Well, we made it to the end of the week and there have been some terrific stories. Thanks to all those who were brave enough to put themselves out there and write stories, and then post them! Please, if you feel the desire, and you haven’t yet added your contribution, feel free to add your story to any of the days’ challenges.
Tim asked if I’d write stories too … and I said that I’d post them at the end of the week. Well, that’s today, so here are my contributions.
She emerges from the quiet of the exam room into the gloom of late evening. The silence from inside lingers, deepening her mood of contemplative forgetfulness. Her steps slow despite the urgency to be home. The smell of decay whispers to her. With a jolt she remembers, laughs, tears streaming.
She is overwhelmed by it. Ornate, golden, speaking of riches in earlier times. Whispers of those who have gone before float through the centuries and her ears buzz with proclamations, judgements, sermons, debates, messages from afar. This place stops her breath and, laughing at her clichéd self, she shoots again.
She sways inside the open front door, denying his news, rocking as she used to as a young mother. The floor provides a sanctuary she never imagined she’d need. She feels more, and much, much less, than she ever imagined she could.
At the end, just one shot.
My only one.
It was the end, and the end, and the end.
Her anguish swirls around the empty hills.
She clutches them so tightly they tremble in her fist. Mum says, don’t hold them so tight, you’ll make the petals poo, the leaves leak,and the teacher will think you’re a freaky flower geek. A heartbeat, and they collapse under the weight of shared giggles.
She laughed her head off, her knees dancing up a storm. It took the floor right out from under her and she fell, head over heels. He had cast a spell, knocked her socks off, turned her to jelly, blew her mind. She didn’t mind. She was hit by cupid’s arrow and willingly gave him her heart.
She stood, holding her head at an unfamiliar angle, trying desperately to keep it on. The ceremony was much more solemn and more formal than she had anticipated and as if on cue giggles rose in her throat. She coughed to stop them bursting forth and walked slowly forward. Soon it would be her turn to climb the stairs, hand her card over, walk across the stage, doff, shake, keep walking. A moment to savour.
Is it really day 6, or do I have my days confused? That’s highly likely you know!
Today’s flower shot comes from my backyard. When we moved into the house three years ago, I was delighted to discover a lovely pink rose growing beside the clothes line, squashed into the fence by a rhododendron bush.
I have better photos of this particular rose bush, but I quite like the light on this one, so it will do for today’s stimulus.
Today, the challenge is to use the word ‘rose’ in the story somewhere. It doesn’t have to be referring to the flower, it could be something along the lines of ‘Jim rose from the chair … ‘, or ‘The bread rose gently …’ or ‘Rose wandered lonely as a breadcrumb through the aisles of a deserted theatre.’
It’s entirely up to you how you use the word in your 60-80 word story!
Great to see so many taking up the challenge, and sticking with it. I’m thoroughly enjoying reading all the stories and learning about the way people express themselves in this way. I have to admit that I also enjoy posing challenges for you, my valued reader. I’m afraid that I can’t stop being a teacher, and so I will continue to challenge – in an intellectual and creative way.
Today’s challenge is a simple one. This flower, called a Red Hot Poker, is actually orange. Can you write a story that purports to be about one thing (a colour, an expression, a gesture, a room, an experience) but is actually about something else?
I’ll give you up to 100 words as that might allow you more scope to develop something that will better reflect today’s boundaries. You don’t have to post your first draft – I know that Stephanie is working on her stories without yet posting (but I’m confident that she will) – so feel free to edit, re-work, re-shape.
In the UK those in power are playing, yet again, with the education system. Over the past year or so they have introduced something called an EBac (English Baccalaureate) which means that students must study English, Maths, 2 Sciences, either modern or ancient history or geography, and either a modern or ancient language.
To many that will come as welcome news and there have been and will continue to be comments along the lines of “To be honest I wonder what schools who have a problem with this think their job actually is. Would we tolerate hospitals which don’t try to make patients better? Why should schools get a free ride” and “British parents are more concerned with their children receiving praise. If anything they are more likely to complain that their little darlings are being worked too hard”.
It’s interesting that one of the commentators likens schools to hospitals (places people go when they are ill or have serious health problems that require specialist treatment and/or surgery). Is school really that kind of place?
Anyway, one of the subject areas not listed in the EBac is the Arts … no drama, no visual art, no music, no dance. For some children that will come as a devastating blow. The area in which they have skill and capacity and interest and talent will no longer be recognised as subjects appropriate for school.
It begs the question – what is the purpose of school? More than that, it seems that in the UK and the US there is a push for a particular type of school that privileges one kind of student over another – that privileges the already advantaged over the already disadvantaged – the type of school that costs less money, is largely funded by parents – never mind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 26:
Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
No Arts – where is the scope for the full development of the human personality?
Parents choose. What happens when parents, like I was when I had young children, like my own children are now, have limited incomes and so cannot afford schools that can offer education that is more interested in developing the child’s potential than moving up a notch or two on a league table?
So, no Arts in the UK.
Where is the place for exploring creativity (and I don’t mean artistic creativity here, I mean the full gamut of creative thought and creative possibility – the creativity a scientist needs to be able to think beyond the known; the creativity an engineer needs to build the as yet unbuildable; the creativity a dancer needs to move us through the way he uses his body) … where is the place for fully developing human personality? Yes, we can know facts and therefore do well at Trivia nights at the local RS, but shouldn’t education move beyond that? Is knowing facts enough? It’s a start, and it’s important, but is that all education can offer us?
So, to today’s challenge.
