She puts up a selection
of six words which we then use in a short story, or a poem.
I’m hopeless at poetry
so I always do a story.
It’s a fun challenge…why
not join in?
This week's words are:
Delores has also favoured us with a couple of sentences:
"burnt toast, the smoke detector wailing and the kettle dead in the water. How much better could her morning get?"
I haven't used the sentences as a whole, but there are bits of it scattered throughout the story.
Here is my story:
Laura sighed heavily and briefly closed her eyes at the mess in the
kitchen. She'd hoped her morning would be a lot better after yesterday's
Late yesterday afternoon, the
twins had found the box of donuts Laura had hidden away for today's afternoon
tea. Michael was coming home after another of his frequent trips away. As the
"special interest" writer for the local paper, it was Michael's job
to investigate reports of UFOs, werewolves, ghosts and other paranormal things
people thought they might have seen. This week's sighting had been a couple of
unicorns romping in a field at midnight.
Along with the donuts, the boys had found what they thought was a bottle of
lemonade and thinking it had gone bad, they'd poured the entire bottle of
sparkling white wine down the sink, then poured glasses of milk to have with
the donuts. Laura had followed the trail of sloshed milk from the kitchen to
the cubby house, slipping in one of the puddles and wrenching her ankle.
After scolding the twins for this latest mischief, the salvaged donuts were
returned to the kitchen and Laura strapped her ankle hoping to minimise the
swelling, at the same time being grateful Jim and Bob had only managed to eat
two donuts each. There were still eight left.
Sleeping did not come easily as Laura's ankle caused her more than a little
discomfort; waking this morning to the wailing of the smoke detector had her
hobbling to the kitchen as fast as she could. The twins turned and seeing the
distress on her face, began apologising.
"We're sorry Mum, we were trying to make you breakfast," said
"We wanted to help you feel better after yesterday," said Bob.
Laura limped to the sink and stared at the slices of burnt toast and the
dead electric kettle, which had some sort of sticky brown goo all down its
"What happened to the kettle?" she asked, while silently
thanking all the gods that nothing had blown up or caught fire. Electricity and
water were not a good mix, add burning french toast on the stove and you had a
recipe for major disaster.
several deep breaths to calm herself.
Jim said, "we tried to make coffee but didn't know how much powder to
put in the water, so I tipped in half the jar and then it all boiled
"Hmmm," said Laura, "how old are you two now?"
Bob looked surprised. "We're nine, did you forget? Our birthdays were
just last month."
"Well, no, I haven't forgotten," said Laura, "but it seems
I've forgotten to teach you two some kitchen basics. Let's start with you
learning how to clean up."
The boys looked really keen at that idea.
"Maybe my morning will get better," thought Laura.
She pulled the rubbish bin forward and directed the boys to toss in
everything except the kettle and frying pan. In went the burnt toast, the eggshells,
soggy paper towels and a handful of spilled instant coffee powder. Laura ran
hot water into the sink, added detergent and started cleaning the outside of
the kettle, the inside would probably clean itself after a few boilings with
just water. If it worked at all.
Jim and Bob cleared the table, bringing dirty mixing bowls and spoons to
the sink; they still remained cheerful even when Laura told them they'd be
washing and drying all those pieces.
"I guess it really is time I started teaching them how to do this
properly," thought Laura. "It's not enough anymore that they know how
to pour milk and cereal and help themselves to cookies and fruit. I think
they’ll enjoy cooking once they learn what not to do.”
She grinned a little. She could hardly wait to tell Michael about the
instant coffee powder being poured into the kettle.
The glitter and shine of Christmas shelves, yes, of course, they're all so pretty.
Row upon row upon row of sparkling baubles in clear packaging, the cards with glittery, snowy scenes of villages with all the lights on, cards with images of Santa unloading a sack of gaily wrapped parcels beside a decorated tree, it's all wonderful.
But the best part?
The fresh produce area.
