Wednesday Write-in #36

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.


on the ledge  ::  fingerprint  ::  subtitle  ::  just a cigar  ::  birthday


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.
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  • Please take the time to read and comment on as many other stories as you can.
  • If you want to write a poem, a script, or something completely different, feel free.

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61 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-in #36

  1. The Lapse
    Jack was content, sitting on the ledge, leaning back against the wall with his eyes shut, letting his mind wander. He thought how good it felt to have the sun on his face, how the background hum of distant traffic sounded soothing, and how he hadn’t had a cigarette for six whole weeks. Life was great. It was his birthday, he had the day off, and Jenny was coming round later. Now he remembered, she wanted to drag him to a matinee of some foreign film with subtitles.
    Jenny was coming round! Jack jumped up and went inside. He had to get the place tidied up after the poker session last night. Destroy the evidence. It wasn’t too bad. The guys had chucked out the empties and actually washed up the ashtrays in honour of his birthday so it didn’t smell too smoky. There were a few fingerprints on the glass table but they were quickly wiped away.
    He was ready when the doorbell rang. Jenny kissed him and smiled approvingly at the tidy room. But then she sniffed the air and spotted what he had missed, the butt of something on the floor. But it was just a cigar. Hand on his heart he could swear it was not his.

    • So evocative and atmospheric, and definitely a story that bears up to repeated reading. I’m left fascinated by Drake, and wondering exactly who (or what) s/he is. I love the way you’ve captured the movements and behaviour of the pigeons – their jerky little movements, the puffing out of chests, the exasperated dropping off the ledge into the air – and their way of describing human hair as being ‘like down’.

      I really loved this piece (no surprises there! You always write wonderfully), and I really admire the way you create such tension and menace and interest without being heavy-handed about it. Wonderful work, Sam!

    • A novel idea to write from the pigeons’ viewpoint and lovely descriptions. I thought the second human was someone coming to ‘rescue’ Drake, but was he a jumper? Watch out for the apostrophe – not needed in ‘its’ unless it’s short for ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.

    • The second human was coming to ‘rescue’ Drake, thinking them a ‘jumper’ but unfortunately fell themselves as a result of leaning on their tie and losing what balance they had.

      I found it hard to write that part without straying from the perspective of the pigeons. That’s why it’s so matter-of-fact and empty, I think.

      Thanks for all your responses!

    • I love the overall feel of this. Drake is interesting, and a little creepy. I am unnerved by his bird-like mannerisms, in a good way. I do think that it becomes slightly confusing, but that could be easily sorted. I thought the emptiness was quite interesting, thought it reflected Drake’s detachment from human society.

    • I love the way you used the pigeons’ perspective and their fear for the humans unable to land. I did find it got a bit confusing as it approached the end. Maybe some dialogue between the two characters would help to expand the limitations of pigeon perspective, just because they don’t understand it doesn’t mean that they can’t observe it. Just a suggestion to help with the confusing bits. I really enjoyed, well done.

  2. I agree this week is quite tough – anyway here goes:

    * * *

    “Hi Melanie, so lovely to see you, my god it’s been what, three years?”

    “Five, and don’t give me that crap, the last time we saw each other you sneaked to the toilet, and never came back! You left me with Ralph Anderson, oh and the bill for the wine and dinner for five.”

    The twins pulled at her arms, one left and one right, before she released them. They barged through the already opened French windows and out on to the deck, before disappearing down into the long narrow garden.

    “Oh yes, oops, how is Ralphy anyway?”

    He’s good Julie, dumping the car around the corner somewhere, christ there is no space around here, where is everyone going to park?”

    The kids were walking on the ledge of the Koi carp pond; Melanie had one eye on them, while the other eye was scanning the kitchen. It looked tasteful and expensive, depressing her even more; she noticed a child’s fingerprint on the row of sleek black wall units.

    Julie poured out a large glass of Australian sauvignon blanc, Melanie lifted the full and unwieldy glass. The sweet bouquet swirled up and into her nostrils, she felt significantly better.

    “Cheers and happy birthday sweetheart.” Both women knocked back a large mouthful.

    Ralph made his way up the staircase; he had slipped in through the back gate. He kicked his shoes of on the wooden decking and then made sure they were tidy. He made his way into the spacious kitchen after scolding the unruly kids.

    Melanie quickly picked up the scent of tobacco from his coarse hand knitted sweater.

    “Have you been smoking again?” His face blushed immediately, he never could fool her.

    “Just a cigar, a really small one, it is Saturday and Julies birthday, surely I can have a little weekend pleasure. Oh yeah, I see you have already thrown half a bottle of white down your neck though, great, looks like I will be driving us home then.”

