Friday Fiction – His World

It’s FF time again, and this week’s photo comes from Doug MacIlroy, a fellow addict who has just fallen off the wagon for at least the second time. Don’t worry, Doug, I’ve never made it onto the wagon yet!

There is a recurring discussion amongst seasoned fictioneers – it came up again a couple of weeks ago – about the prevalence of death in our stories. Are we all just macabre people? Is it taking the easy route? To an extent, I think it is; death creates instant drama, and that’s useful if you’ve only got 100 words to tell a story. But if it’s easy, does that make it bad? I hope not, because death crops up in my stories not infrequently. I hope, however, that I’m not always taking the easy route when it does.

As always, I welcome your thoughts – on that question, and/or on the story below.

monsters-dmm

His World

Alice was dying. His little girl, on whom he had founded all his dreams, was dying.

The bodies at his feet writhed, screaming, a pink-striped leg occasionally escaping the tangle and lashing out; sometimes an arm grasping the leg of his trousers for an instant before returning to the mass.

But Alice was dying. Her husband, Owen, was gone already. And Alice was dying.

Dean wiped away a tear of self-pity; what was Alice to him, compared with ‘Mom’ to them? He etched on a smile and threw himself into the pile of giggles.

“Grandpa Monster’s coming to tickle you!”

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54 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

54 responses to “Friday Fiction – His World

  1. Jen, I think, when it comes to writing about death, it’s all how you approach it. You did a wonderful job with this one, touching on the subject of death, but not making it the central point, at least in my opinion. It seems more about the relationship of the man to his daughter and grandkids. Great job.

  2. Alice

    Really enjoyed. Took me a couple of reads to get the relationships – it’s all good. Love how you wrote the second paragraph – I was thinking the worse and went down the plague road the first time 🙂

  3. Death is in a lot of my stories, but I wouldn’t say it’s there because that’s the easy route. That’s where the prompts tend to take my mind and I’m not about to force a story to avoid death. If the stories were only about death it wouldn’t be much of a story. That’s a story I can tell in 2 words: He died. The end. There has to be more to it than just death.

    • That’s four words! HA HA!

      • “The end.” wasn’t part of the story. Just a statement after the fact to accentuate my point.

        • Ok child, play nice 😉 I agree that death in itself isn’t a story, Adam, and I definitely agree we shouldn’t force it out of the way any more than we should force it in. I meant easy in the sense that “he died” is more inherently dramatic than “he walked”, although either can be made into a good or a bad story. I recently very much enjoyed ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’, a novel for which a two word summary would indeed be “He walked”.

  4. I think your story is a good example of why we shouldn’t “ban” death as a topic on Friday Fictioneers, because it’s facilitating this discussion about loss. I think it’s very interesting that you showed them in a light-hearted moment when something so serious is happening, and I think that brings an element of realism to your story that’s not often covered. However, I agree that the “twist” ending of he/she/they died/are dead is overused a little bit on FF.

    • I wouldn’t advocate a ban on anything, miss K. I think stereotypes should be avoided, even if they are just stereotypes within a group’s writing, and I definitely get bored when a majority of entries tell the same story. Hopefully whilst mine’s quite a literal interpretation this week, it won’t find many doppelgangers in the group!

  5. Beautiful story that captures all the sadness but also the tremendous courage of Grandpa

  6. After reading this three times I got it! Call me slow, that’s OK. Great read. We all need a strong “grandpa” in our lives whether it’s a friend, lover, or a kind stranger. Thanks for a great story.

  7. this comment isn’t completely about FF writing because the brevity certainly restricts one’s ability to really expand a story as opposed to writing an event or a moment.

    i don’t agree that death is instant drama. very often, death is a convenient ending. too many stories are about relationships and drama within those relationships – but then there’s nowhere to go – so someone has to die. then, you (not you personally, but the writer) doesn’t have to address any resolution within the relationship. very often, having someone die means a writer doesn’t have to think of an ending. the story just ends when someone dies.

    for a FF story, if there is any drama in a death, it is the circumstance of the death. “why” is someone dying must be more important than “that” someone is dying. for me, the best use of death in a FF story does not even include a death but choices that someone might make in which we can see that death is coming, but the character might not yet realize death is coming. it would be as if the reader is standing at a corner and can see a car coming from the left and a car coming from the right. those two cars cannot see each other, but we, like the reader, can see that they are both headed towards each other.

    • Interesting thoughts, Rich, thank you. I hate it when stories end in death to avoid resolution. Spoiler alert: It’s something Jodi Picoult does a lot. I never got the excitement over ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ for exactly that reason.
      However, Jodi Picoult has fame and renown most of us would kill for (if you’ll excuse the pun), so maybe you and me and the other grumpy Fictioneers have got it wrong!

      • i haven’t read anything of hers, so i can’t accurately comment without having done so. as for her fame or renown, there are more people who have those things for bad reasons than good reasons. we want to know when lindsay lohan is stumbling drunk, but we pay no attention when she’s making a charitable donation. there are more readers who just want to quickly escape with a cheap thrill than those who want to read “literature.”

        the difference between someone like picoult and perhaps you and i is that writing something like that doesn’t interest us. i sometimes think there are easy stories i could write and sell and get renown, but if those stories were to get me that, i would be embarrassed to have written them. maybe not embarrassed, but i would be bored silly while writing it. however, i must repeat that i haven’t read her work so i am not referring specifically to her. but i could say that about the hunger games or twilight. writing something like that would never cross my mind.

