100-Word Challenge

In our latest workshop we gave our writers a 100-word excerpt and task them with finishing the scene in just 100 words themselves.

Here is the excerpt they were given:

Silvo groaned and opened his eyes slowly. The three monstrous dragons were amassing from every side, their huge shadows enveloping him. The blow he had been dealt had not only knocked him out long enough for the dastardly warlock to summon the dragons but had also severed our brave knight from his trusty sword. Warm droplets of blood trickled down Silvo’s forehead. The dragon to his right was red and winged, the dragon to his left was green and horned. The dragon behind him cast the largest shadow of all and its warm breath was encroaching upon Silvo’s neck. Suddenly….

 

 And here is what they came up with:


 

SUPER DRAGON HAZE

The vapes were charged and ready. Silvio preferred old-fashioned cigars, the fat phallic stumps of carbon; but he was being hospitable to his candy-crush dragons, whose penchant for vapes could be traced back to the saturated valleys of their infancy. Silvio matched flavours with the colours of each dragon: pastoral apples for the green one, cherry-cola haze for the red one. Together they smoked, each warm breath mingling delightfully in the air. Logos for corporate sports brands flashed like religious symbols in the darkness and suddenly the lights of the mall flicked on, drowning among dead muzak.

/ DJ Misty

[word count: 100]

 


 

PEE-EW!

Silvo turned around and shouted at the dragon behind him.

“Woah man, you need some tic-tacs or something ‘cause your breath stinks!”

The dragon, looking dejected sat back on his haunches and huffed a mighty puff. “You think so?” he asked glumly “I’ve been trying to eat healthier you know?”

The other two dragons had come put their wings around the largest’s shoulders.

“It’s okay dude,” said Silvo. “Here, try this.” Silvo ripped off a branch of a nearby mint bush and gave it to the dragon who ate it and instantly perked up.

He smiled toothily, “Wow, cheers man.”

 

/Tricky Dicky

[word count: 100]


 

LET’S GET IT ON

…the green dragon transformed into a bottle of champagne, the red one into a rose, and the large shadow cast behind Silvo fell as a blanket at his feet. From a cloud of smoke appeared an Adonis-like man with long flowing locks. His rippling bare chest was exposed and Silvo suddenly felt the strength of his ‘sword’ return to him.

“My name is Fabio and you are my hidden desire,” breathed the sexy sexy man.

Silvo tossed his armor aside and Fabio popped the champagne and then they lay down on the black silk blanket and had hot passionate sex.

 

/MC Bubble

[word count: 100]

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The Sweetest Meats

When I was younger, my father took me to a sweets factory. He felt guilty, I suppose, for divorcing my mother and taking the house with him, the car too and all her belongings. Anyway, we had a good day. There was so much to see at this sweets factory. There were special machines which cut shapes into chocolate, people in funny hats pouring colourful juice into moulds, a room chockfull of strawberry laces. I don’t know if it was a storeroom or what, but you were allowed to go in and even touch the stringy candy. The stuff was strung from racks tied to the ceiling – long thin strands of it like spaghetti – and you could lie back down on piles of it which were heaped on the floor in messy bundles. There was a sign on the wall explaining how the room was meant to test the ‘elasticity’ of the laces, and there was a diagram which showed how they were made. I wasn’t interested in any of that. I just liked the colour and the waxy, sticky texture, the slightly sour fruitiness that filled my mouth, the endless scrapping with the other kids as we fought for the longest, thickest pieces.

My father would stand in the corner and watch me playing. I suppose it amused him to see me high on E numbers, racing around and swinging from strips of red candy. Maybe it was a power game too, since my mother would never let me near so much as a square of chocolate. I remember feeling wild in that room, tearing and snapping lace after lace, shoving the sugary goodness past my lips.

Sometimes I feel like that now. Wild, that is. In the abattoir where I work, picking and sorting pile after pile of animal carcasses, I sometimes get the same burst of primal excitement. Maybe it’s the sight of red that does it: that dull, fleshy red that signals the release of something. A spirit leaving the body, ten grams of sugar gushing through the bloodstream. I tie up, I measure; I slice and cut. It is not the same as ripping with my fingers, as bending and biting with my milk teeth. Still, there is something of a similar thrill, a need for tangibility.

