Tag Archives: Choose your own ending

Following up or digging deeper

It’s been a while since I featured any writing exercises or games on a Monday and I know they used to be popular. One which I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is BeKindRewrite’s “Voice Week” which takes place in the first week of October. The idea is to write the same story five times, each using a different voice or point of view. You can find out more, and join in, here: http://voiceweek.wordpress.com/

I’ve decided to participate, probably using the story I wrote for Friday Fictioneers last week, because I feel it lends itself to further investigation, and Voice Week feels like one way to do that.

There’s another way, however, and that’s today’s game. Short stories – and flash fiction in particular – often invite the reader to make their own interpretation and impressions about what’s going on, what’s just happened, and what happens next. Among readers, it’s pretty common to see comments along the lines of “please write the next scene,” or “you could turn this into a novel”. Of course, the key to good short fiction is to tell a whole story within the confines of the piece, but that doesn’t mean these commenters have missed the point. After all, where does a story begin and end? And what is the story without a background to shape the character’s situation and the future to shape their hopes and fears?

So here’s the latest writing game, and it’s one I plan to work on sometime when I have a week to dedicate to it: Take a short story or ideally a piece of flash fiction that fired your imagination, but left you with unanswered questions. It could be your own, or someone else’s (provided you get their permission and give proper credit to the original author). Write up to five different scenes from either before or after, which give the answers to some of the questions raised, or shed more light on the characters’ motivations, personalities or behaviour. These scenes could show what happens immediately before or after, or they could be separated by vast swathes of time and space. They could feature the same characters or other people. And they can definitely contradict each other.

For example, if I took A Mother’s Legacy as my starting point, I could write two scenes from immediately before – one showing a political catastrophe which causes the Mother to need to escape the country quickly; the other showing that the narrator is manipulating her mother to take control of the family inheritance. Then I could write one scene from years before, echoing this one but with Mother taking her daughter to the shore for some alternative purpose, perhaps a pleasure trip on her birthday. Finally, I could write 2 scenes set after the original story, one showing the narrator (this time a son) taking his mother to a literal boat which promises safety, and the other making it clear that the whole story is metaphorical and the mother is dying.

 

If you take a stab at this, whether now or in the future, I’d love to hear how it works for you, and to take a look at the results if you choose to blog about them. Feel free to post thoughts, suggestions or links below.

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Filed under Friday Fiction, Inspiration Monday, Writing

Inspiration Monday Part Deux

Another Thursday, another story from a BeKindRewrite prompt. Thoughts, feedback and suggestions are always welcome. In particular, I had two possible endings for this story. I’ll put them both below, so you can choose your own. I’d love to know which you prefer.

The Unanswered Phone

The phone rings, but I don’t want to answer it. The day is going too well. Good things have been happening and the slightest change could be a balance in karma – the catastrophe that brings it all crashing down. I know I’m being irrational. I know it’s probably just someone selling newspaper subscriptions or wanting to sell my house. Or give me a “free” cruise if I only hand over my credit card details and billing address. I know all that.

It could even be something good – although how much good news can one person possibly have in a day? My share has already been vastly exceeded by a pink line on a white stick and then I got a Free Coffee coupon in the bottom of my cereal box. Ok, the coffee wasn’t much, but it’s just not going to get better after that morning, is it?

The fifth ring seems unnecessarily insistent, as though the caller is getting impatient, as though they know I’m here, listening but not moving. The fifth ring is accusatory. I almost break my resolve and stand up, but then it stops and there is no sixth ring.

I am instantly filled with remorse. Perhaps it was something good after all, and by ignoring it I’ve done exactly what I wanted to avoid doing – I’ve filled that karmic void and let badness into my life. Perhaps by ignoring the phone, I’ve missed the chance to win a real cruise, or buy the perfect house. Perhaps it was my husband, desperate for help, having been hit by a bus and wanting to say a final goodbye, or the hospital to say that Mum’s been taken ill and I need to hurry over.

I get up now and go over to it. It’s too late. There are no more rings and the stupid answering machine is unplugged because I got fed up of deleting pointless messages from computerised dialers. Whoever rang, I will never know, never have a chance to get that call back. I bash at the buttons, but can’t remember which one, if any, checks the last caller.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ENDING #1

I resolve to call my husband, but he is probably in a meeting and I will be disturbing him. I can hardly explain that I’m calling in case he’s dead. I think about phoning Mum, but it would just worry her. And I can’t tell either of them about the baby, not like this.

I sit down, cradling the handset as I will one day cradle my newborn, and I wait for it to ring again.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ENDING #2

Eventually, I call my husband. I want to be sure he isn’t dead. He’s going to think I’m crazy – maybe I am – but it’s the only way I’m going to be able to relax. My hand shakes as I press the numbers – I want to know he’s alive, but I don’t want to know if he’s dead. I want to hang onto this moment for a little longer, yet this moment is terrifying. I want to hold onto the moment earlier when I was happy, before the phone rang.

It starts to ring.

Would I keep the baby? How could I raise a baby on my own? How could I get rid of my husband’s baby after he dies? Of course I would keep it. But how could I raise a baby on my own?

Pick up, dammit! My brain is screaming now, desperate for him to answer. The fifth ring isn’t loud enough. If he’s dead, no ring would be loud enough anyway. Is he there, ignoring me? Is he worried the phone might ruin a happy morning? He was so happy about the baby, maybe he’s avoiding the phone like I did.

This is my karma, then – an unanswered phone.

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Filed under Inspiration Monday, Uncategorized, Writing