Tag Archives: writing challenge

#DearValentine Week Three: His Moment

18 Feb


Prompt: a gun, a tuxedo, an abandoned fairground.


His Moment

He’s standing next to the carousel, the gun weighing heavy in his pocket. His mouth is dry, his palms sweaty, and he wipes them on the lining of his rented tux, hoping that his nerves aren’t as obvious as he thinks they are. This is his moment. He can’t afford to screw it up.

For the longest thirty seconds of his life there is silence, and he forces himself to remain in position, eyes trained on the gaudily-painted candyfloss wagon, until footsteps alert him to their arrival. He turns, smiles, faces the newcomer.

Drawing in a quick breath, praying for his voice not to fail, he speaks.

“Hello Jack.”

His hand darts to his pocket, withdraws the gun, holds it to the other man’s head.

“Goodbye Jack.”

A shot rings out, drowning out the sound of his pounding heartbeat.

Jack crumples to the floor.

Silence falls.

But a moment later the silence is broken again, this time by thunderous applause. It continues, and he remains frozen in place until the curtain falls.

He barely registers the next few minutes; standing in line with the rest of the cast members, bowing for the delighted audience. Slipping out of that awful tux and back into his comfortable jeans and hoodie. Congratulating the others, accepting their praise with as much modesty as he can muster. It’s a blur of happiness, and he doesn’t think that it can get much better.

But the door opens and she’s there. She ignores Ben Russell, considered by most of the female population of their school (along with some of the males) to be the sexiest man alive, and walks straight past Matt Davis, who is shirtless and displaying his impressive abs to the room at large. The girl of his dreams walks right up to him, throws her arms around his neck, and kisses him passionately.

He had thought that things couldn’t get much better. Now he knows they can’t.

Nightgale Challenge Week Three: The Churchyard

19 Jan

January 19th – PROMPT To Die and become one with Nature

Keats – “Darkling I listen, for many a time, I have been half in love with easeful Death, Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme, To take into the air my quiet breath; Now more than ever seems it rich to die;”(Ode To A Nightingale)

(For the  first two installments in this mini-series, see A Cure For Death and Dinnertime Conversation).


The Churchyard 

A few weeks pass, and Elisabeth doesn’t mention her musings on death. I even start to think that she may have lost interest in it, out of character though that would be. And then I find her in the churchyard.

There is a large tree there, opposite the patch of earth where they buried Old Man Johnson just three weeks ago, and she is seated under it. There is a notebook in her lap, but she isn’t writing in it, and she flips it shut as I approach.

“Hiding your secrets?” I ask, half-teasing, half-wistful, and receive nothing but a smile in response, as she strokes the soft leather of the cover.

“What are you doing here?” I try a different line of enquiry, unsure as to whether I actually want a response, but unable to stop myself from searching for one.

“Thinking about the bodies.” She replies softly. “They become a part of the ground, and plants grow up from the ground. The same plant on every grave. Isn’t that interesting?”

It is interesting, and, I notice as I look around the graveyard, absolutely true. The same plant on every grave. What are the chances of that?

Nightgale Challenge Week Two: Dinnertime Conversation

12 Jan


Today is the second day of  Stevie McCoy‘s #Nightgale Challenge, a four week creative writing challenge based on immortality and Romanticism. Today’s prompt was this:

 Immortality comes to you, you do not go to Immortality

Shelley- “Why dost thou pass away and leave our state, This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?… No voice from sublimer world hath ever, To sage or poet these responses given – Therefore the name of God and ghosts and Heaven, Remain the records of their vain endeavour,”(Hymn To Intellectual Beauty)

(N.B. This piece is a sequel to A Cure for Death?, the piece which I wrote for Week 1 of the #Nightgale Challenge. I would advise you to read that first, if you haven’t already.)


Dinnertime Conversation

“Where were you today, Elisabeth?” Mother asks sternly, ladling stew onto our plates. She is seated at the table, chin resting in her cupped hands, staring out of the window.

“Elisabeth.” I nudge her, breaking her from the trance. “Mother asked you a question.”

She lifts her chin, her startling blue eyes focusing on my face. “At the Johnson house.” She replies, her voice low and almost sing-song as she recounts the tale. “Old Man Johnson is dying you know. I wanted to see what it was like.”

“Elisabeth!” Mother scolds. “What a thing to say! And I highly doubt that the Johnsons appreciated your company!”

