Tag Archives: short stories

alphabet story

I enjoyed the ‘ten to one‘ writing challenge I did last week so when Nicola suggested doing another challenge this week I was up for it. This week’s it’s an ‘alphabet story’ where you write a story with twenty-six sentences and each sentence has to start with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. Here’s what I came up with:

toy leopard

A leopard had always appealed to her as a pet.

But Ellen, that’s ridiculous!” her mum said.

Can’t you see how dangerous that would be?” added her dad. “Did the snake calamity teach you nothing?”

Ellen considered this: it was true that Patrick the python had caused problems but his snakeish charm had made it worthwhile… perhaps not for her parents’ bank balance though.

Forget I said anything then.” but she herself had no intention of forgetting.

Grey’s Exotic Animal Zoo was deserted as she squeezed in through a gap in the fence later that night. Her heart was pounding so loudly she could almost hear it echoing off the silent buildings around her, but she she was determined to stick to her plan. It shouldn’t be too difficult she thought, urging her trembling legs into action. Just follow the path round the back of the bushes until it reaches the leopard enclosure.

Keeping very quiet she crept along, her torch light sweeping over silent cages and empty pens. Looks like all the animals are asleep, she thought with relief. Maybe that’s for the best considering what I’ve done to the security system! Now, is this where the leopards live?

Oh!

Peering out at her through the bars was a pair of glowing eyes. Quickly Ellen introduced herself and outlined her idea; she knew her life was at risk once the leopard knew his cage was unlocked so it was important to persuade him she was more than just a tasty meal!

Realising there was something interesting about this girl, Xavier listened to what she was proposing. She smelt good but there were other ways to fill his stomach and the life she described sounded tempting; more tempting than a midnight snack? Turning towards the door of his enclosure, he pushed it open with his nose and walked towards her.

Unsure of his intentions, Ellen stood rooted to the spot while the leopard sniffed her. Very well he finally nodded his assent and was gratified to see respect and relief reflected in her eyes.

Walking side by side they made their way back along the moonlit path towards the gap in the fence. Xavier turned his gleaming eyes upon her and Ellen could see what he was thinking. You and I: this is the start of an adventure!

Zoos are no place for wild animals” Ellen smiled back at him,“and I’ve always wanted a leopard as a pet.”

 

When I started the story I had no idea where it would lead so I’m pleased I got it to make some sort of sense! It’s clunky though. There were many sentences I was dying to restructure but I couldn’t because then they would have started with the wrong letter. It’s quite a restrictive way of writing in that way but I also found it quite liberating in a way because it freed me of the ability to tweak the story endlessly as I normally would. It has to remain a bit jagged and imperfect.

Funnily enough, I rather like the idea of Ellen and Xavier (names picked purely to fit the alphabet!) and the adventures they might have together… food for thought…
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Nikki Young Writes
Prose for Thought

friendship

dappled forest cropWhen I saw that ‘The Prompt’ over at Mum turned Mom this week was ‘Friendship’ I remembered a short story I wrote on the subject a while back. Actually I must have written it a couple of years ago which is quite a long time in terms of how my writing has developed, and it’s also a bit unusual for me as it’s written in the first person. But I thought, rather than leave it to gather dust on my hard-drive, I’d share it.

To Last a Lifetime

I was a bit of a loner as a child. Not an unhappy loner, not lonely; it was just that I mostly liked to be on my own. I was – am – an only child, born late to parents who’d struggled for years to have me, and maybe this was one of the reasons for my self-reliance. With no brothers or sisters to play games with me, fight with me, drag me off on their adventures or follow me on mine, I learned to do things for myself and by myself. My parents supported this: desperately wanted and hugely loved though I was, they still allowed me my freedom. Perhaps they were aware of how easy it would have been to go the other way: to mollycoddle their shrimpy little daughter with the sticky-outy ears. Perhaps this pushed them to allow me to develop at my own pace and in my own way. Whatever the reason, from an early age I was something of an independent explorer.

