Friday Fictioneers – Portal

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Photo Prompt © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

This just couldn’t be right. It offended against everything I’d ever heard.

“You’re kidding, surely?”

“Why?” Ka’arsnak waved a tentacle. I’d learned this signalled irritation. “What’s wrong?”

“The portal opens into a shower?”

The tentacle waved more vigorously. “You wanted maybe a waterfall? Rainbows? Heavenly choirs?”

“Well, it’s not, you know, dignified. Not believable.”

The choking gargle was its way of expressing sarcastic mirth. “An angel with green skin and eight tentacles you can accept, but not a doorway through a bathroom? Get over it, you’re dead. Time to go. Chop-chop.”

 

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 plot and endings

 

Friday Fictioneers – Moko

ceayr2
Photo Prompt © CEAyr

This was my great-grandfather’s head. The intricate spiral patterns are moko, chiselled by skilled artists into living flesh and coloured with soot. Your museums prized them as curios. So men with moko were captured, decapitated, and sold to the whites. The supply of tattooed heads began to dwindle. For a while the market shortfall was eased by killing and posthumously tattooing slaves.

Nowadays, the heads are coming home as toi moko, tattoo art. But it’s really their mana we repatriate. There’s no precise translation of mana in your language. You might call it status, but it also means spiritual force.

202px-tame_iti_at_gallery_opening_13_october_2009

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 plot and endings.

Hunting – Scrivener’s Forge 8

This is my submission for the Scrivener’s Forge exercise on Plot and Endings.

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Robogeek

I wove my way through the bright allure of market stalls, and the seductive scents of cafes. She was near now. My com told me she liked chocolate violets, so I stopped at a chocolatier’s to pick up a bag. Any speciality you wanted, the market had it. I wondered about flowers. Lilies, were her favourites, again according to my com. No – flowers would be overdoing it.

The GPS told me she’d left the market, and was walking along the canal bank. I just had to find her. You don’t pass up 86.7% compatibility.  And that was just overall: our reading purchases overlapped by a whopping 92%, and leisure activity spending by category was 88%.

I need the chase, and Camden Lock was always good hunting territory for me. I’d already by-passed possibilities in the high 70s and one at 81.2%. But he was male, and I lean more to women. Still, he had been pretty. I hadn’t been immune to the smooth brown skin and smouldering eyes, when I checked him out.

When I turned onto the towpath, I knew I’d been right to pass over smouldering eyes. She was just ahead of me, disappearing into the darkness below a bridge. I saw a mane of blonde hair tumbling in ringlets down her back. I love blondes. There was a seductive sway to her hips, and long legs all the way up to the denim tight arse.  To be fair, her legs could be judged a little too thin. I appreciated meat on a woman. But I definitely liked what I’d seen so far, as the towpath took a bend and she disappeared.

I wondered why she was walking the towpath. There were no commercial outlets here. There was something vaguely ungrateful about not consuming. Consuming was how you contributed to society. After most of the jobs were automated, grants from the Administrators replaced salaries. Most of us had become consumers rather than workers. I was quite proud that I qualified for a category B grant, because my tastes included the arts, and most artists and theatres hovered always on the edge of redundancy.

I put on a turn of speed, and caught up with her.

‘Hi there,’ I said, ‘chocolate violets for the lady.’

When she turned, I felt a surge of disappointment. Of course, she hadn’t included her appearance on her profile. Lots of people don’t. But still, from behind she’d looked hot. Her face was foxy, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I mean really, like a fox, thin and drawn into a snout, with a kind of feral alertness about her eyes. Her breasts were pretty good though.

‘Sorry,’ she said. ‘I don’t like chocolate. I’m allergic to it.’

‘But your consumer profile says chocolate violets are your favourites.’

She chuckled and took a step towards me. ‘The profile is a lie. It’s fake.’

‘How? I mean, I didn’t know you could do that.  And why, why would you want to fake it?’

