What would you do?

I was given a progressive story to finish recently. This is what I had to work with:

  • 2 love-struck teachers, John and Angela. They’d been kissing for the first time, in the school break-room, when
  • an explosion had occurred and they’d been knocked to the ground. Angela had been impaled, and John was also much the worse for wear.
  • Enter cleaner, George. He tells them he’s called the ambulance and encourages the two teachers to talk to each other. They declare their undying love (yeh, I added the adjective here because hey! irony!)
  • explosion number 2.

Oh – and finish the story in just 300 words.

So now what? What would YOU do?

If you’re interested in my take on the story, read on below. If not, that’s fine! Have yourself a fantastic week, dear Reader!

– KRidwyn

*****

Now it was George’s turn to be thrown to the ground. He landed heavily on his vacuum cleaner. John, who’d finally managed to stagger upright, was blasted down again. This time, his temple hit the corner of the lunch table. He’d never rise again.

Angela, disoriented, bleeding profusely from multitudes of cuts, tried to rise but couldn’t. Her legs wouldn’t support her. She could feel her body growing weaker. In her pain, she didn’t notice a man stride into the destroyed room, gas mask covering his head and a thick black coat disguising the rest of his muscular body. He kicked John’s body out of his way.

George, regaining consciousness, groaned loudly. Leaning over, the man hauled him to his feet. “Leave.” George, spluttering, quickly decided this was not a man to trifle with. Eyes wide, he took the stranger’s advice and fled.

Not even bothering to watch, the stranger had calmly sauntered over to Angela’s broken body. He removed his mask, his face flushed with hatred. “I told you,” he spat.

“Henry?” Angela’s whisper held pain and confusion. “What…? Why?”

“When you broke my heart two years ago, you promised me ‘never again’,” he roared, over the wail of approaching sirens.

He grabbed the piece of window frame embedded in her abdomen and twisted it slowly, painfully. “You lied.”

“But…”

“No,” he snarled. “You’d promised. It was easy enough to get the gas contract for this stupid old school. A piece of cake, letting it leak into this break room over the past several weeks. Just waiting for today. For you. And him!” His eyes glittered crazily; her eyes, tear-filled, lost their sheen of life.

The sirens stopped, replaced by screeching tyres on the gravel outside.

Henry, smiling grimly, surveyed his handiwork, then slipped silently out the back door.

Moving right along…

So now the musical’s over, I’ve been head down and getting stuck into the work I’d been (of necessity, mind you!) neglecting. Housework, gardening – oh, and my students’ assignment drafts too, don’t forget! I’ve also had enough head-space to actually ponder the commencement of writing again, would you believe? And I also found 15 minutes in there somewhere, last week, to FlowState… although what came out was embarrassingly pitiful and barely worth keeping, but writing is writing and a skill practiced is a skill improving, I always say. (Well, okay. I made that saying up just now. But it sounds significantly better with the word ‘always’ in it, don’t you think?)

What’s FlowState? You ask. Well, it’s a horrific tool which forces you to write by threatening to remove all your words.

Originally, you could set the timer for 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or 30 minutes. I preferred that. But with an update a year or so ago, they removed that functionality, leaving users with only a 15 minute option.

And the idea behind it is that you WRITE for 15 minutes. No hesitating, just writing. Adding word after word to the screen. Or else!

If you hesitate for longer than 5 seconds (from memory; I *think* it’s five but I’m too scared to check it and see) the words fade on the screen and when they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

You’re forced, you see; to write, and write non-stop, until the timer finishes, and the work is saved.

And believe me, you do NOT want to stop at 14 minutes and 55 seconds! I did that before, and lost literally hundreds of words. Yes, I cried. And yes, I also stopped using the app, my own solitary protest, for several months. But returned though, because it’s perfect to get the writing mojo happening (rather than the thinking mojo!) and the threat of losing work is enough to keep the fingers tapping keys 🙂

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve been doing.

That, and dreaming about publishing. If only Book 7 of my Justine Browning series would write itself!

 

Have a great week, dear Reader 🙂

– KRidwyn

W is for ‘wavelet’

I was writing a short story one day a year or so ago, and I needed the word for one of those small waves that washes into shore. You know, the ones that squealing toddlers get lifted over, that little children run backwards from, that bring the flotsam and jetsam of an uncaring world to deposit on the beach?

“Wave” was too big. Too much power for what I wanted. So I made up ‘wavelet’. Or so I thought…

Wasn’t I surprised to find it in my dictionary, the following day!

Wavelet. Noun. A small wave, a ripple.

Exactly what I had wanted! Don’t you just love the English language?

I do.

Have a great day, dear Reader!

