity. If you can say something in 140 characters, why on earth would you want to say it in more? There is no point to writing which isn’t necessary to the story!).

Twist endings depend on the less is more principle. In The Truth in From Light to Dark and Back Again the last sentence contains the twist in a total of 10 words (and by my rough tot-up 68 characters including the full stop!). In Serving Up a Treat, the twist was in 8 words (which this time is 39 characters including the full stop).

A guiding principle for me has been to write what needs to be written and get out! (It is in the edit that you work out what does need to be in the story. It can be surprising just how much can be cut too at times).

(From Light to Dark and Back Again can now be found in MIBI Gift Shop in Chandler’s Ford, along with Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords by fellow writer and friend, Richard Hardie. Images below taken by me and many thanks to MIBI. I hope to write a CFT post about how local communities can help their writers and vice versa).

Image Credit:

All images below taken by Allison Symes.  Many thanks to MIBI.

Image Credit:  All images below are from Pixabay.

Goodreads Author Programme – Blog

What do your book choices reveal about you? Well, for a start, hopefully, that you have excellent taste in books!

Your choices should also reveal you are widely read, with a good selection of non-fiction books, as well as fiction, on your shelves.

Certain titles give themselves away, of course. Having the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook on your shelves points to there being a writer or artist in the household!

Your choices should also reveal which genres are your favourites as these will tend to dominate your bookshelves. (In my case, it’s humorous fantasy and yes I do have a shelf full of Terry Pratchett and Tom Holt’s works).

On the non-fiction front, your choices should reveal what your favourite genre is here (for me, it’s anything historic).

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Fairytales With Bite – Priorities

What are your characters’ priorities and why have they chosen them?  (Did they get to choose them or did family/tribal expectation force them to “choose” the priorities they have?).  What are the priorities for your world’s government(s)?  What stops them or individual characters from fulfilling their priorities?

I must admit I sometimes find it difficult to work out my priorities (given all my jobs do actually need to be done!).  This is where deadlines (actual and ones you set for yourself) can be useful.  They give you something concrete to work towards, can help against procrastination and, I think, help you achieve more in terms of your writing than you would without them.

The biggest but nicest problem I have had this year is giving the right priority to publicizing From Light to Dark and Back Again (including taking part in things like the recent Chandler’s Ford Book Fair) and getting on with my other writing.  I know I will get this balance right eventually (experience does show!) but I also know I haven’t got there yet (as I said, experience does show!  So does lack of said experience!).

Writing directly to screen

Prioritising writing work isn’t always easy.

This World and Others – Remembering

This weekend has Armistice Day (11/11), which given it is on a Saturday this year is followed by special services throughout the UK (where I’m based) on the nearest Sunday to it.  It is a strange thing about us as a species that we need to actively remember especially those things that are the most important.  The biggest lesson from history, I think, is the importance to remember and then maybe some of the worst mistakes we’ve made won’t be repeated.  At the very least that is a good thing to aim for.

This week has also seen the second anniversary of my mother’s passing and I can’t believe where the time has gone.

On a happier note, as I’m settling in our new rescue dog, Lady, happy memories of my previous dogs, Gracie and Mabel, are flooding back as Lady shows some traits common to them all.

On a writing front, what would your characters choose to actively remember?  What are the most important things for them?  What does this say about them as characters?  What made them choose these things?  Do any of these things go against what would be their cultural norm and, if so, what consequences do they face?

Looking into the past... Image via Pixabay

Lest We Forget.

 

DEVELOPMENTS/MAKING PROGRESS AND BOOK FAIR REPORT

Lots happening tonight!

Facebook – General and Chandler’s Ford Today

I shared details of my latest Chandler’s Ford Today post earlier in the day about last weekend’s Book Fair. Going to share it again as my lovely editor has turned the galleries of photos into slideshows (which look fab. Many thanks, Janet).

I take a look at, not at only the event itself, but why I think the Book Fair helped writers (and is of wider benefit to a community that no longer has an independent bookshop). I also love the fact that when writers work together, great things can happen and the Fair was a great example of that.