“They did.” Elisabeth replies, eerily self-assured. “They said that all friends were welcome, and Old Man Johnson liked me.”

“I talked to the priest.” She continues, as Mother buries her face in her hands. “He said that Immortality comes to you, you do not go to it. He says that we’ll all be granted the gift of eternal life in Heaven.”

“And?” I prompt.

“I told him he was wrong.” She shrugs. “I don’t want eternal life in Heaven, I want it here. And I’m going to find a way to get it.”

Resolution Confusion Writing Challenge: Anger Management

10 Jan

I’ve been so wrapped up in reading for (and distracting myself from) my dissertation, that I almost forgot to post my entry for ‘Timony Souler’s Resolution Confusion challenge! The challenge was to take one of six resolutions and make it go wrong, and my resolution was:

5. I will go to anger management classes.

I’ve noticed that most of my flash fiction pieces end up as a fragment of a scene, so I think that I need to set myself another challenge to write a proper self-contained short story. I’d be interested to know what other people think though.


Anger Management

“So how did this happen?” Sadie asked, dabbing gingerly at the cut on my forehead with the alcohol wipe. For a trainee nurse, she was surprisingly squeamish when it came to the sight of blood.

“It’s all Emma’s fault.” I grumbled, wincing and pulling away as she attempted to cleanse the wound. “Her and her stupid anger management classes!”

“Oh?” Sadie’s face, a picture of concern only a moment before, was now taking on a pink tinge thanks to the effort of containing her amusement. “So they didn’t go well then?”

“I went to one.” I explained, in what may possibly have been an exaggeratedly long-suffering tone. “The instructor made us sit on the floor for two hours doing breathing techniques. Two hours, Sadie! I’ve been breathing perfectly well on my own for the past twenty years, I didn’t need her telling me that I was doing it wrong!”

“Maybe…” Sadie began, before trailing off when she saw the expression on my face. “Never mind. What happened next? One failed anger management class does not explain why you’re bleeding all over my kitchen.”

“Well I tried to explain what a disaster the class was to Emma.” I continued. “But she wasn’t having any of it. Said that I’d made this resolution for her, and she wanted me to see it through.  And then she said that if I really didn’t think the classes were working for me, then I should explain why in a calm and rational way.”

Sadie cocked an eyebrow at me. I glowered back.

“Sorry, John.” She said, pressing a bandage to my face and securing it with what looked like masking tape. What was wrong with plasters, that was what I wanted to know. “But this does not look like the result of a calm and rational conversation.”

“Oh but it was!” I defended myself. “It was very calm and extremely rational…right up until the moment I punched him.”

Sadie blinked, her expression the same one that she wore whenever I explained my messes to her. It was the ‘tell me you did not just say that’ face.

“It might still have all been OK.” I continued, not wanting to deprive her of the full explanation. “If he hadn’t had anger issues of his own. And a black belt in karate.”

Fiction Friday: Santa vs. Technology

23 Dec

My first Fiction Friday in a while, the prompt was:

Santa has employed a publicity agent and marketing firm to revamp his style; as he feels he has lost touch with the modern child. In your flash fiction submission, choose a scene or event surrounding this event. It might be his decision, his attempts to approach credible firms, or a glimpse into what the “new look Santa” has to offer.


Santa sat in front of the computer, feeling thoroughly confused. Of course, he had delivered these machines to countless children over the years, but until the present moment he had never used one himself. Still, it couldn’t be too difficult. He had already managed to get the thing switched on, and after only forty five minutes. Everything else should be a doddle now that he had figured that out.

Three hours later though he was still staring blankly at the screen. That was the state in which Leonora found him when she arrived to check on his progress. Leonora was a publicity agent, and in her own shrewd opinion one of the best, but she had never taken on a client quite like Santa before. But then she always had problems with the older clients, she just needed to convince him to move with the times. He certainly seemed kindly enough, and hadn’t kicked up a fuss at any of her suggestions. Not even the one about the naked pictures.

Still, from the bemused look with which he greeted her she could tell that it was going to be a long afternoon. It was times like these when she wondered whether her policy of letting the celebrities have as much involvement as possible was really for the best. They tended to get irritable if they weren’t involved, but they were just so incompetent. For goodness’ sake, she could have worked her way through the majority of this list of tasks in less than an hour on her own.

“I just don’t understand what it’s all about.” He was saying helplessly now, gesturing towards the screen. “It all seems rather silly to me.”

