Friday, March 17, 2017

Famous last lines

At Royston Writers’ Circle last night we had a fun exercise – to write a story that ended in a famous last line.  Harder than it sounds! Starting off is easy, but finding your way to that last line… well it provided some entertaining stories from the nine members present.  A lost dementia patient, a delightful vision of aging, to a sci fi adventure as man lands on a new distant planet … that’s what I love about RWC. Always plenty of variety.

The line we chose to finish with was from Margaret Attwood’s “Cat’s Eye”.  Here’s my story – but I must add the caveat that as you don’t know where you are going when you start writing (usually). After reading out the story to the others (we all read out if we want to), I changed the main character’s name on the group’s recommendation.  I called him Greg, but from here on, it’s Grug!  Written in half an hour, here it is, warts and all, unedited.

A thousand years away one day

Grug was a Shagi. That meant he was bottom of the social pile. He was pushed brutally out of the was by a Casquer.  Their powerful arms, impressive of course, but even so a Casquer would have been no match for a Shagi in a good fight.  Nonetheless Grug gave way, allowing the higher status female to move down the narrow tunnel ahead of him.  He grunted a brief dissatisfaction and immediately she turned to glare at him.  He dropped his head low, avoiding her gaze, and avoiding a fight that he could win – but dare not.

Grug was young and inexperienced and it showed. But he was also growing angry as he grew up.  There’s nothing like learning your place to learn that you don’t like it.  Grug had asked his elders why they must always acquiesce to the Casquers, and they always said “They are the keepers of light. Without them we are in darkness and lost”.  A bitter litany.

It had always been so amongst the tunnel people.  If you had a light, you had power.  But this confused Grug, who like most Shagi could navigate well enough without light.  He was also more curious than many of his peers, and indeed his betters. The fish, the spiders, the other creatures that shared their world, they did not even have eyes! They did not flock to the light or the warmth of the Casquers’ lanterns.

It is as if, Grug thought, we should know light better than we do. All of us, not just those high born.  Grug had learned to keep these questions to himself though. Overheard comments had earned him punishment rotas in the deep pits. He didn’t mind the dark, but he hated the cold water and the multitude of bones – stark reminders of the Hypocaust Wars.  

Once the Casquer has gone, Grug took a rock and threw it with all his might against the wall. His frustration must have given him greater strength than he knew, for a cascading rumble and a rock fall ensued.  And then, something new appeared.

The Casquer and her lantern had gone – no other Casquers were about, no one but him. And yet… and yet he knew his world had just changed.  The air tasted different and it moved strangely against him – like his mother’s hand ruffling his hair. He stared hard. The shape of the rocks and the path were clear. The moving air drew him closer to where the rocks had fallen and, he realised, they revealed a new tunnel.

This new tunnel was huge – so big he could not see the sides, so big he could not see the roof. But he knew there must be a high roof as he could see light – a myriad of small lights not harvested by the Casquers.  It was a strange sight - and it moved him.  Hi heart quickened, excitedly.  This dim, distant miracle might lift him up very high indeed.
“It’s old light, and there’s not much of it, but it’s enough to see by.”

Critique away! This story is very naive and there’s plenty of opportunities to improve, but I thought I would share what we do for fun once a month at Royston Writers’ Circle

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Ghost writing

No, not writing for someone else, so that they can claim authorship under your talent, but the writing of things ghostly.

My friend today posted a ghost picture on Facebook she took  in broad daylight - and it's a ghostly shape indeed.  Ghost? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on your definition of what a ghost actually is.  I've just put one of my stories into YouTube to share - there is a CD of my short ghost stories available (contact me and I can sell you one - can't give 'em away, sorry), and this is one story from this collection.

I enjoyed putting visuals to the story, but it's really for listening to, not watching. But why did I write a few ghost stories? Because, like my friend on Facebook today, I've been aware of the presence what we call ghosts in my own life. And they do say write what you know.

The Resident is actually based on a true story - we lived with a ghost for around 20 years. Many popular ghost stories are scary - the poltergeist that destroys or disrupts, the ghost that reenacts, or the ones that simply scare you witless. But I think there are probably far more benign ghosts out there like ours that don't give you a horrible fright. They are just there, not doing any harm, but certainly giving you the occasional start.

What are ghosts? I'm open to any interpretation you like - from Stone Tape Theory to good old fashioned spirits. Oh, and of course a good healthy dose of human imagination, visual distortion (a great one for the 'grey ladies')  and indeed pranksterism (I know that isn't a word, but it fits).

In my personal experience there have been incidents that are impossible to explain, even with all the options considered. But most of my stories are fiction - good old fashioned story telling designed to entertain and intrigue, rather than to scare. 

If you have five minutes to spare, do listen to The Resident. It's not the most polished piece of work, but even so I hope you find it entertaining.