  8. Between stirrings of the granola, I ran in to read and found that your story stirred my heart. You have just the right amount of pathos, balanced by Grandpa’s realization that some life will go on and he want to facilitate that life. I liked that your twist was actually wound into the story rather than plopped at the end, the who’s who in the relationship twist. Well-played and executed. Now back to the granola. 🙂

    janet

    • First, I hope you enjoyed your granola, Janet! Secondly, I’m delighted you felt right along with Grandpa in the story. Thirdly, and more generally, to me the best twists are the ones that you don’t see coming but in hindsight can’t miss – as writers I think we shouldn’t be in the market of pulling the rug out from under our readers’ feet.

  9. I misread this at first…I thought everyone was dying with laughter. Ho hum!

  10. You know when you read a story and you don’t quite get it on the first reading, but you “feel” it. So you must go back and read it again. And it reveals itself and blows you away. That’s how I felt about your story, Jen. That’s what I think the best flash fiction does.

  11. Dear Jennifer,

    I admit to going back and reading a couple of times before I got all the relationships. This is not a bad thing.

    I believe a good part of the discussion a couple of weeks back had more to do with murders of cheating spouses, Boy meets girl. Boy marries girl. Girl cheats on Boy. Boy poisons, stabs, shoots or shoves girl off cliff. At least that’s my take on it.

    In no way does your story do that. Dean’s a tender father and grandfather. Some stories flash before my eyes while others linger in my mind and heart. Yours is the latter.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

  12. My grandma had a misfortune to bury both of her children and her husband, so I can relate to your story from the perspective of a grandchild.
    As for that other discussion, as a fresh member of this pack, I don’t mind if people write about the same subjects over and over again. Death is a powerful subject that usually draws strongest emotions from the readers. What is important to me is how the story is told. If its good, even the most obvious and simple things can take me on a wonderful journey.
    You are doing a wonderful job – both with your stories and your input to other people’s work. It is much appreciated.

    Loré

    • Thank you, Lore. I’m glad to hear that. And it seems to me the problem isn’t so much death as the re-hashing of the same tired story again and again. That’s certainly something I think we should all be striving against, in any forum.

  13. Lovely story of acceptance of family death and obligation. Well written.

  14. Gut punch good! Love it! Happy Easter!

  15. Creepy, Jen. Creeeepy.

    I only have one comment — since it says, “Alice was dying” three times in the story, try opening with “His little girl, Alice, on whom he had founded all his dreams, was dying.” That way, it sets up the person right off the bat and his POV. That way, it does tell us we’re reading about the father, not Alice.

    Content smashing. Nice job.

    • The repetition was deliberate, to show how much this one fact crowded his thoughts, but it hadn’t occurred to me that readers might think they were in Alice’s head as a result of the first sentence. Thanks for pointing it out, Kent, and for the suggestion.

  16. This is a strong story and a lovely ending with the grandfather playing with the grandkids. But I also agree with Kent’s comments regarding the repetition, if you can tweak that then it’s all good.

  17. i don’t know if it’ll work but at least grandpa’s trying to handle the situation the best way he could.

  18. Very nice and touching story in which you can truly feel the man’s sadness and understanding of what is coming for the children that they do not know. I can accept death in this story, but if your next one is a Quentin Tarantino shoot-em-up, I’d have questions!

  19. I love hat – pile of giggles – so expressive.

  20. What we all must do when faced with death…put on a happy face…or at least hide behind its mask for the sake of others who need us. Poignant…

  21. Jen, Death is inevitable in life and FF. I love this take on the theme. It shows so much love- what you really write of. I have a friend whose daughter just passed and I can see him playing with his grandkids savoring the last bittersweet moments before goodbye before their lives are changed and they age.

  22. I can see the grandpa in that picture playing with the little kids, Jennifer.

    Did the death angle have to be in it too? Maybe not, but that was your story. I had not thought of it that way… death creates instant drama… as an easy way to write a story. I’d like to think not. I think one of the answers to that question is that there are a lot of sci-fi and fantasy writers among us, and that is a big part of those genres.

    • p.s. besides, who the hell cares what anyone writes? Read who you like and try a few new ones…

      • What a refreshing attitude, Ted. I think the grumbling often comes from those who read every story every week – a noble pursuit but perhaps not worth it if it makes one cynical. I don’t do it myself – i read about 20%, fairly randomly selected except for a couple of favourites, and if a story doesn’t do it for me, I judt comment and move on.

  23. Jen, you know I love your writing, and this is no exception. I got a big kick out of the ‘giggles’ and Grandpa jumping in the chaos! Very expressive and I love this club – that we all have the same prompt to write about. This is sort of like playing “Duplicate Bridge” and you can see how other people played the same hand you had (usually everyone plays better than me, but I really don’t care). Love your story and as far as “death” it’ll come soon enough. You are a wonderful writer! Nan 🙂

  24. Such a sad story. I love the ‘etched on a smile’. Very good, and a lot squeezed into your 100 words this week 🙂

  25. Great take on this story. Gotta love grandpas.

  26. What a super story, Jennifer. Strong and sad – a tragedy in few words that feels very personal. Great write

  27. Thought this story was terrific all over again. You feel the rays of hope even when there seems to be none left.

  28. michael1148humphris

    This was nicely written, so why did I needed to read it twice. Well some stories one can scan quickly, and forget. Others need the reader to concentrate, you did well.

  29. Hi Jen. This was a great story. I’m relatively new to Friday Fictioneers so it was interesting to read of the previous debate about death, especially seeing as my creative mind usually takes me to some pretty dark places. In Tarot I believe the death card is related to change, the end of something and an increased sense of self-awareness. These things create narrative interest which, as you said can be difficult to achieve in 100 words. Your story was full of narrative interest not because ‘Alice was dying’ but because of what that meant – the change it would bring to that family. The death was, in a literary sense, a means to an end. So, don’t stop writing about death is the point I think I am trying to make! Death means change, and change is interesting!

  30. This is just sad.
    Well written but heart-wrenching.

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