FF – When…

Photo credit Sandra Crook

When…

Sylvie sat at her desk, ignoring the quadratics that swirled across the books there. “When I grow up, I’ll never do Maths again,” she said to the man singing on her radio.

At college, she told her friends “When I leave here, I’m going to travel the world,”

“When I get married, I’ll put my feet up,” she said, elbows-deep in suds at the job she got afterwards.

Now she tries to calculate the bills, ignoring the sink full of dishes, staring at the calendar photo of a place she’s never been. “When the kids leave home,” she sighs.

Extroduction

There’s a path going up that hill in the photo, and it caught my eye because it looks really challenging. This last few months we’ve done a lot of just getting through, but I’m also aware that while the view from the top of that cliff is probably stunning, but it’s the climb that makes the experience memorable and worthwhile.

There are loads of songs that try to capture this sentiment, “The Climb” being one of the more famous. The link below is another. And as a mother, I’m used to being told to enjoy the moment, so I know how deeply upsetting that type of advice can be and how important hope is. That being said, I hope we can all learn to live in the moment, even when we don’t enjoy it. After all, tomorrow never comes.

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FF – Doing The Right Thing

Photo credit © Starsinclayjars

Doing The Right Thing

“They haven’t cut the straps.” Luke kicks disapprovingly at the third discarded mask we’ve seen in the one mile walk to school.

“Huh?” I’m not really listening. I’m wondering what we’re going to do on Monday. The third strike day of his first ‘normal’ school year since Grade 1.

“Animals can get tangled in them and die.”

“In the discarded mask?”

“Yes. It’s serious, Mom.”

One of us is missing the point. “You want the careless idiots who drop their mask on the side of the road to carefully cut the straps first?”

“It’s environmentally caring.”

“Ah, environmentally caring littering.”

Extroduction

Today’s photo put me in mind of a song from my childhood, The Bedstead Men, by comedy duo Flanders and Swann. You can enjoy it on the link below (2:25 for the relevant verse). It occurred to me that 80 years on, the specific items listed in the final chorus would have changed considerably, and in the last few years, one piece of litter has taken over from the prophylactic as the most ubiquitous: the single-use mask.

I toyed with the idea of amending the lyrics for our times, but at 352 words, it’s a little over the limit and most of them wouldn’t change. My own Luke recently took on board an important lesson about mask disposal, and my own Matty is currently sprawled on the couch with ‘flu … likely to recover just in time to miss school for yet another strike.

And so today’s snippet was born. If you enjoy stories featuring the fictional Luke and Matty, you can find more of them here.

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FF – Aunt Selina’s Church

Melanie’s back! This photo immediately brought to mind the phrase ‘through a glass darkly’. I’ve used that before for a prompt, so I took a different part of the same verse for Melanie to muse on this week. If you enjoy her thoughts, you can find others here.

Aunt Selina’s Church

Before Mummy got sick, she wore a pretty dress and spoke at Aunt Selina and Puncle Eter’s wedding. They go to a weird church. Their priest smiles a lot and when they sing, they clap their hands and dance around.

Mummy said 1 Corinthians 13, but she changed it. She said “When I became a woman, I put childish things behind me.” Father Andrew wouldn’t like that, but their priest nodded and smiled.

And then, at the end, when he said “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” everybody cheered. Loudly.

I liked their church; I wonder what God thinks.

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FF – Family Road Trip

Thank you to Brenda Cox for the photo prompt. Not sure why WordPress isn’t in the mood to caption it today.

Family Road Trip

“The frogs always drive 2CVs,” my husband jokes as we pass our fifth that day.  

“Wearing a blue beret, with garlic round their neck and a baguette? You’ve been watching too much old TV, Dad.” Luke’s suspicious of our inclination to stereotype.

“If it was properly old, you wouldn’t be able to see the colour.”

Matty looks up then. “Black and white TV ended before you were born.” His voice is slick with disdain.

“That one’s green!” I say, trying to lighten the mood. “It looks like a frog!”

“How apt,” sighs Luke, “A frog car for a frog driver.”

*** Translation notes ***

In case you aren’t familiar, British people tend to call French people “frogs” or “froggies”. It’s generally innocent and affectionate and there’s some debate about where it came from (a summary can be found here), but like most of the national stereotypes and nicknames we grew up on, it probably wouldn’t be approved of by younger, woker generations like Luke.

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FF – Practice makes Perfect

Thanks to Bill Reynolds for this week’s photo. One part stood out to me.

Practice Makes Perfect

“Why do I have to practise every day?” he used to ask me, torturing that guitar just as I was torturing him. He loved being able to play, hated the process of getting there. If he could make it play the notes that was enough for him. Why should he practise again and again just to add timing and emotion?

Practising became playing, and playing eventually became gigging and riffing. One day, he’ll have a kid of his own who wants to be able to play but doesn’t want to learn. I wonder if he’ll torture them with practice too.

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The Process of Friday Fiction

A few non-FF friends and family members have asked recently how my Friday Fiction process works, so I’ve been thinking about it and I thought I’d share the thoughts. If you’re looking for Fiction, move right along, this is a piece of introspective rambling!

Every morning, I check my phone. It’s pretty much the first thing I do. On Wednesdays, I make a point of finding the FF prompt picture. I get emailed when Rochelle posts, so I usually find the picture there. I don’t read her story, I just look at the picture.

Sometimes it’s hours before I have chance to write, sometimes sooner. Occasionally, a story idea pops straight into my head when I see the photo. More often, it percolates around and turns into a sentence. Sometimes that’s a piece of idiom, other times just a random phrase. Last week, it was “Rain stopped play”, for example.

