Wednesday Write-in #30


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.

To celebrate our 30th write-in, I will also award a prize to the person who writes the best critique this week. That is, the most fair, thorough, constructive critique.

 

Prompts

overdose  ::  mither  ::  gloss over  ::  poach  ::  digest

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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48 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-in #30

  1. The Knock
    The knock came just as they were settling down to watch the news. Eve felt a frisson of fear while Danny went to the front door. She heard voices without being able to decipher words, but she couldn’t bring herself to join her husband in the hall. Only bad news came calling at this hour.
    It had to be one of the kids. She ran over all the worst possible scenarios in her head. Nineteen year old Sam was away at university – he could have been involved in an accident or, God-forbid, taken an overdose, although she was sure he wasn’t into drugs. Her mind was whirring as she pictured him lying mangled and bloody in the wreckage of a car, or sprawled out on a filthy sofa vomit drooling from his mouth and a syringe sticking out of his arm. Danny would have to identify the body, she couldn’t bear to see him like that. Would the undertakers be able to clean him up for the funeral? Did Danny’s dark suit need cleaning? Eve fought rising panic.
    Or maybe it was Nick who was studying at a friend’s house. But was he studying? Perhaps the friend’s parents had gone out and left the boys to bring their mates in with crates of booze and cigarettes. They could be dead drunk on vodka, or the house could be engulfed in flames and the boys all in a police cell. Or, Oh God, they could be comatose in the living room dying of smoke inhalation. She wished she hadn’t allowed him to go round there. What kind of a mother was she?
    At least her longed-for late baby, ten year old Anita was safe. Eve felt an urge to touch her precious daughter. She ran upstairs and tiptoed into Anita’s bedroom. She was fast asleep, breathing softly, as beautiful as a doll. Eve stroked her hair and bent to kiss her forehead. She was never going to let her out of her sight.
    She found Danny looking stunned in the living room with two strangers. She noticed with icy detachment that they were not in uniform. ‘Mrs Jones,’ the taller one said, ‘would you like to sit down? We’ve got some news for you.’
    Eve’s knees gave way and she collapsed into the armchair. From a long way away she heard the voice say: ‘Congratulations. You and your husband have won the lottery.’

    • A powerful story of a powerful love. I was reading an article this week about a mothers love and how having children completely changes you (in a good way)! I don’t have the experience myself, but I love this story and the way so many different horrific scenarios can flit through your mind! I like how you build so many potential disasters and then we find at the end that something so joyful has happened to the family!

    • I really liked this. I love the way the mother’s thoughts run away with themselves and as a reader I got carried along with the pace of them. That was very well done, her imagination was so vivid and your imagery capture this perfectly.The only thing that slightly jarred was the men calling to tell them they won the lottery. If they won the lottery wouldn’t there have been a ticket and numbers. Since she is such a commited mother maybe there could be a celebrity at the door with a camera crew presenting her with an award after she has been nominated by her children or something? I really like the story and I think it was well written. i think it’s great to end on a really exciting moment for her especially after all her worrying. Well done.

      • Thanks, on reflection I think it should have been Premium Bonds. Apparently if there is an enormous win someone comes to the house. Sadly, I wouldn’t know!

    • I thought this piece was really gripping and well written, but like some of your other commenters the ‘winning the lottery’ let me down a little. I was carried along and totally convinced by your character – she’s really interesting. I found myself wondering if she had some sort of anxiety disorder, or something; perhaps it’s just natural for a mother to worry like this about her almost-adult sons. I wouldn’t know! 🙂 It seemed to me like she was allowing herself to be sucked into a spiral of panic, which is something I do from time to time. Anyway, I found her so engaging that it was almost a disappointment to find she’d ‘only’ won the lottery at the end. Having said that, though, the point of the story is, of course, that something completely unconnected to her worries has actually taken place – so, what else could it logically be? 🙂 A really enjoyable piece. Thank you.

    • It certainly kept me reading and although the lottery thing was a bit tame, I did enjoy it.
      Could you come up with an alternative to the lottery? There must be one (Danny got the Pope job?.)