When my father visits now, frail in old age, we talk about the news, about airy things like art and philosophy. He pretends not to notice my bloodstained aprons, drying in the living room, the books on butchery stacked in my kitchen. We never mention my mother, or what happened to her. After a few days, he leaves me with a feeling of deep dissatisfaction, an emptiness and longing for something unplaceable. I feel like an abandoned hatchling, picking at scraps of carrion in the undergrowth of some lonesome forest. No matter how I try, I can never get back to that memory, the snap and tweak of those sugar laces between my teeth, the feeling of sweet, fizzy joy.

I can only raise the cleaver, imagining the tug of muscle, sheaths of connective tissue clustering with fat cells and capillaries, becoming something solid and substantial, becoming meat. And that red stuff – dried, salted and cured – is all I can cling to, all the love I have for the world.

— Maria Sledmere

(Flash fiction February prompts: carrion, laces)

Abrasions

He has left his knife behind.

This is not the kind of mistake he makes. Normally, he would pick up his things with such precision it was as if he were articulating some private symphony. Everything in order: gloves, coat, scarf, rope, knife. The rules of his hunt are simple enough. He always said that tools were crucial to a man’s success. We are not human without our tools; without our tools, we are no better than animals.

He likes his statements strong, like his liquor.

I suppose he would not think twice about leaving me with his knife. Maybe something distracted him this morning; maybe the chickens were scrapping in the yard, or he did not like the way I slept as he stood over me, brooding. I like when he does that. I feel small but powerful, because he does not know that I am actually awake. He sees me in my smallness alone, a fragile animal. So I like to sleep for him; it is a performance.

He does not know the way I think sometimes. I think about my body and what it can do for him, what it can do without him. I know all the places where I have scratched and scratched, where my nails have abraded the skin, worn it to a raw red patch. Places he does not see: the bone of my ankles, the back of my knees.

I am to prepare a marvellous lunch for him. He will return to some hearty casserole, heavy with beef and laced with star anise. I will lure him back to me with that strange, sweet fragrance.

I curl the peelings from the vegetables with his knife. It is a treat to use, so sharp. The shavings fall away from me, down onto the floor, dropping, dropping. I cut the tip of my finger accidentally, and a bright bead of blood forms on my skin like a blob of fresh dew. I lick it clean off. It gathers again and some of it splashes into the stew. Inevitable, I suppose. It is tempting, of course, to make another elision – to practice this art upon my body, to reestablish the terms of my own possession.

But I don’t. I leave the food to cook and go to the window, where I will watch for him in the raw morning, the hanging cabbage untouched, swaying behind me mysteriously. I have not used this cabbage in the stew; I prefer its abstract presence, just as I prefer the scratch and itch of my fingers, so much stronger than any tool.

— Maria Sledmere

(Flash Fiction February prompts: waiting, still life of fruit & vegetables)

 

Workshop Creations: Character Week – ‘Circus Act’ (by Ailsa et al)

“My character is: Georgie Hunter

She is a bartender and a stalker.

She has an unusual fetish (clowns and acrobats).

She is enthusiastic.

History:

She lives around Europe, moving a city every year or so. She follows various circuses around the countries, for she obsessed with them in terms of her fetishes and her loves.

She has met a lot of people in the circus, but things seem to focus on one in particular, where the rest of the characters have involvement.

She is addicted to stalking people, of finding out their secrets and organising strange orgies.

She is usually happy though, with an addictive personality.

Setting: An unknown European city. There is a ballet troupe nearby as well as the circus. The ballet dancers perform at the circus sometimes.

Connections and past:

Barbara, a Wax-Works exhibit curator for the circus, was once in love with Sneed.

Sneed is a plastic-surgeon who is grumpy as shit.

Barbara and Sneed had Gunther some time ago.

Gunther found out his father was a plastic surgeon, and left when he found his mother having a massive orgy with clowns, giving him clown-ophobia. He left to find his father, and though he decided not to tell Sneed their connection, trained under Sneed anyway.

Georgie was the one who organised the orgy.

Barbara went to Gunther later, not knowing she was her son, and got botched plastic surgery.

