Wednesday Write-in #22


Welcome to the Wednesday Write-in!

CAKE.shortandsweet runs a write-in every week to writers to practise their skills, and get chatting to each other about their work. Everyone is welcome to join in, and the more people you tell, the more everyone will get out of it.

Prompts

tube  ::  three’s a crowd  ::  consolidate  ::  nostalgia  ::  case

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 12am(ish) on Wednesday – stories are due by 10am Thursday (UK) to be considered for the featured story. You can keep posting your work after this, it just won’t be featured.

The winner will also be eligible to publish on our special CAKE.shortandsweet genre through Ether Books.

Get Involved

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

Join our CAKE.writers group on Scribophile, an online community for writers to give and receive constructive criticism.

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!

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39 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-in #22

  1. Pingback: Story :: Intelligence « a slice of imagination

  2. Pingback: Wednesday Write in week 22: tube. | Brassduke's Blog

  3. The tube train rattled along its highway deep beneath the city street swaying to its own hypnotic rhythm. Through the detritus of early settlements tunnels had been bored for giant sewers and for the massive underground system with its miles of track and network of stations. Thousands upon thousands of people descended to the darkness every day, like so many rats burrowing in their holes.
    Rob clung to the strap and tried to keep upright as the tube lurched its way to its destination. He kept a tight grip on his briefcase with his free hand. Pressed together with fellow commuters his nostrils were assailed by fetid odours of last night’s curry, stale tobacco and even staler bodies. Once again he vowed to get a job where he didn’t have to use the underground. He would happily sit in a traffic jam rather than this.
    Ten more stops to go. In the heat of the carriage Rob drifted into his daydream. He could see the little country cottage complete with apple tree and a swing for the two children he and Rosie would have, a boy and a girl. The engagement ring was nestled in its tiny box inside the briefcase. She would be surprised but he was sure she’d say yes. He couldn’t wait to see her face over dinner that evening. Then they’d have the weekend to start making plans for their future together.
    Mo had been lucky to get a seat. In his job fetching and carrying for the boss he didn’t usually travel at rush hour. He felt a little guilty as he noticed a pregnant woman standing clutching the pole nearby looking exhausted, but he was well and truly wedged in now. He could have done without the heavy case Sal had asked him to deliver on top of his own backpack, but this was his last job. Sal had been quite friendly when he had given his notice, saying he didn’t like living in the city and wanted to move back home. He’d said he could go at the end of the week, and that was today.
    Six stops to the mainline station. Mo would hand over the case then get on a proper train and head home. He was dying to see his mother and little sisters and he hoped he could get his old job back in the restaurant. He’d had enough of shuttling across the city delivering envelopes and packages and never seeing daylight.
    The packed train screamed towards the terminus and Rob opened his eyes. Just then, there was a massive explosion. The carriages tried to buckle in the confined space of the tunnel and ended up like crumpled pieces of tinfoil. Smoke and dust clogged the air and muffled the screams of the survivors.
    Rosie would never know about the ring as Rob and his briefcase were blasted to smithereens, and young Mohammed, taking his last innocent journey on the underground, would be forever branded a terrorist. For a while nervous commuters would shun the underground, but as traffic choked the streets above, they would reluctantly return to its deep, dark, dangerous tunnels.

    • Poor Mo. Poor Rob. You had me reading to the end. I liked the way you showed the dreams/hopes of the two men. That gave the ending more impact.
      I traveled on the London underground recently and recognize those smells you describe. Spot on. (But I didn’t feel like a rat descending into darkness.)
      If we really thought about these dangers too much, we’d probably never go out ever again. But writing & reading about them is good.

    • I really liked the way this piece left me pondering the unfairness of racial profiling and the assumptions we make about other people. I have often wondered what people in cars, etc are thinking about on their journeys and I felt like this gave me a glimpse. I have never been on the Tube but I felt so strongly that I could imagine just what it would be like. Very descriptive.

    • Great descriptions of the underground. I like how you approach it from an historical perspective to begin with. I was touched by Mohammed’s story. If I am being picky, I would have preferred Rob to have had a different story – Mohammed’s had some lovely layers.

    • I really like the opening, that idea of tunnelling through layers of cities, and all your descriptions of the atmosphere are great

      I think you are doing something interesting things (though, I admit, I cringed a bit at the racial profiling story – it’s kind of trite and I didn’t really get the point to it as I don’t see the motivation behind the bombing and using Mo etc) but I was a bit confused. When you jump from Rob to Mo’s story without a line break or anything I was very lost, and had to backtrack and read a couple of times to work out that we’d switched to another character. I thought it was interesting that you gave them both a case, but then my narrative nose wants Rob to be holding the bomb and it’s all a clever misdirect. Seemed like you were placing it there deliberately to throw us off, but then didn’t?

