Experimental Writing: Part 4

Enfys?  Eirian?  They both seemed a little too obscure – they were bound to attract the wrong sort of attention.  Meredith was perfect though – the subroutine was doing good work, although it was clear that care was needed if it wasn’t to develop a personality…more information was needed though and time was of the essence.  The sub-routine was given a metaphorical pat on the head and set back to work.  Yes, there – an electronic wagging tail.  Meredith sighed.

Meredith sighed, but immediately decided that this was out of character: a Meredith should be happy, optimistic, light-hearted.  In a word: merry.  Of course this wasn’t the proper translation of the name, but that didn’t really matter.  How many Meredith’s these days had anything to do with sea or were lords?  But a nickame – all this information had been supplied with the sub-routine’s analysis – such as Merry was very much in keeping, and when translated into grzzt, it wasn’t  million miles from the alien’s own nickname – although that was very much meant in a pejorative sense where it came from.  So it goes.

*****

It was a little after 8 am when Meredith found itself on the outskirts of Llangynidr.  First order of business, find some local currency.   Meredith gave a slight start of surprise when it realised that there was only one cashpoint local to where he was.  This was located at Walnut Tree Stores, which was described as a corner shop.  Clearly this must be some local idiom however, because when it had been located, Meredith found it halfway along the positively rural Coed-yr-Ynys Road.  Thankfully they opened early, and there were even a few cars in the car park, suggesting that there were a few people in there.  Meredith drifted in.  The helpful sub-routine provided a reference picture of the  cashpoint terminal and Meredith spotted it tucked in a corner next to the rack of magazines.

Casually, an arm slipped through one strap and the backpack was pulled round to the front for a quick rummage, which brought forth a wallet.  If anybody had been close enough, they would have just seen a credit card, which was slipped into the machine.  Thirty seconds later and Meredith had complete control of the cashpoint.  It would have been easy just to eviscerate the machine, taking every note that it contained, but the easy course of action would lead to problems sooner or later.  Pursuit problems.  Being remembered problems.  The card was spat back out, and £300 pounds popped out of the machine in a mix of tens and twenties seconds later.  What was left behind was an active programme that was covering Meredith’s tracks – it wouldn’t do for a discrepancy to be noted, so the programme would work its way back into a bank’s database and create a brand new account.  Good enough for the time being.

The card and the money went back into the wallet, save for one £10 note.  The alien navigated the shelves carefully, picking up a fizzy drink, some chocolate bars and something that the wrapper said was a pasty, whatever that was.  On the way to the till, the sub-routine popped its virtual head up again and pointed out something called a ‘pack of cards’,  apparently it had noted something useful, for which a pack of cards might come in handy.

“Bore da!  Will that be everything then?”

“Bore da.” The speech synthesiser managed to match the accent exactly.  “Er, yes, I think so…Oh I’ll just have this as well, diolch.”  A packet of chewing gum, from a rack by the till, was added.

“Very good then.  Do you need a bag with that?  Only I’ll have to charge 5p for that you know.”

“No, don’t fuss yourself, it’ll all go in here.”  The tenner was handed over and whilst it was rung up and change made, the backpack was once again swung round and the goods went into the bag.  A few coins were handed back and Meredith made a pretence of casually checking the change, without overdoing it so much that it caused offence, he selected a small coin and dropped it into the collecting box for the air ambulance that sat on the counter.

“Diolch!”

“Lawn!”

“Bore da!”

“Bore da!” Meredith said over one shoulder whilst walking to the exit.

*****

Meredith stopped for a moment outside as if checking the bag was closed properly.  In reality the AI was providing an update. Llangynidr was small and there was no cafe.  A 6 km or so walk was required to get to the nearest one.  The bus timings were irregular and unhelpful.  Meredith sighed and set out for Crickhowell.  Coffee seemed to be important on Earth, and it would seem to be a good place for a base for a least a couple of hours…and free wi-fi!  Sold!

*****

As Meredith walked along the streets, it didn’t notice that CCTV cameras were turning to follow it…

© David Jesson, 2019


 

During 2019, I’m going to be undertaking a writing experiment, as described here.

The shape of story was formed through a four-part prologue: the first part of the prologue is here, if you want to start right at the beginning.  All through, I’m hoping that you’ll help me shape the story.  At various points, I’ll be asking questions with a choice of answers.  I’ll be polling on Twitter, or you can add a comment below.  So for example, you’ve helped me to decide that the story is science fiction, our protagonist, who is a rogue with a dash of ranger,  is an alien, but the story is set on Earth.  Right…what next?

Option 1: Coffee!

Option 2: Random encounter on the road.

Option 3: Coffee rudely interrupted!

Also, the sub-routine seems to be developing its own personality.  Any suggestions for a name?

I‘ll leave the Twitter poll open for one week, and will add in any votes on here that come in during that time.  Feel free to expand on the options in the comments!  I’m not promising to incorporate anything but always good to hear where you think this is heading!

See you next month!