Seasonal summer fruits, golden apricots, rich red nectarines, purple plums.
Juicy pink-red watermelons, bright orange rockmelons, (cantaloupes), pale green honeydew melons, grapes.
All the regulars are there, lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, but they seem brighter and fresher somehow, now they are flanked by the summer fruits.
And then there's the hams.
Shelf after shelf of hams. Large hams for families, smaller hams for couples expecting friends for lunch, mini hams, the size I buy. These smaller ones aren't whole hams of course, they are pieces cut and wrapped, but we all knew that didn't we.....
So many varieties! Smoked, double smoked,, even triple smoked! Honey cured, honey roasted, hickory smoke flavoured, this year, today actually, I noticed a section with 'black peppercorn and paprika' flavoured hams.
Leg ham, shoulder ham, picnic ham, loin ham, (my favourite and the one I bought yesterday).
My local Woolworths has the ham shelves lined with Christmas lights, it's very pretty.
The service deli has more sliced hams in it's window display, they've added a tub with chunks sliced "off the bone". They do have "off the bone" all year round, but usually sliced or shaved, not the thicker chunkier slices available at Christmas.
This is one of the reasons I like Christmas, shops everywhere seem to make more effort, not just supermarkets. The big department stores really lay it on, and isn't it fabulous!
It isn't just the decorations. There's an atmosphere not present for the rest of the year.
The one downside? Too many stores could use a better choice of Christmas music.
Class three has come and gone, only one week left...
Again the information came thick and fast, with the teacher constantly saying "does everyone understand this?" We're all nodding and yes-ing, well, I was, then again, "does that make sense?", more nodding and yes-ing....a couple of questions from others as I tried to scribble down everything I'd just heard.
By the time I got home, my brain was pure mashed potato, not a single coherent thought.
So here's what I think I learned:
Many writers, especially new writers, use what is known as "life preservers."
Which means they write pieces that are too standard, too bland, mediocre; pieces that could double as school reports; pretty much the same stuff that every one else out there is writing. Tried and true concepts that are used again and again. If you are entering a piece in a competition, these pieces will put the judges to sleep. You need something different, something creative, something that will "hook" the judges right from the beginning.
Start with an old standard type story if you have to, then edit and change, get creative, add a twist or two. Make it different.
This was emphasised by a story she had us read from a new writer who had been short-listed seven times, then won a competition in Writing Magazine (British**) with a story in the "holiday" category.
It really is a very good story and after reading it, I kind of felt like a five year old who would probably write "on my holiday I played with my cat."
She explained that your story needs a character with a distinct personality, (a 3D character, not flat) a strong plot, which is able to drive your character(s) through the conflict to a satisfactory resolution.
You need to be able to stay on track. One method is to not overthink at first, just write the whole thing, then go back and edit. Make sure everything matches with characters, details, timelines etc. Write down every idea you ever have and file it somewhere. One day you may need one or two of these to pull together something in your current writing which isn't working as you'd hoped.
Details are important, if there is something a reader needs to know, some detail, then put it in where it belongs, not as an aside somewhere in chapter five.
With timelines again, if you are writing about a 45 year old character, go to your library and access the newspaper archives to find out what might have happened in the town/country/world at a time when this character might have been 5 or 10 years old. What kind of issues were around that might shape him into the character you are now writing about?
"Hooking" your reader is important.
A hook is something, that makes your reader want to keep reading. Something that makes the reader say/think to themselves, what's going on here, what will happen next? and turn the page, not close the book. A hook in your very first chapter or even in your very first paragraph is good. You've grabbed your reader.
But don't stop there. You need to keep the reader interested. Another hook in paragraph two, maybe another in paragraph three, but then you need to write something which explains the first "hook", so the reader isn't left wondering..."but what about...?" Hooks are the questions in the readers mind and they need to be answered. But not immediately. That's too easy for the reader, who might then get bored. Too many hooks without clarification might have your reader tossing aside the book because all you are doing is teasing them along. But still you need to be careful about inserting another "hook" before answering a previous one. You need to keep your reader hooked. You want your book to be the one they "just can't put down."