We lived in a little house in the middle of the countryside, and this suited me. The expanse of fields, woodland and open sky surrounding our home were perfect for a young girl with an urge for adventure and as soon as I was old enough, my parents let me go exploring in the fields and woods beyond the house. I could happily while away hours climbing trees, damming streams and building dens in the undergrowth.

Despite being happy on my own, I think on the day I met Max I was ready to make a friend. It was one summer at the start of the school holidays and I was in the process of constructing a rather intricate dam on a little stream going through the woods next to our house. There had been a heavy rainfall the previous night and – not convinced that mere rocks and pebbles would be able to hold back the faster-flowing water – I was attempting a woven barrier of twigs which I intended to stuff with moss and plant in the stream bed.

The plan was not going well: the twigs kept snapping, I couldn’t seem to gather enough and a full two hours went by with very little progress made. Tired, I was sitting back on my haunches wondering whether to abandon the whole plan when, with a ‘plop’, a little stick landed next to me. I looked to my right and there was Max. For a moment we just stared at each other. He was about my height with a slightly impish look in his brown eyes, and his scruffy hair looked very similar to how I imagine mine must have done. My perfect adventuring companion. I looked down at the stick and realised it was really a very good size for my weaving project. “Thanks,” I said, picking it up and readdressing my task, then casting back over my shoulder, “You can help me do this if you like.”

And that was that. We worked side by side, Max bringing me sticks and me painstakingly constructing the dam. When it was complete it was pretty impressive – to our young minds at least – with an ever-deepening pool poised temptingly behind a surprisingly robust wood-and-moss barrier. A cursory inspection of our work complete, we both leapt into the water and played around happily, shattering the peace with our excited splashing.

When the time came to go in for tea I tried to persuade Max to come with me. “Come on! My mum’s a great cook and I’m sure she won’t mind me bringing you along.” But he wouldn’t, instead turning and walking off further into the wood. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow?” I called at his retreating back. He didn’t respond, but I had a hunch I’d see him again.

The next few days it rained so heavily that even I – who normally couldn’t bear to stay indoors – wasn’t tempted to go out. Instead, I wrapped myself in a blanket on the window sill and gazed out at the rain-lashed scene. I told my parents about Max and asked if they knew where he lived. My mum knew that the farm over the ridge had been for sale and speculated that it now had new owners… perhaps we could go over together and meet the whole family sometime? I nodded, although I wasn’t particularly interested in that; I just wanted to see my friend again.

When the sun finally came out the following day, I rushed off outside and headed in the direction of the river. I was hoping I’d meet Max on the way, or at least spot him in the distance, but the wood was silent. Wandering the well worn tracks, I tried calling his name. There was no response. I was just pondering heading up to the farm to see if he was there when a rustling, cracking sound behind me alerted me to a presence. I turned to greet him with a huge smile.

We played together all that day and all the next and, as the summer days rolled on, we became inseparable. He started having tea at our house most days (he showed a healthy appreciation for my mum’s cooking, so he was always a welcome guest) and even slept over some nights.

In Max I had found my ideal ally. He understood me like no one else could and, through his friendship, I learnt about companionship, trust and loyalty. With him, nothing was complicated: he seemed to have a gut feeling about what was important, and he stuck to that. I respected and trusted him. With Max, I felt safe.

Summer gradually stuttered to a close and autumn brought a return to school, whereupon Max and I were separated. I missed him, but school gave me plenty of distractions. I found I felt more confident than I had done before the holidays and I started to form more friendships. I suppose my summer with Max had encouraged me to seek out companionship in other places and I began to want something more than my previous solitary pursuits. Anyway, there was still plenty of time during weekends and holidays for me to seek out my friend from across the fields.

This pattern continued as the months – and then gradually years – went by. School, friendships I formed there, and life outside of my home in general became increasingly important, but I always had time for Max too. Whenever I introduced him to friends they always got on – Max had a way with people – but no one ever took my place in his affections, just as no one ever took his place in mine.