      Also the explosion seemed to come out of nowhere. Halfway through a paragraph we get ‘just then..’ I understand that it’s meant to come as a surprise, but I skipped past at first without noticing it because it gets lost in amongst those sentences. It’s the key turning point, the key event of the story, and I felt like it should have more impact.

      Similarly, you spend so long setting up the backstory for the two characters, but you deal with their endings in one line. IF you want people to really engage with and care about your characters, you have to show them compassion in your writing. I didn’t feel anything for Rob or his not-to-be-fiancé and that last, dismissive sentence made it seem like almost a comedy. I think this goes back to the infamous show-not-tell debate. Looking back at the paragraph where you introduce the ring, I think you tell us too much, it stalls the tragedy. The image of the house and the apple tree is lovely, and I think with some tweaking you wouldn’t need much more to imply what he wants. If, later, maybe Rosie finds a receipt or a card statement or something that shows her he bought a ring …

      Sorry, I’ve gone off on a huge ramble there, but I hope some of it is useful to you 🙂 I see your writing improve every week and I hope you keep taking part!

      • Hi Sarah
        I’ve only just seen this critique so sorry for not acknowledging it earlier. I am happy for all comments and am loving taking part in Wednesday Write In! Hope you will see this after so long.

      • Not at all. Reading back it seems much harsher than I meant it to – I really hope I didn’t upset you at all! I think your writing is coming on brilliantly, your stories the last few weeks have been especially good 🙂

  4. Pingback: The Yellow Line | Rebecca Dudley – Collected Stories

  5. Pingback: Fallible Opinions - Wednesday write-in #22

    • I like this a lot. The way you take a really tired trope (short story suicide) and turn it around to something humurous and potentially really dark is well done, and leaves me with so many questions. Nice one!

  6. Hi all, back again! My contribution for the week.

    Three’s a Crowd

    “Bitch, ain’t no room on this corner for another hooker” I said, sizing her up. There wasn’t much to look at. She looked like she’d once had a figure to be proud of. Unlike the rest of us, who routinely stuffed ourselves into clothes two sizes too small, she looked like her clothes were two sizes too big, hanging limply and shapelessly the way they do on the clothes hangers.
    The boy and I had come to an understanding a long time ago. We didn’t go for the same clientele so there was no competition. We watched each other’s backs, shared the bills and the cigarettes but you couldn’t really call it a friendship anywhere else. Here, though, it was a rare exception in the dog-eat-dog, scratch your eyes out, steal your money and your man kind of world wed lived in.
    I couldn’t afford to be soft. Those were the ones that ended up dead, robbed and jobless. The others would take advantage of any weakness, though looking at her I could see she had lacked any kindness or love in her life. Well tough shit, the same went for the rest of us, why should I treat her any differently? The drugs not only had a hold on her, they had sharpened their talons and dug right in, piercing the skin so she couldn’t shake it, no matter how hard she twisted. Her eyes were glazed and her nose was running. Her uncrusted sleeve told me she didn’t even wipe it anymore. Her face was covered in scabs that she’d tried unsuccessfully to hide with a hideous orange powder that stopped at her chin like a mask. I guess we all wore one of those, hers was just a little more obvious and a little less practised. “Three’s a crowd, honey. Fuck off down the street, you’ll find the rest of your sort down there.” That was all the kindness I could muster. I watched her try to negotiate the footpath, relieved I wouldn’t have to teach her a harsher lesson about poaching. I’d seen enough blood for the week.
    “You went easy on her” the boy said. “Yeah, I know, but I get the feeling we’re gonna find another dead hooker soon anyway”. He nodded, more interested in the man across the street, beckoning him with signals only recognisable by those who depended on it for their next meal ticket. “I’ll bring back the K Fry” he said as he swung his hips across the road. Damn, what I wouldn’t give for those hips. So wasted on a boy. I groaned inwardly as I saw the girl approach again. She’d obviously been successful in finding her next lot of drug money. “Three’s a crowd, right?” she asked with a demonic smile and a flash of a knife. Shit, looked like there was gonna be another dead hooker.

    • Love the opening sentence and “sharpened their talons and dug right in”. The ending is great too, how you bring it back around to ‘another dead hooker’. I can clearly see the scene. You have a knack with your words in describing real life situations. Nice work 🙂

    • Oh damn! Gritty as all hell. I applaud writers who descend to these depths and describe them — I was just thinking about their place in the world of literature today on my run. Zola, Dostoevsky, etc. — they all broke their societal molds and went there. Recently, I read Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, which includes many hookers of which I was reminded by your writing.

