Friday Fictioneers – Garbage

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PHOTO PROMPT © Liz Young

It was so unfair! The decapitated android screamed murder. But androids were appliances, not people. The only crime here was dumping garbage in a public place. Eight weeks on this case, and all they had was an empty bottle and a severed head.

When Sergeant Anderson detailed Paul and his partner to get the Al-Azms, it seemed a pathway to promotion. They were going to bring down the last Mozzies in the precinct. Garbage! Still, Paul remembered, they got Capone on tax evasion.

“Take some pictures, Paul,” Paul told his partner. “I need to go plug in for a recharge.”

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise here

84. Let me through, I’m a story-teller

Review of The Myth Gap by Alex Evans

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Imagine a catastrophe. Any catastrophe you like, so long as it’s big enough. People stand, silhouetted by the flames, wailing and shaking their heads. And then you shoulder your way into the crowd, saying “Let me through, I’m a story-teller.”

That’s the invitation of Alex Evans in his book The Myth Gap. This is a very important book, not least because there’s really only one significant idea in it – collective stories are fundamental to our wellbeing, and they are forged in dialogue. This short book isn’t a detailed analysis, but an invitation to see human dialogue in a new way.

Once, he says, we were rich in stories that helped us understand the world and think about ourselves. We called these stories myths. But somehow the word myth became synonymous with untruth. Evans, who was a political adviser to the British government and then the United Nations on climate change, argues that we need new myths to bring us together to confront shared challenges.  Stories that can speak to us of renewal and restoration.

Evans draws on recent experiences such as the Paris Climate agreement of 2015, and the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK and Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election.  He argues that people are animated, not by figures and pie charts, but by stories. The stories that animated 2016 were nationalist myths of “taking back control” and “making America great again”.  In a situation where myths have shrunk, we can be easily captured by impoverished negative myths.

We need stories that embody a larger us, all seven billion of us, and a longer now at the intersection of a deep past and a deep future. We need this if we are to think across generational timespans, rather than gorging ourselves now and leaving future generations to pick up the bill. Connected to this is the idea of a better good life, one which rejects the idea that we are what we buy.

A profound insight (though without evidence to support it) is that our ability to respond effectively to climate change is weighed down by a freight of guilt and grief. If true, that would suggest a need for the atonement and redemption that myth provides.

I’m a story-teller, so this idea excites me. But I’m also originally a scientist. And the idea that evidence and facts aren’t enough is troubling to me.  I worry that it’s a capitulation to “post-truth” politics without examining what makes that politics appealing.

I don’t buy his argument, for example, that the Remain campaign in Britain’s EU referendum relied on rational argument and facts. It seemed to me they relied on patriarchal authority, fear and a narrative of doom. Though I was a Remain voter, it also seems to me that he ignores the entirely rational experience of people on the Leave side. People in declining industries and declining towns forced into competition with immigrants for jobs, services, and pride. The “take back control” narrative worked because it spoke to a lived reality of being ignored.

As an unbeliever, I also find his fascination with Judeo-Christian myths limiting. Though, in fairness, I do have to accept that God has some of the best stories. I did also find his exegesis of the alternative story of the Fall story contained in the Book of Enoch fascinating, though not necessarily relevant to his theme.  For my money, James Martin’s Canyon metaphor in his book The Meaning of the Twenty First Century, contains the outlines of a more relevant story to today’s world.

I do think stories are profoundly important. They are among the oldest human devices for encoding and sharing knowledge. They have the huge advantage over collections of facts that they tell us what goes with what, what is important and what is unimportant, who to praise and who to blame.

In the end, the importance of Evans’ book may lie less in his solutions than in his pointing to fundamental truth that we need to be animated by better stories to confront the challenges of our time. Shared stories provide devices and safe spaces through which we can negotiate purpose, transformation and hold each other to account in the process.  And, I would add, those stories need to embody the best values of rationality, equality, and shared purpose. One of the triumphs of science has been to help us see our place in the universe. We are utterly improbable inhabitants of a small, fragile blue planet on the outer rim of one of the spiral arms of one galaxy. There is a power in that truth and a reminder that we all sink or swim together

Friday Fictioneers – Entanglement

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Most guys would have sent a card and a dozen red roses. Not Herbert. He dumped two kitchen chairs into the pond, one at either end.

“Herb,” I say, “there are two chairs in the pond.”

“Yeah. Happy Valentines.”

I just look at him

He grins. “When two particles are entangled, darling, you get spooky action at a distance. Even when we’re apart.”

Herb is a quantum physicist. He doesn’t see the world like other people.  But, like most people, his socks are never entangled and he loses one member of the pair.

Entanglement is fragile and breaks down easily.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise here

Reunion

This is my response to the second Scrivener’s Forge exercise on Character Desire and Plot.  Click on the link to see the exercise details. Click here  to see other responses.

