Tag Archives: Childhood

Friday Fiction – Torment

I’m determined to read all the entries for Friday Fiction this week as it’s been a while since I had chance to look at more than my allocated five and few favourite writers. But having seen Madison’s prompt, I’m not sure I want to look at 50-something copies of this photo. I’m glad she explained it in her covering post. For those who haven’t read that, this is apparently entirely plant-material based, and occured when trees, vines and shrubs were pruned on her road a year ago. What crazy things nature does!

You can join me in reading the other entries here. I look forward to hearing your comments on mine too – it all came from my initial reaction, which you’ll find in the first word of the story.

Torment

“Ewww! That’s gross!” Liam squeezed as far back into his seat as he could. The thing loomed over him, threatening to drip seeping yellow pus onto his skin. “Mu-um!”

“Owen, stop tormenting your brother,” sighed their mother from the front, without turning her head.

Owen waved the oozing branch closer to his brother’s face with a cackle. They’d been driving for days now, Mum alternating between singing to the radio and sobbing into the steering wheel. This was the first fun he’d had since the funeral, when he’d peeked up Aunt Josie’s skirt and nobody had even told him off.

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Not just for kids

A friend of mine writes the Eager Little Bookworm blog and when I went to visit her – along with the little bookworms – this week, I very much enjoyed exploring their library, including old favourites like “Where’s Spot?” and new (to me) treasures such as “Winnie the Witch”. But it got me to thinking, so this week I’ve decided to set myself – and anyone who feels like joining in – a challenge: to write a children’s story. Not for publication or because I think we should all because children’s authors, but as an exercise to make us write outside our usual pattern and to focus on other aspects of writing, such as:

1. Plot: The plot has to be simple, but also interesting. You don’t need much by way of twists and turns, but you do need a clear and fun story. Spot is hiding, Sally (his Mum) wants him to come for tea, so she looks for him and finds lots of other animals along the way. That’s a plot.

2. Length: A children’s story can easily be longer, like the Narnia books, but a book for children to read themselves, or have read to them in the first few years, will often be one which can be completed in just a few minutes – for example as a bedtime story. As such, it might only be 100 words long, or even less.

3. Language: The language needs to be simple enough for children to understand the story without having to investigate the meaning of every (or even almost every) word. Many focus on a particular word sound, word or grammar principle, repeated throughout the book or on a particular page. And dealing with any of those aspects would be good discipline for any writer to focus on in an exercise like this.

4. Characters: Lots of children’s books end up being series and lots of children’s characters end up being hugely popular outside book form (just think of all the Mr Men toys, lunchboxes, dvds etc you can buy). So there are definitely bonus points for creating a loveable character or set of characters.

5. Theme: Many children’s books deal with a particular theme. They are educational and deal with colours, or numbers, or vehicles, or whatever. Or they are educational in other ways, for example dealing with important subjects like potty training or adoption or getting a little sibling.

6. Illustrations: Don’t panic, I’m not suggesting you illustrate your story (unless you want to). In fact, this is a bit of a false point, because although children’s books are invariably brightened and brought alive by the illustrations, these will usually have been added long after the story was written, by an illustrator selected by the publisher without the author’s input, and that’s only going to happen if the story is good enough in itself. Nevertheless, it’s worth thinking about vivid images (although probably not describing them in words), colourful characters and vibrant scenes … everything that makes a good book for any age really!

Are there other aspects you think make a children’s book special or challenging? Let me know in a comment below, or have a go at writing a children’s story bearing some of these points in mind and let us know how you get on!

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Friday Fiction – Grapes

Another slightly rushed and cobbled together post, but I really hope you enjoy this one. It wasn’t what I expected to write when I sat at m computer this morning, but when I saw Madison’s photo it was exactly what came to mind. Do check out the links on her page for more stories, and do let me have any feedback (positive or negative) on today’s story below.

To see Madison’s site with the prompt and other stories, click here

The Bitter Sweetness of Grapes

The first time, he was six years old, lying under the vines with purple stains and an ugly smile mingling on his lips – delirious with the heady pleasure of excess, unable to form coherent sentences and desperately, repeatedly, declaring his love. At six, you can pick them up and put them to bed to sleep it off. Next morning he awoke with a pounding head and a guilty promise never to do it again.

