Wednesday Write-in #29


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

‘I do’  ::  crockery  ::  surreal  ::  torch  ::  capsule

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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68 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-in #29

  1. A Smashing Time

    ‘This is surreal,’ Amanda yelled at Simon as she picked up another plate and hurled it at the wall. ‘I didn’t know coming to a Greek restaurant involved smashing all the crockery!’
    ‘Saves on the washing up, but don’t try this at home!’ Simon shouted back over the din.

    The meal and what can only be described as the after-party was an experience. Exotic dishes with unpronounceable names like taramosalata, moussaka, slouvaki and baklava graced the menu of the Anemos restaurant in London’s west end circa 1970. Paint-stripper Retsina or the more kindly Domestica red washed away the inhibitions of happy diners who were urged onto the tables to stamp and sway in time with the waiters doing their Zorba number on the floor below. As spirits rose along with the volume of the bouzouki music it seemed natural to join in an indoor plate-throwing contest with a group of total strangers.

    Amanda and Simon left the noisy warmth of the restaurant cocooned in a capsule of happiness. The chilly night air could not dampen their spirits and they reeled along the pavement singing and trying to copy the waiters’ dance steps.

    The beam of a torch stopped them in their tracks. ‘Good evening, sir,’ the bobby said. ‘Have you been drinking?’

    ‘I do believe I’ve had a drop, officer,’ Simon replied laughing. ‘But it’s not a Greek tragedy!’

    The policeman let them on their way and Simon and Amanda continued sedately along to the underground station. The mood had changed. No more Greek abandon, no more Zorba. At least not until the next time they went to Anemos.

    • I loved the party atmosphere of the beginning of this piece, and your turn of phrase – ‘a capsule of happiness.’ I wish the characters had kept the fun alive on their trip to the underground station, though! It’s an atmospheric piece, and I enjoyed reading it.

    • This works well as its own little capsule of happiness.There is a great feeling of freedom in the prase “washed away the inhibitions of happy diners” I like the contrast between the exotic Greek words and the banality of the world outside the chilly night air, the bobby and the underground.

    • Some lovely descriptions. I like how the inhibitions return with the appearance of the bobby. Two different cultures, indeed.

    • Firstly: the title is genius. A brilliant play on words and theme.

      You’ve carried the atmosphere of the restaurant nicely though it’s presented as more chaotic than jubilant; perhaps this is a result of the lack of physical setting – it’s indeed a restaurant but it feels that without reference to what surrounds your characters (with the exception of the tables, plates and a wall), the excitement of the event feels detached.

      Though the aim in flash is to be sparse with setting description, it’s helpful to toss that rule aside for the first draft and then edit out detail which subtracts from the brevity and movement of the story.

      One or two sentences will benefit from additional punctuation to help make them clearer to read.

      The ending seems abrupt compared with the previous actions. I’m wondering what Amanda and Simon would be thinking as they enter the Underground, surrounded by that sterility as they wait for the last train home.

      They come to the conclusion that they will return to Anemos but they seem to lack a reason. Was their being there an accident? They’ve obviously thrown some inhibitions out and now they’re going back to normal life. Is their life stifled by unbroken plates and taught Englishness?

      You can contrast this by engaging your characters in their thoughts and small physical gestures as they return home, perhaps?

      • Thanks for your very useful comments, Sam. Maybe after each visit to Anemos they will shed more and more inhibitions!

    • Second person narratives are fascinating to me, particularly when I can’t tell who is being spoken to – whether it’s me, or whether I’m playing the part of someone in particular, or whether it’s a generic, undefined character. I’m not sure who the narrator is, as there seems a distinct voice at the beginning there (You may as well go in). I feel like this person is present within the world but not necessarily within the story – some kind of omniscient narrator removed from the actual events, but watching.

      What I do like about your use of second person here is I don’t feel that you’re telling me what to do, I feel like you’re describing something that’s already in motion (heading into the attic) and I can believe that I would want to look through these mysterious things, so it works for me.