      • Sorry, the Pope job was already filled! But as I replied above it should have been Premium Bonds. I had thought that when she went upstairs she would find that the one child she wasn’t worrying about had a major problem, but I changed my mind as I wanted a light happy ending as contrast. (You don’t need it, but are you back at WEA in April?)

    • I agree that you display the bond between mother and children well. I particularly like her going into child’s room. I have done this myself. Very touching and realistic. I wouldn’t make the ending happy at all but maybe that’s a fault of mine. I’d have the police there for her for an offence that she thought she’d got away with. As I say, that’s maybe just my own flaw where happy endings are concerned.

    • Love the ending! I thought he had a secret stash of chocolate in the medicine cabinet. An all dialogue piece certainly works for you.

    • Lovely! I’m sure this conversation happens all the time all over the world! Great ending too, made me smile. I feel sorry for him, he’s obviously trying, but something in his plan isn’t quite working!

    • Funny — I’ve a rather neurotic friend who is always fretting about what he eats, sometimes to the point of not having a good time when the time is right to have a good time with friends and family. Anyway, the timing of your story couldn’t have been better because this friend’s latest episode was just last night.

      I wrote a few words on SJ’s piece about dialogue in flash which I won’t repeat here. Granted, her story includes some prose whereas yours is comprised of entirely of dialogue. As always, I hope both of you take my criticism like you would any other: with a grain of salt.

    • Love it, love it, love it. I have *had* this very conversation, many times over. I really enjoy stories written all in dialogue, and you’ve handled it really well here. My favourite part was when your character shaves, just in case that makes any difference to his weight; I laughed at that bit. I could really relate! My only tiny suggestion is this: do you think there’s a way (particularly when writing a piece all in dialogue) to signal movement from one room to another, or to flag the passing of a few seconds between one sentence and the next? Sometimes, when I write pieces similar to this, I have my characters raising their voices if they’re in another room, or telling one another to hang on until they find something they’re looking for, or enter/exit a room, or cross to the fridge to take out the milk, or whatever it is. I found the piece lacked a little bit of dynamism – by which I mean it all seems to take place in one room, even though you mention at least two, and it all seems to happen very quickly. No beats are missed, if I’m allowed to use that phrase. I hope I’m making sense! I really liked your characters, I thought their exchange was funny, charming and realistic (with the caveat I’ve just mentioned), and I absolutely loved your killer closing line. Brilliant! Really great work.

      • Hi SJ,

        Thanks for your feedback. I’m usually. First person, present tense guy (all the time) so wanted to mess about with a different form or style each week. Dialogue came easy this week, and I agree that there could be more verbal clues and better pacing to get those physical details in there. It was a bit of a challenge to find ways to slow it down from the off but I’m confident that I can handle something of a similar style in the future.

        Thanks again for your ideas and comments 🙂

    • You have spelled disappointment wrongly. I don’t normally pick people up on that type of thing since people are doing things quickly but it’s in the title.
      I really liked the story. I think the humour is slick. I could see its being a part of a sit com, perhaps. I think the friend has more of an issue about weight than the guy himself. He asks so many questions about it. I wonder if you should think about the wider issues of how men now feel pressurised into being body beautiful, too. Just a thought. Ending great.

      • Aaaaah! Curse bloody auto-correct and predictive text. It’s such a pain and creates a guilty laziness in me, I confess. Thank you for pointing that out – I’ve corrected it now.

        Thanks for your comments. The male body is what I had in mind for this one as I wrote it; after being spammed with ‘get ripped fast’ adds all the time, I started to wonder why I should be ripped and not just healthier instead.

        I think I could have drawn this theme out if I’d chosen not to make this all dialogue but I wanted to have some fun so dropped the prose.

        I appreciate that the ending has been well received.