Now:

Georgie likes Harold, an old clown (retired grump).

Harold, though, likes Barbara.

Miles is a car salesman who was an up-market snob but was dejected by his parents. He has an obsession with vanity and preserving things. He likes Georgie as she is young and beautiful.

Miles also likes Lela, the ballet dancer though. She used to baby-sit him and he has an Oedipus complex with her.

Lela is friends with Barbara who wants to make Lela beautiful, like she once was, before Barbara’s botched surgery.

Lela goes to Gunther for the surgery, but Gunther likes her so makes it good. Lela likes him back.

Margot is Lela’s progidy in ballet dancing. She is the young elegant version of what Lela was when she just began dancing. Margot is friends with Barbara.

Gunther likes Georgie, as he sees her stalking the circus.

Story:

Georgie the stalker follows everyone and finds out their secrets and the truth of everything.

In a good mystery fashion she brings them all to the Wax-Works and reveals the truth. Sneed is shocked at the revalation he has a son.

Barbara decides to kill herself, throwing herself into a vat of wax, crying “I always loved you,” to Sneed.

Harold though, leaps in after her to save her, but because he is old he fails and falls in also. They die together as a couple, in each other’s arms.

Aftermath:

Harold and Barbara become the centre piece for the new circus.

Georgie starts a relationship with Miles, after her “true love” is now dead.

Lela becomes the new Barbara, takes over the Wax-Works, and Margot becomes the new Lela, excelling in dancing to high levels.

Gunther and Lela end up together.

Sneed drives away, the villain of the piece, in a car sold to him by Miles.”

Workshop Creations: Character Week (by Maria et al)

“We thought the idea we had would work best as a screenplay or television series. A bit like Lost, in terms of a set of random characters coming together over an exceptional circumstance, but with faster pacing than Lost and it would be a self-contained series, maybe like six episodes. A bit cinematic, very visual.

My character was: Alfie, the obsessive architect who experiences prophetic dreams.

These dreams portray the collapse of the building he has most recently designed. The collapse occurs in various ways, but always involving some kind of impact, implosion or explosion. Through flashbacks we come to understand that these dreams originate from Alfie’s experience of witnessing 9/11 from his mother’s living room, staring at the television and thinking he was just watching a pretty brutal disaster movie. It was only in the ensuing weeks, with further reporting and a shaky lesson at school, that he came to understand that this thing had actually happened. Throughout the series, there will be stuff about the flimsy nature of reality, the slippery relation between fantasy and reality, representation and real life. In Alfie’s head, 9/11 still sears with this uncanny, filmic quality. He can’t help but design all his buildings in a very similar style to the Twin Towers. All his sketches bear traces of that primal trauma. He used to have dreams where the fall of the second tower would loop over and over again in his mind, and he’d wake up in cold sweats. Now the dreams are about his own creations. He was a very prolific architect and sailed through university, completing his degree in fewer years than the required seven. The dreams of collapsing creations started when he started uni.

He tries to control this strange situation by designing elaborate architectural landscapes, ones with the sturdiest materials. It takes years to build them, but sure enough, the night before opening, he will dream of its destruction and awake to the fresh creation burnt to ashes, collapsed to rubble. After a while, people begin to be suspicious of him and he stops being hired by architect firms. Then, when word gets out about the slightly supernatural trail of bad luck that follows him, Alfie is hired by artists who are interested in the transience of the modern urban landscape. Everything he draws and builds is beautiful, but fleeting, they write on their website. They are planning to make a documentary film which will end up looping in the exhibition rooms of the Tate for the whole of winter. His crumbling towers capture the essence of contemporary consumer futility. In his spare time, he is designing a new hypermarket, in the American style, hoping for success on British shores. He has a hopeful sense about this one; that it won’t fall down, because its purpose is so insignificant. A place where people buy groceries, reduced tellies, own-brand shampoo. Surely it would not warrant the usual extravagant disaster.

