My Weekly Writing Challenge

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For last week’s challenge, I wanted you to write a humorous piece and all your work made me smile. Thank you! This week, I’m going to give you a single line for a story/poem/article/anecdote. Now, this line can appear anywhere in your work – at the beginning, middle, end or somewhere in between. It’s all up to you. The line is:

 

I wish I hadn’t done it.

 

Now, here are last week’s funnies:

Keith Channing opted for a true story:

Shortly after arriving in France, we enjoyed that honeymoon period when everyone wants to visit – you know, before they realise how far it is to drive, just for a visit to a tiny hamlet where one of the dogs howling with frustration because he can’t pick up a hedgehog without hurting himself turns out to be the highlight of the month as far as excitement goes.

During that time, we had a visit from my wife’s parents. Both in their seventies, they had not been man and wife for many years, but always remained good friends. Father-in-law drove. They had an arrangement whereby, if one committed a navigational or other faux-pas, rather than argue, they would calm down over a Ginger Nut (a hard ginger biscuit/cookie for those not familiar with the genre). This was most effective, as it is not easy to gnaw such a challenging foodstuff with teeth that have already seen service for seven decades and probably feel that they should be presented only with less onerous duties.

They arrived at Le Havre, intending to drive the 535 km down to us. It should have taken about six hours. We added a couple of hours for stops, and expected to see them about eight hours after their call to tell us they were on French soil. A call from them about five hours later told us that they were entering Paris for the fourth time, but that they were confident that, this time, they would leave Paris facing south. They confirmed that the Ginger Nut supply situation was still within bounds. A couple of hours after that, they called to tell us they would stop for the night and sleep in the car, in one of the many aires along the autoroute. They chose a full aire (think motorway service area) rather than a simple aire de repos (think off-road picnic area with toilet facilities). This may have been a mistake, as they were awakened at about 5am by a gendarme (gen d’arme, literally man with gun – there’s a thought to carry with you) who told them in the French version of Franglais – Franglais being kind-of-French spoken badly by an English speaker, his was kind-of-English spoken badly by a French speaker – that they couldn’t sleep there, and they had to move on. Being, fundamentally, law-abiding citizens, they had another Ginger Nut each and set off again.

By a totally unplanned and unanticipated concurrence of events that serves only to reinforce that the universe has a devilish sense of humour, we were subjected the previous evening to a thunderstorm of such ferocity as to relegate the millennium celebrations to a mere firework display. It was sufficient to reduce my broadband modem to little more than a box of frazzled electronics. I left home at about 10.30am to drive the 30-odd kilometres to the nearest town, intending to buy a replacement. The possibility of being separated from the web is too painful to contemplate. On the way, as I was driving through a village only 8km from home, a small car with two older people in the front, both apparently chewing on something, came towards me. Just before we passed, I recognised my in-laws (but my, they looked tired) so I tooted and flashed. Knowing they were within fifteen minutes of arrival, I carried on to town. On arrival in town, I called my wife. Although it was a full half hour after I had seen them, they hadn’t arrived. I made my purchase and returned home, entering the house just before 1pm. Still no sign of them.

They eventually arrived at 2.30pm, having been into the nearby village and shouted their anglicised representation of the name of our hamlet (which, trust me, couldn’t have been much further from the way it is normally pronounced, if they had tried) to the great confusion of the local populace, and circling the area four or five times, passing the bottom of our road as many times – in each direction.

When they arrived, they were, if anything, more relieved than we were.

I understand that sufficient Ginger Nuts were consumed to support McVitie’s share price for some months!

 

Pat Hemstock sent in this delightful poem :

The shoes

It’s so wonderful being a Granny

To hear the words

‘I want to hold Granny’s hand.’

I look down at this beautiful child

And I say to her

‘I’ve got my favourite granddaughter.’

She looks up at me, eyes so big,

She says to me

‘And I’ve got my favourite shoes on.’

 

You’ll enjoy this look at life from Jasdeep Kaur:

Quirky Imagination

What if the genes
of human beings
were swapped with
some other beings?

Just imagine, If we looked
like elephants instead,
everything would be massive;
the dress, home, or bed.

