Jo had laughed when he told her at first, what he
wanted. It seemed so simple – before she
understood what Dan was really asking.
He deemed it an honour – asking her permission to immortalise her in
paint. Had seemed slightly offended for
it not to be taken more seriously. She
understood that better now. Furnished
with the knowledge of the intended eventual accomplishment.
It had seemed harmless, initially. The sitting and posing. Her thoughts wandered elsewhere, blatantly
bored. Brought back to herself, later,
Jo saw it. Could hardly avoid it, on
sight of her reflection. The leeching of
colour from hair and eye. Pupils
surrounded by smoke grey. Lack of
pigment in follicles. Both now captured
on canvas, forever pristine.
She broke it off, then and there. Walked away.
Resolved to forget. Knew it for
the self-told lie it was, even then. He
could recall all he needed from memory.
The word prompt for this week was "devoted". This is a slightly different spin on that to the usual!
Tom’s childhood had been dream-filled; flight featured. Parachutes, wings, air-borne transport. Adulthood fulfilled in the form of The Programme. He sanctioned his departure decision by virtue
of its merits – not just for him; for his family’s fulfilment. The amalgamation of new values with old.
The money spoke volumes; had bought their future. Small print bypassed, signature on the dotted
line, take off before processing, consolidation or fitting together of facts. There had been time enough for thought once
the ground lay at distance – sole speck, form and focus of Tom’s
concentration. Destination homeward
bound, if wishes were ships. Current
location, somewhere space, coordinates unknown.
Tom’s eventual return brought him back to earth, family
oriented, service debt paid. Awareness
grew upon him slowly; inexorably. The
realisation time had turned without him.
Landscape desolate, deserted, they were departed; markers in their stead. Sole sign of Tom’s payment rendered.
Tom wished for wings strong enough to bear him
homeward. One last destination. Always.
Jeff Vandermeer'sWonderbook sets its bar high,
professing itself to be “the definitive road map to writing imaginative fiction
of all kinds” and “unlike any other writing manual you’ve ever seen” due to its
“uniquely visual approach” comprising of more than 200 images and pictorial exercises
designed to stimulate the writer’s imagination.
As such, it is a pleasure to read and make use of. The illustrations run continuously from front
to back cover, varying in style and content – clearly considered with care. Take, for example, the deliberate symmetry of
the black and white cartoon style simplicity adorning the inside of the front
and back pages as only one demonstration of this.
innovative journey through the wonderful word world of fiction writing aims to
guide the novice or intermediate writer from beginning to end in terms of
process, starting with a chapter on “inspiration and the creative life”, before
turning to more structural considerations with “the ecosystem of the story”
(for example, point of view and dialogue), “beginnings and endings” and
“characterisation” and “worldbuilding”.
Whilst Vandermeer is clear on the fact that Wonderbook’s “default setting” is speculative fiction/fantasy,
there is a great deal to be taken from the text by those who deal in realistic
fiction, given all begin in the realm of the writer’s imagination and the
practical nature of the information dealing with topics such as plotting and
exposition. There are also a number of
contributor interviews from the likes of George R. R. Martin,
Neil Gaiman, Joe Abercrombie and Peter Straub scattered throughout the book, which make for interesting reading,
irrespective of one’s genre preferences.
Interactive nature of the text aside, Wonderbook’s other strength is that it is supported by a “Workshop
Appendix” including a number of writing exercises (in addition to the prompts
throughout the main body of the text, of which there are a number) and a
website with additional materials. Some
of these – not all – are specifically flagged in Wonderbook’s text itself.
This provides the writer with more than anticipated on venturing between
the covers of the book and the opportunity for further exploration of the
worlds of the fantastic in fiction. All
this considered, there is much to discover amongst Wonderbook’s self-professed “cabinet
of curiosities” for those interested in the creative process. For me, I consider it money well worth spent.
The observant amongst you may have noticed there have been a
couple of subtle changes and additions to the blog over the last month or
so. There is now an established Features header detailing the types of review you may see on the blog from time to time and a
header which will direct you to a couple of samples of my writing, should you be so
inclined. There’s also a new header for
links – something I’ve been looking to put in place for a while but hadn’t
previously had chance to due to competing time constraints. There you’ll find links to fiction/writing
websites which may be of interest and (in due course) advice on writing courtesy of established
Additionally, you can click the buttons in the sidebar to
subscribe via RSS feed and/or e-mail, in addition to following on Twitter. (Feel free to head over and say hello!) It’s also possible to follow via a bloglovin’
feed. With all that said, it’s now time
to bury myself in a couple of good books…
Its length lay stretched before her; taunting. Beth had been here before. Yesterday.