Numbers IV and V

They’d never been able to explain it – your parents that is – why you have the roman numeral IV on the back of your hand. It seems they’d tried everything too, taking you to doctors, psychologists, even a psychic, before eventually realising it was something they’d need to accept if you were going to. They’d done a good job of implementing that decision too, for it’d never bothered you. Sure you’d been a little curious, but that was it.

Until the day you’d spotted him that is. OK, not so much him, but the roman numeral V on the back of his hand. You’d tried to engage with him, but there’d been a queue and both he and the people waiting in line were seriously unhappy; some even started yelling abuse, so you’d taken your coffee over to the corner, and sat there watching him work.

Now the morning rush was over and you were still there. Why hadn’t you rushed back to talk to him? Well, because what on earth were you going to say? “Cute tattoo!” “Is it a tattoo?” “Were you born with it?” Or the question you discover to your surprise is the one you really want to ask “Do you know what it means?”

Problem is, you’re not sure what you’d like the answer to your question to be. If he says “yes” do you want to know? I mean, what if it’s something awful – I dunno, like that’s the order in which the city make sacrifices should one ever be demanded. OK, that’s a tad extreme, but you know what I mean. And if he says “no”, what then? Perhaps he’ll be all “so what?” about it, and you’ll have to slink away feeling like a real dork … and he’s pretty cute, truth be told. But if he’s curious, do you want to join him in some big old quest to find out? I mean, yes, he’s cute ‘n all, but what if it turns out to be dangerous? There’s just too darn many questions – and you don’t have the answers.

In all honesty, you were beginning to wish you had some sort of magic wand and you could chose to go back to your days of ignorant bliss.


© Debra Carey, 2019

#FlashFiction – Enough

The man slumped against a tree, propping himself up, preventing a slide to the ground.  Bone weary, he looked back down the hill, peering through the trees.  He was almost too tired to strain his ears: where were his pursuers?  Enough was enough, he could do no more.  He caught the sound of water tumbling over stones, away to the left.  More than a rill, less than a river: exhausted, he filled his canteen, drained it, filled it again.  The toddler in the papoose stirred but did not cry out. With new hope, new strength, he continued with their escape.

© David Jesson, 2019

 


“I’m done” Jess spoke quietly.
“But you said …”
“I would give it 6 months – yes. But you were only prepared to give it 6 weeks. That told me all I needed to know about your level of commitment.  I’ve tried, I’ve worked hard – really hard – and now you think … No, no more. I’ve done enough, I’ve given enough. And you haven’t.”
“But …” Tim’s voice cracked.
“It’s time you left Tim. I’ve changed the locks and booked movers for your stuff. It goes into storage unless you give them a new address by Friday. Goodbye.”

© Debra Carey, 2019

 


Her ma loved her, but born with a voice of crow-song, Naomi roams the forest alone, eating as she can and cawing her plaint. A fine young knight home victorious from the Holy Land hunts each dawn, his aim ever true until a harsh song causes his arrow to fly wild. It punctures Naomi’s throat and, salt tears spilling, he removes the barb and salves her wound with a kiss. The lovely lass arises to speak with human voice, and he vows his eternal love. Is love enough? How she yearns to fly off and rob a sparrow nest.

© Cecily Winter, 2019
www.cecilywinter.com

#FF Prompt: Enough

A drabble – how could I resist with such a prompt! It being April’s A-Z Challenge time, this seemed like a good time for something short & sweet. Any style, any genre, just nothing NSFW.

Word count: 100
Deadline: by 2pm (GMT) on Friday 12th April 2019

Don’t forgot, if you miss the deadline, you can always post your story to our #TortoiseFlashFiction page


Post your story on your site and link to it here in the comments below, or drop us a line via the contact us page and we’ll post it for you.

#secondthoughts – co-authoring

Good grief.  How is it April again already?  It’s a year since we joined forces to write what is starting to turn into ‘The November Deadline”, a full length novel based on the story that we presented over the course of April, as part of the AtoZ challenge.  We’ve been running this website for a while, but this was our first co-writing project, our first, shared world-building exercise.  As a bit of a throwback, we thought it would be fun to write a little bit about our experience of co-authoring…

Debs writes:

I remember reading an article by Neil Gaiman about his experience of writing “Good Omens” with Terry Pratchett, in which he talked more about the “how” than the decisions around the “what”. And whilst the exchanging of floppy disks featured heavily in the article, I have to admit that our process in co-writing our A2Z Challenge tale wasn’t greatly different.

I felt there were four aspects which made this work …

  1. Despite having very differing tastes and voices, we selected a genre we both enjoy reading.
  2. The chosen time and place were known well enough to us both and we were interested in researching further.
  3. Four primary characters were clearly defined before we started writing (for which kudos to David).
  4. We had a ready-made structure and had chosen 26 word prompts around which to weave our story.

This list is formed totally with the benefit of hindsight by the way. For example, we didn’t start out with the realisation that it would be a good idea to chose a genre where our tastes converged – it just happened that way, seemingly in an organic fashion. Selecting the NATO phonetic alphabet as the theme also led to our decision on time-frame – it couldn’t be earlier than its inception and anything later than Cold War felt dated. Additionally, the fun we’d had playing with the idea of the cockney rhyming slang alphabet before discarding it surely influenced our decision to base the story in London’s East End.