    “What took you so long Ralph?” Julie air kissed near both of Ralph’s cheeks.

    “Some interfering old bloke told me I wasn’t to park outside his house, but to be honest, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. I was looking for a subtitle. I had to drive about three streets over before I got a space.”

    The front door bell was repeatedly pressed; the rest of the gang had arrived.

    • The exchanges in the dialogue are as natural as they come though they could do with some additional physical context. The piece moves at such a pace, I’m unsure where your characters are and at points, who is who.

      You open with a good potential conflict but it feels unresolved or forgotten after the first couple of paragraphs – was the bailing-out something you were going to explore? I think it would be worth exploring that event, and the amount of time that’s passed, in the present situation of the party.

    • I like the interactions here, and the hints you give at a deeper history behind the characters and their relationships to one another. I have to say, though, that at times I wasn’t sure who was speaking, because you sometimes follow a line of speech with an action tag which doesn’t belong to the character who is speaking. An example is:

      “Have you been smoking again?” His face blushed immediately, he never could fool her.

      I know that ‘he’ is not speaking here, but the way you’ve written it would make a reader think ‘he’ is, and it’s a bit confusing.

      I thought you could have done more with the ‘Ralph’ character; he seems like someone who’s disliked, and not still part of the group, at the beginning, so when he turns out to be the husband (?) of Melanie, it’s a bit confusing, too. But I did like the realism, and the fact that I could clearly picture all these people and their arrogant interaction with the neighbour, etc.; I enjoyed the read!

  3. Hi, everyone. A short one again, I’m afraid. Look forward to reading this week’s contributions.

    Book Worm
    I am in the main library, today. I like to leave little tokens between the pages of books- a strand of hair, an inky fingerprint and sometimes little quotations on sticky notes – inspirational stuff, when I am in the mood.
    Am I weird?
    Others do it too.
    I found a note once in a psychology textbook, “Help! I am out on the ledge!”. But I found that rather frivolous.
    I take the task more seriously.
    Sometimes I subtitle: Adulteress, Pornographer, Materialist. I am sure it’s useful to ‘like minds.’
    I gave Harry Potter a birthday card, pressed a flower for Knightley and Emma,
    and I clipped a fingernail for Chaucer.
    Today, I catch what I need. I leave the book open at chapter eight. I am patient. It lands. Its sticky little feet pause on the words. The Venus flytrap snaps.
    I press hard on the book cover just to be certain.

    • I love the idea of leaving things in books on purpose. It’s always exciting finding something unexpected whilst reading.

      Why does your character do this though? What drives her to take this so seriously – is she after something?

      The details make this short beautiful and relative, and the final surprise between the pages is a nice finishing touch.

      Nice work 😀

      • Thanks for that. Really appreciate it. I think the narrator has a warped sense of the puritanical that I would develop in a longer piece.

    • Oh, I really like this story! Which surprises me, because I’m such a book lover that I really don’t think I’d like to meet this person in real life if s/he ‘damages’ books like this. But, having said that, leaving little tokens in books for others to find is a great idea. At university I lived in the library and used to dream that I’d find a love letter tucked into a copy of whatever book I’d happen to pick up, and I liked reading the notes that other students left for each other, down through the years.

      I also love that you mention Chaucer, because I am obsessed with Chaucer. 🙂

      I love the end of your story. I love that we don’t know what s/he’s caught, what book it is, and why it’s been done. Brilliant! Well done.

    • Yes, this character is weird! I’m not sure I’d like to borrow a book she’s just put back! I really like the ending. I presume it’s a fly she’s trapped, but I wonder where she will go next, maybe human blood?

      • Thanks for reading.Yes, I felt there would be escalation. The title was meant to suggest her next move. But your suggestion is very interesting !

    • I really liked this especially the serious nature by which she approaches the task. The images of the gifts are great. As it stands this piece works well but it also has so much potentail to go anywhere. Well done.

  4. Pingback: Fallible Opinions - Short Story Month #24 / Wednesday Write In #36

    • Whilst I sense you didn’t have a feel for where it was going, I really liked the start of the story. There are so many people like that, and I think you have written her wonderfully. Your style reflects the humour in the story and despite what you said, I really enjoyed reading it!

    • I actually really liked it, and I thought it ended well. The last question from the mother character is totally in keeping with the way you’ve described her throughout the story, and hints at the detail you drop early on: ‘she never asks about any of the men’. I thought it was excessively clever, actually, instead of excessively poor in direction. Good job. Well done! I really enjoyed it.

