Wednesday Write-in #4


Welcome to the Wednesday Write-in!

This is the new feature on the blog which we’ll be running every week from now on to allow all of us writers to practise our skills, and get chatting to each other about our work.

Prompts

thunder  ::  hungry  ::  the empty house  ::  run out  ::  wanted

Guidelines

There are no hard and fast rules, but here are some brief guidelines:

  • You can use the prompts as inspiration or try to work them into your story somehow. Use as many as you want.
  • When your story is done, post it online (your blog/twitter/in a comment here), tag with #wednesdaywritein and comment with a link so we can read it. You can write as many stories as you like.
  • Please take the time to read and comment on as many other stories as you can.

Featured Story

We’ll feature our favourite story on the blog with a review of it and links to the author’s blog/twitter/facebook if relevant.

Posts will generally go up at 9am(ish) on Wednesday – stories are due by 9am Thursday (UK) to be considered for the featured story. You can keep posting your work after this, it just won’t be featured.

Rewards

We’ll keep track of who takes part in the write-ins, and you earn points for different things.

  • Take part in a write-in = 1 point.
  • Comment on other people’s stories = 1 point.
  • Share/reblog this post = 1 point.

When you reach ten points the editing team will give detailed feedback on a story of your choice. This only counts for separate sessions—so if you write five stories for one write-in, that counts as one, and if you share on both facebook and twitter, that’s one. We might give an extra point if you comment on everyone’s stories, but we’ll have to wait and see.

 

Please look for us on Facebook or Twitter to keep up with the write-ins, or click the follow button to get blog updates!

Don’t forget to read our Previous Issues and check out the Submissions page if you’d like to be a CAKE.author!

 

Any questions? Otherwise, have fun writing!

Advertisements

75 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-in #4

  1. Great excuse to write today, thanks Sarah. I went with the ‘The Empty House’ prompt. It’s 454 words – short one for me! Is there any way we can use bold or italics when pasting here, anyone know? I needed them for this piece…

    Louise
    @MissWriteUK
    http://www.facebook.com/louise.gibney.writer
    http://www.misswrite.co.uk
    —–

    An Empty House

    As she climbed the stairs, habitually hanging her oversized handbag on a coat hook as she approached the top, Jenn remembered the feeling she first had on viewing this property. It had been perfect. A gorgeous Georgian flat, the former servants’ quarters of an 18th century family house, bigger than they’d anticipated, a little rough around the edges; just what they’d hoped for. Delighted with the place, she and he had slapped down a deposit that same afternoon.

    The flat was full of character; there were fireplaces in every room, sash windows (cold and inefficient in the winter, but they made for well-lit rooms), and an old fashioned kitchen just big enough to cater for her messy cooking methods. The flat smelt the same as that first day, fresh and clean, but looked and felt so different. Now it was nothing more than an empty house from a broken relationship and a broken dream.

    A glimpse out the hallway window revealed the half empty driveway; of course, his car was missing from its regular spot under the tree. Buried inside her body, somewhere below her stomach, emptiness and loneliness swelled, conceding to a deep feeling of loss and sadness. All this just days before her birthday. What could make the milestone event more miserable than a relationship break-down?

    Cardboard boxes almost filled the floor space of the living room; some full, sealed and diligently labelled, others still unused, ready for last minute packing. Jenn went through the flat opening windows and flicking on the radio in the hope of bringing some life into the place, ignoring the bereft bookshelves and the unmade bed. There were still a few jobs to be done before she could shut the house up for good. Most of the household bits had been packed up already, sorted into piles labelled ‘car boot’, ‘store at mum’s’ and ‘keep’ ready for loading on to the van on moving day. Organising had been a tactic to distract her mind from dwelling and questioning too much.

    Jenn grumbled under her breath as she rooted through the final cupboard, still crammed full with DVDs, Playstation games and magazines. ‘He should have been the one to sort this ‘boy’ cupboard out!’