If we were like small fish,
shark and octopus would
live in water national parks
as every wild animal should.

God forbid, if we looked
like slimy cockroaches,
we’d live in filthy gutters and
love its grimy notches.

Thank God, we are humans
and not any other life form.
Imagination is after all
a quirky little storm.

 

Jason Moody warned that endurance was necessary for this one!:

Worst Date

After trying on three different dresses, four pairs of shoes and two shades of lipstick, Caroline was ready.

It wasn’t that she normally took this long to get ready, she just wanted to look right.

She’d tried the little black dress but, that was a little too sexy for a first date she thought.
She tried on several light, floral dresses, but decided that they were best for a barbecue. In the end, after much deliberation, she opted to play it safe.

She stood in front of her bedroom mirror. The red dress was figure hugging enough for her to appeal, but not too much. A little black cardigan and she was done.

She ruffled her hands through her long, dark brown hair, still a little wet from showering.

She was nervous, but in a good way. Her stomach was full of butterflies. She hadn’t felt this way in a long time. Even though Pete and her had been together for six years, he still managed to make her stomach flutter.

This was her first time back in the dating game. The first time she had truly tried to move on.

She had met David online, despite vehemently denying she would ever do so. What if she got kidnapped? What if he turned out to be a serial killer? These were all justifiable concerns in her mind.

After three months of ‘getting to know you’ online chats – one of which was a discussion about the moon landings, but she was heavily under the influence of wine – they had decided it was time to meet.

It was David that asked, and it made Caroline giddy. A boy, well man, had asked her out. What was a girl to do?

Her immediate response, because no one would ever see, was to dance in her chair and act like a seven year old on Christmas Eve.

This, however, caused her to accidentally hit the keyboard and put an abrupt end to their two hour chat. Before she could figure out what to do, David was offline.

So, here she was. Dress on. Make up acceptable and favourite perfume on. She called for a taxi and waited.

The taxi dropped her off outside the bar. It was modern, popular and was easy for them both to get too. A pretty good first date venue.

She stepped inside, the bar was half full. She immediately spotted the comfy red sofas in the corner and made a bee live for the table.

She ordered a glass of Pino and told herself to relax.

She checked her phone. It was five past seven. She tried not to over think things. It was only five minutes after all. Better to be fashionably late than desperately early.

Ten minutes had passed. She had now started to chew the inside of her cheeks; a habit she detested but on occasion was powerless to prevent.

What had happened? Was David ok? Did he not like her after all and decided against tonight? Surely not she thought.

Twenty minutes. She was now feeling rather self conscious. She had garnered a few looks from other drinkers. A suited, and rather handsome man was now sat at the bar. He had already looked Caroline’s way and smiled.

For a second she had forgotten about her date and found herself worrying about him coming over.

Her fears were unfounded, as a beautiful young woman, young enough to be his daughter entered and planted a big kiss on the man’s lips. She looked Caroline up and down and then they left.

Thirty minutes had passed. The barman was walking over. She prayed he wasn’t thinking what she feared. He was young, probably at university she thought.

“Are you ok Madame?” he asked.

Madame? How old did he think she was?

“Yes. I’m fine. Thank you,” she replied, embarrassed.

She checked her phone. Nothing.

She was starting to feel a little stupid. She finished her glass of Pino and put on her jacket.

Outside the air was warm. As it was pleasant, she decided to walk home.

Stood up. How embarrassing.

Without warning, she felt a warm trickle down her cheek. The last thing she expected to do tonight was cry over a man she’d never met. She perhaps expected to tell the girls at work tomorrow what a bore he was and blah blah blah. But this?

She was by no mains a stone-hearted iron maiden; but Caroline wasn’t given much to crying. At least not over men. Kittens in distress and Greys Anatomy perhaps, but this?

By now she found herself blabbing uncontrollably, like a small child who can’t have ‘that toy’. She quickened her pace.

She got home. Threw off her jacket and reached for the takeaway menu in the kitchen draw.