Other characters:

  • 2 x TV executives
  • Spy
  • Hitman
  • Adult entertainer

Plot points:

  • People are drawn to the supermarket because it is advertised as an innovation in consumer experience, designed by a famous architect. They want to experience the surreal browsing wonderland of an American hypermarket.
  • Alfie waits for the customers to arrive, watching them from the roof as he nervously sips brandy. He has not had the prophetic dream yet; there is no telling what will happen to this particular building.
  • The spy is actually chasing the hitman, pursuing him through the supermarket?
  • The adult entertainer, Wendy/Gwendoline, is drawn to the hypermarket because it sells very rare health-giving berries (from a specific Australian wetland) at a precious price. This is what also draws the health-conscious (unhealthily addicted to being healthy) TV executive. Turns out Wendy knows a special recipe for unlocking the berries’ hallucinogenic properties.
  • There is a war going on outside – some kind of vague nuclear meltdown between nations. A lump of debris/plane crashes into the hypermarket, shattering half the building. All the characters have to make their way to the safe part, picking their way over collapsed shelves and bodies and bricks like they are trapped in a labyrinth.
  • Everyone is oblivious to the war.
  • There is a television broadcasting disaster on a loop (because the crash cut off the signal and so it got stuck on one particular scene) but they assume it’s just a movie. Deja vu – 9/11.
  • One of the TV execs (the deceitful one) is secretly filming everything as the characters work their way through the hypermarket, fending for survival and trying to work out how to reestablish their phone/internet signal to send for help.
  • It is all about questioning what we take as reality: we witness the hypermarket from each character’s perspective – the anxious architect battling with guilt, the hallucinating Wendy and Steve McNicol the TV exec., the mesmerised hitman staring at the telly, worrying about his cat who is pining at home without him.
  • There is an irony because we know about the war outside and they don’t; they think the supermarket is a sinister environment, but actually it’s providing domestic sanctuary from the war outside (e.g. have cute scenes where characters share Pop Tarts and cereal straight from the packet, chatting about how they miss their houses).
  • It ends with the discovery of a giant telly, and the revelation that the TV executive has been filming them all along; one of them hears their own voice repeating something they have said before and follows it along to discover the telly. The final scene, perhaps, will be the characters all staring up fearfully at this giant screen reflecting their own selves – and they are frozen into silence (a silence perhaps suggestive that even the world outside has ended?).”

Dear Sweetheart

You think: maybe this is it. The moon shines through the skylight and you sigh and rip up the page; the page made painfully white by the unwanted brightness. All the words that had only moments ago bubbled up in your chest now sink down again, forming a rock in your stomach. Another day now wasted.

What is it about these cool autumn nights that drive you to the silence of the attic? It is the children, who exhaust you with their endless longing. You love them really, but your love is a kind of virus, something that spreads and eats away inside of you; that mutates and morphs into a hard and enduring endlessness. You can rely on it, its certain dwelling. Sometimes you forget about it, but it will come back to you when you are not expecting it. That drawing on the wall: the crayon is fading but the shape is the same. Seeing yourself in your son’s image; you never thought it would turn everything inside out the way it has.

No, it is something more than the virus that drives you here. As you climb the ladder with your wearied limbs, you feel the thread again; you feel the thread pick up and you can visualise it, clear as the dark clot of leaves in the bottom of a teapot, clear as your first day at school and the image of his face. You are at work stacking shelves and suddenly you feel it all unravelling, as if you were having a panic attack or going into labour. You see the threads spiral out from the coiled knot, loosening and flailing like snakes. It leaves an empty feeling for days.

A summer evening of long ago; it happens on you by chance, as it always does. You click the keys of your typewriter, eking out words like it might kill you. You rely on the words to make things solid again: you need the feel of their tangibility. Crisp scent of grass and starlight in the air; he leans his head on my lap, he tells me about the time his cat died when he was five. You bite your lip. Everything seems fickle and silly against the cleanness of the page. It is a shame to spoil the whiteness. We bought strawberries; we whispered our thoughts about the future. He would buy a camper-van and travel America, and I would go with him after my degree. We would end up clever intellectuals on a lovely salary, then we would be free. Was it even true? Even once? The letters flash back at you and seem hollow and false. You light a cigarette and painstakingly stab a smouldering hole through every word. The smoke fills your lungs and you are calm. But still the thread unravels, and still you cannot weave it tight again.

The sound of crying downstairs. It will be your little girl. You do not go to her, though she is still a baby. You feed a new page into the machine.