Years rolled on. Our friendship lasted through the gangly, tormented adolescent phase and into adulthood. Things changed as we got older, of course. As time progressed there was less damming of rivers and racing through fields, and more time sitting around eating, drinking and contemplating life. Yes, I had become more sociable as I grew older, but I never lost my love of peace and quiet, of nature and of losing myself in thought. Max understood all that instinctively, and with the passing of the years came a contentment on both our parts to just spend time together. There was no need to actively do anything like we used to, we could just be.

Then one autumn, returning home from college, I met Max outside our house, just as we met at the end of every term. But this time something was different: he looked tired and ill, and his brown eyes seemed sad. Of course, I ushered him inside immediately, and once he was sitting down I gave him something to drink. We all wondered if he was alright and if we should call someone, but as he settled down to one of my mum’s famous shepherd’s pies he seemed much brighter. We all began to joke together as we used to; it was a happy homecoming.

After my parents had gone to bed that night, Max and I settled in front of the fire together. As the crackling flames sent dancing shadows across the wall, I looked at him and felt utter contentment. I thought about my happy childhood here in this house, of the summer I’d met Max and the years I’d spent with him by my side. I thought of what I’d learned from him and how my life had changed.

But as I looked I felt a sadness creep in too; I’d known when I’d seen him today that he’d have to leave me soon. His youthful exuberance had well and truly gone. As I’d grown up, he’d grown old. Yet I was determined to make whatever time he had left as good as it could be. I’d stay by his side until the end. I bent down from my chair to stroke his fur and scratch him behind his ears, “I love you Maxy-boy.” Stretched out on the hearth rug, Max opened his eyes to look at me and gave a huge sigh of contentment.

 

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Nikki Young Writes

a letter

sea

It was an icy January afternoon. The wind whipped Jane’s cheeks as she stood gazing out over the ocean, the letter clutched in her hand. The location was breathtaking. The winter sky brooded darkly over a landscape dotted with the frosty silhouettes of trees. It felt fitting: beautiful but desolate.

She glanced down at the letter. As the late afternoon light hit its surface it glowed with an almost ethereal light. It was just a single letter; her son’s initial, carved out of stone. A simple thing, yet so much emotion had gone into its creation.

It was the same every year – she poured all her lost love and dreams for him into a unique piece. It was always his initial but rendered each time in different materials. They were beautiful and her husband always marvelled at them on completion. Once, a few years ago, he had questioned her ritual of throwing them into the sea.

“They’re always so perfect.” He’d said, running his fingers over the mosaic letter she had toiled over that year, “And so different… maybe we could keep them? We could display them somewhere to remind us of him.”

“I don’t need reminding.” She’d snapped, rather unfairly, “I could never forget. And I don’t want them sitting on a shelf somewhere. They’re not for us, they’re for him.”

This was true. She knew it didn’t make logical sense – he was gone forever, after all – but casting them out into the ocean on this day every year always felt like reaching out to him. Sending him a message. She chose a different location every year too, and over the past fifteen years stretches of coast from the Northern Isles of Scotland to the beaches of Cornwall had all received her little memorials.

She took a step closer to the cliff edge and looked down over the foaming waves below. Unbidden, an image of his face appeared in her mind. She smiled sadly, drew her arm back and sent the letter soaring into the sky.

“Happy Birthday Patrick” she whispered as the sea accepted her offering, “We’ll always love you.”

 
Written in response to #ThePrompt over at Mum turned Mom. This week it was ‘a letter’. I didn’t mean it to be so sad, it just kind of happened. That’s the thing with writing – I never know where it’s going to take me. It is supposed to be as much about love as it is about loss though.

