@Tenderiser challenged me to write a story based on the Loch Ness Monster, so here it goes..
Nessie (456 words)
“You’re new,” the girl said, looking Maggie up and down. The words weren't just a statement, they were an accusation. The girl wore a sneer, like her dad wore his favorite jacket: it fitted perfectly, and she wasn’t going to take it off, just because Maggie didn’t like it.
Maggie considered all the various responses on the sarcastic spectrum, before settling on a neutral, “Yes”. This morning, over breakfast, she’d given Dad her word she would try her very best not to get expelled, not on her first day, anyway. This time, it was a promise she intended to keep.
The girl nodded, and continued to size Maggie up. There was a lot to take in, Maggie knew that. She was tall for her age, and she felt as awkward as she thought she looked. Her size always drew the attention of people with something to prove, bullies and teachers alike. Being self conscious about it never helped: they could smell weakness, they thrived on it. Jenny, her last psychologist, said not to worry about it, she would grow into her body - whatever the fuck that meant.
“Where you from?”
“Totnes, “ Maggie said.
“Do I sound Scottish?”
“I don’t know. Never met a Scottish, before.”
“You still haven’t. I’m from Devon. Totnes is in Devon.”
“Hey! Anna!” the girl called over Maggie shoulder. “This one's a Scottish! From that place with the monster.”
Maggie opened her mouth to respond, but another girl - presumably Anna - stuck her head in her face. Bright green sparkling eyes stared into Maggie’s brown ones.
“Looks like they’ve mislaid the monster, to me,” presumably Anna said. “You are fucking huge, Nessie.” There was something in the way she spoke, in her smile, in her general manner, which stopped Maggie from punching her. There didn’t seem to be any malice behind what she said.
Presumably Anna’s smile widened and she stuck her hand out, like her dad did when he was introduced to someone for the first time. “My name’s Anna,” she said. “What brings you down from Scotland, Nessie?”
Maggie found herself duplicating the strange girl’s smile as she shook her hand.
“I’m not Scottish,” she said. “Your friend, here, obviously doesn’t pay attention in her geography lessons. I’m from Totnes. My name is Maggie.”
“Don’t pay no attention to Dips,” Anna said. “She thinks the world ends at the M25. Never been out of London, have you Dips?” Dips shook her head, nearly - but not quite - dislodging the sneer.
“I know Totnes,” Anna continued. “Spent last summer at my cousin’s house, in Paignton. Went to Totnes for a day. Full of hippies and crystal shops. You’re well out of it, Nessie. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the others.”
“I don’t know, do I? Not yet. That’s the challenge. It is a prompt for the tenth anniversary of WritingForums.org. I’m trying to come up with a story involving ten something.”
“Oh. A prompt. I pity the poor bastards who have to read those stories: boring! Why couldn’t they have had a theme instead?”
“Yeah, like ‘celebration’ or somesuch. Prompts are soooo restrictive, and the stories are uninteresting to write and to read. Count me out.”
“They are offering cash prizes-”
“They are? Well, prompts aren’t that bad are they? I might give it a go, it’s a challenge, you know?”
“Mmmmmm, perhaps a theme would suit you better. I’ve got one: hypocrisy.”
“Now, now. Play nicely. It’s just that prompts are often handled badly. Writers try to slot the prompt (like the word ‘ten’) in anywhere. That jars with me-”
“ I mean what are those jars doing with you?”
“These ten jars here, you mean? Each one of the ten jars filled with ten cookies? Each of the ten cookies emblazoned with the number ‘10’?”
“Yes, those ten jars, yes.”
“Oh, there is no real reason they are here. Do you want a cookie? Or ten?”
“No thanks, I’m not hungry. I am thirsty though, can I have some of your drink?”
“You won’t like it, but you’re welcome to try...”
“God! That is terrible! Cold coffee! Whatever possessed you? And what is that dreadful spice?”
“Yuk! You know I react badly to anything that has even the faintest hint of ginger coffee!”
“Yes. Yes, I had noticed that.”
Mark Haddon (author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) is on Saturday Live on BBC Radio 4 today. He talks about his new collection of short stories and how writing short stories gives you a certain freedom that writing novels do not. An example he gives is that he can set a short story on Mars, but wouldn't dream of writing a novel on Mars "because if it is rubbish you can throw away a short story" but find it more difficult to do so if it is a novel. He argues that Short Stories can be more daring and experimental for that very reason. Also reveals that his wife thought he should call his short story collection "Everyone Dies".