At forty-six, there’s a lot less you can do. The demon grape still puppets him, its effects all-too similar and its grip stronger than ever.

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Sir Dreamalot Rides Again

On Friday, I posted a short story for Friday Fictioneers. I’d had difficulty cutting it down and although the short version proved popular, I wanted to write and post the longer one too. It’s still only 303 words, so hardly long, but a bit lengthy of the Fictioneers. Now I can’t decide which version I prefer.

You can see the original post, together with the link to Madison’s site and the picture which inspired it here. The longer version follows. As ever, i’d love to know what you think.

The Knight Returns

There was a time when the world was covered with forest, its paths cut by passing feet, its trees hideouts for outlaws and magicians. Back then, I was a bold knight on a gallant steed, and I ran through the trees staging epic battles and slaying dragons, rescuing my sister from whatever doom I had imagined for her that day.

Coming back to it, I find that the forest has grown small. It is bounded, now, by a housing estate on two sides, by an electricity substation to the North and a field of grazing sheep to the East. Back then, it stretched for miles, now I can walk across it in just a few minutes.

The world didn’t change, but I did. I left the forest, and discovered the adult world, where the paths are laid by machines and the trees have been replaced by concrete hideouts for a different kind of villain. The adult world is a dull one; our dragons more real but less vivid than those of childhood. I fight them every day, but I never slay one like I did as a boy. My victories are not the triumphs of fantasy, only the minor attainments of drudgery.

So I stand at the bottom of a forest path, a greying man in a grey suit with a greyer life. But I can hear a distant sound in the trees. I feel the stirrings of valour in my chest. And so, for this one day, I will draw my sword. For this one day, I will mount my steed and I will ride into the fray. Others may see a grown man playing like a child, but I will see the world as it used to be. And for this one day, I will be the bold knight once more.

 

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Friday Fiction – The Knight Returns

It’s Friday, so it must be fiction time. Madison’s picture and links page are here: http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/pathways/

I had a tough time with this story. I had about 500 words worth to say for this character, and really struggled to get at 100 of them with any resonance. I hope it worked for you – I’d love to hear what you think. Also, if you have time and inclination to read more, I wrote a story yesterday with two endings, and I’d love it if you could drop back and tell me which you prefered.

The Knight Returns

There was a time when the world was covered with forest, its paths cut by passing feet, not machines. Back then, I was a bold knight, and I ran through the trees slaying dragons, rescuing my sister from whatever doom I had imagined that day.

The world didn’t change, but I did.

But the adult world is a dull one; our dragons more real but less vivid. For this one day, I will draw my sword, I will mount my steed, and I will ride into the fray. For this one day, I will be the bold knight once more.

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Friday Fiction – Guilt Trip

Thanks to Madison Woods (http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/flash-fiction/desolation/) and Doug McIlroy (http://ironwoodwind.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/poliahu-at-dawn/) for today’s prompt. I hope you enjoy the story it invoked for me. As ever, let me know what you think.

And if you happen to be in Toronto this evening, come see me at the Moosemeat Chapbook launch party:

Guilt Trip

There was a mountain, nestled between the bigger ones, that was flat on top: even slightly dipped, as if God had taken the peak with a great ice cream scoop to make Himself a sundae.

My parents were busy arguing about whether we were going to make it to the airport in time, but I just kept staring at the mountain and wondering. If God would do that to the landscape, what would He do to the little girl who peed in His beautiful sea yesterday?

I stared until the mountain disappeared from sight, silently promising never to be bad again.

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Friday Fiction – Marigolds

As ever, thank you to Madison Woods for the pictorial inspiration, although this week I should also thank Mary Shipman who submitted the photo. You can see their stories, and the responses of the other fictioneers, in the comments to Madison’s post: http://madisonwoods.wordpress.com/

Here’s mine – As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Marigolds

I haven’t seen that paper since I was a child. Bright orange marigolds covered white walls then; both are yellowing now, behind years of paper and paint.

“Children see things in black and white,” my Grandpa used to say, “The agony of a playground fall, the ecstasy of Christmas morning.” But he meant the opposite: children see things in vivid technicolour, in contrasting extremes.

It’s only as adults that we’re imprisoned by shades of grey. We feel neither fear nor delight unadulterated, because life and experience have taught us that nothing is permanent.

Not even orange marigolds and white walls.

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