Again, again. It would not beat
her. Not yet. She would tread the gauntlet – retrace her
steps. Touch the rough walls, feeling forwards,
seeking the doorway she hoped yet to find.
Her exit from the cycle; loop stuck on repeat, no respite.
She was unsure of the numerics – a deliberate omission; her
mind similarly resetting itself? She hoped
not – her brain was what was left amongst the roughened floorboards, the
constricting walls. Behind them, lurked the
Unspeakable, source of unintelligible sound.
Infrequent. Beth had no wish to
stir the whatever - creeping forwards, seeking still for speed. She knew the lights would fail pre-end,
familiar of old. That marked the end and
Foot atop failing wood, Beth ventured a misstep – a chance
perhaps, harm disregarded – launching herself into darkness below, a downward
descent. Down. Down.
I am ground to grains by you; miniscule proportions. A steady slow creation. Loss begins at my toe; the ochre nail. Barely noticeable at first, at least by
you. A careless word and gone. I tell myself I do not miss it. My reduction, one digit alone. I tell myself.
The missing foot poses new problems. I set myself to hobble, resolved. You step upon the scattered silica granules in
my wake with your soles. I hear the
grate on wooden floorboards, the grind and crunch. You don’t – or so it seems. You say to stay, safe with you. I do.
I wonder why.
Times passing anchors me to the floor. My remnants splay about me; pass through the
gaps in boarding, make good their escape.
I cannot hope to follow, unless by gradual division, which continues
apace. An inexorable shrinking.
Perhaps if you are patient, some day you will wake
surrounded by the pieces of me you have made.
This week's Trifextra challenge asks for 33 words exactly about love gone wrong, with the added challenge of requesting that the following words are not included:
love - sad - tears - wept - heart - pain
This is my offering:-
Bodies curled together, shared heat, now separated by blank
indifference. Nothing fills the breach. Communication lost; irretrievable. Clare forgets when, precisely. It doesn’t matter now, though she would have
tried if he’d asked.
I sit, needle in hand.
Surrounded by nothing, yet everything.
You think you see me.
What’s there. In truth, you see
as I allow. You think you
understand. Perhaps you do, in
We are everywhere, we three, in differing guises. I, the spinner; my second and third. They follow, though you must look elsewhere
to find them. Aisa, perhaps, may find
you first, if you are careless with your allotted time.
I think you know me now.
The weight of your gaze suggests it; the sudden change.
Time’s passing brings changes for us too. No loom or spindle. Thread replaced by yarn, needle lengthier as
year turns upon year. Thus do we hide in
plain sight, on your eyeline. Committed
to task, as you create your own chances, heedless and harried. Oblivious.
The failing is in not seeing - the real decisions are made elsewhere.
The suggested word prompt for this one was "contemplation".
It took Olympian strength to leap the hurdles some days. Sal knew the ones. When tasks took non-allotted time; ate into hours. The sleep filled, rest bound days. She boxed those away behind closed doors; her warrior walls.
Converse and counterbalanced against these - the gladiatorial ones. Those to pole vault over obstacles. The ones Sal envied for their effortless on the others. Fun filled and fanciful. Family, friends and fulfillment. Love and laughter. While the race lasted.
She stacked moments upon one another, wherever; whenever. However; whomever. Ducklings at play time. Sun on the skyline. Ally; always. Her mini miracle. Smiling; sleeping; giggling; gurgling. Best endeavour ever. Worth it. Worth it all.
Sal classified days via her personal podium. A system of order amongst chaos, when it threatened to invade. She had her reasons. Clear cut and crystal. The world was yet her stadium. Sal aimed for gold. Always.
The photo prompt explains itself in terms of timing. The word prompt for this week's challenge was "envy". This received an Honourable Mention.
It was the annual gathering which brought them
together. The community as one, for a
singular occasion. Their celebration of
the cause – the festival dedicated to their sole aim; to manipulate. They had all been drawn into it for differing
reasons, really, retaining the same twisted sense of purpose.