Image Credit:  The photos in the slideshow are a mixture of those taken by me and my lovely Chandler’s Ford Today editor, Janet Williams, who started the site alone and has developed it into a popular online magazine.  Slideshow right at the end of this blog post.

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

I love the way stories can come in so many different formats – literally everything from flash fiction to epic novels. This aspect was very well represented at the Chandler’s Ford Book Fair last weekend.

Then there are the formats of “transmission” – everything from the book itself to the audiobook to the play and film scripts. A good story is adaptable to more than one medium and can be appreciated and loved in more than one medium too. I have a soft spot for radio (and one thing on my To Do list is to try to write something for radio that makes it on to the air).

As well as “straight” stories, so to speak, there are the well-done spoofs, which are a sheer joy to read or watch. Last weekend was a busy one with the Book Fair in the morning and my going to see the Chameleon Theatre Group’s production of Murdered to Death by Peter Gordon in the evening.

I’ll be writing about that for next week’s CFT post but just wanted to say now that the story world, regardless of genre, truly is a fantastic one. The fact it can send itself up via farces/spoofs as well just adds to my love of stories overall.

 

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.

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.

Fairytales With Bite – Developments

There have been developments in my writing career which I thought I’d take the chance to share now.  I also hope to look at how I’ve changed the ways in which I develop my characters.

Firstly, I’m now part of the Goodreads Author Programme.  I am blogging on here once a week but am also open to questions on its Q&A section.  So if there is anything book/story/writing related you would like to ask, please head on over and send me some questions!

Secondly, Goodreads have author/book widgets for those writers on their programme, meaning you can link to reviews of my book, From Light to Dark and Back Again.  Also listed on Goodreads is Alternative Renditions, an anthology by Bridge House Publishing, where the first thing I ever had appear in print, A Helping Hand, was published.  I think it is quite a nice symmetry to have my first book and my first published story listed in this way.  (What is also nice for me is my late mum, who so encouraged my love of books, got to see my first published story.  My dad, who I lost earlier this  year, got to see my first published book).

Thirdly, I am now taking part in more book related events and loving each and every one of them.  The latest was a local Book Fair and my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week is a report on this.  There are plenty of pictures so it does give a good “flavour” of the event.  All good fun and I very much hope there will be more Fairs like this.  I hope to have more news of further events later on in the year.

As for character development, increasingly I am looking at what impact I want my characters to have on my readers.  This is, I think, essential for flash fiction with its tight word count.  The stories have to be character led so I am looking more closely at my characters’ motivations and what they are prepared to do to achieve their wishes!  I am also looking at how I want my characters to make the reader feel.  Those two things together, I’ve found, are giving me a clearer picture of my characters in my head before I actually write them and are helping with the writing of the stories immensely.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34146438-from-light-to-dark-and-back-again

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Let your stories have impact. Image via Pixabay

This World and Others – Making Progress

All writers should, obviously, seek to make progress with what they do but I would add that the progress should be what you are happy with.  Writers work at different paces so therefore progress has to differ.  Besides, nobody can guarantee publication or an instant best seller but you can work towards the first (and hope for the second, we all do!).

Also with the second, most of us would recognise that book sales are not necessarily the most reliable indicator of a book’s quality (am not going to name titles here, but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t think of some titles where you wonder how that got published at all! Again, we all do).  I think most of us would recognise then that you need to put your work out there, do what you can with regard to marketing (this will vary from writer to writer), and that sales build up over time (usually).

What I’ve sought to do since seriously trying to write for publication is to make steady progress year on  year.  Some years that has been just to have more work online.  Now I do have a book out, From Light to Dark and Back Again, my aim has been to promote it as much as I can and carry on writing the follow up to it.  I’ve recognised that book marketing is an ongoing thing.  Even when I have book 2, book 26 or what have you out there, I will always be referring to my back list etc.  So to a certain extent marketing for any one book doesn’t really stop.  Therefore it makes no sense to put myself under unnecessary time pressure.