In August you got ill. The typewriter echoes round the room, sounding loud and somehow alien, as if another person were typing it. You feel as if the moon could hear you, and the effect is uncomfortable, a conscious voyeurism. They took you to hospital and for months we could not speak; nobody would let me see you. I clung to alcoholic nights by the river with friends, the daydreams charred from the dull glow of so many winter fires. I let anyone kiss me, anything to take me away from you and your memory. You feel something rise up inside of you: the image clarifies. You hear it stronger despite the loudening sound of your daughter’s wailing cry. We only met once again; you probably don’t remember. A cold day in December, the streets powdered with snow, Christmas shoppers clogging the space between us. But I stopped and called for you. You talked of the weather and your mother and you did not look in my eye. You are addressing him directly now, imagining the glitter of his green irises gazing back at the text as you fire it out upon the paper. Electricity simmers through you, shuddering to the pulse of the typebars clicking upon the ribbon. I have thought about it for so long – that awful vacant day. I think about you now, where you are and what you are doing. All the letdowns, the disappointments. I gather up all the gossip I can, try to lace the threads together; you see, no matter what happens I still feel connected to you. I have two beautiful children and I wish they could meet you. I cannot explain it, but I know that if you wrote to me I would travel anywhere in the world to get to you. It streams out of you now and you are not thinking about what you are writing. When you are finished you release the paper from the machine and you do not read over it because it is no longer anything to do with this moment, this cataclysmic silence. The moon disappears behind thick sooty cloud. Now you are truly alone.

You lay the letter on the desk and take up your pen to sign the bottom. It has been so long that your signature seems odd and impersonal. You hover over it, hesitant.

The fountain pen bursts and its ink sprays out across the page. There is a fold in time when all sense slips away. But still you see the words underneath, enduring like the love you feel for your children. Enduring like the memories of that enchanted journey, the future promise of each sparkling place. You close your eyes and look again at the paper, and every speckle of ink reminds you of the freckles on his face.

(Prompts: journey, soulmate, ink)

by Maria Rose Sledmere

“Sea Lady” dies aged 82′, by Rut Neuschäfer

(Written with inspiration from the ‘fractured fairytales’ section of our ‘Scottish Writing, Fairytales & Folklore’ Session last week.)

— The Maryport Chronicle 27/1/2015 “Sea Lady” dies aged 82.

“Sea Lady” dies aged 82
Arielle Delamare, Maryport’s most popular citizen and protector of the shores, died yesterday at the age of 82 years. This morning, a Greenpeace spokesperson confirmed the organization’s oldest activist’s decease. “We all know the story about the mysterious woman who came ‘out of the sea’ to join the fight of the preservation of our maritime areas. Arielle did not only show a great passion for our goal but also proved to have an exceptional understanding of the seas and their mechanisms.”
The woman who came out of the sea has indeed become a myth of our time. More than sixty years ago, only a few days after the big storm, a mute and apparently confused young girl appeared on the beach being dressed only in a ragged sail. She had been wandering around the city for a whole day before local authorities brought her to the hospital. One of the nurses grew fond of the girl, who – once given paper and a pencil – kept asking desperately for the “handsome man with the dark hair and the eyes as grey as the sea on a winter day”, so she offered her a place to stay and taught her sign language.
It took a ten year search and an emotional TV appearance that was broadcast nationwide for Arielle Delamare to accept that she had “found and lost love at first sight“ as she would describe the feeling later. According a more recent interview, realising that her Prince Charming was not meant to be her ever-lasting companion was a crucial part of her growing up.
At the age of 26 Arielle Delamare joined Maryport’s Maritime Life Form Protection Society and consequently became a member of the newly founded organisation Greenpeace. After having spent a decade of her life on the fruitless search for the unknown stranger she then directed her energy on the preservation and protection of our seas, lakes and rivers. Actions like the brave saving a group of seals (later claimed to be selkies) from being killed by tow Norwegian seal hunters, her fearless speech to the world leaders at the UN summit in 1993 and her hunger strike until the oil platform Kentigern improved its security standards will remain in the public memory.
Little is known about her private life apart from the tragic love story in young age. Despite having been seen with various men, she never married and does not leave any children.
In accordance to her wishes, Arielle Delamare’s body will be cremated and her ashes will be scattered in the North Sea on Sunday at twelve o’clock.