* (me, personally)I remember reading something, somewhere, years ago, where the writer set a scene and for the rest of that first chapter gave nothing but detail, detail, detail, to the point where I was saying out loud, "for god's sake, get on with the story already!" It didn't happen, I read the entire short book waiting for something to happen, but closed it after the last page feeling very dissatisfied. That book went into the recycle bin. *
A writer also needs to be aware of stereotypes and avoid them if possible. Men aren't always burly outdoor types, women aren't always sweeping floors and baking cookies. If you find your characters doing this in every story you write, you may want to think about switching things around a bit. Or a lot. If, however, you are writing a piece, (story, book, poem) set in a particular era where that is the norm, then go ahead, but still "hook" your reader, perhaps with a character that doesn't fit the mold, someone who rebels, struggles against the way society says that character should behave.
(All this is good to learn and now I know pretty much where my own problem lies. All stories need a strong plot and some kind of conflict, (problem, struggle, issue) that the character must work through and resolve. I'm currently unable to create conflict. I'm not a highly emotional person and there hasn't been any conflict that I'm aware of in my life that I can draw upon.)
We learned that passive characters create a lack of conflict just as much as lack of conflict in your story will create passive, flat, characters. Your character(s) need to be challenged (conflict/struggle) to keep the story moving along. (I'm a passive character, a drifter, not a fighter)
Another tip from our teacher was to buy a baby names book or two. One English and one other, maybe German or Irish, Russian, maybe, so if you are writing a story set in another country or based on immigrants, you can use appropriate names for your characters.
Again, this is where newspaper archives come in handy. Background detail on what might have shaped your character during his childhood or youth in a different country will help you write the character as he/she is now in this or some other country.
Much more information was given, which I tried to take in, but like I said earlier, I got home with a head filled with mashed potato.
Next week is the final class, where I will again take many notes and try to figure out how one creates plots and struggle with no personal base to draw upon. You might say, "copy other writers with what they've done, but in your own words." And maybe I could start there, but I think there's a danger in that, where I might end up writing something that has already been written thousands of times. It's a little discouraging, but I'm not giving up just yet.
usually go with a theme for my Sunday Selections but this week I have something entirely different. Not the clearest photos I ever took, but that's the fun of Sunday Selections. You can put up any old thing you choose. Hutt Street at night. I was waiting for a bus after my writing class last week.
the roses along the median strip.
lights in the upstairs windows across the road.
oh look! there's a bottle of water waiting for the bus.
the house (business?) across the street
a busy restaurant on the corner across from the previous photo. I don't know what that big white building is behind it.
In case any of you are worried about me being out alone at night, I was perfectly safe. The bus stop is right beside a service station, there were other restaurants doing business, it wasn't too late, plenty of people around, and I only waited ten minutes for my bus.
a new island has risen from the sea off the coast of Japan. The new volcano, still spewing smoke and ashes didn't look very large on the TV screen, but who can tell the size when all around is ocean, no other land mass for comparison? I'd say it will be many years before it is habitable. I wonder what they will name it?
remaining members of the Monty Python crew are planning a new stage show, with new jokes, to tour several countries. Australia will NOT be included in the tour.
The reason? One of them said, on camera, "the problem with Australia is there are planets closer..."
Well, I don't know about you, but I feel a little insulted.
an earlier story:
workers at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital site have walked off en-masse over safety issues. Last week there was a problem with one of those giant cranes I've featured here on the blog at times, yesterday there was another issue when two of these cranes collided after a warning alarm didn't sound. Those three cranes have been "grounded" while the problems get sorted out, but the company owning them says there isn't a problem and workers should keep working. Easy for them to say, they're not the ones way up high on (potentially) shonky equipment.