    • I like the relationship and I especially liked the para on the food! So true about mothers feeling they have to feed everyone all the time.

    • I think you got the characterisation spot on. She is infuriating! I also like the irony that when her interference could be useful, she’s useless.

    • Ha! So near, and yet so far. I feel sorry for him. If I was faced with running a full marathon, I’d be looking for shortcuts, too. This was a great piece – fun, well-described, fully-realised characters, and wonderfully written.

    • Very enjoyable and well written, as always. The ending is cute – she likes the devious, lying, overweight slob just the way he is! Augurs well for their future relationship.

    • I really liked this,too. Your style is so easy to read. I want to like him, but the big talk and the cheating isn’t a good sign! However, I don’t like running either so maybe he’s alright. I wonder what things will be like for them.

  5. Pingback: The Edge. A story | running with bulls

    • I really liked it – I’m glad it didn’t end the way I expected it to! I totally understood the character’s feelings about her birthday, and I loved the detail of her looking at her own blood welling up from the wound on her finger, and comparing the life she sees in it with the dessication she feels in general. Really clever and compelling.

      Thanks for this – it was a great read.

    • I hate to think how she’ll cope when she’s 40! You capture her feelings well and I’m glad her ‘hero’ turned up in the nick of time.

  6. I agree. These prompts were tricky. After several abandoned attempts I finally got something finished at 2.45! Looking forward to reading the rest tomorrow; goodnight!

    Just a cigar
    Standing outside the entrance arch of Trinity, I had to relive all the emotions of that stupid day. I felt like a horse trying to conceal an army in my innards. I was overwhelmed by an illogical fear that I wasn’t going to fit under the arch. As I teetered and trotted over the cobble stones inside I felt as inconspicuous as Gulliver. I was in such a panic. I wasn’t sure what I had done. It was just a cigar I told myself. My brain automatically steered me to the Arts block.
    I dreaded showing my face back at college. I deliberately waited until the lecture already started to avoid awkward small talk. Not a good idea, it was like standing in a spotlight. Whispers rippled through the lecture theatre like a Mexican Wave as I made my entrance. “That’s her.”
    It was impossible to concentrate. The lecture was on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando. I was too ashamed to look over to the girls, where we usually sat. They wouldn’t want to be seen with me now. I took down words robotically: “The subtitle: A Biography, satirized the entire mission of the biography of great men by having her great man, Orlando, unexpectedly turn into a woman halfway through the novel.”
    After the lecture I busied myself with packing away my things and was surprised to look up and see the smiling faces of my friends congregate around me. They spoke over each other.
    “What happened? We saw them take you off. What did you do? Is it true? Everyone’s been talking about it. We want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Coming for coffee?”
    We huddled around a cloud of steam rising from cups of tea and coffee in the arts café, just like a normal day. It didn’t feel like I had just ruined my life.
    “Remember I was skipping that lecture to go shopping for ideas for Mark’s birthday?”
    “Told you he was trouble.”
    “He didn’t do anything. “ It was only after I had said it that I realised how defensive of him I’d become.
    “I was sick of his ex-wife looking down her nose at me. I wanted to really impress Mark with his present.”
    “What happened?”
    “Well I went to that cigar place; you know that posh one across the road between the bookshop and the soap place? What’s it called Peterson’s or something?”
    “Yea?” The four girls in unison, leaned in..
    “Well I didn’t plan it or anything it just happened?”
    “Well I looked around at all the fancy cigars and lighters and flasks. I could picture Mark all dressed up in his designer threads, standing in front of his fancy drinks cabinet enjoying a quality cigar. There was something so sophisticated about it that I aspired to. I knew I’d never be able to afford anything good enough but it was nice to indulge the fantasy.”
    “Did the shopkeeper come over to you or anything?”
    “He asked if he could help. He didn’t seem suspicious or anything. I suppose there was nothing to be suspicious of. Not until he went to answer a phone. I turned to put the cigar I had been coveting back in the display stand when I realised it would fit perfectly up my sleeve. With magician’s speed it was safely concealed and I was out the door.”
    “Where did you go?
    “I came straight back here to the Arts block. Well no actually I sat on the ledge outside. When a girl came out and sparked up a cigarette I asked her for one.
    “You don’t smoke.”
    “I know. I was probably years since I last smoked. I was probably drunk at the time. I was a nervous wreck”
    “But how did he find you?” “Must have CCTV.” They spoke over each other again, each one throwing her opinion and knowledge into the mix.
    “All I know is that when I stubbed out the cigarette and turned around there he was standing, accusing me and accompanied by a man in uniform. ‘That’s her.’ he said pointing at me. I think he must have followed me. It’s just across the road really.”
    “What happened next?”
    “Well you saw the rest just as you lot started coming out after the lecture. He arrested me. After they found the cigar they charged me.”
    “Did they take your fingerprints when they arrested you?”
    “Yea, It was horrible. I felt like scum. Each fingerprint seemed to float disembodied on the white paper. It was like each inky wrinkle was a bit of myself I left behind.”
    I could see now that the girls were feeling sorry for me. I was afraid I might cry. I was sick of feeling miserable and their perspective was a relief. I wasn’t about to tell them that me and Mark split up the day before his birthday. I suspect it was so he could have all the guilt free fun he wanted. Telling the girls that now would just push it all too far. That would make me the fool who deserved what I got. They had an instinctive dislike for him and we all knew it was a subject not to be discussed. Talking about Mark always ended in lectures of concern and arguments. I was glad to have my friends back.
    I decided to change the topic.
    “So Orlando becomes a woman eh?”
    I decided that later that evening I’d go home and ring my Mam and tell her that Mark and I were finished. She’d be relieved as long as I was ok and I was. I know she was worried about me especially with an ‘older divorced man’ as she put it. She didn’t want him taking advantage of me and ruining my career. She was so proud of me studying at Trinity.
    I decided I’d wait until after my graduation to tell her the rest of the story. Then she could add my criminal record to that big box of hers filled with all of my awards and achievements.