“It’s her!”
The newspaper article slipped out of the old merman’s hand who had been taken a nap on his favourite rock when the wind blew yesterday’s Maryport Chronicle into his face.
“It’s her!” he cried again. There was no doubt. The photo was blurred and the woman had aged but the merman still recognised the glittering in her eyes that had fascinated him the first (and last) time he had seen her. It was her. It had to be her. And she was dead. He had been looking for her and she had been looking for him but he now realised that they both had been fooled. The merman touched the round pebble in his left eye socket. Only one reminder of the fateful night more than sixty years ago.

“What’s your name, dear?” The giant octopus woman had shown a fake smile patting the young man’s hand.
“I’m Eric, Prince of Maryport.”
“What can I do for you, Eric?”
And so Eric had told her everything. His political mission to America (finding a princess to bring home, which he had failed to accomplish), the storm which washed him from deck, her fear of drowning and of course the mermaid who saved his life and whom he immediately fell in love with. He concluded with the wish that she turned him into a merman.
Her roaring laughter should have given him a clue that something was going terribly wrong but being young he had never met any of the merpeople and did not know anything about their customs. He had waited patiently until the woman stopped laughing.
“You want to become a merman to look for your beautiful saviour?” she had asked.
Eric had confirmed that this indeed was his intention.
The octopus woman had nodded and had said: “You know that this transformation is irreversible? Once I have changed you, there is no way back. You will stay a merman until your death.”
Without even thinking about it Eric had answered: “I don’t mind, as long as I’m united with my love.”
Again, the woman had laughed. Then she had touched one of the alga leaves covered on writing that had been lying in front of her. Eric had had the chance to catch a glimpse on the text. “Contract about the transformation from mermaid to human: Arielle Delamare.” That should have been the second clue. When he thought about it now, he could slap himself for his stupidity. That day, however, he had been madly in love and the fortune teller at his father’s court had recommended the sea witch Ursula as being an expert in transformations from humans to sea creature and vice versa. If she was an expert, why should he be suspicious at the sight of a contract? To be fair, the fact that the content of the contract changed with the touch of Ursula’s long fingers even though it had already been signed, should have been the third hint that the most sensible thing to do would be turn his back and run.
He had not run. He had agreed that the sea witch transformed him into a merman and had hesitated only once when she enunciated her payment request.
“The transformation is not cheap, you know.”
“I don’t care. I have gold.”
“Oh, my darling, I do not desire gold. Give me your eyes!”
“My eyes? How am I supposed to find my love, if I give you my eyes?”
“You still have your heart, haven’t you? Your eyes will not bring you far in the search for love. Follow your heart. It will lead you to the right place. But I am in a generous mood today. You may keep your right eye. Just give me the left.”
He had agreed. What choice had he had? In the search for the love of his life the sacrifice had not seemed so bad. Probably, he would even have given her both of his eyes, if it had been necessary. He had signed the contract with squint ink and had winced only once when the witch had popped out his left eye replacing it with a grey stone polished by the sea. The witch had chanted a magic spell. Eric’s legs had felt like being filled with hot water and twitched uncontrollably. Suddenly the heat had been gone and the twitching stopped. His two human legs had grown together into a silvery scaly fishtail.
“I wish you all the best for your search” had been Ursula’s last words before she had dived into the waves, again laughing like a mad woman.