— KRidwyn

PS If you’re interested in the story I was writing, sorry. It was about a woman’s murder at the hands of her drunk ex. It was a pretty intense story. Far too ‘dark’ for this blog. *shrugs shoulders*

U is for ‘unknown’

Jan 1, 2016, saw me decide I needed to ‘practise’ my writing. I realised that I’d never get anywhere if I just started a story, get stuck, get frustrated, start another story, and repeat the same process.

Mentally, I compared this to my chess game. Okay in the opening, wobbly in the middle, and pretty woeful at the ending. I decided practise was in order. Practise of ‘end-game’ stuff; then recourse to the middle, and finish at the beginning.

“Smiling nervously at each, they started walking into an uncertain future.”

So: I worked out the final sentence (above) and worked backwards. Ended up with a 1500 word short Sci-Fi story about two teenagers crash-landing their spaceship onto an unknown planet.

Fast forward a few weeks, and I related this story to the members at Beerwah Writers Group. Inspired, they used my final sentence, and produced their own stories. I joined them, and ended up with a 500 word story about a Greek God who’d been cast out from Mount Olympus. Prophemius, I called him. God of the Future… except his powers were stripped from him, meaning he couldn’t see the future anymore.

I wrestle, regularly, with the fact I can’t see the future. I want to know what will happen before it does, so I can prepare for it. Part of my control-freak-ishness, probably. (Yeh, I know. Not a word.)

But I always come back to the fact that it’s good I don’t know. I’m glad, deep down, that I’m in the same boat as everyone else. That the future – for all of us – is an unknown. I like that. We’re all on the same playing field, as it were.

And there’s so much freedom in that!

Have a lovely day, dear Reader!

— KRidwyn

 

M is for ‘monteith’ (the bowl, not the name)

‘Retrieving a cup from the scalloped rim of the monteith, he served himself some of its cool water. He could feel the eyes of the lady of the house boring into his back, but he refused to turn and meet her glance until he had quaffed his fill.’

Ah, the monteith. A large bowl, commonly made of silver, often with a rim for suspending drinking glasses in the cool water within the bowl; also used as a punchbowl.

This one, above, I found on Pinterest (I realised I needed to search ‘monteith BOWL’ after a ‘monteith’ search brought up photos of Cory Monteith, of Glee fame) – and it apparently is a Victorian period reproduction of a C1685 Charles II period Monteith bowl – this English sterling silver monteith or punch bowl is by James Dixon & Son, Sheffield, c1905.

Isn’t it beautiful!

Have a great day, dear Reader 🙂

— KRidwyn

Possible pacing problems?

And how’s the alliteration in that title for you 😀

So I wrote a 100 word story last weekend for the flash fiction contest on Janet Reid’s blog (literary agent extraordinaire, QOTKU and now agent-wrangler at New Leaf Literary and Media) with the five prompt words: dog, horse, proud, spirit, and herd.

I must admit, I was pretty happy with my entry.

But nary a mention. Nada. Zip. (Well, being awarded a zip might have been nice. Instead there was not even the sound of a lonely cricket…)

And casting my eye over the story again, I was wondering if perhaps pacing could be the issue. (Assuming, of course, that it’s not the overtly Christian content, the fact that it’s written from Satan’s point of view2819385851_04df2f653e_m, or just too obscure…)

I was happy with the ‘Adam naming the animals’ leading into the ‘creation of Eve’ sections – but perhaps that didn’t leave enough space to develop the antagonist’s POV enough.

I emailed it to another writer friend, but – I didn’t know at the time! -he’s moving house. He apologised about not replying; I said please don’t; he has enough on his plate!

I then fell sick a few days back, so was unable to make it to my local writers’ group meeting. I had another member read out my story for me. Her response? “Everyone enjoyed it.” Which is nice, but not particularly detailed. Sigh.

So I’m still left wondering – is it pacing? Is it too Christian? Is it too Satan-ic? Or is it just, simply, too obscure?

I’d love to know what YOU think!

“Cat,” he says. “Horse.”

The angel scribes carefully; smiles. “Last one.”

The man gazes at the creature. “Dog.” The angel scribes, nods; then disappears into the spirit realm.

The Master inclines his head. Ancient eyes close.

The man falls asleep.

 

Later, he wakes; a woman beside him, clothed in purity. “Eve,” whispers the man, eyes wide, marvelling. “My own.”

I smirk. This’ll be easy.

Later still, she explores the garden, head erect; her desire to please ripe for the plucking.

 

I slither over; make my move.

Offended, proud, she seeks to best me in a match of wills.

I win.

So – do *you* think that pacing may be an issue?