    Hidden behind her ex’s superhero film collection was a small cream coloured packet. A box was inside the envelope, by the feel of it. Intrigued, Jenn opened the packet and slid the box out with gentle fingertips. A small, forgotten, yet probably carefully chosen silver locket lay gracefully inside the box. The small action of tenderly turning the jewellery over in her hands, exposed in plain letters a sign of what had been and could not be again.

    Happy birthday x

    • With respect to bold and italics I think it depends on how WordPress has been set up, particularly with respect to the theme being used. If this theme allows HTML markup then the following should have some italics and bold text in it, otherwise it’ll probably look a bit horrible.

      Italics can be applied by putting text between “i” tags, for example <i>italics</i>
      Similarly bold can be applied by putting text between “b” tags, for example <b>bold</b>
      Less than and greater than signs can be introduced using &lt; and &gt;, and an ampersand (&) using &amp;

      Right, geek duty done, now I’ll settle down for a read.

    • I’m a bit rubbish at this feedback stuff I’m afraid, but I enjoyed reading your story.

      I do have a bit of what I hope is constructive criticism; there were a couple of points where I think I might have been slightly more immersed if you’d shown me things as immediate rather than telling me about them in the past (without having broken the them of the weight of the past). The main time I think this happened is “an old fashioned kitchen just big enough to cater for her messy cooking methods” – “an old fashioned kitchen just big enough to cover in flour and mixing bowls” would have brought it into the present, or pulled me into the past, just a little bit more.

    • I like your structure – first telling of the dream, then the loneliness and the present state. I love the ending too. I would have really liked some more emotion in there. Maybe some more memories on their love, and perhaps touching on the reason of the separation but not telling us completely. The story made me think that he broke up with her, but then her finding the unknown present makes me think she broke up from him. The whole story makes my mind revel in the circumstances, which is what I like in a story, and leaves me entertained for hours.

      • I deliberately didn’t say why they broke up, like to make people like you wonder!
        And the emotion… I toyed with more there, but in my experience, after anger sadness etc, when the initial storm has passed, sometimes numbness can set in. Pragmatic people who just ‘want this thing sorted’ might agree.
        Thanks for the feedback, Rebecca, much appreciated.

    • The ending was wonderful. It’s a subtle little twist that leaves us asking just what happened.

      I’m not sure if you need that first part – about buying the house though. Or maybe you could work in in smaller pieces throughout. That way we jump right into the action maybe?

      • Funny you say tha, Craig. I often write something and then axe the first couple of paragraphs as I find sometimes I need some time to find my flow and the original couple of lines at the start don’t cut it. Thanks for the useful and lovely feedback!

    • It’s funny – I know somebody who always cuts the second paragraph. I think there is something there. I often get carried away in my second paragraphs because I’m really into my plot/the idea or whatever and I just get carried away. I think you can definitely cut some bits out of yours but it would only be to make the actual punch of your story even better – kind of like boiling down meat juices to make a glaze or something. I also would have liked to see a bit more emotion but I definitely hear what you are saying about feeling numb – so devastated that you can only focus on the physical and material in front of you…..so nice work!

  2. Pingback: Fallible Opinions - Wednesday write-in #4

    • I read this as if it was a person speaking and only at the very end did I realise you’d used the empty house prompt. Strangely, it sort of works as both. At least, I like to think humans live life to the full in much the same way as your house did.

    • Thank you all.

      A quick question; would anyone have understood that it was from the point of view of the house if they hadn’t known about the prompts? I’m not sure if I over-targeted the story for the audience.

      • I think I would have worked it out without the prompt because of the word ‘bulldozer.’ I like stories where you think it’s one thing going on, have to reassess and on reading it the second time you think, ‘of course, so obvious.’
        I didn’t see a title for your story, but something like ‘Bricks and Mortar’ could help clue the reader in perhaps?

    • How emotional!
      I was trying to relate myself to a human (patient, prisoner etc.) the whole way through until the last sentence. And once you read the last sentence it all fits perfectly together. I love how you’ve done that.