Embarrassed. A little bit annoyed. This called for one thing in her mind; the largest pizza with all the trimmings. Sod him. Sod all men. Sod the calories. She could work it off with Harriet at the gym after work anyway.

She wondered. She looked to the small table in the living room. Her laptop stood idle.

She thought for no more than a second before firing it up. She checked her friends list and sure enough, he was online. What a bastard, she thought.

She opened up a chat window and began to think of a good opening gambit. Something witty? Something snidely? Something cruel? How about all three?

“Hiya” she typed.

She waited. A little message at the bottom of the screen indicated he was typing. This had better be good she thought.

“Hey you. How are you doing? How was your day?” was his reply.

She had been stood up and he was asking about her day. A few choice descriptions entered her head. At one of them she even grinned.

She had the perfect line.

“It was lovely to meet you” she typed.

The reply was lightning quick.

“?????”

The line of question marks annoyed her. She growled to herself.

“It would have been nice if you had told me that you weren’t coming tonight. Half an hour I waited. I feel like such an idiot. Thanks ”

That should do it, she thought.

She took a deep breath and waited. He was typing.

“????”

A second time. This really annoyed her. He was typing again.

“I have no idea what you mean? Tonight? We’re were meeting tomorrow night…oh no. You didn’t did you?”

She quickly checked her phone messages. She scanned through all the messages from David.

Sure enough, In bold type, was a text with tomorrow’s date. Her stomach, if it could, would have shot out of her mouth. She felt so stupid, but now for different reasons. She wanted the ground to open up, swallow her, spit her out and swallow her again. She laughed to herself.

She couldn’t think of anything to say, so instead just used an emoticon to express her embarrassment. She just hoped that this little episode hadn’t put him off.

Just then, her mobile phone buzzed in her handbag, accompanied by Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’.

It was David.

“Hi,” she said, still feeling a tad ridiculous.

She could hear him laughing on the other end. She pretended to be annoyed. “It’s not funny.”

“Was you wearing something nice?” he asked.

“Was? Still am,” she said giggling.

With this, they both started laughing. A relief washed over Caroline.

“You’re ok, yeah?” he asked.

“Uh huh,” Caroline said through a yawn.

“Keeping you up, are we?” he laughed.

Caroline was all flustered. Speaking to him made her feel this way. He had a way if making her feel…great.

“Fancy going online for a bit?” she asked. “Give me ten minutes to get out if my date clothes…”

David was laughing down the other end.

“Ok. Catch you in a bit.”

“Bye,” she said and hung up.

She ruffled her hair. Wandered into the bathroom and removed her make up. She undressed and put on her pyjamas and loaded up the laptop.

They chatted for over an hour. Most of which was David taking the Mickey, the rest of it was Caroline being shamelessly flirty. She loved it.

The next morning, her phone buzzed on the bedside table. It was a text from David.

‘Don’t forget our date tonight. Look forward to seeing you x’

Caroline smiled. Cheeky sod she thought.

Markets For Writers

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Markets For Writers

This week’s market is for UK and Irish residents. Purple Pumpkin Publishing have just started to hold regular short story and flash fiction competitions. There’s a competitions page on their website, which gives details of all the up and coming competitions.

Entry is free. A small cash prize is offered to the winner and each story is published on their blog page.

Every competition has a prompt word and there are some great prompts so take a look and get inspired: http://www.purplepumpkinpublishing.com/competitions/competitions.htm

For more markets, take a look at my ‘Markets For Freelancers’ and ‘More Markets For Freelancers’ pages.

Monday Motivations/The ABC Of Short Story Ideas Part Five

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Monday Motivations/The ABC Of Short Story Ideas Part Five

This week, it’s on to M,N and O:

M is for money: They say money is the root of all evil. Your story could centre around this theme and feature a character who will do anything for money. Perhaps he goes a step too far and gets his comeuppance. Or your story could be about a character who doesn’t have any money and who struggles day to day. What happens when that character is pushed to her lowest ebb? This could make an emotional and heart-felt read or your character could come into some money and find her life turned around. 