That sentence might lead me to a favourite character (Melanie / Luke and Matty, etc) or to someone new. If I really come up with nothing, I can usually persuade Melanie to say something, but that’s a last resort. Whether preconceived or not, the character usually comes to me. Even if I don’t have a story in mind, I tend to start typing. It often feels more like transcribing than creating – the words pop into my head as though a character is speaking there. Call it a muse, inspiration, whatever; it doesn’t feel like hard work.

Oftentimes, the point of the story isn’t clear until halfway through. This week, for example, I knew Mum was shopping at the brickabrack store to fill a hole in her life, but I had no idea she was doing it to see Jim. In fact, Jim didn’t exist in the beginnign and I had thought we were about to hear about Dad’s reaction to her purchases. (For the record, he would not have been impressed.) But then Jim popped into my head and I realised why Mum was going there. It brought me full circle to how Mum was trying to brighten her life. I realised about the same point the reader does.

The process of writing the first draft took less than 5 minutes. Like I say, it’s more like transcribing than creating, and I can transcribe a lot more than 100 words in 5 minutes.

Tweaking comes next. I’ve been doing 100 word stories long enough that my first drafts usually come within 10% of target, so it rarely needs a major edit. In this case, I added Jim’s name at the start and polished up the echoes between the first and last paragraphs. That took me to 105 words, so I lost an extraneous bit where Mum also bought gifts at the store. Maybe another 5 minutes in total.

Sometimes it’s different. Sometimes I realise while writing that the story wants to be 500 words. At that stage I either ditch the idea entirely, or look for a nugget within in that’s actually what the story is about. It takes a bit longer, but still I never spend more than 30 minutes on the writing part.

That’s why I generally still post FF stories even when my life is busy and I haven’t got time to eat breakfast!

Creating the post, uploading to Facebook and InLinkz takes at least as long as writing. I draft in Word so there’s an onscreen word count function, then copy into WordPress before I set up tags etc. In total, from sitting down with the laptop to hitting ‘share’, it’s usually about 30 minutes, sometimes less, never more than an hour.

The real time-consuming part comes afterwards. Part of the fun of FF is reading other people’s stories. I never look at theirs before I post mine, but afterwards I read Rochelle’s story and then head to the linkup page to read a collection of others. It’s a long time I’ve managed all the stories, but I have my favourite writers, and then I read a random selection (roughly a quarter of the group) as they get posted over the next few days. I can keep up with comments from my phone, so I read every comment and try to respond promptly too.

I love feedback! Even negative feedback is good for me. I try to make my FF’s like icebergs – at least as much going on below the surface as above it – and I love it when people comment on some of those hidden meanings. But I also enjoy seeing other interpretations of my stories. Sometimes people find a whole other version I didn’t even know was there, and those comments are some of my favourites too! As I like to say, the Reader is always right.

Does any of this surprise you? If you’re a FF writer, what does your process look like?

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FF – One of Everything

Photo copyright belongs to our leader, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, this week.

One of Everything

Jim’s One Of Everything store at the end of our street was always Mum’s favourite place. She’d drag us in there to find ‘something to brighten our lives’. Sunshine would’ve been better. And empty space. But Mum preferred the niknaks she found at what we preferred to call “Lots of Nothing”.

Eventually, Jim got round to asking her to move in, and she didn’t have to buy the stuff any more. The house got less cluttered after that. She started selling those niknaks instead of buying them, and the sunshine came back. To her face, and to all our lives.

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FF – When Doug Stopped Play

Melanie had opinions about this picture, but they were depressing and a bit repetitious, so I thought Luke and Matty might be interested in the playground instead. Unfortunately, Luke and Matty, much like my real life boys, lived through a pandemic, and the sight of a rain-soaked playground gave their Mom a very different memory you can read more about here. Still miserable, I’m afraid, but then – is there anything more forlorn than an empty playground?

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid-19-ontario-april-16-2021-new-restrictions-modelling-1.5990092

Photo copyright, Roger Bultot.

When Doug Stopped Play

Even when it poured rain, we went across to the park every day. Rain never stopped play. I remember getting annoyed about it, but I bought myself raingear and handwarmers, and longed for them to be old enough to send over without me.

They’re old enough now, but we all sit inside and look out at the street instead. On rainy days, there are puddles Matty longs to jump in, and mud they would happily dig through; when the sun shines, the slides glow, calling the neighbourhood children to flout the rules, risk the world’s new Big C…

and PLAY!

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FF – Inside and Out

Since Melanie had a rerun last week, she has more to say. Hopefully, one day, a whole novel’s worth, but for now, she’s just commenting on the weather!

Photo copyright: David Stewart

Inside and Out

Church is always calm on the inside. Even when it’s stormy outside and the rain is soaking everything. Inside it’s quiet.

Not me. I get stormy on the inside. Like when I stood at the front and my tummy squiggled like breakfast was shouting to get out, but I couldn’t even say the Amen and Father Andrews sent me to sit down.

Then Sarah winked at me and my insides started giggling, but Father Andrews was watching so I made my outsides look like Our Lady.

I look at her sometimes and I wonder. Is she stormy on the inside?

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FF – (Rererun) Spirit Lamps

Rochelle has gifted us a rerun today, except when I looked closer, it’s a re-rerun. Still, my story features two of my favourite characters, so here they are again.

Not sure what it says about how long I’ve been Friday Fictioneering when things come back for a second time 😉

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