  2. Here’s mine for this week.
    Eva and the Salmon of Knowledge
    She often bemoaned her name and the fact that her mother hadn’t just called her Eve, plain and simple. It was so sure and definite. Eva was more beautiful (she rarely admitted that part) but it was unfinished, undecided, left loose dangling in mid-air. She saw people searching her face for the rest of the word when she introduced herself. She thought that her name sounded like a question, like even she wasn’t sure who she was. When she wrote her own name she had to stop herself from completing it with a question mark.
    After her mother died there was nobody to listen to her existential complaints. Not that her mother really paid any notice of her moaning. Whatever name she chose her daughter would have a problem with it, it was her way. She was used to tuning out when Eva started her theory about how her name had caused her to be so indecisive.
    She had started four college courses, completing the first year and then moving on to something new. She had been engaged three times and had so many short term relationships that she didn’t think she could remember them all. She now lived alone. She had tried each religion out before losing faith in them all. She felt that her life had no meaning and her very existence was pointless.
    She had tried to seek out happiness by changing every aspect of her life that she wasn’t entirely satisfied with. So after a makeover, new hairstyle, new wardrobe, job, diet and exercise routine she still wasn’t any happier. The interior design of her house bothered her so she stripped the house bare and painted and papered and put it back together piece by piece.
    When she finished, she stood back to admire her work and she wasn’t sure if she liked it. Some things she just couldn’t gloss over anymore. She could mither and dither all she wanted but a coat of paint wasn’t going to fix this.
    She decided to make one last decision.
    Once she had made up her mind she felt enormous relief. The panic that accompanied her every waking moment seemed to just dissipate and she felt totally in control. Her decision wasn’t made while swigging on the dregs of a whiskey bottle through streaming desperate tears. This was the most sober thing she would ever do. She planned every detail very deliberately. She edited her life down to her favourite things. She would conclude it all with her favourite meal into which she would grind down the pills to make them easier to digest.
    After cutting the last stalk of broccoli in the garden she approached the last three carrots left in the ground. She grabbed them by the neck of their fluffy manes, tugged them from the ground and shook off clumps of muck that crumbled into smaller pieces as it collided with the earth. She decided to gently poach the salmon and make the creamiest dill and chive mashed potatoes ever. Cholesterol and calories were all irrelevant now.
    She burst each of the boiled potatoes with the masher and broke them up into a fluffy cloud, making room in the middle for a well into which to pour her buttery sunshine and cream. She whipped it all together with a wooden spoon. Then she sprinkled in the powder, pinch by pinch, stir by stir. After she’d incorporated the dill and chives, she gave it a last sprinkle of salt and a final mix for good luck.
    She used the posh plates and fancy cutlery and poured her favourite wine into a good crystal glass, previously saved for visitors but they never came. In her first mouthful she took only salmon. It was delicious. With a squeeze of lemon and scattering of freshly chopped dill it was divine. The next had equal amounts of fish, potato and vegetables. It was even nicer and she couldn’t taste the pills, apart from a weird chemically aftertaste. That was soon washed away by a sip of Chardonnay.
    Her next fork carried salmon and carrot and broccoli. She wished she had made a double batch and only laced half of it just in case she changed her mind. She filled her mouth with a forkful of salmon and followed it with a swig of wine. The potatoes were perfect and delicious, just there in front of her with enough drugs to end it all. No complications, straightforward, according to plan and all that. Now she wasn’t so sure.
    She took a forkful of salmon and broccoli and savoured them. Whatever happened she’d enjoy them while they were still hot. She wasn’t going to let her own indecisiveness ruin the last ever meal of her life. Her indecision, her mithering, her lack of purpose, the felling of being disconnected that was what she was trying to escape from. She was never happy always changing her mind and was never sure of any decision she’d ever made.
    After she finished she refilled her now empty wine glass and swallowed in one gulp. She felt a bit woozy and needed to leave the table. The world swayed around her as she lay down on the couch at the other side of the room.
    She woke the next morning and could almost see her own reflection in the pool of drool on the floor beside the couch. Staring back at her through narrowed eyes was the blurry vision of Eve, the evil alter ego whole resented never being born. The bitterness within that caused her to whinge and moan, and feel sorry for herself. There was no one left to blame.
    Her brain felt woolly and her body felt like it had been reassembled incorrectly. She sat herself up and with still squinted eyes she rose like a zombie to the table. She scooped the congealed mound of potatoes into the bin and decided to just get on with her life. It was her life and it was time to start living it.
    She had planned the overdose so meticulously that there wasn’t a morsel of food left in the house. A new life can’t be started on an empty stomach now could it? She’d have to go out, and so began the endless stream of indecision and complication.
    When she was on that cliff edge, staring into the abyss, when push came to shove, when the pressure was on and she was forced to decide, she could do it. She had held herself at knifepoint and stared down the barrel of her own shotgun. It’s that moment when it really matters, living in the now of the situation rather than in some ideal future when this is all over. That’s when making the right decision really matters.
    Her indecision had saved her life but there was one thing she was sure of; she had made the right decision. She did want to exist in this world and it was her choice to do so. It was time to take responsibility for herself.

