The Hole

The Hole

Prompt: 15th May 2021 – Solid vs Liquid

There was a fine layer of dust on the surface of the sun-hardened ground. Even at night, the heat could still be felt rising from it. The clouds were doing their utmost to hide any star or moonlight from the earth, and the animals were silent, seeming to know what was about to happen here. 

He had no tools with him, but he had no choice. He fell to his knees and, in a blind panic, began to claw at the dirt. He scratched and picked, and felt for sharp stones that he could use to leverage the ground open. The dust rose up and rushed into his panting mouth, choking him, but he couldn’t stop. He pleaded and begged the dirt to move aside and let him in. 

With broken nails and aching hands, he managed to form a small basin. Once the top layer had been removed, the earth gave way more easily. His digging became more frantic and his fingers started to bleed as they caught on unfriendly edges. His mind was set on his only goal and he dug as if his life depended on it. 

The night was getting colder but he was warm from his efforts. And still, the hairs stood up on the back of his neck. He dug deeper and deeper, becoming more manic and desperate the further he went. Every now and again a whimper escaped from him as he tunneled his way down. His eyes wide, trying to see through the dark and the mud. His hands were covered in clay and blood. The ground, he was pulling out in clumps now, was tacky and moist. Flecks jumped up and splattered his face but any attempt he made to brush them away just pushed them further into his eyes.  

Down and down, he went, and the soil got wetter and wetter. The mud began slipping through his fingers as he scraped it up the walls and out into the night. Then his jeans were soaked through and his boots began filling with water. His hands were washed clean every time he reached down for more. 

Relentlessly, hand over hand, he scooped out the masses of mud. The water level rose with every scoop. Before long, he had to submerge his head to reach the floor, and still, he kept on digging. It took longer and longer breaths, and he began to spatter and cough every time he came up for air. Finally, he lost his footing and had to dive down to the never ending task, then tread water as he tried to catch his breath. 

Time and time again he dove, dug, and rose. He had long lost reach of the top of the hole, so had resorted to sticking the mud to the sides of the walls to stop it from undoing his hard work. The air became dense around him as the hole above his head narrowed. He returned to the base, pulling it free then sticking it to the roof he’d now created above himself. The fear and exhaustion had taken over his senses and all he could do was all he had been doing. His small pocket of air shrunk as he committed himself to his endless task. 

* * * 

He floated with his back brushing against the ceiling on the tomb he had created for himself. All around him was finally still. His broken hands drifted, weightless. He blinked and the tide took him out to the ocean.  

Do You Think She Hates Me?

Do You Think She Hates Me?

I don’t have anything deep or philosophical to talk to you about today, so I’m going to tell you thoughts I’ve had about my book in stead.

You may or may not know that November is National Novel Writing Month or, NaNoWriMo for short. The idea is to write 50,000 words towards your novel within the month. People do variations on this, working on scripts, thesis, a short story collection, or having timed goals in stead of word counts if they are editing pieces, or whatever. The main point of the event is to dedicate yourself to working on an important project for a full month.

I first had a go at this 10 years ago. I was young and excited and had no idea how much work it would actually be. I did not reach my target. I had another go in 2011, 2012, and 2014. I never got close. The most words I ever wrote was 17,566. But this year will be different. I signed up to WritersHQ back in August and I’ve been writing more consistently and refining my methods to make writing large pieces easier. This year is my year.

I had originally planned to write the full 50,000 words since I’ve been isolating since April with little to do, but then, just before November began, my employers found me a job that I could do from home. So now I’m working I have less time to write but, determined not to let my novel fall by the wayside, I in stead decided to do a ‘half NaNo’, setting my target at 25,000 words. Call this cheating if you like, but considering I’ve never even made it to 20,000 before, I think this is still a good target for me. And if I reach 25,000 before the end of November, I’m not going to just stop there, I’ll keep going, it’s just motivating to have a realistic target to strive for.

But now to the thing that I actually wanted to talk about. The most integral part of any novel is interesting, 3-dimentional, characters. If you don’t care about the character then you don’t care about their story. One of the skills that I’ve recently developed is deciding who my main characters are before I begin writing. The exercise is to write a sort of bio for them. What are their likes and dislikes? What is their background, their history? Do they have any particular catch phrases or nuances? Etc. This not only makes sure that they are well rounded characters, but it makes the story writing easier because the characters already have personalities so you know how they would act or react in certain situations without having to think about it too hard.

The thing that I was thinking about the other day is this: My main character is a troubled person with a troubled past, and as such she behaves in some questionable ways and can often be irrationally cruel to others and to herself. But because I’m focused on word count right now rather than quality, some of her history and reasoning is being momentarily left out so I can really delve into it on my second run through. This means that my protagonist is doing some pretty horrendous things without any real explanation, and I wonder if she would be mad at me for making her do them.

Obviously I know that she doesn’t really have thoughts or feelings of her own, and I’m fully aware that I made her up, but when you put that much time and thought into creating a person, it is difficult sometimes to not think of them as a real, living being. So sometimes I feel as though, by writing her story, I’m making her do and say things that she may not want to. If I had taken the time to write in her backstory she might understand why she is acting so strangely. So I guess I feel sorry for her because I have inside knowledge that she doesn’t, and even though I know that it will eventually all make sense to her, I wonder if, at this moment in time, she actually hates me for screwing up her life the way I am. The idea of it makes me sad because I have a real fondness for her, after all, I did bring her into existence. And as much as I would love to make her happy, she’s not, she just doesn’t understand why yet.

