What Pegman Saw – Swallows and Amazons

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Coniston Water, which is in the Lake District of England.

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Coniston Water, Lake District, England © Google Maps

Swallows and Amazons

Only six years ago!

It was a day just like today when the four of them set off up the hill. The weather forecast was set fair. The early morning sun sharply delineated every rock, every leaf, woke pastel shades of sage and lilac from the rocky crest.

How clearly I can see them! John at the front carrying map and compass and wearing his ‘responsible’ face; Susan with a rucksack containing their provisions – ‘pemmican’ sandwiches and lemonade, I think; Titty, looking to Susan for her example; and little Roger with his make-believe cutlass.

And now we’re at war.

Susan has just become a VAD.

Titty is still at school, but spends her spare time sending comforts to the troops.

Roger, thank God, is too young to fight; I pray this war will be over soon.

I look down. The telegram from the Royal Navy is blurred by my tears.

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Friday Fictioneers – La Serenissima

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Venice - 180620

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria

La Serenissima

Venice, my home, is stone, stone on wood, wood in water. I live in a half-world of aqueous reflections, stone in water, water on stone, a confusion of images.

Nowadays I only dare walk its streets in daylight.

As I cross the square, a boatman sings of sunlight on tranquil water.

The canal smells cold as an open grave.

I take a deep breath and immerse myself in the shadows of the street. My heels clatter, my heart races.

Here, two years ago, masked and cloaked in midnight’s blackness he snatched me, and in five frantic minutes stole my serenity.

The Dove on the Pergola – 18th June 2018

The Dove on the Pergola – progress 180618

This is my weekly blog post about the progress of my novel “The Dove on the Pergola”. The novel is about a young Indian woman, Makshirani, who has lived until she was sixteen years old in a village in Bengal, and who then moves to the big city of Kolkata.

The dove on the pergola 180618

Character and plot

I’ve been working on the storyboard this week.

One of the things I’ve learned from writing my previous novels is that it’s difficult to introduce substantive material at a late stage. The new material can create conflicts with previous material and putting them right causes further problems and – oh! (Throws up hands in despair!)

So, I want to complete the storyboard comprehensively before I start to write the novel itself. I have 900 words on the storyboard, and that takes me about a third of the way through the novel.

Mind you, I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong impression. Side by side with the storyboard I’m recording my insights into the characters and the way they interact to form the plot. There’s many more words here – about 3,000 so far. It’s leading to some interesting progress. Most notably, I’m finding that characters are starting to show that they have multiple roles to play.

For example, when Makshirani flees from her village to Kolkata, she turns to her Aunt Abhilasha for support and accommodation. It’s obvious that Abhilasha will influence the plot after Makshirani joins her – but how about earlier than that? Why does she live in Kolkata? Suppose she plays a crucial role at Makshirani’s birth? Her experiences then would help shape who she is, and therefore affect Makshirani later. And that’s one of the reasons why late additions of substantive content are so difficult; action and character are totally interlinked.

Despite my good intentions, though, I must confess that I have started writing the opening scene! I’m trying to achieve the intensity and focus of flash fiction in an extended piece of several thousand words. At the end of the opening chapter, I want the reader to feel emotionally exhausted – but eager to carry on reading!

If you have any thoughts on the way I’m tackling this, I would be delighted to hear from you. I will answer every comment.

 

What Pegman Saw – The dance of life

“What Pegman saw” is a great weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Do join in!

Just use the location provided, and write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Taşlıçay, Ağrı, Turkey. Click on the blue frog to read other people’s stories!

WPS - The dance of life 180616

The dance of life

I stand in the square and watch.

Holding hands, bodies proudly erect, young men dance to the harsh, reedy yearning of the qernête and the repetitive, rhythmic throb of the daf. They are Kurds and proud of it. They fly their flags and get into trouble with the police. Some of them may go further; I wouldn’t know – but the smell of trouble clings to them like gun-smoke.

What good will a separate Kurdistan do us? This fertile land, this gateway from east to west, has been overrun by Assyrians, by Romans, by Arabs; even our own countrymen have made war against us. So many overlords. So much bloodshed.

I look over to the mountains, to snowy Ararat towering above. Once, many, many generations ago, my forebears and their flocks danced down that mountain following the slowly receding waters.

Our peaceful dance will live on forever, while nations pass away.

Friday Fictioneers – Fulfilment

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Fulfilment 180613

PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays

Fulfilment

A peacock screeched.