She had to have known then. There was no other explanation. Arielle Delamare (finally he knew her name) had had the same idea as Eric. Determined to find the love of her life she had gone to see Ursula and had asked her to turn her into a human. Surely, Arielle had told her everything about the prince she had saved and had expressed her wish to be joined with him. Eric wondered what payment Ursula had demanded from her. A mute and apparently confused young girl appeared on the beach. Of course, her voice! Eric remembered the sweet singing he heard, when he had opened his eyes after his near death and had deliriously spotted the mermaid with the hair of fire and the eyes sparkling with energy and joy.
Eric’s remaining eye filled with tears. At the same time anger raised in his breast. Why had Ursula done that to them? Was she such a hateful woman that she would deliberately destroy the lives of two young people? He had to move. As a boy he had always run around his father’s castle when he had been angry. Eric flung himself from the rock, cursing because a stinging pain in his back. He was definitely too old for these kinds of movement. Nevertheless, he shot through the water paddling powerfully with his fin. His long white beard swirled around him, tangled around algae and corals and ripped them apart. The force of his movements whirled up the sand and stirred the water.
Sobs shook Eric’s body. He tried to catch his breath. He felt as if he was about to explode. Once he had gathered enough oxygen in his gills, he let out a shout: “She is dead! She is dead! She is dead and I have never seen her again!”
A group of young mermen quickly escaped Eric’s strong strides. Only one of them dared the question: “Who? Who is dead?”
Soon the news had spread. Arielle Delamare, the late king’s youngest daughter who had disappeared without a sign more than sixty years ago had died. She had lived as a human for most of her life because she had been tricked by the evil sea witch Ursula. Hatred filled the hearts of the merpeople. Ursula had always been an object of dislike and fear but the fact that she had ruined the life of their beloved princess (most of them did not remember her at all but that did not make a difference) made her the North Sea’s most loathed person. If she still had been alive, she would probably have ended as a victim of an angry mob. But Ursula had passed away some years ago, so all the merpeople could do was swear on her memory and pity Arielle and Eric.
The grief and anger about Arielle’s death caused mayhem. For three days the sea resembled a pressure cooker. Waves caused by angry merpeople tails rose and beat against the rocks. Heavy rains poured down and the wind made it impossible for any ship to leave the harbour.

On Sunday the sea was calm. No wind shook the twigs of the leave less trees when a small motorboat put out shortly before midday. The water had the same colour as the grey sky above. The mood among the people on the boat dressed in black was solemn. They stood silently at the rail when Nurse Polly, now ninety-four, opened the urn with trembling fingers. “Farewell, Arielle Delamare” she whispered as she turned the black container upside down and the fine ashes fell into the sea. A light wind picked up and the circle of friends on the boat rather sensed than heard a quiet song full of sorrow that seemed to travel in the breeze. Nobody said a word but they all knew that nature itself was mourning for the woman that came out of the sea.

Character Building

This week we will be having a look at the idea of character and how we can start works of fiction from the basis of character. We will have a brief discussion of our favourite characters in novels, short stories or film and then reflect on what makes them likeable, even when they are horrific people! It would be great if you came along with a rough idea of a character in mind, but don’t worry if you don’t have time – it’s fun to improvise on the night!

Here are some ideas to get started:

Names! Character names can be notoriously difficult to settle on. I always worry whether I should try and add something symbolic, but not too crass (“I called her Lily Fields because she liked nature!”), but I guess it’s a matter of taste in the end. Try opening a phonebook at a random page and choosing a name, then going from there.

Appearance: This is also a tricky one. It’s too easy to fall into the trap of cliches, where you spend ages talking about your character’s electric blue eyes and flaxen mane of hair, and still the reader doesn’t really *know* them. This is the classic case of trying to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’. How can you use writing to describe your character without saying directly ‘he was really selfish’? Try and think about how dialogue and action can reveal character. We could find out that he/she is really good-looking by having other characters talk about he/she being so, for example.

Motivation: This is a key element to any story. What drives the plot is often the main character’s motivation. Does your character want to divorce their spouse, pass their exams, get a coffee, make money, escape the past? Do they have a deep yearning to be loved? Choose a goal, and then later on when we do plotting you can think about the obstacles to stick in your character’s way.

Flaws and virtues: Is your character a hoarder, a pyromaniac, a bit geeky, a bit sex-obsessed? Are they kind, caring, manipulative, dreamy, disorganised? Again, think about how you can ‘show’ this perhaps by having them be volunteers at a soup kitchen, or skipping the queue, or telling their best friend’s secrets. For now though, all you have to do is come up with the flaws and virtues!

Backstory: Try to come up with some kind of vague backstory for your character. Or at least have something in mind, and this can help you think of all their other character traits. What was their most embarrassing moment? What was their childhood like? etc.

Good luck with having a think, or at least keeping these things in mind when you come along on Wednesday!

Will see you there :)

Maria