    • I loved this. I particularly like that I’m probably the only person reading this who can picture exactly where you’re talking about – Trinity’s front gate, Peterson’s, Books Upstairs, and all that, so it makes it extra real for me. Such a clever take on the prompt words, and such a well constructed story. I particularly love the last paragraph, and I simultaneously feel sorry for the mother and the daughter.

      Well done. This was a great story.

      • Thanks glad you enjoyed. Delighted you recognised the setting-I did my hdip in Trinity but I’ve never been in that cigar place! It was all hours when I was writing this so I am surprised it makes any sense! It does need a good edit though- lots to cut/fix- will defo keep the mother/daughter part.
        Thanks for reading and feedback; looking forward to reading yours.

    • A lovely story with many nuances. But I felt some of the dialogue escaped into your naturally beautiful poetic writing and therefore wasn’t in keeping with the rest. For example the sentence ‘With magician’s speed…’, and although I love ‘Each fingerprint …I left behind’ I feel the end of quote should be after ‘scum’. (PS I’ve visited Trinity library when I lived for a year in Dublin.)

      • You’re right about the dialogue; I’ll have to cut out these images. When I started writing the story there was no dialogue and so some of those images snook in! Think I was slightly aware of them when I was writing but I just wanted to get a first draft written. Thanks for pointing out the ones that jar- really helpful. Will cut the magican one and will have to make the fingerprint bit part of her internal narrative if I really want to keep it.It does end more naturally with “scum”. Ah you lived in Dublin? You might have been able to picture the setting so ! Thanks again for your really helpful feedback as usual.

    • I love the ending: criminal record with her awards etc. I feel so sorry for her. She’s in a right mess. Still time,though, to pull herself together. I like that her friends are supportive, too. It’s an interesting piece. The prompts were difficult but I like how you included the cigar. It reveals how young she is, stealing it , and what this man represents to her.

      • Thanks for reading Elaine. Glad you found it interesting, still needs work so so it’s really useful to get your view on what works. I will keep the end. Looking forward to reading yours!

    • This comment should be HERE: Great story if a little long for me. I’m not sure why you use Orlando. I don’t see how the symbolism fits and I’m missing any parallels between the Orlando story and the narrator’s.
      Definitely time to end a relationship when you need to impress the other half with a present. Nice little observation of human life.

  7. Great story if a little long for me. I’m not sure why you use Orlando. I don’t see how the symbolism fits and I’m missing any parallels between the Orlando story and the narrator’s.
    Definitely time to end a relationship when you need to impress the other half with a present. Nice little observation of human life.

    • Thanks for feedback. It does need cutting down alright-I’m planning to edit this alot! There’s not any intended symbolism between Orlando and the narrator. It’s just what’s going on in the background, it’s the novel she should have read for her lecture but obviously didn’t because of all the personal drama.To be honest I only chose it to include the prompt “subtitle”; maybe I could choose another more significant novel/film/ lecture topic. Thanks for that. Yes this relationship was doomed and her desperate act is an illustration of that so i’m glad that comes through. Thanks again Patrick for your really useful feedback.

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