Flash Fiction

I’m on week 4 of my creative writing course and this weeks assignment is about flash fiction.  We have been building up story ideas and characters for the last couple of weeks and we are now required to turn this into a story of less than 1000 words.  The prospect is horrifying me.  I already have about 650 words from previous assignments…  Additionally, as I was building up the following I had started to create a story which is probably far too complex to fit into 1000 words.  And I hadn’t fully figured out an ended.  I had a vague direction I would like to take the story but not a concrete conclusion.  I have a lot to figure out before it’s due on Sunday!

The character development isn’t flowing prose so shouldn’t be read as such.  We were asked to think about various aspects of our character to help us get to know them.

Beginning

It’s exactly five minutes to ten when he checks his watch.  You wouldn’t know it was morning in the dusky grey wilderness he finds himself in.  Pine trees stand, bolt upright, their tops engulfed in heaven and their feet wrapped in virgin snow.  Ahead, he can see the silhouettes of his travelling companions.  He doesn’t know them well enough to make out identities from their backs; all present as harsh black outlines against the velvety white.  Standing still for a brief moment, he thinks about where he came from.  Where he ran from.  Another world away.

Character development

His age is difficult to pin down.  If you were giving the police a description, you’d probably say 30s to 40s.  You’d say he was slightly taller than average.  Dark eyes and dark hair against tanned skin.  He looks healthy, strong, like he’d embrace manual labour.  He walks confidently and every step he takes seems planned and sure, like he knows he’s going in the right direction even in unfamiliar terrain.  He rarely looks behind but you get the sense that he knows everything that’s going on around him.

He has picked up phrases and slang from all over the world.  Even he hasn’t figured out where he came from originally.  His accent is peppered with hints of different countries and different regions.  He fits in everywhere and nowhere. 

His clothes adapt to his surroundings, a human chameleon.  Surrounded by desolate snow plains, he is a silhouette of dark clothes, a warm padded coat with fur around the hood.  His hood is pulled up against the bitter biting air.  On his back, he carries his home.  His life.

He is trekking through painfully cold wilderness.  Despite being surrounded by snow and ice, he barely has access to water.  His shelter changes every night.  Dug out pits in the snow.  Pressed against the back of a cave.  He takes what he can get.  He scavenges what he can throughout the day and raids a stash of energy bars when it gets tough.  He can go without food when he has to.  He is mentally and physically strong and a little bit of hunger won’t change that.

He is a man.  And every man is an island.  He doesn’t need anyone else.  He has never needed anyone else.  He has always moved from place to place making new acquaintances as he goes.  He doesn’t have friends but scattered all over the globe are people who would do him favours, who would welcome him into their home.  He is a loner who everyone is drawn towards.  Except on that dig… But that was an anomaly, equilibrium was quickly restored.

He was happiest in the sun.  In South America, working alongside archaeologists.  He found the work satisfying.  It was methodical.  He could almost see it as a stable career direction for himself.  If he could change one thing, he would go back there.  Sleeping in below freezing temperatures, his dreams of a previous life under the brilliant rays keep him warm.

Next to his heart rests his most treasured possession.  A small map of the world that has been creased and refolded so many times that the UK barely exists.  He’s had it for as long as he can remember and it’s travelled round the globe with him.  An anchor.  A guide. 

He lies.  He lies frequently.  It’s not that he’s a liar as such.  It’s just he frequently finds himself in the kind of situation where it is best to alter the truth.

His doesn’t believe in regrets.  Life happens and you get on with it.  That’s his philosophy.  At least it was.  He finds now that he gets pangs inside his heart.  Either he is slowly suffering heart problems or he is experiencing regret.  He’s not sure which he finds less terrifying.

Week 2

So, week 2 of the creative writing class.  This week is about using prompts to generate ideas.  The first one was inspired by a news headline:

In life, we were thick as thieves, two peas in a pod, joined at the hip.  With death, she has become me.  She has consumed my identity.

For the second assignment, we brainstormed people, places and props and combined them to make an idea:

With her blanket of stars wrapped around her and her boat on the sea, the little girl set sail for the top of the world.  Her hair threaded with flowers and her spoon paddles powering her cardboard vessel along.

(Does anyone want to illustrate that for me? I think it’d make a nice picture book!)

And for the third assignment, we gathered pictures from magazines and used them as inspiration:

It’s exactly 5 minutes to ten when he checks his watch.  You wouldn’t know it was morning in the dusky grey wilderness he finds himself in.  Pine trees stand, bolt upright, their tops engulfed in heaven and their feet wrapped in virgin snow.  Ahead, he can see the silhouettes of his travelling companions.  He doesn’t know them well enough to make out identities from their backs; all present as harsh black outlines against the velvety white.  Standing still for a brief moment, he thinks about where he came from.  Where he ran from.  Another world away.

Saltburn

Last weekend I spent a day by the sea in what can only be described as bracing weather.  It was cold, raining, windy and generally a little bit wild! Anyway, a wonderful friend suggested we both write an acrostic so here is mine:

Standing on the edge of the world
Amongst walls of salt, continually falling.
Looking behind,
Tides collide with crashing concrete.
Battling the pounding, threatening to consume
Ultimate, intense freedom.
Returning to promenade, arcades and beach huts whilst
Not quite turning a back to the sea.