And have a lovely week, dear reader!

— KRidwyn

CC image courtesy Nicholas Brekhus on Flickr

Short story: CRIME

Herewith, a story soon to be published in my local Writers’ Group biannual magazine. 800 words. Here’s hoping you enjoy it! 😀

*****

CRIME

Nathanael stood still, watching.

The man in the bed next to him didn’t have long to live. He was 87, after all, and had been ill for months now. Nathanael watched him sadly, wheezing in his sleep. It was such a waste, it truly was.

Nathanael had guarded hundreds – if not thousands – of humans before. He’d been assigned to them when they’d finished their terms as innocents, and stayed with them until their last breath. Then he’d been assigned a new human to guard. Every assignment presented its own challenges, its own highlights. No two were identical, just as each of the Master’s creations was unique. But this last assignment left him saddened. It had been easy, but that in itself had been part of the problem. It had been too easy. The man wasting away in the bed next to him had not lived. Not in any meaningful way. Yes, he had been alive, but he had never lived; he had only existed. And they were very, very different things.

This man, his current assignment, was the second child of three. Overshadowed by both his brothers in intelligence, the man had made up his mind at an early age that he would never amount to much. He had lived with the ridicule of his siblings and the disappointment of his parents, and so had found it difficult to make friends at school. His peers didn’t like him; he’d never gone out of his way to be friendly. By graduation, he’d been friendless. Average school marks had meant that further education wasn’t an option, so he’d gone into the workforce, helping out in his father’s business. And he’d stayed there. Sixty years later, when society had forced him to retire, he’d stopped going to work and stayed at home. The home which he’d inherited from his parents after their death, after his brothers had moved on to bigger and better things. Successful careers. Marriages. Families. Houses. Overseas holidays at ski resorts.

This man, though, had had none of those things. He had told himself that he didn’t want to be seen to be ‘ambitious’ – but really, Nathanael thought that it was because he was scared. Scared of what might happen if he had tried. Scared to succeed; scared to fail. Coasting, making as few decisions as he possibly could, carried less risk. So that’s what he’d done.

He’d never married. Never had anyone that he could call friend. Never even owned a pet! The man had deliberately chosen to be responsible for no-one and nothing. He had told himself that he had preferred it that way. Nathanael wondered if that was true.

It wouldn’t be long now, Nathanael knew. The man’s breathing was becoming more and more erratic. With his angelic sight, Nathanael could see the man’s bodily systems labouring with more and more difficulty, then starting to shut down. The man had just minutes to live.

But what is a life? thought Nathanael. Is it just the number of breaths measured out to a man? Is it the seconds that he has between conception and death? Or is it the decisions that he makes in the time allotted to him? The emotions he allows himself to feel? The experiences he chooses to have?

The Master had created humans to be social creatures. He had created them to be part of community. To care for each other. Life was about living. Not just existing, oblivious to those around you. A life without choosing to interact with others was no life at all. Nathanael knew this. He had had enough experience watching lives to be utterly convinced.

This man, who had lived without thought for others, had done little harm to them. But neither had he done any kindness. And that was such a waste. He could have done so much good! He had had the opportunity for wealth – and with it, the opportunity to be generous with that wealth. He had had the opportunity for friendship – and with it, the possibility of choosing to make others happier. To make their lives easier.

But he had chosen to live his life as risk-free as possible. He had chosen a life without social interaction. A life of solitude. A life alone.

A life wasted. It was almost criminal. To have so many opportunities, and to neglect to nurture them. It was so sad.

Nathanael watched as the man took his last breath. He watched as his heart beat its last time. Nathanael watched as his soul departed, to the place where all souls went, ready for the final judgement.

Nathanael sighed. A final reflection on this man’s life. Then he too departed, thinking with hope of the next life that he would guard. He wondered who his next assignment would be.

The man’s body lay almost as still in death as his spirit had been in life. Unremarkable.

*****

So – did you like it? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please feel free to leave any and all comments below.

And have a lovely week, dear reader 😀

— KRidwyn

Writing Flash Fiction

Task: Write a story.

Limitations: Use 100 words (or fewer). Include the words: may, play, whee, brie, and quick. Submit within 48 hours.

My take on the task:

Daddy, quick – watch me slide! Whee!
Sally, four. All giggles, sloppy ice-cream kisses.

Daddy, please may I have Jaimee over to play?
My daughter, nine. Nudges and whispered secrets.

Daddy, I love you. Father’s Day, thirteen. No more under-the-table cubby-houses…

My own car? Thank you, Daddy! Squeals; hugs of gratitude.

An aisle; a walk; a bride on my arm. Tears, threatening, choked back. My heart too big for my chest.