      I think overall, I felt there were too many images, too much to keep track of, but this line really stuck in my mind: The glaze is the same speckled, clotted cream of a quail’s egg – I think the references to food work well, as it’s repeated through the second half of the piece and it’s very evocative. I would maybe focus on those elements 😀

      • Thanks for your feedback Sarah. I’ve never written in 2nd person before (I was actually experimenting with something else but I need more practice – perhaps next time…) so I’m pleased that the narration has had the effect.

        There are a lot of images, I agree. My aim was to lead the narrative with them so perhaps I’ve not been as successful with that technique as I’d aimed for.

    • I liked the ghostly, almost insubstantial feel you created here, like the story is being read through a wispy veil. I read your story three times, and it was like putting on coats of paint – it seemed to become more solid each time I read it, and the meaning became clearer, like each reading was building on the one before it. I found your choice of narration interesting; it’s not a POV I’ve ever used in my own writing but I think it worked really well for this piece. I did find some of your sentences confusing – perhaps it was the preponderance of imagery, or the punctuation, but something didn’t quite work for me.

      My favourite detail was the silver spoon meant for the great-uncle who never was. I found that very moving. I have a passion for antiques and old objects, family treasures and social history, so I really liked your way of telling the family’s story through their things. A really interesting piece.

      • Thank you for your feedback SJ. I’m really pleased that this style of narration has worked out.

        The sentences are deliberate. I didn’t want the movement of the scene to be smooth or easy; I wanted it to jar and twist and leave traces of uncertainty. The danger here is that yes, I lose my reader and it disrupts too much.

    • I commend you for writing a piece using second person narrative — it’s not easy to do and I like reading pieces that do something new.

      If someone’s reading is already subjective, I feel that the subjectivity is amplified by the second person (which might turn some people off early). Yet I found myself walking through the door like the narrator tells me to do, following her voice as it guides me through the imagery. Since there are so many images, they become these fleeting things that are nice but that I don’t quite remember, like a flashbulb memory.

      And that’s where I placed this in my mind–an internal dialogue with myself about something that happened in the past, as if to prepare myself (or a theoretical “other”) to go up into the room in the future.

    • Very atmospheric, a creepy narrator luring the relative (?) in and the door shutting behind. Spooky. Then all he gets is some ordinary crockery! I thought he might get locked in an antique trunk or something and the guardian of the treasures would find another victim. Nice etheral feel.

      • A very spooy atmosphere created. I like the descrption of the objects and how the descrpitions of them is like unwwrapping the stories of each like the narrator is guiding the reader to do. I presume that’s why you’ve used the 2nd person narration. The floaty run-on quality of the language suggested to me that the narrator could be a ghost guiding a living ancestor towards their inheritance.

    • This made me feel uncomfortable, I think it’s because the narrator is telling me what to do, forcing my path. I think I’d prefer being told what I’m doing when I read 2nd person, that’s a personal preference (If that makes sense). You paint some very vivid images which I enjoy in your writing. Like Craig, I particularly liked: ‘The house breathes like us as we settle and sit.’

    • I think I achieved what I aimed for with this one. I wanted to have a completely detached narrator, an absent one that guides. I recognise that I need to be a bit more delicate with this style though, as some of the feedback reflects how readers can feel intimidated and forced into the narrative.

      Thanks to all who have replied and given me areas to work on for future pieces. I’m definitely more excited about narration that falls outside of first/third person now!

  2. Pingback: Wednesday Write-in #29: Hamilton Wedding (Revised) | Pen Tight | Edit Straight

  3. #wednesdaywritein
    Here is my effort this week.

    Speed Dating at Sparkles (Because This Time, You’ve Made Time).

    This is your Score Sheet so Let’s Get Scoring! Good Luck.

    Interviews 1- 7

    Reject.
    Just friends.
    Reject.
    Reject.
    Really?
    Too intense.
    Don’t let me be compatible with 5&7, please!