    • I got the impression at the end that she hadn’t really changed, that she would just go back to being as indecisive as ever? I really liked that, that there really is no changing some people. We think that she is making a stand…and then the line “She wished she had made a double batch and only laced half of it just in case she changed her mind” flips everything and we know it never will. I particularly liked the detail at the beginning about her name being a question mark – strong start to the story that got me hooked. The “cliff edge” paragraph stood out as slightly incongruous to the rest of the story however – seems like a bit of a tone change? Or perhaps it’s the use of the cliche?

      I really enjoyed this story 🙂

      • Thanks for such useful feedback. I agree with you about the cliff edge paragraph. I wasn’t sure about it and decided to leave it. Now that I read back over it, it doesn’t fit. I think I’ll cut it and put maybe a sentence or image or two from it somewhere else, maybe where she makes her decision. Thank you very much for giving such great feedback, your impression was very helpful. I’m looking forward to sharpening this up.

    • I really liked this. Well done! The beginning was really intriguing and got me hooked right in. I felt connected with Eva and I had a lot of empathy for her, and I respected her choice of means to end it all (if that makes sense?) – treating herself to a fine meal and a fancy wine, just because she could. I got the feeling that if she’d treated herself with a bit more kindness and with a bit more love, she might not have ended up in such a desperate place. I loved this story, right up until the cliff edge paragraph. I actually think the whole story would be stronger without that section. Maybe, if you’d left it at something like: ‘She’d have to go out, and she knew it would all begin again,’ or something similar, it would be a more powerful way to end the story. Having said that, I like the hopeful notes in your concluding paragraphs, but they don’t seem to flow completely naturally. My favourite bit about this story is the detail you go into when describing her ‘last’ meal, the way she lifts her food out of the soil and goes on to prepare and eat it; it’s not at all extraneous, but so intrinsic to Eva’s characterisation. It’s like you’ve slowed down time, showing us how Eva is imprinting her last moments on her mind, perhaps even (unconsciously?) making an attempt to linger in the world that little bit longer. Well done, this was great.

      • Thanks for the great feedback. I’ve gone back and started editing and I have cut out the whole cliff edge paragraph (As well as a few sentences here and there) and it works much better without.You are totally right. I plan to have a look at the end and sharpening it up a bit, so thanks a million for that. I did wonder if I went into too much detail so I am delighted you think it’s intrinsic. Thanks for reading and for your really helpful critique.

  3. Poor girl, once she was indecisive and not she’s not sure. I like the way you took her to the edge and all the detail of the meal – sounds delicious, apart from the potato mix! The sentence: ‘She was never happy always changing her mind…’ feels unnecessary to me. Has the sentence about the evil alter ego gone a bit wonky? (Should it be ‘who resented ever being born’?). Lastly, should you have ‘can’t’ then ‘couldn’t it’? Same as all your writing, I really like it.

    • Thanks for the great feedback. I agree about that sentence; totally unnecessary. I will cut it. Great thanks. Much better without. not sure if I need the alter ego stuff either. I need to edit or clarify. “Eve, the evil alter ego whole resented never being born.” was never born/ existed or had a life except for in eva’s imagination as the person she should have been, causing her to resent who she really was indecisive Eva. the sentence did read funny to me too. maybe I don’t need it and it’s too complicated.
      “A new life can’t be started on an empty stomach now could it?” I’m not sure what you mean with this one but I deliberately put her asking this as a question. Maybe I need to change the punctuation to make it clearer.
      Thanks so much for your really constrctive feedback . It’s a great help.
      P.S. I love the co-incidence with the name choices!