‘It’s easy enough. It’s all digital. You can rig a relay to transmit anything you like. I don’t have an implant. As for why, that’s easy too: privacy. I’m a person, not a consumer. You are too, did you but know it.’

None of this was going as I’d intended. I should have just pulled up a chair at smouldering eyes’ table. I wasn’t sure whether it was legal not to have an implanted com. In any case, she felt wrong, disquieting.

‘If I want privacy, I go to a shield,’ I said

‘And pay the admission charge to the shield, registering that as a consumption preference? I want my preferences to remain my business, not marketing data.’

It felt wrong, and dangerous, but it was exciting too. Her canine features were beginning to seem attractive to me; what the French call ‘jolie laid.’ I was beginning to wonder just how unusual and illicit her tastes might be.

‘And what are your preferences?’ I tried to keep the leer off my face, and out of my tone.

‘Subverting the system,’ she replied with the most captivating laugh. ‘Zapping the citizenry. My relay picked up your profile from your com, and when you locked onto me, adjusted what it sent out according to your profile.’

I had to laugh. ‘No wonder it was 86.7% compatibility then.’

‘I could as easily have made it 96.7%, but somehow that wouldn’t be so believable.’

’So who the hell are you really?’

She laughed again. ‘To know that, you’d have to get to know me; in the old fashioned way. Not my data, but me.’

I was confused. ‘But we might not be compatible.’

‘Well that’s the fun,’ she replied. ‘It’s all in the finding out.’

This time, her laugh scared me.

Friday Fictioneers – Flower Power

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Photo Prompt © Dale Rogerson

“You’ve seen hunting whales blowing bubble rings to corral herring, right?” Aman drummed her fingers on the angelstone, waiting for the girl to answer. A bleak wind blew in from the north, raising her hair into a crown.

“Uh, yes, sure.”

“Then can’t you see it’s the same with flowers? A woven wreath will corral a spirit. They suck energy from the air, forming a barrier the spirits cannot cross.”

Aman knew the girl was strong and clever enough to one day succeed her. Only the garland around the child’s head held her in check now.

 

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 plot and endings.

The Scrivener’s Forge 8 – Plot and Endings

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Medoc

A simple way to think about plot is as the events seen in the light of their endings. Endings are important, and one of the most difficult parts of story-telling. A good ending should be both surprising and inevitable.

Exercise:

Write a cracking-good ending (a paragraph or two). Then work backwards and develop the sequence of events (the plot) that leads up to this ending. Note that this may feel very artificial for writers who like to “discover” their ending in the course of writing. But it’s an exercise to help us be aware of the sequence of causes that create good endings. It’s also a great technique when you’re editing a story to do a “backwards pass” and check that you have properly motivated the ending. A “backwards pass” is exactly this process of working backwards from the ending.

Friday Fictioneers – One Phone Call

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Photo Prompt © J Hardy Carroll

“You got the right to one phone call,” he said, raising the visor of his helmet.

All my life I’d been rehearsing for this moment. If a genie offered you three wishes, your first wish had to be that all your other wishes came true. Scheherazade ended her story each night on a cliff-hanger so the sultan let her live another day to hear the ending.  There had to be a twist with the phone too.

He smacked the night stick into his palm. “Come on, I haven’t got all night.”

“I must speak to the President,” I began.

 

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 plot.

 

89. Point of view and perspective

It only recently occurred to me that the concept of point of view in literature is a metaphor, borrowed from painting.  I am still struggling to see if anything profound flows from this realisation.  Bear with me, please.

When we write from the point of view of a particular character, we see events from a particular place in the story world. Point of view in fiction is like perspective in painting. Perspective creates the illusion of an image as seen by the eye if viewed from one particular spot.

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Pietro Perugino, fresco from Sistine Chapel 1481-82

Perspective is intended to create an illusion of realism. We are so used to seeing it in painting that we don’t notice it as a technique and see it as representational. But of course there were and are other conventions in the history of art. In the Persian tradition of miniature illustration, recession into the distance is indicated not by size but by being placed higher up the picture, horses are generally depicted from the side and the scene is often viewed from above. Viewing from above is akin to the world as seen by God.