    Take a break for your pre-paid refreshments. Reconvene in 15 mins.

    Interviews 8 – 14:

    8. Drunk.
    9. Too talkative.
    10. Too quiet.
    11. Dull.
    12. Even duller!
    13. Psycho.
    14. Let me out of here, somebody, please!

    Time for more pre-paid refreshments. Reconvene 25 mins.

    Interviews 15 – 20

    15. Cute(ish)
    16. Cute.
    17. Not bad.
    18. Nice eyes. Could I just maybe ignore the teeth?
    19. ‘ I do! I do! I do!’ (Wish hadn’t spoiled this score sheet – get another one to hand in.)
    20. Where’s number 19 sitting, now?

    • Sorry, this has the numbers

      #wednesdaywritein

      This has the numbers. Sorry, didn’t copy last time.

      Speed Dating at Sparkles (Because This Time, You’ve Made Time).

      This is your Score Sheet so Let’s Get Scoring! Good Luck.

      Interviews 1- 7

      1. Reject.
      2. Just friends.
      3. Reject.
      4. Reject.
      5. Really?
      6. Too intense.
      7. Don’t let me be compatible with 5&7, please!

      Take a break for your pre-paid refreshments. Reconvene in 15 mins.

      Interviews 8 – 14:

      8. Drunk.
      9. Too talkative.
      10. Too quiet.
      11. Dull.
      12. Even duller!
      13. Psycho.
      14. Let me out of here, somebody, please!

      Time for more pre-paid refreshments. Reconvene 25 mins.

      Interviews 15 – 20

      15. Cute(ish)
      16. Cute.
      17. Not bad.
      18. Nice eyes. Could I just maybe ignore the teeth?
      19. ‘ I do! I do! I do!’ (Wish hadn’t spoiled this score sheet – get another one to hand in.)
      20. Where’s number 19 sitting, now?

      • I appreciate that you took this in a different direction, used a different way of telling this story with the speed dating card — interesting idea.

        I was going to write that it seems unlikely that all the good ones would be at the end but then realized that you probably wrote it this way on purpose — after so many psychos and drunks in the beginning you’re willing to ignore bad teeth!

      • Thanks, Anthony. She’s get her ‘beer goggles’ on after all those refreshments, I think!

      • Fun. I’d like to read a fleshed out story from this. Looks like she ignored number 20 completely.

      • This is really funny. It does exactly what all good flash fiction does to tell a complete story using as few words as possible and I love how you did it using the score sheet as your structuring device. It’s great how we can see her reactions at first too fussy then bored and then her standars drop and she’s “Interested” after obviously indulging in the “pre-paid refreshments Even your use of repetition is effective in building the pattern. I’m sure there are plenty of scorecards out there that look very similiar to this! Well done in having yours tell a very entertaining story.

      • It seems everyone is experimenting this week and this was a really innovative take.I think i’d maybe like to see 19’s card or maybe a few of the others. really nice.

      • As the night has worn on, and the people are getting prettier, I’m thinking perhaps the beer goggles are emerging. Great story and I love the humour 🙂

      • I love how this style isolates us from everything else that is going on exterior to the narrator. I’m particularly interested in the reliability of narrators and you’ve demonstrated here how subjectivity can jade our own perceptions when reading.

        The subtle humour works because it is so brief but also because it’s honest – these responses could easily be genuine and so they are believable, endearing the character to us.

        A great delivery of a condensed series of events. Nice sense of anonymity and a deeper impression of loneliness.

    • Oh, this is so clever! I love stories that take apart the expected style of narration. I’ve never been to a speed-dating event, but from what I hear this story seems pretty accurate in its depiction of how they normally go! Really fun. I enjoyed this. Well done! 🙂

  4. Pingback: The Secret | Rebecca Dudley - Collected Stories

    • I didn’t know at first glance who the ‘she’ was putting away the crockery, but then I realised it must be the wife. Also felt the code should be in another language if she only learns the words phonetically. But I thought the tension built well and I liked the lapsing back to the mundane when she goes to bed.