You saw the usual suspects, of course. You could guess for yourself which
professions they worked within, little effort involved. Yes – of course – those are the ones. The
supposed high flyers, bringing in their high scores in the game. Still, it all counted. Large project or small, either way. Each could garner its own submission. Then it was down to the panel to decide the
most worthy of recognition. The overall
Rumour had it the prize differed from year to year. Last year’s had been cash payout. That had prompted the influx this year. Economics win out. Cold hard lack of conscience playing its
Word of mouth had a way of proving their best form of
advertisement. It didn’t do to draw too
much attention to themselves otherwise.
Spoiled the effect if the art of the manipulation was revealed in the
act, sometimes. Better for it to become
clear after the event, once one’s purpose was achieved. Their own variation on sleight of hand, so to
The room held a sense of anticipation in amongst its
occupants as they waited for the scoreboard tally; the recognition of their
year’s efforts. The chatter in amongst
them suggested some were keen to pre-empt it, getting their word in first.
It was some time later that they began to realise. Murmur cresting into overriding
conversation. There was no committee
attendance. Later again, the
understanding that nor would there be.
The general unspoken understanding seemed to be that their efforts this
year had simply been beneath the expectations of them.
Perhaps in reality it should have been anticipated – that the
most worthy manipulators amongst them might also seek to manipulate; to participate
in the game.
Something slightly different for this flash fiction challenge. This one stems from a word prompt only, the prompt being:
The response to the prompt needs to be between 33 and 333 words. If this is something you like the look of, you may wish to take a look at the website and challenge instructions. Alternatively, you may want to try the photo-inspired challenge, also up on the website.
They faced her, battalion-like. No chink in the group armour. Tess defeated before they’d begun. It didn’t matter really - the supposed due
process; guilty pre proven innocent, as she was.
There had been no warning prior to the descent upon her –
simply a gathering of the girlish forces, en masse. Then the accusation. The declaration. Stupid, really.
She knew the girl concerned.
The name – Sam - at least. Too
little for it to hold meaning, still less for there to be any chance of her
involvement. She couldn’t even track
where it had all supposedly started, in amongst the needling and demands; the
clamour for the truth. All over some boy
she had blatantly never heard of. Try
telling them that though. She did, for what it was worth, though they
weren’t listening; indistinguishable in agreed condemnation. Safe amongst their numbers. Words as weapons, wielding them; the wrongfully
righteous against the sole mistaken condemned.
She wasn’t a gossip!
Silence. A level
gaze. Again, her denial. Again – and again.
Still the stares, dead-eyed.
Indifferent. No break in the
“God, just leave her.
She’s pathetic.” One voice. The dismissal and departure. No concessions. Last person.
201 words written for this week's Race The Date flash fiction challenge. Based on the prompt "outnumbered". Check out previous entries/challenges here.
Emma could see them if she concentrated, from the corner of
her eye. Yet when she turned, they weren’t
there. She grew used to them as a child
– her shadow friends, somewhat seen and never heard. Learned not to look, to capture them at the edge
of her vision. Her mother laughed when
she told her – said she would grow out of it.
In time. Instead, they grew with
her, lengthening as Emma gained height.
Smoke edged blur became darker pitch.
They moved when she took her eye from them, otherwise placid two
There were three of them, not always en masse. Sometimes singular, sometimes plural. There seemed no rhyme or reason. Emma tried to talk of them. Received blank looks, was told “no lets
pretend”. They were there. She knew. They knew too. Their secret now. Silent.
Time travels strangely beneath his branches;
sentient-sleepy. The first time he
recalls, the boy plays with his car; an old model. Feigns interest in toy over
girl, despite her best efforts. Later,
he pushes her into the dirt when she tries to play. She cries.
Time travels onward.
Older now, the transport is real.
He learns their names. Nick and
Sara. Nick driving, seeking to impress,
as they pass underneath; oblivious. They
are wrapped in each another. He envies them
their youth, the promise; that still to come.
Time travels onward.
Time marks their faces, their fondness unchanged. They picnic in his shadows, ring on her
finger, hand at her stomach; an unthinking caress.
Time travels onward.
Sara on foot. She travels
alone. Shelters in the shadows beneath
him. Lies there; oblivious to the onset
of traffic. Closes her eyes. Time travels onward. She stirs. Leaves the toy car in her wake; an
offering to time’s past.
Afterword and Afterthoughts
Another flash fiction piece - this one written for the Flash! Friday competition which runs (surprise, surprise) every Friday. This one featured the photo prompt above and the word prompt "time travel". It received an Honourable Mention.