    • I really love this – it reminds you of the sort of omnipresence of your home – it sees and knows all, really, comforts you and holds you and provides shelter but most importantly, it knows everything about you…I mean, brings a new appreciation for “if the walls could speak”. I definitely would have known what you were doing even if I hadn’t known the prompt. Brilliant work.

  3. Pingback: Owl and Raccoon – Cold and Hot « Craig Towsley

    • This left me with unanswered questions (though that was perhaps your intent.)
      Why had he locked himself away? Why had he no memories except the sound of his own voice?
      A minor detail: the paragraph about flicking the lightswitch repeats ‘sum’ and ‘in here’ twice.
      My favourite line was where the house wasn’t abandoned, but had been emptied. There was a starkness in that realisation which held me in suspense to see why.

    • I liked the way you described the hungry stomach “bloated with emptiness”. Ask me how I am at about 11am this morning and I’ll reply with that!
      The difference you note between being abandoned and empty is good, a very good way of adding weight to explaining an empty house.
      LOVE the final 2 paragraphs! Haunting, questions, I want to know more!!!
      Small point… I may be wrong, but does “And why is there nothing but a deckchair in the center of the room.” [Parag 3] need a ? at the end of the sentence?

    • Hi Duke,

      Awesome hook. The scenario is great; a fantastic situation to keep you turning the page.

      As I said to Louise (above) I suck a bit at this feedback stuff, but I think you could pack a bigger punch if you lower the amount of detail you’re giving the reader. For example, in the first paragraph you’ve got the rebellion of the body and the sparseness of the room, but I’m being distracted by the colour of the bedding, which turns out not to be important (or at least, not yet).

      I hope that’s helpful, and I look forward to seeing more from you.

    • I enjoyed this, it was sinister and the feelings were very tangible. I agree with Fallible that it would be a lot more effective as regards the tension and suspense if you cut a lot of the detail (I think you could easily cut up to about half the length – but I am a pruner!). Might be interesting to give it a try and see what you end up with.

  4. Pingback: Story: Empty House | beccaaudra

  5. Pingback: It had been « Rebecca Dudley – Collected Stories

    • Sounds like taking the rubbish had “been her thing” too!
      Rose raises a good point which I agree with – the reader should be entitled to know if she left or died. I want to know, that’s for sure!
      Repetition works well here.

      • To me, she has left him for the first three paragraphs, and then when you get to the wrecked living room it starts to feel like she has died and he is grieving, and the joke of ‘her thing’ is suddenly really sad. Maybe ‘Today would have been their anniversary’, would stress the past tense of their relationship. The fact that he is maintaining the ritual of their anniversary makes it seem like a grieving ritual, which makes me think she’s died. To me it isn’t ambiguous, but a story with a twist in your reading of the situation. I think you could leave out, the cooking had been her thing. We’ve got it by then, and then when the third saddest one comes, it has more impact. Just a thought.

  6. Pingback: The Three Fates | Jacky Hillary

  7. I couldn’t decide which prompt word called loudest to me this week, so in the end I used them all (though if ’empty house’ hadn’t been on the list I’d probably have deleted the word empty where I used it.) As it stands, the word count is 699.

    Windswept.

    Elsie Fulton was always in, whatever time you called at the house.

    ‘I can’t go out’, she’d giggle, and her body jiggled and wobbled like jelly as she added, ‘I’d get stuck in the doorway.’

    Ten years of housebound inertia had thickened her waist and the baggy tents she wore added to the illusion of morbid obesity, but as she waved her guests off home and tucked into their leftover food, she was secretly glad of an excuse never to leave the house.

    ‘Come outside and play,’ her daughter pleaded, tugging her hand.

    ‘Not today, Sweetheart, but you go out and enjoy the sunshine.’

    Her sister thought to tempt her with the divine. ‘Elsie, this honeysuckle is to die for! Why don’t you come closer so you can smell it?’’

    ‘Pick a few roses instead and bring them inside. They’ll make a lovely centre piece for the dinner table.’