      • In fact in my head the code was in another language, in that she was supposed to be German. Many thanks for the kind words.

    • Welcome to the write-in, thanks for taking part 😀

      I love the suspense you build up; the walk in the dark with the suspicious torch is fantastic. I do feel that the last line seems off, mostly because it trivialises what seems like an otherwise serious story. It’s a very flippant comment for the narrator to make after what they’ve been through. I’d love if you could leave us on a note of that same, taut tension you hold out through the whole piece.

  5. Here’s mine for this week;
    I do
    Sam had watched his old school friend get married. When they both said “I do.” The congregation gasped and awed; he felt distant from it all. He wasn’t sure if he could ever see himself getting married.
    His only ever girlfriend was here. It was strange to see her again after all these years. She had what appeared to be the perfect boyfriend on her arm. If his relationship with Amy taught him anything, it was that he wasn’t made for relationships. All two and a half months of it had been stressful and torturous and it was almost a relief that it was over when it ended. He didn’t need that type of complication in his life again. It was too much pressure.
    He still carried a torch for her. They were seated at the same table, separated by a display of fancy crockery and cutlery. He found it surreal to be able to just glance across at her. She had existed in his memory for so long that it was easy for him to see how her face had changed. He tried to derive meaning from her cheekbones which were now a lot more prominent on a face previously softened by youthful fullness. Beneath the concealer were shadows. Sam wondered what her life was like and wondered what she thought about while she was awake at night.
    He took a sip from his drink and glanced around the room. He tried not to think of Amy just sitting over there. Maybe this was his chance to move on and let go. He took another sip this time scoping out the room over his other shoulder, his eyes lingering over Amy as he replaced his glass. He couldn’t help himself he was drawn to her. He had to remember this new version of her.
    He could not wait to be free of the hold his tie and shirt had around his neck. He resisted the urge to pull the edge of his shirt from his neck. Instead he looked down at the gleaming shoes under the table rubbed the toes on the backs of his trousers buffing the shine a little more.
    When he looked up again, Amy had looked over at him and they had met each other’s gaze.
    Sam and Amy exchanged nods of acknowledgement across a cloud of steam emanating from salmon and beef and potatoes being placed in front of them.
    She smiled at him and with a wave, unlocked a whole time capsule of memories. The way she looked at him was the same as she had before. She might not even have any memories of him, that space was probably a void, but the inscriptions of the rich times were still with Sam.
    That smile released a wealth of memories of giggling carefree teases.
    He wondered if she was happy.
    He wondered if she ever thought about him the way he did her. If she ever thought about the times they spent together.
    When their eyes met again over the clinking of glasses filled with rose -blushed champagne bubbles accursed hope sprang up.
    As the room was being cleared for the dancing everyone headed to the bar. Sam went outside to clear his head. There was something self-destructive about how this situation was making him feel. Despite his asthma he stood downwind from a huddle of smokers and breathed the smoky air in sharp cold pulls. He had to stop allowing thoughts of Amy to creep into his mind.
    When he went back inside the smell of nicotine clinging to his clothes, he met Jim who had two glasses in his hands.
    “Sam do us a favour. Take these whiskeys. The lads got ‘em for me and I don’t want to…Just have them.”
    And that was it. Jim the newly married man was gone again, leaving Sam standing with a glass of whiskey in each loose-fingered grasp.
    On the dance floor, most of the crowd danced around jerkily without hint of self- consciousness. Sam sloshed the whisky in the glass and found a quiet corner away from the action. He scanned the room for Amy and couldn’t see either her or her muscly boyfriend. He could do nothing but guzzle himself into more torpor.
    After he drained the first glass he put it down clumsily in front of him. The glass rocked away from him but settled itself last with a final indignant swirl.
    That was when Amy slid into the chair beside Sam.
    “Have you been avoiding me?”
    “I thought you were gone.” Sam looked surprised.
    “I was just getting a taxi for Mark”
    “Your boyfriend? You never introduced us.”
    “No he’s not. Eww. He’s my sister’s boyfriend.”
    “Right?”
    “He’s a sports scout. I thought he’d like to meet some of Jim’s friends.”
    “Ah? Ok.”
    “Jim said to bring him.” She shrugged her shoulders.
    Sam got a sudden flash of panic when he didn’t know what to say to her next but he wanted to prolong every moment he had with Amy. She stood up and knocked against the table, the glass shuddered again, but Sam caught it before it toppled. She caught his arm and put it around her shoulder as he perched herself gently on his lap and snuggled into him, just like she did that day on the beach when they were teenagers.