Inside its pupa, a damselfly larva stirred.

Alice dabbled her hand in the pond, gazing through a haze of reflections at the coloured pebbles on the bottom.

“You look thoughtful. Not worrying about tomorrow, I hope?”

Alice smiled.

“Just nervous, Frances, that’s all.”

Frances hugged her sister.

“Silly girl! Everything will be fine.”

The damselfly’s pupa began to split.

Next day the church was full. Alice stood beside Matthew and wondered whether it was possible to feel any happier.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife.”

Beside the pond the damselfly’s wings flashed. The peacock screeched exultantly.

The Dove on the Pergola – 11th June 2018

The Dove on the Pergola – Progress 180611

This is my weekly blog post about the progress of my novel “The Dove on the Pergola”. The novel is about a young Indian woman who has lived until she was sixteen years old in a village in Bengal, and who then moves to the big city of Kolkata. 

The Dove on the Pergola 180611

If a reader is to keep turning the pages of a novel, it helps if the novel has a strong sense of direction. Some writers achieve this by planning. Others construct lively characters, put them into an intriguing situation and discover what happens as they write.

Stephen King, in his book “On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft” advocates ‘excavating’ the story. This seems to mean having an outline and then just writing, allowing the characters and plot to emerge naturally. He gives the outline of a horror story in his book, and suggests it can be used as a writing exercise.

I tried it, and it definitely freed up my story. I wrote things that I would not otherwise have imagined – I had to really, as it was a horror story, and I don’t ‘do’ horror. Just in case you’re interested, you can find the story – ‘Maureen’ – here.

‘The Dove on the Pergola’ has several storylines.

There is the story of how Makshirani gradually starts to understand the nature of love that leads to a happy marriage. This includes romantic adventures – and, of course, misadventures – that bring her to the point of betrothal. Will she? Won’t she? Not telling you! Maybe I don’t even know myself yet!

Another storyline involves Makshirani’s growing sense of personal autonomy. The subservience of women that was the rule in her village is fast disappearing in Kolkata, where she lives during the period of the novel. Fast disappearing, but not yet eliminated. Makshirani will want to be sure that she won’t become a prisoner of her husband’s family. Will this cause her to walk away from the man she loves passionately?

And then there is the story of Makshirani’s family, left behind in the village. Her departure had consequences and evoked the enmity of the richest man in the village. She sends money home, which makes enough difference to prevent the family from becoming destitute. As she makes progress, she is able to send more home, indeed, her money can support the family. But how do they feel about this? Her father has lived all his life in a culture where it is the man, the husband, the father, who provides. Is he now useless, redundant? How does his wife, Makshirani’s mother feel about the impact on her husband?

There are other storylines, too, and an unexpected revelation about identity, but these are the main ones. And I want to bring them all to the boil simultaneously for the climax of the novel.

So, this is where I’m starting the serious work on this novel; with the climax. I’m planning to use Stephen King’s technique of excavating the story, and in the process I expect to learn much more about the characters. I wonder whether Makshirani will marry? I’m really looking forward to finding out!

Hands up anybody who thinks this is over-ambitious? Okay, well that’s what the comments box is for! Write and let me know what you think!

What Pegman Saw – Be strong for me

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt includes Amarillo, Texas. I struggled with this one, and the link between prompt and story is opaque. Amarillo is the location of the USA’s Strategic Helium Reserve. The major contemporary use for helium is in MRI scanners, which uses 20% of global production.

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Juniper Trail – Manic Exploration.com  © Chris Katie Google Maps

Be strong for me

“You’re a cancer survivor,” insisted James fiercely. Stella gave him a fleeting smile and squeezed his hand.

“Jim, whatever they find with this scan, just accept it will you? Please? For my sake.”

Once more she was wheeled into the little room, once more laid down in the restricted space of the MRI scanner. ‘What a good job I’m not claustrophobic,’ she thought.

The scan started and she winced. The machine made a noise like an unsilenced motorcycle engine, and it sawed through her attempts to think coherently.

Stella knew Jim would come to hear the results, but she wished he wouldn’t. He wasn’t prepared for bad news.

And it was bad; the worst.

“But surely there’s some experimental treatment? Stella’s a survivor!” Jim was outraged.

The consultant just shook his head.

“Jim, let it be,” said Stella, gently.

Jim looked at her, about to expostulate. He looked – then wept.