The podcast will be available later (as I type it is still going out live), on the radio 4 website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qgj4
Reading this thread reminded me of this story I wrote last year. I asked someone to give me some prompts for a short story (two objects and a location) and they said "cheese grater", "a button" and "a beach". I decided to write a dialogue only piece (although in the story below there are two words that are not dialogue!)
One beach of a trip (621 words)
“So, you seriously expect me to believe that this overgrown cheese grater will actually work?”
“It’s not a cheese grater: it’s a teleportation system. And please don’t touch that!”
“It looks like a cheese grater.”
“Well it’s not, Freddie. I’ve spent two years building it, I’ve tested it: it works! Don’t press that! Can’t you read the signs?”
“No offense, Sam but you seriously expect me to believe you have built a teleportation device funded through Kickstarter?”
“I have. Not only that I’ve tested it. I transported myself to the park, at the end of the road. No ill effects. Once you get over the temporary excruciating agony, of course. You can go wherever you want, almost instantaneously. Get in, select a destination, press the button and before you know it you are there. Please put that down, Freddie, you are going to break it!”
“I still say it looks like a cheese grater.”
“Stop calling it that. You’re undervaluing my work.”
“OK, so let’s say I believe you: you have created a teleportation device, that happens to bear more than a passing resemblance to an implement from a giant’s kitchen. How do I know you won’t teleport me right into the walls of a building, or a rock, or the middle of space?”
“I make use of the latest GPS technology: it’s completely safe.”
“Hell, Sam! My TomTom can’t even get me to the supermarket without taking me up a one way street!”
“I’ve been given access to the Government GPS system. It’s foolproof”
“Oh, well that’s set my mind at ease! The Government are renowned for never making mistakes! If the Government says it’s foolproof…”
“Sarcasm, doesn’t suit you, Freddie. Come on, get in and I’ll show you how it works.”
“Ok, Sam. Send me to Bondi Beach, Australia.”
“Why so far? What’s wrong with the park at the end of the road?”
“I can walk to the park at the end of the road, Sam! I walk through it everyday, for godsake! I want to go somewhere I can’t get to without spending a fortune and 24 hours in a ‘plane. You know I hate flying!”
“OK, Freddie: get in and press the button.”
“Don’t I need to strip off?”
“No, Freddie: you can keep your clothes on. You can even take your mobile phone. Objects can be transported if they are in contact with the transported person. Get in, and press the button.”
“This one, here? OK. Here it goes, Sam. I hope you know what you’re doing…oh my… that huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurts!!!…….”
“Freddie, is that you?”
“Yes, Sam. It’s me.”
“It worked, didn’t it Freddie! You’re there, you’re standing on Bondi Beach!”
“Yes, Sam. It worked. It hurt like hell: it did actually feel like my body was being pushed through a cheese grater. But it was over quickly and now I’m standing on one of the most famous beaches in the world. However I’d forgotten that July is winter in Australia and it’s the middle of the frigging night here. It’s cold, it’s dark and I want to come home. Give me a few minutes to recover and you can bring me back.”
“I can’t bring you back, Freddie.”
“What do you mean you can’t bring me back?”
“ I only have one teleportation device and it’s right here, not in Australia. You’ll have to fly back.”
“I haven’t got any money. I haven’t got my passport, Sam!”
“Not my problem, Freddy. You could have walked back from the park at the end of the road.”
You can find more stories at BruceArbuckle.com
Really enjoyed listening to Radio 4's Chain Reaction with Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd, Father Ted) interviewing Adam Buxton (if you google it you will find it on BBC Iplayer, soundcloud and youtube).
One of my favourite quotes on the writing process is:
"Writing the first draft is basically where you have to for an annoying week or two make contact with the incredibly mediocre person you actually are, you basically write something and it’s not as good as the worst thing on television, and then you re-write it and it gets a little bit better, and you re-write it and it gets a bit better, and stuff like that. So you have to be able to be a bad writer before you can go on to make something really good."
I wish I had learned this when I was younger. I only realised this a few years ago, that you have to get any old crap out first and then make it good, then make it better.
Edit: he also made an interesting case for holding on to work, resisting the temptation to publish stuff online. If you can leave sometime alone, read it again a year later. After that time your ego won't be involved, and if you think it is good, it probably is
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