Leonora sighed, flipping a wayward strand of hair out of her eyes with a long manicured fingernail and taking control of the mouse. “Twitter’s actually a very valuable tool for self-promotion.” She explained, willing herself to stay calm. “All the celebrities are using it.”

“I see.” Santa nodded, considering. “And what would happen if I pushed this button?”

The screen juddered and then went black. Leonora blew out a breath. She could smell a change of policy in the air.

The Night Of Writing Dangerously Live Blog

20 Nov

21:32: Time to get started! I have my laptop, my story plan, a room full of fellow crazy people, what more do I need?

21:35: If my laptop screen would stop wobbling it would be very much appreciated!

21:37: It would also be appreciated if the rugby lads who are chanting in the next room would shut up…

21:51: Oooh, someone has just mentioned pizza! Never mind the fact that I’ve already eaten, suddenly I’m starving…

21:52: One of my friends has just asked us for ideas of places to go on a third date. Another friend replied “To a bull fight?”

21:53: The first friend has now asked for the title of a fake romantic film. The second replied “Cow tipping…in Venice!”

21:55: Everyone is now discussing the plot of this fake romantic film. Coming soon to a cinema near you?

21:57: In other news, I’ve written 73 words in half an hour. Perhaps writing with friends isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

22:07: Pizza successfully chosen – now hoping that everyone else decides quickly so that we can order!

22:15: 185 words down. This is going incredibly slowly…

22:24: The mathematicians are now discussing square roots. Kill me now…

22:32: Pizza is now being ordered. Now if only I could motivate myself to write before it gets here!

22:56: “How would you describe something between soft and hard?” Someone asks. “It was like clutching a hedgehog!” Suggests someone else.

23:18: PIZZA TIME!!!

23:50: There has just been a rather epic fight over a brownie. Clearly we will do anything to distract ourselves from writing…

23:59: Our secretary has been maimed in a tragic sofa-vaulting accident. Who says writing isn’t dangerous?

00:31: Essential essay reading has taken priority over writing. Oh the trials and tribulations of student life!

01:17: Distracted again, this time by awesome word games. There is far too much hilarity and far too little writing going on in this room!

02:04: Finally started writing again, and have decided to extend the evening due to lack of progress. There’s some talk of staying until breakfast…

02:14: So far tonight, I have written 811 words. Not quite what I was hoping for, but it all adds to the word count.

02:23: Just broken 15,000 words.

03:16: Still not getting very far with this. Might be time to call it a night…

NaNoWriMo Update: The Night of Writing Dangerously

20 Nov

Much as it pains me to say it, I have to admit that I’ve failed. With only 14,000 words of my novel completed, I have realised that my chances of winning NaNoWriMo this year are slim at best. And having missed several days of NaBloPoMo, it would appear that that too is not happening for me this month. I could make excuses about work, and other commitments, and the need to prioritise sleep over writing, but they wouldn’t change anything. In fact, they would be little more than an excuse to procrastinate more.

So, instead, I am changing my goals, aiming for 25,000 rather than 50,000, and taking comfort in the fact that that will still be the longest piece I’ve ever written (certainly the longest I’ve ever written in a month). The rest will come eventually, and maybe this way I won’t completely fail my degree for the sake of NaNoWriMo. And to help me beat my pathetic word count into shape, tonight I am participating in the Night of Writing Dangerously with a group of friends from the Creative Writing Society. To make this event even more fun (and because I enjoyed it so much last time), I will be live-blogging my way through the night (which will go on until around 2AM). How many words can I write in just over four hours? Your guess is as good as mine!

Drabbles: Ice Fishing and The Crow

16 Nov

Firstly, an apology. As I knew would happen, I have given up on successfully completing NaBloPoMo. I am also severely behind on NaNoWriMo, although I have high hopes of correcting that with the Night of Writing Dangerously on Sunday. But I did get some writing done today, with the Creative Writing Society’s Drabble Night. For those not in the know, drabbles are pieces of fiction which are exactly 100 words long – no mean feat, I can assure you. I managed to write two, which I’m posting here for your enjoyment: constructive criticism is, of course, welcome!


Ice Fishing

Sometimes, in the winter, we would go to visit my grandfather in Canada. And sometimes, during those visits (only if we had been especially good), he would take us ice fishing. It doesn’t sound like the sort of activity that would entertain a small girl, especially not one who spent most of her days playing with dolls and reading fairy tales, but I loved it. The unknown of the water, hidden beneath its thick blanket of ice, fascinated me. I wanted to know what was down there.