      • I like the idea of the alter ego, it was just the wording that confused me. Re ‘can’t’ and ‘could it’, I feel you need ‘can’t’ and ‘can it’, or ‘could’ and ‘couldn’t it’ but not a mix of the two.

  4. Pingback: An Arrival. A story | running with bulls

    • Hope you are back soon. Well done on having a piece of writing ready each week for 29 weeks. That’s amazing and your stuff is always unique!

  5. #wednesdaywritein

    The Poacher

    He had killed the lights and engine, when he knew momentum alone would take the car to the edge of the field. With the car mute and motionless, he paused and searched for prying eyes.

    It was then he saw her run.

    It was dark.She couldn’t know the terrain: the ditch ahead was long and deep.

    He couldn’t let her kill herself.

    Forced to become a solid figure in the shadows, he rushed from the car and called out.

    She ignored his warnings.

    She was heading straight for the ditch. He was running, now. He slowed before the start of the deep trench and began his search along it.

    But she had disappeared.

    She had noticed him at the butcher’s. He had been at the post office. When they shuffled to avoid each other in the narrow aisle of the corner shop, he glossed over the ‘coincidence’. In the car park, she expected to have to let him down gently. But, he did not ask.

    Bundled. Panicked. Aware that the buildings and street lights were becoming fewer and less familiar, she decided to lie. She wouldn’t beg this bastard but, she would lie.

    The journey was long. She talked. She would have him listen. She said she liked the car, liked his style, a guy like him only needed to ask. She studied him while he digested this.

    He had liked it. ‘Lame fucker’, she had thought through her smile.

    She said he should give her a phone, buy her dinner, at least. His smile was genuine. She knew she had gained ground.

    He silenced the car and, they rolled to a standstill. It was her time to move. She was fast- her legs and heart pounded. He was out of the car quickly, but she knew how to disappear.

    • Wow. Chilling. The line ‘He couldn’t let her kill herself’ is the one that stands out for me – as I read your story, you’ve inverted the significance of this line really cleverly. In this scenario, I guess her killing herself (by accident) would take away the thrill he wants to get by carrying out the act himself. That’s a memorable and powerful image. I’m really hoping she escaped, and that contrary to his expectations, she did know the terrain and was able to hide somewhere. This is definitely one that’ll stick in my brain! Really good work.

    • Scary, but in a very good way! I like the way it begins and ends with the car stopping, the way one’s understanding of what is happening shifts halfway through the story, and the way ‘the victim’ takes away her abductor’s control. Great!

      • He’s an abductor and I’ve tried to play with the idea of poaching, he poaches her, but she is cleverer than him. That’s all I was going for. Opener has sinister connotations, that play out later, hopefully!

    • I got it on the second reading. He’s a nasty piece of work,and she’s sharp. I liked the way you did the first and last sentence thing. Clever.

      • Thanks for taking the time to read it. It’s good to know that the beginning/ ending work.

    • What a no hoper bastard (Something of him in all of us?). But he’ll probably do well in this life. I thought you outed him a little bit too early, though. Maybe not. He will be preying on my mind for a few hours yet.

    • What a great story! It took me a while to figure out that the narrator was unreliable (look at me, getting all theoretical), and that Mike wasn’t the bad guy. When the narrator started going on about Mike’s pension, it started to twig with me, and when I finished the story I read it again, knowing the truth about the narrative voice, and found so much richness in it. Second time round I could really appreciate the little hints that the person whose head we’re occupying is a right tool. Like mentioning Mike’s widow ‘will look better in a few months’ – I mean, *what*? That’s such a great detail. I also loved the way you punctuated the word ‘justified’ – I could really hear the speaker’s self-righteous tone and affected accent. Then, you skilfully manipulate the reader into thinking the narrator has some decency by using the word ‘realising’ – until we read on to find out the truth about what, exactly, he’s come to realise.

      I really enjoyed this. I have no complaints! 🙂

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