I started this story writing challenge by talking about creativity requiring boundaries. The flower is one boundary – its colour, stance, gesture, age, vibrancy (or lack thereof), the size and number of the petals … all these things might suggest something to you which you can work from. There’s also its position within the frame – is it looking outwards, upwards, downwards? How much space is around it and what might that suggest?
I have also provided boundaries in relation to specific details – the year (which might trigger memories of what happened in that year, as it did for Debbie; or for Tim it was a trigger for finding out what music was being played in that year and using that in the story), the characters, an atmosphere suggested by a particular time of day. All these things act as boundaries and gently move you in a particular direction with your story writing, while allowing for huge diversity.
Then there’s your own knowledge and use of language – I was particularly struck by the alliteration of ‘light lances through leaves’ in Mum/Dad’s story; and Tim’s old man whose face was a ‘roadmap to regret’.
So today’s challenge is about using language creatively … to show rather than tell. We see the old man’s lined face through the description, rather than being told that the man is old. To conjure images through alliteration, or to add humour through exaggeration. Plus, must have a link, however subtle, to education, learning, or schooling.
Today’s 60 word story is bounded by your expressive capability. Have fun!
Before I start today’s blog I want to say how impressed I am with the stories that emerged from yesterday’s flower-story challenge. They were diverse, succinct, used the boundaries cleverly, and showed imagination and thoughtfulness. Thanks to all those who created a story, I really enjoyed reading them.
These are the three main characteristics of a story. Many authors will develop characters as the starting point of their novels (and some will go to great lengths to learn as much as they can about their characters), some authors will write plot-driven stories (many authors who write for boys will begin with plot – the action of the story). Fewer authors will start with setting, but some do so to great effect – think Nadia Wheatley and Jeannie Baker.
The challenge today, if you choose to accept it, is to write a 50-word story with one of those characteristics in mind. Which one will you use as a starting point?
I sit here with a blank screen in front of me. I have no ideas, no words, no thoughts. I want to see what emerges, where my mind takes me. Creativity can only happen in a bounded environment … ‘write a story’ say many teachers to their students. It’s paralysing. What about? asks the child. Oh, anything you like, comes the reply.
That’s too hard.
Write a story, says the teacher.
What about? I ask, and already my mind is blank, while I desperately try to lock onto an idea, an image, a thought, a character, an event. Nothing and everything swirl through my mind. My mind spins, but nothing I can write a story about emerges. I sit, languishing at the back of the classroom with my hand in the air “Miss, Miss … but what will I write a story about?”
Write a story about flowers.
Seriously? Is that the best you can do? I need more information because the decisions I have to make are overwhelming me and I don’t have time to decide in the ten minutes you’ve given me to write my story. Please, teacher, tell me more. Where is the flower? Is it day time or night time? What kind of flower? One by the side of the road, or one in a garden, or in a vase, or in a hospital ward, or on a gravestone? One that’s just beginning to bloom and is fresh and new and vibrant or one that’s decaying/fading/wilting? What colour is the flower? How big is it? Does anyone see it? Are there other flowers/cows/ducks near it? Is it part of a bunch/a gang/a tribe? Is it tattooed on a biker’s arm/old lady’s back? Is the flower on a postcard, birthday card, sympathy card, farewell card? I need more information. Please, teacher, give me some boundaries and then I can write a story.
Do you know what? Every day for a week I’m going to show you a flower and you can create your own story about it. I’ll give you some parameters and you can go from there. Is it possible to write a 50 word story? Are you willing to give it a try?
If you’re willing, it means we both have a challenge … me to come up with an image of a flower and some boundaries, you to create a 50 word story.
Here we go.
Day One [of seven].
Boundaries: 50 words. Decay. Late evening. Outside. 1983.
There was a time, in the not too distant past, where I vowed and declared that I would never re-enter the institution of marriage.
Marriage wasn’t for me. It was an institution designed for the suppression of women, it was out-dated, it was no longer relevant for modern life, it was only for those who wanted to be tied to another by invisible but strong and deadening bonds.
Two years ago today I was tied to another by invisible but strong bonds in the sight of my family and closest friends.
Yes, I became married.
I was asked, around that time, whether I thought marriage would make any difference to a relationship that was non-traditional in one quite clear way (the age difference is very marked) but had never the less already made it past the five year mark.
At the time I wasn’t sure. Michelle seemed to think that being married was different from being together and I wondered if I would feel the same.
Is it different, being married to someone? Have the last two years differed in any significant way from the previous five?
I like, despite thinking that I might feel otherwise, having a ‘husband’ – a person named up as such. It quite possibly has to do with the husband I have, but I do like it.
I like that I can signal to the world (through subtly flashing my wedding ring) that I am married. I like the security and comfort of that.
I also, despite thinking otherwise at other times, liked planning the wedding.
A wedding is something that you do partly for show. The wedding ceremony is just as much for others as it is for the couple – you show your commitment to each other in front of others who are important in your life. You get to ask the 12 year daughter of your best friend from high school if she will present the rings and so be an extra special part of the celebration. That can never be taken away. You get to hear your sister read a poem that has significance and meaning to you. You get to see your mum and dad with tears in their eyes because you look so beautiful and you look around the small gathering and see the faces of your adult children and your grandchildren and your extra special friends and your know that this is something they’re happy to be part of. And then you see your German sister on the laptop, Skyping in from Germany, and you feel thrilled that she can be part of it too. This big commitment, undertaken in a marquee in your own backyard and then celebrated upstairs in a room that looks divine, is significant because it’s shared.
Thinking back on that day, two years ago, I am particularly pleased that I changed my mind about marriage.
I like being married.
I mostly like being married because I’m married to Tim. He lets me be.