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Nikki Young Writes

ghost story – part two

Last week I posted part one of my Christmas Ghost Story. Today, it’s time for the concluding part. If you haven’t read part one please click here. And if you have… read on:

spooky snowy houses

The Tradition – Part Two

The young couple merrily slid and slipped their way down the snowy street arm-in-arm. All around them Christmas lights twinkled in the darkness from the windows of houses, from porches, shrubs and trees. The town looked every bit as picture-perfect as they had been promised.

They had arrived on the last train and had intended to go straight to their guest house and collapse into bed but the welcoming glow from the pub near the station had tempted them inside. Now, several drinks later, it was close to midnight as they navigated their way towards what the website had promised them would be a ‘festive home-from-home’.

“The brochure wasn’t kidding – it’s like something from a Christmas story.” Sophie smiled at the scene around them. As if on cue, flakes of snow began slowly drifting down.

“Wheeeeeeee” she shouted, spinning round with her arms outstretched,“snooooowwwww! I looooove snooooow!”

“Shhhhhhh,” Mark made a grab for her arm just in time to stop her toppling into a drift in a driveway, “We’re not in London anymore, people round here are trying to sleep!”

“Whoops!” Sophie giggled, then pointing towards the old stone house they had come to a stop next to, whispered “Those people aren’t! Look.” She paused to take it in. “Ahhhhh, it looks lovely: the man with his kids on his knee in front of the fire. So sweet.”

“Yup, another perfect Christmas scene to add to the collection. But come on,” Mark took her arm again, “we’ve got to get to our guesthouse, they said they lock the door at midnight and it’s nearly that now. I can see it just across the street, if your drunken legs can make it that far?”

“Oy” Sophie cuffed his arm, “I’m not as think as you drunk I am!” she giggled.

“Yeah, yeah, very funny.” Mark grinned and, glancing once more at the cosy scene through the window, they turned and crossed the road.

Twenty minutes later the two of them were safely ensconced in a bedroom whose rustic charms exactly fitted the bill for a romantic getaway. Sighing happily, Sophie went to the window to take one last look at the sparkling scene outside.

“Oh my God! Mark!” she shrieked. He rushed to her side but only had time to glance at the horrifying scene outside before she batted him away, “No, quick! Phone! Fire!” She fumbled for coherence as fear washed over her.

The entire house opposite was ablaze. The old stone walls had been replaced by an orange inferno that tore through the building even as she watched. Flames licked up its walls and curled out of the dormer windows. She could hear a deafening roar and feel the blistering heat from where she was standing. The air was thick with smoke. Where were the family? Had the man and his children escaped? Her eyes searched the street frantically for their figures.

“I’m going downstairs!” Mark grabbed her arm as she stood transfixed by the scene “Sophie!” he tried to get her attention, “I can’t get the phone to work here, come on!”

She tore her eyes from the window and together they dashed out of their room and thundered down the stairs to reception. Mark rushed to the unmanned desk shouting for the night porter while Sophie ran to the front door.

There she stopped with amazement. “But… I… it can’t be!”

Mark looked over as she spoke and his gaze followed hers out through the glass front door. His heart gave a great leap.“How..?” He rushed over and stood beside her. “I don’t understand… ”

After staring dumbfounded for a few seconds he reached up and unbolted the door and they both stepped outside onto the frozen porch. The street was silent. The night air was clear and freezing cold. The space on the opposite side of the street, only moments before wreathed in flames, was completely dark.

The two of them slowly crossed the street and by the light of the streetlamp they took in the scene. Swings hung silently from their frame, inches deep in snow. A slide, a climbing frame and a little roundabout were all barely visible beneath a crisp, white covering. They were looking at a deserted playground.

Mark and Sophie looked wildly up and down the street.

“But it was here, the house was here, and it was on fire!” Sophie’s voice rang clear in the freezing air.

“Aye, that it was.” The unfamiliar voice startled them and they turned to see where it came from. The guesthouse’s night porter was standing in the doorway.

“Hey, did you see the fire?” Mark called to him across the street.

