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Posts Tagged ‘Ghosts’

#flashfriday

I took part in #flashfriday for the first time this week – it was kind of an accident, as I happened to post a version of Ghosts on Friday and I thought I might as well add the hashtag to my tweet. It was fab! I got some really cool comments on my story and read some excellent stories by other people. I’d recommend you have a look

Portfolios, curse them

I’ve spent most of the last few days sorting out my portfolios for three courses: Editing Skills, Writing the Short Story, and Techniques. Need to get them done and out of the way so I can concentrate on the poetry course, which starts tomorrow… I’ve done the first two, now tackling Techniques… don’t suppose I’ll get round to writing a proper blog post for a couple more days. So I thought people might be interested in the reflective piece I wrote about Ghosts.

Ghosts – reflective piece

Ghosts was based on a nightmare I had many years ago. The initial version was short and stark, written almost exactly as I remember the dream. I found I’d instinctively pre-edited to remove the ending, where the mother runs to the living room and sees the dead bodies of her children. It was much more powerful to end when the mother realises that her children are ghosts.

To turn it into a story, I needed to add some background. Finding a reason for the man to attack the woman was easy – he’s her ex-husband who was sent to prison for abusing her, and now he wants revenge. This is only implied in the story, it felt important to keep the immediacy of the action and not clutter it up with backstory.

I also had to make some sense of the change in viewpoint – in my dream the narrator outside the door was the same as the mother inside, but as I wrote it down the narrator outside became the killer. However, I didn’t like the resulting single shift in viewpoint.

All the creative writing textbooks (implicitly or explicitly) seem to recommend the use of one viewpoint, particularly for short stories…

Creative Writing workbook – ed Linda Anderson
Linda Anderson – ‘First-person narrative requires the creation of a compelling, single voice telling its own story in a way that produces a strong sense of realism.’

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes – Jack M Bickham
‘…if you have found more than one viewpoint, get it out of there! Rewrite, if necessary, to make it all a single viewpoint. […] without good handling of viewpoint, your readers may forget whose story it is…’

I decided to write it from varying viewpoints, just to see if I could make it work. What can I say, tell me I shouldn’t do something and I’ll go and do it.

The next draft was written in sections from the viewpoints of killer, mother, child, killer, mother, killer, mother. I went back to the textbooks for advice:

The Creative Writing Coursebook – ed Julia Bell and Paul Magrs
Elleke Boehmer – ‘So one of the first things that a writer needs to confront in taking on the ‘I’ is that this voice is as much of a projection, a character out there as well as in here, as any other. That it is as much of a construct as the third person.’

I revised to ensure I had constructed distinct and realistic voices for each character. The killer is clearly mad, out of touch with reality but driven by a desire for revenge. The mother is scared but determined not to let him defeat her. The child is confused and doesn’t grasp the seriousness of the situation. In theory, if I got it right the reader should be able to follow the story and be helped rather than hindered by the shifts in viewpoint.

I tried the final draft out on several people, they didn’t seem to have any trouble following it. Some of them displayed milder versions of the emotions I’d felt when I first had the nightmare, which must mean I’ve conveyed the story effectively. Personally, I’ve loved writing this piece because it enabled me to play around with something that’s been in my head for a while, and to experiment with doing something writers ‘shouldn’t do’. And I’m very pleased with the end result.

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This isn’t a real post – still not going to have time for that till tomorrow or Sunday. But I’ve rewritten Ghosts, and thought I’d post it just to prove I’m still here. It’s hopefully even more disturbing (those of a nervous disposition probably shouldn’t read it), and I’ve experimented with changing the point of view throughout.

Any comments welcome.

Ghosts

Do I live here?

Concrete stairs circle above and below. Bright colours on rough brick walls try to tell me where to go. I don’t understand the language of the spray can. Dismal passages march away in impossible directions. Everything smells of piss.

Perhaps…

I look down at my feet, tell them to take me home.

They seem to know where they’re going.

I need to keep my bearings in this angular world. I cling to the dark wooden hilt, hold the sensuous curve of metal before my face. It reminds me I have a destiny.

The door is a tongue fitting snugly into the mouth of a narrow damp tunnel. There isn’t enough light for me to be able to tell what colour it is. The walls and ceiling are moving inwards, dripping.

I knock twice. She will let me in.

* * *

I’m playing with the children in the living room when he knocks. No-one ever visits us here. A visceral fear I haven’t felt for over a year wraps around my shoulders like an old friend.

I put the chain on before opening the door.

He pushes so hard the chain breaks, then advances slowly. He’s waving a glittering crescent. A knife.

I scream at the boys to hide, and run through the kitchen. I hope he will follow me, as he did many times before. There is a French window leading onto a balcony. I stand to the side, behind a dark green plastic chair, and wait.