On my Fairytales with Bite site tonight, I’ve written about Developments (both mine and in how I write characters now, as opposed to when I first started writing) and I share that link here.  I am now on the Goodreads Author Programme and talk about that in this post and welcome writing related questions on the Q&A spot it has so please do go and have a look and come back to me!  I’ve shared on there the Goodreads widget leading to my book reviews, below I share the widget showing my books.  What is nice here is you see both my first published book and the anthology, Alternative Renditions, where my first published story appeared, A Helping Hand.

As for progress for 2018, I don’t really make New Year’s Resolutions but I do over the Christmas break, think about what I’d like to see what happen – and then do what I can to achieve it.  At the end of the year, if I’ve achieved it all, brilliant.  If I’ve achieved some (and especially if opportunities have opened up where I didn’t expect and I’ve rightly followed those), equally brilliant.  If I’ve achieved “just” some, then that’s fine too.  Onwards and upwards!

Image below is just a screen shot but if you follow the links above via Goodreads you will come to my author page with all relevant information on it.

Goodreads Snip

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CONVINCING CHARACTERS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

I think I’ve just written what will be one of my favourite posts for this site as it combines a review of a Doctor Who episode and talks about characterisation, two of my favourite things.  Convincing Characters reviews the recent episode of Doctor Who where the always brilliant David Suchet plays “the Landlord”, a character that is doing evil things but not for evil reasons (he’s actually trying to save someone he loves).  I then go on to discuss the importance of our characters being totally convincing with regard to their motivations.

David Suchet is totally convincing with regard to his performance (as he always is – from Lady Bracknell to Poirot!) but the writing of the Landlord character is simply brilliant and brings out the best in him, I feel.  The Landlord character, for me, is the definition of a character knowingly doing the wrong things but doing them out of desperation and, as a result, the character IS evil but sad with it.  I think most would see where the character was coming from and that is precisely what we all need to do with our characters.  Brilliant work all around.   Highly recommend seeing this.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Doing One’s Bit discusses character loyalties with one another and I use one of my favourite examples (Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee) to illustrate my point.  The Lord of the Rings is so realistic (despite being an epic fantasy!) for showing how the relationship between these two comes to breaking point thanks to the evil influence of that wretched ring.  I also ask what makes your characters stay loyal.  Have they known betrayal and are determined not to do that themselves perhaps?

FACEBOOK – GENERAL

Many thanks to all who shared the recent piece about From Light to Dark and Back Again in Writing Magazine – and a quick hello to all at Southampton Writers’ Circle too.  I discuss my recent review of A Comedy Trio (The Chameleon Theatre Group have put this on their website with permission – they liked it then!) and I am looking forward to hopefully getting to see more National Theatre Live, especially Shakespeare, as the year goes on.

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FACEBOOK PAGE – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

I share an extract from some notes I wrote for the flash fiction workshop I gave to the Southampton Writers’ Circle earlier this year.  I discuss starting lines.  Hope you find it helpful.

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Hercule Poirot via Pixabay

Hercule Poirot (based on the style of portrayal of David Suchet.  Image via Pixabay)

 

 

READING FOR PLEASURE AND QUICK TIPS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Reading for Pleasure shares reasons why doing this is one of the most important things any writer can do to improve what they do.  (I think it is the most important thing).  Reading opens your mind to other worlds and so on.  What do your characters read for pleasure?  What books and stories would they choose?  Use that to explore more about them.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

I share three Quick Tips which I hope you find useful.  I discuss reading your work out loud (and why it matters).  I also discuss marketing and not panicking about it – if you have a book out, you will be marketing it in different ways (without driving everyone nuts!) not just in the short term but in the long term too.  I also discuss the need to find the right balance between marketing, getting on with your writing commitments and finding time to write new work.  This last one I am struggling with at the moment but I know I will find the right key eventually.  When I do I’ll stick with it!

