Friday Fictioneers – The Package

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Photo Prompt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The first package arrived on my eighteenth birthday. In brown paper tied with string, as butchers used to wrap meat. A printed copy of Dermot Callaghan’s The Lighthouse. Surprising, because Callaghan drowned before he finished the novel. There was no return address.

I sniffed the aroma of fresh printers’ ink, then set to work, copying the whole thing out and submitting it to Callaghan’s publisher.

Every birthday, a new parcel. And every year I published a new sensation.

Now, a lifetime on, my steps falter in the sand by the lighthouse. I walk into the sea, leaving behind an unfinished manuscript.

 

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

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Friday Fictioneers – The Bad Thing

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Photo Prompt © J Hardy Carroll

When I confess to the bad thing, the very bad thing, you don’t cry out or scream. You don’t reject me with a surge of anger.

You just go very still, as if the world has stopped. As if you have to be very careful not to shatter.

 

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

A Mentee’s Journey 3: Voyage’s End

A year’s mentoring with Cinnamon Press has concluded. My novel, The Tears of Boabdil, went through three new drafts. It transformed, in large part through the critiques from the scheme. This is the work of which I’m most proud.

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This is what my mentor, Adam Craig, had to say about the final draft.

This is a very effective, absorbing literary novel and Neil’s to be commended for his dedication and hard work—Tears of Boabdil is a much improved MS and Neil has dug very deeply into the narrative and managed to bring out aspects and ideas that were not present in the original draft.”

Adam also noted,

Tears of Boabdil is a thematically ambitious novel, interweaving multiple narrative lines around a central character who does not have a fixed identity. The manuscript in the form originally submitted for mentoring had several drawbacks in terms of structure, narrative pace and voice, and in the evolution of its central character, Zami/Vince. Neil’s dealt very ably with restructuring such a complex narrative, streamlining it while adding a great deal of pace and tension. The evolution of the psychotic nature of the central character is convincingly portrayed in this draft, not only through the device of mirroring the main narrative in various tales and stories (which was present in the original mentoring draft) but also creating a new thread based around the character’s parents that is extremely well integrated into this draft and is also both disturbing and arresting.”

All very encouraging. And they considered it publishable. More disappointing was that they decided not to publish it.  They preferred the voice of two other mentees’ works, and felt it was a hard genre, being both literary and a thriller.

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My task now is to make that complication a selling point. I had intended that the thriller/ romance frame story would make the more literary content accessible. One of my readers had this to say about it, proving the fusion of the genres worked for her.

I’m really enjoying your form of storytelling. It’s different than anything else I’ve read and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to follow. But it really works for me. Your story is very complex and layered, and you’re doing a really good job of balancing those layers. Most of the books I read simply hand me the story and don’t make me think, but you are and I like that. You’ve got me guessing as to what will happen and I very rarely even attempt to do that!  I don’t normally read anything remotely like this, but it’s been amazing, and a good exercise in the value of stepping outside our usual genres every once in a while.”

 

Friday Fictioneers – The Librarian

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Photo Prompt © Anshu Bhojnagarwala

In the silvered night, he steals down alleys, ferrying old books from the library to secret caches. The Pure are already calling beyond the walls. When they enter the city, they’ll root out heresy with a great bonfire and smashing of icons. Corpses will swing from the gates.

The librarian isn’t sure whether astronomical texts, and studies of verse are heretical. But he suspects they may be. He believes the invaders might find the land inventory useful. And this too he bears into hiding.

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

Friday Fictioneers – Hunter’s Moon

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Photo Prompt © Renee Heath

Organising it took ages. The same corner table in Marcel’s; the red dress; the precise day. A cloudless sky with hunter’s moon. But love finds a way.

My woman sits by the window, half illuminated by the restaurant’s discreet lamps, but already silvered by the moon outside. She is becoming one with the night. On the beach beyond, some creature cries, stitching the present to a timeless past.

“Did you bring her here?” she asks. “Your ex, Louise. Before she …”

Everything is the same. Now I will ask her the question. By her answer she will merge with Louise.

 

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

113. The third variety of fiction

Fiction is stories, right? The protagonist encounters a challenge, sets off in pursuit, and after many travails achieves a resolution. Much genre writing fits this mould.

There is another kind of fiction where the plot can be incidental or even non-existent. This is writing based on character rather than story. Often this type is called literary.

But that’s not all. There is a third, though rare, kind of fiction, which executes its code in your brain as you read. It rewires your consciousness.

I was very struck by this again reading Nick Harkaway’s Gnomon, a literary science fiction novel set in a near future total-surveillance Britain.