      • Great, thanks for your comments. After much experimentation, this is where my mind tends to go and I’m finding it feels much more natural for me to write. I won’t explore what that means about me 🙂 That sounds like something I will put on my ‘to read’ list.

    • Gripping story and thought the long paragraphs work really well. No experience of it, but I’m sure this really depicts that life well. Nothing glamorous.
      One suggestion: omit the word “hooker” from line 1. Let the reader work that out?

    • Welcome back, Krystal! 🙂

      I think I agree about taking hooker out of the opening dialogue and introducing their world to us more subtly, through the clothes etc. I think I’d like to know a little more about this relationship – why is it the speaker and ‘the boy’ don’t go for the same clients? Why doesn’t she call the boy by a name – any name? This distance makes the character hard to care about and I’m less shocked by her death.

      Regarding the attack, I love the turnaround and the suddenness, though I’m bemused. It seems to come from nowhere, there’s no hint that the girl wants to kill her before it happens, and I find the ‘demonic’ smile particularly leading. I can see demonic being used in third person but is this how your character would really describe the other girl at this moment? Why does she let the girl get so close to her? Is it because she feels sorry for her maybe? Or could she lose her rag and push the strange girl away, only to see the knife too late …

      An interesting world, I’d like to know more!

  7. Pingback: Story: Rocket « The Hive of Jenbee

  8. Pingback: Wednesday Write-in #22: Mistakes Made at High Speed | Pen Tight | Edit Straight

  9. #wednesdaywritein I know this is late but I thought I’d post it anyway. Look forward to reading all your stories.
    The Hard Case
    Intermittently, his shoes scuffed their way into space that was mine. He was a hard case. He was diminutive and slight but still a hard case. I was directly behind him in the queue before realising it. His refusal to remain on the spot was what drew my attention. One hand in his pocket ensured him elbow room as he performed a few half turns to look at a woman who had now joined the queue. Once, his other hand exaggerated a scratch of his head that forced me to move backwards. I had tried to retreat imperceptibly but he knew I had shrunk.
    The queue was moving at glacial speed. My gut urged the tellers to move quicker. He was growing impatient and bored. I considered leaving the queue but knew either way I had become his distraction. Perhaps if I had adopted the posture prescribed to men by gangster films or westerns he would have left me alone. But it was too late for that bluff.
    Eventually it came: “What the hell are you looking at?” he said.
    I felt a cold dampness erupt on my skin.
    I would survive now and endure the ‘what- I – should- have – dones’ later.
    “Sorry. Just in a bit of a daydream,” I said, instantly regretting it, since even my words appeared to be mincing.
    “Next!”
    I saw him hesitate deciding whether to continue this sport, but he seemed to have completed what he had set out to do and paraded up to the counter. By the time I had been served, he had gone.
    I averted my eyes from those in the queue as I left. I could pretend, for now, that nothing much had happened.

    • I like this character piece, though think ‘intermittently’ gives you a weak start and I would take it out. It’s a mouthful, adverbs feel clumsy at the start of a sentence -especially for the first word, and while it gets the sense of something being done deliberately, I think it feels too clinical and scientific. I’m also confused why he’s scuffing into her space from in front – I would’ve thought it made more sense for him to be creeping up behind her, shoving forward in a queue?

      I’d also like to know a bit more about how the narrator is feeling in the first half. Why is she so intimidated by this person, does he remind her of someone she knows? I’ve just realised I’m assuming it’s a woman because the voice led me that way but I can’t actually find a reference to gender in the text – did you know in your mind whether they were male or female? The only thing that could be a hint is the point about ‘posture prescribed to men’ which could equally point in either direction! Interesting.

      • I had the ‘hard case’ in front because he is being intimidating rather than creepy and I think it is harder to deal with someone who is directly in front of you when they come into your space. The narrator is male and I wanted to suggest that he will obsess about his inaction and lack of physical prowess when he thinks about this later on. Will remember adverb advice; it does start the piece off weakly. Thanks for comments.

      • Sorry, I wasn’t trying to say he was creepy but creeping into the space, by the intermittent scuffing. I agree that it’s harder to deal with someone in front, but if someone in front of me was deliberately all but stepping on my toes I would definitely have something to say! Perhaps that’s why the narrator felt quite weak to me – so that lack of physical prowess definitely came across.

        I wonder actually about the hard case hesitating at the end – it makes him seem unsure, maybe if his action is more deliberate – he is deciding whether or not to play more like a cat with an injured mouse, something predatory.

        Sorry, rambling now!

    • It’s fascinating once you get into it! I’m thinking of doing a little series of blogs about different tropes, what works, what doesn’t, and how you can subvert them.

      There’s a really interesting website called TV Tropes which is all about TV and cinema, and sometimes about books too. I don’t dare look at it too much though because all I hear about it is how addictive it is!

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