That pot plant needs watering.

* * *

I don’t get it. What was that massive bang? Why’s Mum telling us to hide? She sounds scared. I poke my head into the hall.

The front door is wide open and there’s a man with a scary scowly smile walking towards the kitchen. I run back into the room and hide behind the sofa. Billy is already crouching there, making patterns in the dust.

I hope the man doesn’t find us.

* * *

Flashes of betrayal strobe through my mind. Her blood, her bruises, her doctors. Dark uniforms. A room full of people, she stands in a box, I sit in another box, alone. She tells lies. Years in a small room, alone. My blood, my bruises. No doctors.

Where’s the bitch? My knife is slavering, begging me to sink its fang into her chest, slice the over-ripe flesh away from her rotting bones.

* * *

He bursts out of the kitchen, knife lifted high. Cold stones fill his eye sockets, his mouth is tangled in a knot of hatred. I scream and cower. I don’t dare defy him again.

Maybe if I say I’m sorry…

Snarling, he advances. No human lives inside his skin. I tried to pour my humanity into him once, nearly became an animal myself. I use that part of me now. I dive for his legs, lift, feel my muscles tear, topple him over the balcony railings.

* * *

I fall, tumbling over and over. Violent bloody spirals stream from the tip of my blade, painting my rage on the clouds.

* * *

My sons run into the kitchen, laughing.

We hid, like you said,’ says Stevie.

‘Has the man gone?’ says Billy.

‘Yes, darlings, you’re safe now.’ I kneel down to clasp them to me, I want to hold them so tightly they become part of me again, safe within my womb.

As they approach, I look at them, properly look at them.

Billy’s blond hair is matted with gore. His cheek is ripped open and he has been stabbed many times. Stevie’s throat is gaping and he has a dark red apron of blood.

I can see through them.

Wordle generated image

Wordle generated image

(generated at Wordle – a great place to spend a few hours)

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Some writing

Excuses

You wouldn’t believe how busy I am at the moment. I don’t believe how busy I am. I haven’t even got a job… I sent myself a tenner, and there still aren’t 28 hours in the day. I am such a charlatan.

I’m going away for the weekend, and have got a ton of stuff to do before I go to bed tonight, so I don’t have time for a proper blog post before Sunday. So, I thought I’d share some of my writing. Hope you don’t mind.

Any comments/crits welcome. They’re both works in progress, Ghosts more so than Sailor.

Sailor

I wake to the call of seagulls circling,
creep to the bow, cling to sodden ropes,
surrender fear and allow dark visions
to pierce senses that reason denies.

Polished wood glows softly in moon’s light,
sails swell, breaking waves on the wide sea
of night. The ship fades around me, wind
untangles my thoughts and weaves me away.

A whale shoots an arrow’s path, skims
the rough ocean’s surface, target unseen.
Fixed to glistening silver skin, the black stain
of a raven perches like royalty, urging haste.

Salt-laden water seeps into my boots,
subtle currents tease me with a promise
of an island home, where my wife’s dreams
roam free, riding whales through reflections of stars.

Postcard used as a prompt for Sailor

Postcard used as a prompt for Sailor

Ghosts

Do I live here?
Concrete stairs circle above and below. Bright colours on rough brick walls tell me where to go. I don’t understand the language of the spray can. Dismal passages march off in unlikely directions. Everything smells of piss.
Maybe…
I look down at my feet, tell them to take me home.
That works. They seem to know where they’re going.
I’m at the door. It is a tongue fitting snugly into the mouth of a narrow damp tunnel. There isn’t enough light for me to be able to tell what colour it is. The walls and ceiling are moving inwards, saliva dripping.

I’m in the hall, about to answer the door. I’m terrified. I don’t know why.
A man pushes the door so hard the chain breaks. He has a knife.
I scream at my children to hide in the living room, and run through the kitchen. There is a French window leading onto a balcony. I sit on a dark green plastic chair and wait.

That pot plant needs watering.

The man runs towards me, knife lifted high, blood dripping. I dive for his legs and tip him over the balcony.
He falls, tumbling over and over. Violent bloody spirals stream from the tip of the blade.

The boys run into the kitchen, laughing.
We hid, like you said,’ says Simon.
‘Has the man gone?’ says Blake.
‘Yes, darlings, you’re safe now.’ I kneel down to clasp them to me, I want to hold them so tightly they become part of me again, safe within my womb.

Then I look at them, properly look at them.
Blake’s blond hair is matted with blood. His cheek is ripped open and he has been stabbed several times. Simon’s throat has been cut and he has a dark red apron-stain down his front.

I can see through them.

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