N is for new:  The word ‘new’ conjures up all sorts of storylines from a new job, to a new hobby, to a new boyfriend/girlfriend to a completely new start. If we take the latter, your character could be on the run. She may have been in trouble with the law but realised her mistake and be trying to make amends. Or she could have gone through a messy divorce and be looking forward to a fresh start on her own.

O is for operation: This could be taken in several ways. Operation could mean having an operation in hospital. Your character could be a child knocked down by a car. He’s rushed into hospital and his family face an anguished 12-hour wait.

Alternatively, operation could mean a different type of operation – perhaps a surveillance operation carried out by the police. Who is being watched and what happens is up to you.  

These are only a few ideas. Hopefully you’ll have plenty more and be eager to start on some stories.

Top Tip Of The Week

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Top Tip Of The Week

Say no to head-hopping!

Adding a character’s thoughts to a story can help the reader to connect with the character. You can do this for  more than one character but don’t use more than one character’s thoughts in the same scene. If you constantly hop from one character’s thought to another, it can be very confusing as to who is thinking what e.g.:

Judy looked at Dave longingly. I wish you would notice me, she thought, I’ve certainly noticed you.

Why is she staring at me? “Can you file these reports away for me please, Jenny.”

It’s Judy! He doesn’t even know my name! “Of course, right away.”

“You can let go now.”

I’d rather not. 

Let the reports go. Is there a problem?” For goodness sake! 

No, there’s no problem at all.

This is just a short passage. See how it starts off ok but gets harder to keep track of who is thinking and saying what.

My Weekly Writing Challenge

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I asked for chills last week with my challenge for a ghost story or poem. Thank you to all those who entered. You can see the results below.

This week’s challenge takes you from a ghostly theme to a humorous one. I’d like you to make me smile or laugh out loud. You can send me a true story – something funny that’s happened to you or you could write a fictional story/poem. It’s up to you.

Now, prepare for goosebumps!:

Keith Channing had never written a ghost story before. Here’s his brilliant first attempt:

I couldn’t remember typing that line, but I suppose I must have. It couldn’t have typed itself, could it?

No-one ever enters my study. It’s my private domain. No-one else could have typed it.

I had just finished my eighth cup of double-espresso, and it was only 10am. Lots of caffeine and a couple of other things keep my mind in its most creative state, but I can’t, in all honesty, say that when it is in that state, I am in complete control of it.

I wasn’t at all concerned that there were words on my screen that I couldn’t remember putting there. It was the words themselves that concerned me.

“Julian hasn’t been seen for a very long time,” they said. There is no character in my story called Julian. I deleted the words and carried on writing, vowing to have no more coffee that morning. My mobile phone rang, and I took the call. After the call, I returned my attention to the screen.

“Julian was not a bad boy, he was just a bit naughty. But he hasn’t been seen since that night.”
That I didn’t write. I was on my phone. Who is or was Julian? What night? I typed those questions onto the computer.

Just then, the computer went off. I flipped the light switch. Nothing. Power cuts in the middle of winter aren’t unusual here. I went downstairs to the fuse cupboard, to see if it was something I could fix. It wasn’t. It can’t have been a general power cut, as I could hear the radio coming from downstairs, and the washing machine was on its spin cycle. I went back upstairs.

On entering the study, it was apparent that something was wrong. For one, it was unusually cold. For another, the computer monitor was glowing. Nothing was showing on the screen, no graphics, no text, just a diffuse light. At first, I dismissed it as the afterglow that is often present on old-style CRT monitors, where the tube retains some charge after shutdown. This was an LED screen, though. And it was pulsing.

As I sat and looked at it, the words “Thank you for coming back” appeared in the middle of the screen. I typed furiously, “Who are you?”