As for the four primary characters, I’ll leave David to elaborate, but from my perspective, it meant I could dive straight in to the story telling, leaving the development of minor characters to come along as and when needed. Although many might consider the structure restrictive, for me it provided the bones on which to plan, to prompt what direction the story could take and what minor characters might be needed to flesh out the story. For example, Juliet started out as a simple device to meet the prompt for J, but ended up being a character who demanded more than the originally planned bit part.

But any thoughts you may be conjuring up of multiple lengthy discussions and detailed planning sessions have to go right out of the window. There was a fair bit of talking, although perhaps not as much as you might imagine. We had one or two face-to-face sessions before we started, but thereafter it was snatched moments during the working day to exchange thoughts and ideas (Twitter DMs in the main), with a few evening phone calls for more substantive discussions.

The big question was always would our different writing styles and pool of ideas blend into something coherent, or end up as a horrible mess? Aside from the four key points I listed, David really has to take the plaudits for getting the ball rolling and putting the first words down on paper. Whilst I was having hysterics over learning new software, he wrote the opening section of Alpha, together with the initial drafts of Bravo and Echo. So, with the scene set, all I had to do was pick up the baton and get writing. There’s also no doubt in my mind that having our primary characters so well defined allowed us to write in their voices, rendering our own less noticeable.

With the beginning written, and an ending in mind, the story development was addressed in chunks. Keeping the detailed planning down to sections allowed the story to develop, to hit minor targets, all while keeping the known ending in mind. This suggestion from David was a real winner as, despite being a planner in life, I’m a writing pantser. It successfully averted that overwhelmed feeling I’m inclined to get when looking at 26 unplanned prompts.

The other thing that Gaiman described in his article was the discussion process. How the exchange usually involved either a “I’ve had this great idea” or a “I really love the direction that new bit of writing you’ve done has taken”. There was genuine to and fro, with some ideas taking shape and flying, whilst others withered naturally under new or better ones. But it sounded like they had huge fun with it all, a feeling I definitely shared.

In short, if you’re going to co-write, you need to plan and to talk. But you must also respect your partner, so that ideas which don’t spark for you both are stepped over without fuss, while you trust that new and better ones will emerge from the process.

David writes:

I can’t remember the context now, but I remember a joke (perhaps that should be with bunny-ears) where there are two children praying.  One really goes to town, asking for blessings on parents and friends, world peace – the. whole. nine. yards.  The other one waits until the first has finished and says “Ditto!”.  It would be easy just to  say “what she said”.  Easy, but not entirely fair, given that Debs has been so kind to me, and also that it’s my fault that I dragged her into this co-writing malarky.  (Although Debs got me started on the AtoZ thing, so I think that we are probably even).

It’s probably a good thing that we didn’t have to manage this via the sharing of floppy disks, although we’d have probably managed.  Maybe.

Back to saying nice things about Debs.  I really couldn’t have done this without her.  Like most writing projects, we’d anticipated writing about 1000 words per letter of the alphabet, but by the end of the month we’d actually wracked up more than 40,000 – there is no way that I would have been able to get that written in the time available, nor would I have been able to edit them.  But a problem shared truly is a problem halved.  Debs also provided a huge amount of motivation, both directly and indirectly: directly by saying nice things about what I’d written, and indirectly by turning up with a blog-post or three and making me feel like I wasn’t pulling my weight.  I’m trying to avoid words like ‘goad’ and ‘annoy’, because there was never any malevolence to this, and I never took it badly, but it still kept me to the straight and narrow path of getting words out of my head and onto ‘paper’.   There were a couple of times when the added pressure of not wanting to let Debs down kept me at a writing session longer than I would have done if it had just been for myself.

Debs has picked up on the characters: initially Jack and Billy were sort of one character.  There were a few ideas floating around in my head, one of which was to do with Bert from Mary Poppins – what if he really did have magic powers?  What if he wasn’t quite human?  What if…?  Debs had mentioned something about a lob-lie-by-the-fire, and we had a conversation about that, and this led to Billy in due course, while Jack went down a different route.  As was shown in due course, Jack is very much the man of action, in some respects the heart and soul of the operation.  I thought that the Echo team should be a triumvirate at the top, and a planner and a tinkerer rounded things out.

The other thing that I thought worth mentioning was our approach to getting the posts written.  Our styles seemed to merge quite convincingly, and I’m not entirely sure how that happened except that we both batted ideas back and forth and we both edited the whole thing (multiple times).  More importantly, whilst we were a bit tight on some of our scheduling of posts, we had a plan.  We divided the alphabet into thirds and roughed out what needed to happen in each third.  Some things ended up being moved about a bit, especially with a couple of posts which really were overly long, but on the whole this worked very well.  We also divided up the month fairly evenly – intially on straightforward basis, but there was some horsetrading.  It became obvious that certain posts needed to do certain things, and some ideas meant allocating a post to one or the other.

But to close: what she said.

 

© 2019, David Jesson & Debra Carey