Until, one day, I found out. And things were never the same again.

 

The Crow

The crow sits on the branch, silhouetted against the night sky. She looks down at the people walking below her, watches the wonder on their faces as they stare at the glowing moon turn to horror as they catch sight of her. She would smile in amusement, but her beak makes it impossible, so she simply lets out a loud caw, making the couple jump in fright. She can’t tell them that she means them no harm, that she’s only a crow who likes to watch the world go by. Maybe she wouldn’t if she could. No-one will ever know.

Ghouls Galore Challenge Week 4: Home At Last

9 Nov

This is a couple of weeks later than scheduled, but I wanted to finish the mini-saga which these prompts had inspired, so here it is, hopefully better late than never!

The prompts were:

Borborygmus (Rumbling in the guts)

A creature of your choosing


Home At Last

“Do you know,” Michael mused, collapsing exhausted onto the living room sofa, their mission finally completed, “I’m starting to think that Crazy Meg might be in league with these creatures.”

Sarah raised her head wearily to give him her patented Big Sister Glare. “Stop looking for trouble!” She scolded. “She may have led us on a bit of a wild goose chase, but I think she’s just mad, not evil.”

“Not at all.” Ben agreed, quite charitably given the circumstances. “She hasn’t actually caused any of these situations, she just seems to enjoy prolonging our misery once we’ve landed ourselves in them.”

Just then, a loud borborygmus noise erupted from behind them. The siblings looked at each other in confusion, each making gestures to indicate that they had not been responsible for it. Eyes meeting, they each felt a sinking feeling in their stomachs as realisation set in.

“So what kind of creature do you think that was?” Ben asked, sounding more than a little terrified (and with good reason).

“I have no idea.” Sarah sighed. “But I’m sure that whatever it is, Crazy Meg will have a book on it!”

Fiction Friday: Two Timing

6 Nov

I know I said that I wouldn’t be doing Fiction Friday this month, but apparently something has happened to my common sense, because here I am writing words that I can’t add to my NaNo word count. *sigh* The prompt this week was: “Your character has lived a life full of excuses and until now has gotten away with them”.


Jay hadn’t intended to get himself into this situation. On the whole, he considered himself to be a decent, upstanding sort of guy. Things had just spiralled out of control recently, and he had no idea how to fix them.

It had all started when he met Laura. It was the first time really that a girl had shown interest in him (getting rid of his braces and growing into his nose had helped), and naturally he had been ecstatic. He hadn’t really expected it to go anywhere though, despite exchanging numbers with her at the end of the night.

Then, not two days later, his lab partner Michelle had asked him out for coffee. At this point, he did feel the slightest hint of a guilty pang, but he doubted that he’d ever actually hear from Laura again, so he’d accepted. That was when the problems had really begun.

At first, it didn’t feel like he was doing anything wrong. ‘New York dating’, one of his friends called it, and although he was promptly berated for knowing such girly terminology, he made Jay feel much better. It was only coffee, only a drink, only dinner. He wasn’t doing anyone any harm, not really.

Two months passed though, and things began to get more serious. The L word started to be bandied around, and Jay wasn’t sure what to do. He wanted to say it back, really he did, but the trouble was that he wanted to say it to both of them. Was that wrong? He consulted with his friends yet again, and this time the vote was unanimous. Even the most laddish of them thought that his behaviour had crossed the line. It was around this point that he stopped discussing his relationship dilemmas with them.

It was around the year mark that he decided that this couldn’t go on much longer. He still didn’t know which of the girls he liked better though, they were so different and he enjoyed spending time with both of them. But dividing his time was becoming more and more awkward, the excuses were becoming more frequent and more creative, and the guilt was a rock in his stomach. He had to choose, and soon.

In the event, the decision was taken out of his hands. He was sitting in a restaurant, holding hands with Laura, when he saw Michelle walk in. He could have run, could have hidden, could have feigned illness and gone home early, but he just stayed, rooted in place. Watched Michelle walk over to them, saw her lips move without hearing the words coming out of them, observed everything as if in slow motion. This whole situation had been a disaster waiting to happen and, perversely, he was almost relieved to have been found out.

His last thought before drifting off to sleep that night was that at least he wouldn’t have to spend so much on dinners out in future.