    • It must have been Amy who dumped Sam before, he sounds a bit of a non-starter with women and she makes the moves. Let’s hope they have better luck second time round!

    • This was really sweet. My favourite bit was their dialogue – it seemed so natural and real. Having said that, the description of the wedding reception was so clear it was like I was sitting in the room. I loved the way you had your protagonist wonder what Amy thought about when she was awake at night, instead of asleep – a perceptive and telling detail.

      The only thing I didn’t like was the very beginning. I wasn’t grabbed by the opening, but I’m glad I kept going – the rest of the story is well worth the read.

      • Thanks! You’re right about the beginning. I can see now by making Sam distant from the nuptuals, I am also distancing the reader. I will have to change the opening to make it more exciting; maybe I could begin with the first moment their eyes met. Thanks for the feedback, I love going back and working on these.

    • Great story with a happy ending. A few typos and punctuation issues you need to attend to if you want to win the Booker prize though. A well-observed sketch of yer average bloke!

      • Thanks! I will tidy this up but I don’t think it’ll be winning any Booker prizes! (Ironically I think it was me getting a plot option out of my system, rather than putting it into my novel!). I’m glad you see Sam like that as he’s the main character and I want people to be able to relate to him.

    • The wedding reception details are great. I like when he steps outside and the sharp cold pulls of breath. The shaky glass mirrors the final situation well and I like that he panics when he is given another opportunity as that rings true.

    • Lovely story. At the end I’d like to know something about her life now, something that may make them reconsider their situations, the potential to re-spark the flame. Maybe even some reminiscing together.

      • Thank you for the feedback. It’s very helpful, you’ve given me lots of new directions to go with this. It was a very rough piece but with your sugestions (and others) I might make something more complete from this. Thanks!

    • Maybe it’s just me, but this piece comes across as quite sinister! It seems like a long time (at least a few years) since they broke up but Sam’s never had another girlfriend? This left me wondering all kinds of things, like whether he might be gay or have developmental problems, but didn’t know! And it’s clear that Amy can’t have given him a second thought in all this time – then suddenly she wants to sit in his lap after scant moments of conversation. I definitely find these characters a bit odd, but I’m sure with another draft you’d find the thread of the story that you really want to focus on, and the characters would feel more rounded.

      Some lovely lines and images in this. I think it feels a bit directionless, as if you wrote without knowing where you were going (and haven’t we all done that!), but that’s also easily fixed. Thanks for taking part again 🙂

      • Thanks for the feedback. There is potentially something sinister about Sam’s feelings for Amy. I did write this without knowing where it was going.I was experimenting with a plot to see where it would go-an idea that wouldn’t fit my novel kept niggling so I wrote it. While I won’t be including it, I have a seed of something here that I can turn it into something else- when I know what it is !!

  6. Pingback: Wednesday write in #29 | Brassduke's Blog

  7. I find myself pretty rubbish at critiquing people’s stuff so was delighted to find a really good article on this by a Victoria Crayne which can be found on the Scribo site found through Cake.shortandsweet’s Writers’ Circle (see top menu bar). On Scribo visit the Writing Academy and, well, you’ll get there.

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