Me, Myself and I

I’ve started an online creative writing course.  We’re very much at the introduction/beginning stage and the first assignment was to write 100 words as an introduction/writer profile.  The second was to choose an everyday, mundane item and describe it.  I’ve included mine below and would welcome feedback.  That’s one of the things that I think is important to me with the course.  I’ve never really had any criticism on my writing so I’m hoping it will be useful.

Me, myself and I

Helen has been inseparable from books since before she could walk or talk.  Quickly, she began to write herself.  Writing which ranged from poems to stories to newspapers for which she interviewed friends and family.  This love of words and expression continued until her early twenties when the pressures and time commitments of being an adult took over.  It was about this time that she started to suffer from chronic pain and, as a way of coping with this, has recently found her way back to writing.

Look around you

Smudges and faded writing cover off-white surfaces, surfaces the colour of a well-loved teddy bear.  Obviously once a cuboid, it’s ends are now rounded and on the top there’s a nail mark, a barely visible crescent moon. 

It’s light to hold. It doesn’t take up much space in my child sized fist.  It feels solid until my hand closes on it and it gives slightly under the pressure.  You think it’s smooth until you run your finger a little harder on it’s edges and then small fragments of the whole rub off.

It makes a gentle sound when tapped; absorbing many of the sounds waves itself.

It smells faintly of classrooms and learning to write your letters and spell long words like because.

I don’t think I’d want to taste it. 

Off topic

edited to add: trigger warnings. Of you don’t feel safe, head to google and look at pictures of kittens

I don’t know if anyone will read this. I’m not posting a link on twitter. I put the title as ‘Off Topic’ but I guess in some ways it’s perfectly on topic. I know that there are things I need to say but I struggle to find the words. I struggle to unlock the words. I know I need help but I don’t know that I can actually handle being given help. It fact I’m fairly certain that if anyone tried to help me I would shrug them off or collapse in a heap. Neither being much fun for anyone.

I cope with pain and depression by numbing myself. I always have. I self harm and I develop a really unhealthy relationship with food and weight. If I am well, I really don’t care about weight and calories. I never care about them in relation to other people. If I am numbing myself, I care about them obsessively. It’s not about body image. It’s about control. It’s about making myself feel as small as I can because I don’t feel like I have any right to take up space in this world. It’s about having a focus, something to centre your life around so you don’t feel the pain any more. The thing you can think about when your own thoughts hurt too much. I want to shrink away to nothing. I don’t want to kill myself. But neither do I want to be here.

I don’t feel any connection between my body and my mind (I do literally, except if I’m dissociating but that’s another issue). It’s like they belong to two different people. I can’t comprehend that I am damaging myself with my actions. I know there are risks with self harm and starvation. I know that. But I can’t get my head round them in relation to myself.

For something that’s fundamentally about control, I feel a bit out of control right now. Self harm I can manage. I, for want of a better phrase, know what I’m doing and do everything reasonably safely. Restricting is another matter. I’ve never been this bad before. I went 48 hours without food. The sensible voice in my head knows that was stupid and dangerous. The other voice wants to do it again, wants to do it better. The sensible voice is why I am writing this. The other voice is why I’m not posting a link on twitter or talking to anyone. This voice will probably have deleted the post by morning.

What I know

Today’s very exciting (mostly because it’s been so long and I thought any creative part of me had turned to stone) writing was inspired/motivated by a short, free Open University course called Writing what you know.  It basically does what it says and helps you to look at ways to write what you know.  It’s not overly detailed but it’s worth a quick look if you have a spare hour or so and are looking to spark something creative.  The following is very very much a work in progress but I was pleased to have written something and I despite being exhausted I know I won’t sleep easily tonight.  Hence the late night blogpost.

I know that inside
Skin, blood gushes like oil.
Dark shadows hide secrets

I know that torture
Wounds, releasing scalding lava.
The body spills stories.

I know that rushing
Relief, peacefully painfully draining.
Slaughterhouse queue carries on.

Constructive criticism would be helpful please.

Sylvia Path’s Mother (or, A Tree in Spring Time)

I was reminded recently of acrostic poems.  I had flashbacks to a classroom in my village primary school writing poems about autumn on orange paper.  It filled me with a kind of dread.  But it’s a useful tool for playing with words.  

I was watching A Poet’s Guide to Britain about Sylvia Plath.  And then there was a clip with her mother, who’s name was Aurelia.  It seemed like a very pleasing combination of letters so I wrote it down the left hand side of the paper and then added some words.  My aim was to keep hold of this moment of inspiration and so I scribbled very quickly without too much thought so the results are rather rough.  Unfortunately in my haste, I did mis-spell her name…  But the point for me isn’t the word down the side, it’s the letters which give you a starting point.  That, and the fact I actually paused iplayer and got off the sofa to do something creative.

A Tree in Spring Time

Apple white blossom

Under intoxicating life

Radiates inspiration.

Experience this

Intensity and 

Let your heart beat

A little faster.