The screen cleared, and three words appeared:

“I AM YOU…”

 

Phen Weston took up the challenge for the first time with this atmospheric poem:

Her Ghost Walks Stars

Through births and deaths,
Haunting oceans of emptiness,
She solely walks with
Universal falling stars,

An apparition to dead worlds
Manifested between nebulous crypts,
As revenant watcher of long days
She wistfully travelled light years,

A spiralling impression
Faintly touching those who lived
Grounded, A trace, hint, suggestion
Of what could have been,

And all she yearned, the one
Who sent her pirouetting
Through the heavens, false love,
Breathless she had become,

Black hole and doppelgänger,
Reformed and deformed,
Invisible to all who could have
Changed her failing orbit,

How could she not become
The fault in her own star?
When her internal reflection paled
Against the backdrop of the universe,

Macrocosms revolved, Totality embraced,
She became endless cosmic dust
Floating through outer space,
Atoms split, timelessly out of place…

 

Jason Moody‘s story will leave you wanting more:

Samantha entered her flat and threw her bag onto the sofa. The Wall of windows let in the orange glow of the streetlights outside.

It had been another long shift at the hospital. It had been pretty uneventful; but it was tiring all the same.

She poured herself a glass of water and shuffled into the bedroom. She turned on the bedside lamp, and quickly threw off her scrubs and put on her bed clothes. She threw back the duvet and slipped under the covers.

She laid her head on the pillow and let her eyelids fall.

She had no idea what the time was when she awoke. A scratching sound was coming from the foot of her bed.

She flicked on her bedside light. She sat up and stared straight at the large, oak wardrobe at the foot of the bed.

The scratching continued.

Samantha decided it must be a bug, and that it would probably scurry off. She switched the light off and closed her eyes.

A tickling sensation made her scratch her nose. It persisted. She reached for the light and with heavy eyelids, flicked it on.

Her eyes shot open. A cold pulse shot through her. Right beside her, inches from her face a black beetle sat, its antenna twitching.

She shot upright and swiped the insect from her pillow. It hit the wall, and then scurried across the floor towards the wardrobe.

Samantha reached into the draw of her bedside table and pulled out a book. She wouldn’t sleep until the bug was squished.

As she climbed out of bed, she saw the bug disappear into the small gap between the doors of the wardrobe.

The scratching intensified. With book in hand, she edged towards the wardrobe. She reached out with one hand and pulled the door open.

The base of her wardrobe was covered with beetles, their armoured bodies shining in the dim light. They flowed, in their hundreds, into the room.

Samantha screamed and moved away from the wardrobe. The beetles surrounded her, climbing up her legs.

She wriggled violently, and batted them off her skin as quick as she could. Her heart was racing, her breathing erratic.

She edged backwards towards the window. The beetles appeared not to follow in her direction.

Behind her, the latch in the window clicked. She heard a thud as if something had fallen into the room.

She froze. A black, scaly, three fingered hand rested on her shoulder. She turned.

Facing her, draped in a dark, torn robe, stood a thin figure, whose face was obscured by a draped hood.

Suddenly, she noticed twisted, yellow teeth form a wicked smile. It raised its bony finger to its mouth.

“Sssssh,” it whispered.

 

Jasdeep Kaur sent in this stunning poem:

The Shadow

Murk veiled the luminous sky;
birds hid in the nest;
tides pounced to rescue the moon;
the life prayed for best.

The owl yelped aloud.
From the morgue, it rose -
the shadow of obscurity
shoving barriers with its blows.

The door opened, hinges creaked.
Unaware, she slept.
The lamp flickered, dog mourned.
In the corner, the cat wept.

It entered her body,
and she was enslaved.
For endless ruthless murders,
another era was paved.

 

Now have a go at this week’s challenge!

 

Markets For Writers

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Markets For Writers

You’ll need to get your skates on if you want to take advantage of this week’s market, ‘The Costa Short Story Award‘. The annual competition has a closing date of Friday 1st August 2014 and the entry must be sent by 4pm.

Stories on any theme are invited and there’s a word limit of 4000 words. Only one entry per person is allowed.

It’s well worth an entry with a first prize of £3500! Second place receives £1500 and third place £500.

To get a feel for the type of story likely to win, you can read previous winning entries.

The entry rules are very specific so do take a careful look at the website: https://www.costa.co.uk/costa-book-awards/costa-short-story-award/

The competition is only open to entrants who reside primarily in the UK. If that doesn’t apply to you, take a look at my ‘Markets For Freelancers‘ and ‘More Markets For Freelancers‘ pages as there are some international competitions you can enter.