If you’re not a writer (or avid reader or RPG gamer) I’m sure I must sound crazy to you, but you know, welcome to the inner ramblings of my mind.

Ode to the Seaside

Ode to the Seaside

Prompt: 5th October – Salt vs Sweet

The sun is on its fifth day of unshadowed glory. Summer is well and truly here. Further into town, the humidity can feel stifling and claustrophobic, pressing in on you like the holiday crowds. But out here, the wind skips across the sea and sweeps through the throngs, filling your lungs with fresh, salty air.

As you head towards the promenade, the sound of music from the bandstand is overcome by the casual crashing of waves tumbling over one another, and the gleeful screams of children chasing the tide away and then fleeing from it as it snaps at their heels.

In the height of summer, there are more bodies than sand. I love to watch the people step off their towels with bare feet then hop quickly from one foot to the other – the sun-scorched sand as hot as coals – towards the ice-cold sea. They run into it, eager to soothe their burning feet then scream, shiver, and run back up to the safety of their towels again.

The seafront arcade blares out its upbeat jingles trying to entice you in. It snags the children easily, but adults are usually less likely to let the gloomy, blinking arcade lights steal their sun-filled afternoon. There is an air-hockey table right by the entrance that might see action from a couple or two, but the salt and sand have made the surface rough, so the paddles don’t glide across it as they once did. I never minded though, it added to the charm.

There are ‘bits and bobs’ stores all along the coast too, bursting at the seams with buckets and spades, inflatables of varying shapes and sizes, sunglasses, and parasols. Early in the day they are well organised and sit neatly on the shop door steps, but as the day goes on the items make their way, higgledy-piggledy, towards the sand, while the sand creeps its way up to meet them.

Every few meters a series of tables and chairs will signify an eatery of some kind. This is where you’ll also find the larger than life seagulls hanging out, pacing back and forth, waiting for you to get distracted and take your eye off your meal for the slightest of split seconds. That’s all they need to snatch it from your plate and disappear. The way a person guards their food indicates whether they are native or tourist.

My favourite food outlet is a small ice-cream hut about a half-mile down the coast. The ice-cream is made locally and has a creamy quality and depth of flavour that just doesn’t compare. Chocolate is my favourite. The cold, sweet taste dances on my tongue and fills me up with blissful delight.

I have lived here all my life. I have seen the sea and walked the beach in all seasons, at dusk, dawn and midday high sun, but I have never loved it so much as this moment, with this ice-cream, on my first date with myself.

As Above, So Below

As Above, So Below

Prompt: 21st September 2020 – Earth vs Air

A dance, a rising and falling, sweeping back and forth. A gentle wisp, touching, kissing, playing with all it reaches. The dust leaps up to join the ballet. There is a rumble from the deep. Far beneath the surface where nothing can survive, a red, bubbling heat. Everything above floats on this hellish lake. What was once solid and stable, shifts and moves. The rumbling grows and echoes, engulfing all. A crack, a crunch, a crash, the world is collapsing. Massive sheets push against each other, grinding. Then all is quiet again.

It begins with a jump. For so long these twigs have been home, but a time must come to take the leap. Hesitant steps patter against the edge of security. Beady eyes flit between the ground and sky. Wings stretch and begin to beat as the instinct to fly overcomes the instinct to hide. Then the jump, followed by a frantic fall. Desperate, terrified, beating feathers suddenly find purchase. An invisible hand lifting them away from danger and guiding them into freedom. A lifelong friendship has begun.

It ends with a sleep. The sweet, green meadow has given so much. It nourishes and protects. It is the first thing that can be seen when the eyes begin to open. It is where the young ones play and the elder ones nap. It is soft and lush under the paws. It collects the refreshing morning dew. Yes, it has given much and still now it cradles the body as the hopping becomes shuffling, and old bones lay down to sleep one final time. A lifelong friendship has ended.

Up, down. High, low. Fly, stand. Poles apart and yet so similar. As above, so below.

Do What You Love Without Judgement

Do What You Love Without Judgement

We are our own toughest critics (unless we are narcissists) and this often prevents us from doing our best work. This is something I have noticed in my writing. I’m always conscious that someone will be reading it, so I end up trying to write for my audience rather than for myself. This usually ends up with me getting annoyed and frustrated, and barely getting anything done because I keep deleting and rewriting my work until I decide enough is enough and give up for the day.

Writing is my creative outlet of choice. I’ve always been a writer since I first learned how, and have had fantasies about becoming a famous author. I have a hard-drive full of poems, short stories, and novels that have been started but will never be finished. I’m always thinking about them and things that I want to add. I always imagine the feeling I get when I write and how happy I will be when I finish one. But whenever I open up one of my books, I spend so much time reading and rewriting that I never make any progress.

But yesterday, I did something different. Yesterday, I had an idea in my head of where I wanted a story to go. I had seen it play out in my head and I wanted to get it down, so I started writing. The difference this time was that I was so excited about my plot development, that I forgot to worry about what other people would think about my writing. I didn’t stop to reread what I’d done, I made no edits, no changes, I just let the ideas flow out of me. I’d written three full pages before I stopped and was surprised to see so much production.

I still didn’t reread it, I didn’t want to ruin the feeling I was having. I had fun and was able to fully immerse myself in the story and interact with my characters fully. I have decided that this is the way I should have been writing all along. After all, there’s no point in writing for an imaginary audience if I’m never able to finish a book to be read. So from now on, I’m going to write without judgement and criticism from beginning to end. Once the story is complete, then I can put on my editors hat and start making it suitable for publication.

For now, it’s enough for me to enjoy the process and find out how some of my characters end up.