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

I didn’t get time to blog much yesterday but my current article for Chandler’s Ford Today is a review of A Comedy Trio staged by the Chameleon Theatre Group.  This consisted of three short but very funny plays, all of which I found entertaining and were excellent character studies too.  I also enjoyed playing “spot the reference” in some of them.  One of the plays in particular had a distinct nod to the Rocky Horror Picture Show!  Another had me sympathising with not just a hostage victim but the hostage taker too and yet it was funny.  Really well done by the Chameleons and some excellent writing.

FACEBOOK PAGE – GENERAL

Yesterday, Friday 5th May it was about my Chandler’s Ford Today post.  Today I discuss the joys of the Kindle and why I always seem to forget to take it with me when travelling because I’m too busy enjoying reading from it the night before and consequently leave it behind!  Oh, the joys of human fallibility!

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FACEBOOK PAGE – PUBLICITY NEWS

I’m in Writing Magazine this month in the Members’ News Page plugging both From Light to Dark and Back Again and Baubles, the Bridge House Publishing anthology for 2016.  My short story, Helping Out, is in there. The piece looks good and thanks go to friend and fellow Swanwick devotee, Jennifer C. Wilson (author of the excellent Kindred Spirits historical ghost fiction – it’s a great mix, go and have a look!) for sharing the page all over FB!!

Always enjoy spotting a familiar face in Writing Magazine!

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FACEBOOK PAGE – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

Again I share news of the Writing Magazine spot and some images I thought appropriate to go with it (some of which appear in the book trailer).

In a separate post I discuss how I got into flash fiction in the first place.

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Flash fiction should make a positive impression, no matter how brief it is!  Image via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

UNPUBLISHED FAIRYTALE MEMOS

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

What if certain fairytale characters had written memos and these somehow were leaked?  Would they have changed the course of a story or an outlook of a character after seeing these?  Judge for yourself in Unpublished Fairytale Memos…

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

Making a Promising Start looks at some of the ways I start a story.  Do you use any or all of these?

WEBSITE UPDATE – FROM LIGHT TO DARK AND BACK AGAIN

I’m currently putting together a specific page on Fairytales with Bite for my debut flash fiction collection.  I have put up the Amazon link on this (and was thrilled to see my first review has come through too!).  I plan to write about what the book is about, how I came to write it, share book cover images and a link to an interview carried out by Jacci Gooding, a fellow scribe and attendee at Winchester Writers’ Festival amongst other things.  Once I’m happy with the page, I’ll copy it across to This World and Others as well.

CHANDLER’S FORD TODAY

My post this week is about Robin Hood – The Pantomime staged by wonderful local theatre group, The Chameleons.  I share what I love about the show and the tale of Sherwood Forest’s most famous and infamous resident, as it is one of my favourite stories.  I like legendary figures – see also my Sir Bevis of Hampton posts on CFT!  And many thanks also to the Chameleons for supplying the wonderful images.  It was a great show and very, very funny.

FACEBOOK PAGE

I share news of my CFT post tonight.

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A fun show, well produced.  Image from the Chameleons.

A fun show, well produced. Image from the Chameleons.

 

When I'm not at my desk, I'm likely to be in the swimming pool or walking the dog (never both at the same time!). Image via Pixabay.

FAIRYTALES IN ONE LINE

FAIRYTALES WITH BITE

Fairytales in One Line sums up some fairytales, 1 nursery rhyme and a pantomime favourite in one line.  See what I make of Cinderella, Mother Goose and Robin Hood to name some of those in this post.

THIS WORLD AND OTHERS

The Working Day looks at how your characters organise their time, what kind of work is important to your fictional world and asks just what do your characters do in terms of income so their needs are met.  The questions here I hope make for some good writing prompts!

FACEBOOK PAGE

I discuss a pantomime I’m due to see on Thursday.  Our local theatre group, The Chameleons, will be staging Robin Hood.  This is one of my favourite stories.  I also mention my favourite Sheriff of Nottingham performance too.

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The magic of stories.  Image via Pixabay

The magic of stories. Image via Pixabay