The swing doors of the waiting room opened and Zami’s heart lurched. Ayesha was here to support her brother in court. Darling Ayesha. Rashid still didn’t know she was pregnant. When he found out, he would surely kill her. Putting him behind bars was the best way to protect her. Didn’t Ayesha know he was doing this for her? She spotted him and stumbled for a moment, hand to her mouth. She loved him still, she did.  The lustre of her hair, which she brushed for half an hour every morning, was covered by a respectable black hijab trimmed in gold. Her large obsidian eyes, etched with kohl, held his gaze.

Glare poisonous, she moved to the far side of the room. Never again!  Getting involved with your subjects wasn’t just against regulations, it led to too much pain. Zami slumped and resumed waiting.

Friday Fictioneers – Orchid

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PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Thin winter sunlight flooded the apartment and there was a cheery crackle. Mikhail rose from his armchair by the fireplace and crossed to the window, with the spray bottle in his hand. With care he misted the orchid on the windowsill. The flower was so delicate, white as the snowdrift in the street far below.

Another crackle, closer, and shouts. He looked down at the street and saw running figures. A shrill whistle and then the corner of the apartment block opposite bloomed flying masonry and bodies. Mikhail misted the second orchid, all the beauty that was left to him.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise on character, desire and plot here.

The Scrivener’s Forge 2: Character, Desire, and Plot

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A new writing exercise every month. When you focus on one aspect of writing at a time, you can concentrate on making it the best you can possibly create. That way you can reach a professional level that may be harder with longer works. We’ll explore one aspect of the craft each month.

If you comment on other writers’ efforts, they’ll usually comment on yours. So you get lots of critiques, advice, and encouragement.

Please don’t post your entry in comments here. Create your entry on your own blog, and then click <“An InLinkz Link-up“> to join the link-up and read other people’s work.

Character Desire and Plot

Plots engage our interest, but characters engage our hearts. For a story to grip the reader, the main character must undergo change. Once you have a character with a desire, you have a plot. The plot is about how the character struggles to overcome obstacles and achieve their desire, or fails to do so.

Exercise:

Think of a character. Then ask yourself: what does this character want?  What is stopping them achieving their desire? What must they do to overcome these obstacles?  Write a brief scene, the climax of the story, in which your character confronts the obstacles.

Friday Fictioneers – Model T

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PHOTO PROMPT © Al Forbes

Henry vanished and was gone two years. I no longer worried – he’d turn up full of tales with that impish grin.

“It’s alright for you,” I’d complained, “you disappear and you come back. For me, it’s just waiting.”

Henry never waited for anything and didn’t understand. He re-appeared in summer ‘49, pockets stuffed with Tudor trinkets.

“Damn thing overshot again,” he said.

“One day you’ll arrive and I won’t be here.”

“Nah, Izzy, you’d never leave me.”

“One day I’ll be dead. Please, buy a modern model that returns you where you started.”

“Time travel should be an adventure. Old machines have character.”

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wissoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise here

Friday Fictioneers – Illumination

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PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Eyes watering with strain Brother Eadfrith bent over the parchment, retracing in ink the silverpoint outlines. His back ached. Late afternoon light slanting low through the casement cast a shadow, and he shifted the sheet of vellum on the oak desk.

With delicate brush, he applied the ochre border and then crimson for the saint’s robes and animal’s coats.  Finally, he laid gold leaf onto the capitals. The sun touched the page, and beauty clasped the text. Lines of fire connected hidden meaning that sparked from image to sentence, from intricately scribed knot to ornate capital – earth, ladder, heaven.

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wissoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise here

Friday Fictioneers – Staying Put

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Photo Prompt: (C) C E Ayr

She found him yet again wandering through the station.

At least he looked embarrassed. “A station at night is beautiful,” he said. “Calming. So few people, but the dedication of an empty temple. Victorian railway stations are one of three British contributions to world civilisation.”

Alice followed his gaze to the great glass roof and shared the awe. Her hand crept into his.

“Arrivals and departures. When I was a boy, smoke billowed under that canopy, like mist on the hills.”

Alice squeezed his hand. “You’re good at comings and goings – it’s just the stays that trouble you.”

 

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find It here

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise here

Spin Cycle

This is my response to the first Scrivener’s Forge exercise. Click on the link to see the exercise details. Click here to see other responses.

 

Sarah leans in close as her friend adopts a conspiratorial whisper. The clatter of cutlery and the hum made by the chatter of two hundred students masks the confession.

“I know Malky must love me because of what he does.”

Sarah leers, with what she believes is a woman-of-the world grin. “Why? What does he do?”

“He brings me his washing.”

Sarah blinks.

Her friend sees the blink and frowns, “That’s intimate, right?”

“Malky’s knickers, yeah. Very intimate.”

“Well there you go – he wouldn’t do that if he didn’t love me, would he?”

Sarah scratches her temple. “Sounds like a bond.”

“And he does other things too.”

The pause is masterly, leaving Sarah no choice but to arch an eyebrow and ask.

“Malky doesn’t like going out. Always wants to stay in. Like, together – just us.”

“Is he … is it … I mean, is it good?”

Sarah’s friend giggles. “A bit quick. But then boys are, aren’t they?”

“Does he go again?”

“Sometimes, but usually he falls asleep and I watch telly.”