Sultan Mohammed miniature
Probably by Sultan Mohammed 1515-20

Can there be fiction without perspective?

If there can painting without perspective can there also be a fiction without perspective, without point of view? It’s a seductive but impossible idea. All fiction has an inescapable point of view. A story has to be told by someone. But stories can be told in different ways and this has echoes of different conventions of representation in painting.

The world as seen and the world as it is

These days, a first-person or close-third-person narration is common. It makes our experience of the narrator more intimate, but it also adds perspective to the telling. There are objects that are hidden from the view of the narrator, and the constant possibility of distortion – the narrator misunderstanding the meaning of events.

By contrast, a century and half ago, the omniscient narrator was common. Like the period before perspective in art, the narrator could dip in and out of the heads of different characters, revealing their thoughts and their intentions. Important events could be foregrounded. This was like the technique of drawing a scene not as viewed by the painter but the real scene as viewed by God.

The dimension of time

I sense there may be something more interesting in comparing perspective and point of view, but I can’t discover what it is. It may have to do with the way in which painting and writing are different. While a painting is fixed, a story always has some sort of motion in time. Unlike artists, writers have enormous freedom to explore and play with time. Few stories are told linearly from beginning to end. Rather there are flashbacks, fore-shadowing, cliff-hangers, misdirection, and ellipses. There may be stories within stories. And, in the technique of metalepsis, logical boundaries between story levels can be transgressed, as when the narrator intrudes into a world being narrated. The timeline can become extensively fractured in some tales. This too is like the fracturing of perspective in modern art.

Help

Can you do anything to take these insights further?

 

Friday Fictioneers – Railway Time

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Photo Prompt © Kent Bonham

The station clock stood at 8:02 and its other minute hand at 8:16. The Dean’s train for London would arrive in thirteen minutes, or had already left a minute ago, depending on which time you accepted. He wiped his brow with a handkerchief, for the day was warm and he had hurried.

The great Cathedral bell had just boomed out the hour across the city – God’s time, marked by the stately transit of the sun across the sky. Sadly, the 9:15 train ran on Bristol and Exeter Railway time, transmitted down the galvanic wires from the Greenwich observatory.

 

Historical note: Until the advent of the railways, travel was a sedate affair. The fact that time in Exeter was 14 minutes later than London didn’t matter when it could take days to travel between the two cities by coach and horses. There were distinct time zones across the country. But this made railway timetabling very difficult and even dangerous with collisions because guards were using different times. In 1840 the Great Western Railway was the first company in the UK to standardise all its services on Greenwich Mean Time. By 1848 all railways used London time, and by 1855 most towns and cities had adopted the convention. Some towns held out. Exeter took its time from the Cathedral clock and the Dean refused to reset it to “railway time”. The station clock had two minute hands, one showing local time and the other one, railway time. In 1880, an act of Parliament imposed a uniform time on the whole of the UK.

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 plot.

 

Friday Fictioneers – the Copenhagen Interpretation

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Photo Prompt © Janet Webb

Sam was a man. Not a special man, he passed everywhere pretty much unnoticed. The probability he was outside equalled the chances he was inside. He was everywhere and nowhere. And thus he made his living. He could pass through locked gates and stout walls, ferreting-out secrets, spying on clandestine meetings.

One day a woman noticed him. Or rather, the exquisite workmanship of the bracelet he was fingering. The observation collapsed his wave function, and he was in full view. At that moment Sam opted for the many-world hypothesis and slipped sideways, at right angles to reality.

 

Note on physics: the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics holds that, until the act of measurement, the location of a sub-atomic particle can only be described by the device of a wave function which describes the probability that it is in a particular place. The alternative many worlds interpretation says that the wave function is real and that all possible positions exist across a multiplicity of worlds.

 

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 plot.