    Her husband took a sterner approach, his patience long since frayed by frustration. ‘Put one foot in front of the other and walk out the bloody door!’

    Elsie frowned. ‘Don’t swear, dear. Let me build up to it. I’ll do it when I’m good and ready.’

    On summer evenings though, she often looked out at the honeysuckle and watched the blooms waltz in the wind, wondering if the forgotten scent would waft in her direction.

    Living on an island by the sea, strong prevailing winds forced the windows shut on all but a few rare days. Yet when the air did still, she sighed, filled with a sorrow she couldn’t put into words. She would stand by the open door and imagine walking into the garden… but before she had made up her mind to act, the wind would change direction and she closed the door again.

    One hot summer night, the air was so immobile she could hardly breathe. She delayed shutting the door in the hope of cooling the house, but at dusk a moth fluttered through the kitchen and made her shudder. She flicked off the light and watched it fly out again, jealous of its effortless journey through a portal she dared not pass.

    An unexpected gust of wind brought momentary relief from the oppressive heat and the fragrance of honeysuckle entered the house unbidden. It swirled up her nostrils, invaded her brain and woke dormant memories.

    Elsie smiled.

    The stars were bright and the sweet scent of a stranger’s garden enticed her to stop and savour the night air. She smoothed her skimpy dress over her flat stomach.

    Her smile faded.

    The hand over her mouth was rough, her assailant’s breath fowl. The sound her dress had made as it tore in his grasp echoed in her ears like a clap of thunder and the urge to flee overwhelmed her.

    She wanted to run outside to escape, but the honeysuckle mocked her from beyond the door. Darkness engulfed her as she struggled between the instincts of flight or fight. Another sudden blast of air spat salt spray in her face. She closed her eyes and let the black rage from long ago seep through her skin. It settled in her heart and fluttered there, like a moth drawn to the light.

    A stronger, sweeping wind transformed the folds of her oversized kaftan into wings and she took flight, clearing the sides of the doorway with room to spare. If her feet touched the ground at all on the way to the garden shed, she was unaware of it. Fumbling in the dark, she pulled out a spade and headed straight for the honeysuckle.

    Her heart thudded and she panted and gasped from the effort, but hungry for freedom, she dug until all its roots lay bare and exposed in the moonlight. The wooden handle was rough and her hands blistered and bled. Blood dripped to the soil in place of the tears she had never shed.

    ‘Elsie?’ Her husband gathered her exhausted body in his arms and held her close. ‘Come inside,’ he whispered.

    She leaned against him. ‘Promise me you’ll burn this tomorrow.’

    ‘Promise me you’ll stop hiding in the house.’

    Elsie smiled. ‘Deal.’

    They linked arms and returned to the empty house together.

    • Really nice – although it took me a few reads to realize we had jumped back into a memory. But once I got it, it made sense (the flat stomach should have told me, but it’s still early here.)

      I also really liked how the moth appeared again. Well done.

      • Thank you, Craig. I had the memories in italics on the word doc but didn’t feel confident about posting with funny looking HTML codes in case it made it illegible on here, so hoped the flat stomach would be enough hint. (blush). I’ll have to learn the codes system next.

    • That’s well told. I can see it, even the details of the scenes you imply with just a sentence where her family are trying to get her to go out.

      For my money you don’t need the italics; the segue between the now and the memory might even be spoilt by the harsher transition of typeface.

    • This is very well told, I think you deal with something very difficult in an incredibly deft and respectful way. The images are beautiful, all the different smells and tastes, the clash of the peaceful garden with the wildness of the ocean on her doorstep. Really enjoyed this piece, well done.

  8. For those people worrying about HTML editing, now we know it’s available you could use the following tool to preview how things will look:

    http://htmledit.squarefree.com/

    I suggest sticking to <i>italics</i> and <b>bold</b> for a couple of reasons too boring to go into the details of. I’ve had a quick look at how that page works, and at the time I write this it doesn’t record your data, send it to another site or anything like that.

  9. Pingback: Featured writer week 6 | CAKE.shortandsweet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s