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The plot revolves around a detective’s efforts to understand how a suspect could have died under a mind-mapping session. It turns out that the suspect invented a series of narratives to keep her own consciousness secret. The book loops back and forth through these stories.

There is a sequence where Harkaway’s method is evident. One of the narrative personas is brought together with a woman who he is told is his dead lover, Stella.  The text oscillates between the possibility that she is an imposter and the possibility that, if she occupies Stella’s place in the world, she is Stella. Layers of philosophical hocus pocus, of metaphor, and of narrative exposition create a universe in which this transubstantiation is plausible.

Yeah, I hear you say, all fiction does that. It invites us to suspend disbelief. But what Harkaway does is more than world-building which postulates orcs and elves and offers us an escape into magic. He transforms your sense of reality such that we understand personal identity in a new way. We don’t escape into a fantasy world. Rather, reality changes.

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I described this technique in an earlier post.

Words can create illusions. They can bridge impossible gaps allowing magical connections to be made between unlinked things. This is the stuff of fantasy, but also the stuff of poetry and of magic realism. Imagination can stitch together things never connected in the real world. Recurring words and images can stitch together these magic connections

Harkaway describes in a blog the process of writing the book:

This was like weaving a tapestry thread by thread while holding the entire design in your head, and my head just wasn’t big enough. Meanings intersected with other meanings, with consequences. I had to go back, again and again, re-work, re-conceive, re-imagine. Sure, yeah, I know: writing is re-writing. I’m familiar with the re-write. This was more like starting a new book every four months or so. The number of plotlines and their interactions meant a kind of exponential multiplication of possibility. I’d made a maze in my own mind and I kept getting lost in it. The book was smarter than I was.

Reading Gnomon was more like taking a mind-altering drug than like narration. A few other books have done this. One was Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo.

Another was A U Latif’s Songs from the Laughing Tree (currently out of print). In a review of Latif’s book I wrote

Our brains are evolved to seek pattern and meaning, and Latif plays with this. The figures of the stories loop and dive, and create impossible or magical meanings that are whimsically held together by no more than a concatenation of words, an ellipsis of adjectives.

Have you encountered books in this third type of fiction?

Friday Fictioneers – Hologram

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Photo Prompt © Ted Strutz

Long after his death, a digitally remastered Ol’ Green Eyes was wowing audiences again with gyrating hips and glorious guitar riffs.  Girls born decades after the original performances screamed and tried to rush the stage. The star, haloed in blue light, paid them no mind.

The tours were a sell-out nationwide. But Ol’ Green Eyes weren’t very interactive. Not until Frank Gainsborough had the idea of adding a connectome. It weren’t the original one, of course. That were long gone. But a great nephew made a reasonable match, right?

Now, when the girls scream, he leers and hauls them to his dressing room.

 

 

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

Friday Fictioneers – Safe haven

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Photo Prompt © Dale Rogerson

I don’t even recognise the handwriting. So much has changed since I wrote those words in my journal. Can I believe them? Searching my memory offers no answers. I have no recollection of those woods, the cottage, the break-in. Did it really happen?

A story slots into place in my narrative. Comfortable.

That would explain my fear of dark tree stands. But I’m an imposter in my own life. There is now an uncertainty at the core of my life, a swampy place where the footing is unsteady. It threatens to swallow everything.

 

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

Friday Fictioneers – Hospitality

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Photo Prompt © Priya Bajpal

The unmistakeable sound of young men behaving badly drifting across the water. Robert was drawn to investigate, and wandered round the bay.

He accepted a can of tasteless fizzy warm beer, declined a spliff, and answered questions about his trip and how he liked the island.

“What do you do?” he enquired of one man.

“I drink,” The reply came with a grin. “In my spare time I’m a policeman.”

The others, all of whom seemed to speak some English, chuckled, exposing teeth and gums stained bright red by betel nut.

 

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

Friday Fictioneers – Fjord

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Photo Prompt © Russell Gayer

The sun-swept fjord has been constructed with real flair. Geirfinnur Vidarsson admires the build as only an engineer can.  Steeply sloping snow-capped walls and a firth perfectly aligned with the rising fireball, bathing the glaucous waves orange.

He steps with care through the lava field, wary of the razor-edged cinder cones lurking beneath the soft green moss.  Geirfinnur is alone in this landscape. He utters a cloud, and it drifts fluffy across the dome of the sky.

Next, he tries to forge a man and a woman, but fails. Head bowed, he turns back towards town.

 

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