These memories should be treasured forever.

But they’re ones I’ll never have.

The tiny limp body in my arms? My Sally?
Stillborn.

I curse the day brie was created.

 

Response by Flash Fiction contest judge and Queen of the Known Universe: Shortlisted!!! WOOT!!!!!

 

Happy writing, everyone 🙂

On death and other such stuff…

So I wrote last week about motivations; what’s the *real* reason behind people – and characters in novels – doing what they do. Is it all explainable? If so, then is it forgiveable? When is a crime a crime? All that kind of thing. I was trying to puzzle out how to go about writing a torture scene for my current WIP (Work in Progress). I was concerned that, having had zero experience with torturing someone – physically, anyway; I’m fairly sure that I hurt people emotionally in my past, and I’m sorry and I regret it – and having zero experience also of being tortured physically, that my writing of a torture scene would be just simply inane. How could I write something successfully when I had – you guessed it, zero! – first hand experience? Yes, imagination is all well and good, but in my opinion it’s not good enough when potential readers *have* real experience of torture, and who may find my treatment of it inane, hurtful, derogatory, deprecating. So I was worried.

And so, after several hours stewing, chewing my nails about it, and so on, I did the only thing I could do. I needed a torture scene, so I sat down and wrote it. As best I could. I guess it’s just a wait-and-see what my beta-readers think of it when I finally get it to them, huh?

I had death on my mind rather more than normal this week. Not only because I wrote my first ever torture scene, in which the character died as a consequence, but also because my doctor suggested it to me on Monday. You see, I was finalising the paperwork for Mr6’s future autism allied health visits, and needed his signature. He signed away happily, then looked at me, and asked how I was going. If I was sick at all. I said yes, I’d been sick since last Thursday, and it had gone through the throat on fire and the runny nose, to my chest. He said, “Come on in, let’s check you out” and ushered me into his office quite smartly. I was surprised, I didn’t have an appointment. Long story short, I was at 50% lung capacity and hadn’t realised. He’d asked me what my athsma was normally like, when I wasn’t having an attack like I was right then. I replied that I wasn’t having an attack, that my breathing had been like that all day. He was very, very concerned. I explained that my reason (there’s that word again!) for not using my ventolin was that, whenever I use it when I have a headcold, the ventolin reacts badly with that nodule on my vocal cords, and I end up with laryngitis for AGES. The last time, it took over 6 weeks to clear. And as a 0.7FTE teacher, I can’t afford to lose my voice.

He said, “Just imagine if you got to the stage where you’re down to only 30%, and you’re in the shower, with all the humidity, trying to get air in, and then something triggered an attack. I’d hate to think what might happen.” Which made me think. Seeing as my husband regularly works a ridiculous-number-of-hours-week, I’m primary care-giver to my three gorgeous cherubs. And I would hate them to be traumatised by one of them finding me curled up on the floor of the bathroom, turning blue, gasping for air, at 10pm at night [not to mention I couldn’t afford the therapist fees], so I reluctantly agreed. Laryngitis versus death. I guess one is infinitely preferable to the other.

I was amused, initially, at how ‘serious’ it all was… until it occurred to me that having only 50% lung capacity was kinda like I’d been walking around and doing stuff with just one lung. So I did as the doc suggested. I bought my own Peak Flow meter (my God, those things are expensive!!!) and have been diligently taking my meds (so much for the ‘drowsy’ side effects; I’ve had insomnia all week) and my stats have slowly risen from the 240 which I blew Monday afternoon, and the low of 150 that I got to on Monday night, back up to the 340 mark. Which is good. Someone of my height should be blowing at around 480, apparently, so I’m getting there.

So yes, death has preoccupied me a little. This morning though, I’m more thinking about pain. Because for the first time in a few weeks, I did my Krav Maga session yesterday morning. And boy, oh boy, am I feeling it today!

Have a great week, dear reader!

— KRidwyn

Bushrangers? Really?

My local Writers’ Group meets this Friday morning. And our challenge is to write 500 words (maximum) about bushrangers. NOT my most favourite of topics, so I’ve been putting it off.

Tonight’s #WritingRace, hosted by fantastic @AWMonline, changed that. I spent an hour researching, then writing. And I was quite impressed with what I was able to come up with. Thanks to three amazing websites:

On Australia’s last bushrangers – a newspaper article from Saturday 21st November 1914  – and to top them both off, a truly fascinating legal argument

I’m posted my efforts on my ‘Short Stories’ page, if you’re interested.

Oh, and from the looks of things, it may just be that my prediction, a couple of weeks ago, of a QLD series win? That may have been incorrect…