 

 

Bomaru’s Quest Part IV – Scrivener’s Forge 7

This is my submission for the Scrivener’s Forge exercise on plot.  I confess I cheated on this one by using a story I’ve already published, but it exemplifies so well the “go in late, come out early” advice.

Bomaru’s Quest Part IV

The creature’s head punched round, leathery scales abrading his skin. Bomaru held tight, the sinews of his arms corded like autumn branches, slowly forcing the winged reptile’s head to the ground.  Teeth sharp as spear-points snapped, close enough for the clash to shiver through his straining grip, and the stench of the creature’s foul breath to taint his nostrils.  It was no ordinary strength that maintained his grip. He knew sweet Farlaine would die if he failed, and the knowledge lent him the force of ten. Bomaru twisted with a desperate might. With a sickening crack, the dragon’s body gave one last twitch and was still.

‘Wow! You just killed a dragon with your bare hands,’ Michael observed. ‘Hard to believe isn’t it?’

Michael was heartily sick of Bomaru and Farlaine.

Yet bold Bomaru strode on over the evil creature’s carcass, undaunted by his ordeal, and rifled through the dragon’s hoard, until he found the blade, Srithanthril. Farlaine’s father had borne that sword in battle before he fell to the Worms on the plain of carnage. None but Srithanthril’s wizard-honed edge could sever the bewitched bonds holding Farlaine shackled to the promontory.

‘Cool, you got the magic sword.’ Michael’s tone held acid mockery. ‘Bewitched bonds, tum-ti-tum.’

Bomaru raced sure-footed down the hillside, pebbles slithering and rolling. It was almost as if the earth itself bore him forward to Farlaine, hastening her release. Farlaine’s roots were deep in the land, and the land ached at her peril.

When Bomaru reached the foreshore, the tide was lapping around his beloved’s ankles. She screamed and strained against her bonds.

Michael’s attention was captured by the wild, age-carved, crags, while Bomaru’s was on the huge kraken that reared up, reaching clawed arms towards the sacrificial virgin.

‘How do you like them apples?’ Michael sneered at Bomaru, and turned away from the combat to watch the sea birds, wheeling lithe in the thermals that rose from the cliff.

When he gazed far, Michael saw the birds soar at the cloud-front that roiled against the updraft, unable to press forward over the ocean. It entranced him. He was seeing the wind itself in the invisible barrier that held the creatures firm as Farlaine’s bonds. When he studied close, Michael discerned the rough porosity of the cliff-face, the tiny cavities and crags made by an aeon of the insistent sea’s soft probing fingers. He peered into one crevice, with a scrutiny deep and searching, and detected, in a jumble of twigs and seaweed, the ghosts of a guillemot’s past home. He heard the minute skulking of the lives folk never have the patience to notice.

While battle raged below, Michael probed the mysteries of the promontory. The woes of men meant no more to that ancient headland than the ephemeral scrabblings in the nooks and crannies of reality. Farlaine’s cries, as Bomaru hacked and hewed, troubled him no more than the calls of the kittiwakes. Michael marked the transit of the sun against the rock, striving to capture the slow shifting of colour. He saw subtle reddening where there had been only grey. He witnessed crags and boulders that leapt up from the escarpment, like footpads from an alley, as the light picked them out in relief.

The strife behind him quieted. ‘And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?’ he quoted to Bomaru. ‘Oh frabjous day.  Calloo! Callay!’

The headless body of the kraken was sinking into the waves, while Bomaru clove Farlaine’s bonds with the enchanted blade, Srithanthril.

Michael frowned and tore his thoughts from the precious secrets of the eternal cliff, and the slow march of time. Farlaine was freed. The realm was saved. The people rejoiced.

‘One day, one goddamn day,’ said Michael, ‘I will kill you, Bomaru. One day, I’ll be able to live free of you. I’m better than this. I can perceive the world in a guillemot’s nest.’

‘Perhaps,’ Bomaru scoffed. ‘But not this day.’

Michael sighed, and began the writing of Bomaru’s Quest, Part V.