“Aye. I was there alright.” The old man nodded sagely.

“W… what happened?” Sophie faltered as the two of them walked carefully back across the icy street towards him. “We walked past here about half-an-hour ago and we saw a family in there, and then just now we saw the house on fire but…” she tailed off, indicating the empty playground. A wave of nausea and confusion suddenly overtook her and she clutched at Mark’s arm. Feeling similarly at a loss, Mark looked to the old man who shook his head sadly.

“That fire burned itself out many years ago. Come back inside and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Sophie and Mark followed him rather shakily back into the building. He locked the door behind them and led them through to a sitting room where he indicated a couple of arm chairs, “Here, you should sit down.” The couple sat, unsure what else to do, and looked at him expectantly.

“Yes, I saw the fire,” the old man began, “it was sixty years ago and I was just a boy…”

Sophie and Mark sat in silence as he recounted the story of a terrible fire that had destroyed the house that once stood opposite, one Christmas night many years ago. A family had been inside at the time – a husband and wife and their young son and daughter. Questioned in the aftermath, the father had told how he had got back late at night on Christmas Eve and had re-stoked the fire in the kitchen and settled himself before it to warm up and relax. His children, realising he was home had crept down to see him. They had spent a lovely hour together toasting bread and talking, just the three of them.

Then, at midnight, his wife had awoken and come down to usher the children into bed. In her tiredness she had brushed too close to the fire as she reached to pick up her son. The hem of her long nightie had swept through the embers on the hearth and set alight. As the three of them tried desperately to put out the flames, the children’s clothes had also caught on fire. The blaze spread rapidly – the huge christmas tree and all the decorations quickly feeding it to a frenzy.

The father managed to get the children out of the house – sustaining terrible burns himself – but was unable to revive them. By the time the fire engines arrived the whole house had gone up in flames. It was too late to save his family. There was nothing anyone could do. The father never really recovered from the tragedy and died himself only a few years later. The blackened shell of the house had stood empty for years before the plot was finally sold at auction and the ruin ripped down. The playground had been there ever since although it was seldom used. People said there was an odd feeling about the place.

The old man paused. Sophie and Mark were both listening intently, their faces pale.

“So,” Sophie began “when we passed by earlier and saw the father and his children through the window…”

“That was them yes,” the old man nodded sadly, “and then you saw the fire that killed them. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. Over the years, many people have said the same. They see the three of them – father and children – sitting by the fire together awaiting their destiny. It’s said they appear every Christmas Eve just to enact that little scene. That final hour. It’s a tradition.”

Linking up with The Prompt which this week was ‘Smoke’ (I couldn’t believe how apt it was for the end of my story!) and Friday Fiction.

mumturnedmom

 

Nikki Young Writes

ghost story

forestneg2

A Christmas Ghost Story

The Tradition – Part One

It was late one Christmas eve. The little girl lay in bed listening to the old house sighing and groaning against the chill wind that buffeted it from all sides. Outside, the storm was whipping flurries of snow higher and higher, encasing the house and its inhabitants in a frosty fortress. Shivering, she nestled further down into her blankets and waited.

Downstairs she heard the grandfather clock strike the hour; slow sonorous chimes… nine, ten, eleven… it was time. As her feet hovered over icy wooden boards, she groped in the darkness for dressing gown and slippers, her fingers meeting them with relief. Encased in their soft fibres she moved silently across the room and out into the hallway.

Her brother’s door was ajar and, peeking round it, she saw his bed was empty. She knew he must already be downstairs and hurried to catch up with him. The hall was bitingly cold and at the top of the stairs a chill wind whipped up from under the front door below sending icy fingers skittering up her spine. The huge christmas tree, wreathed in darkness, loomed up at her as she hurried onwards and downwards. She paused only when she reached the threshold of the closed kitchen door. There excitement and trepidation made her tremble. What if he wasn’t here?

She could bear it no longer and, raising her hand to the door, entered the room. And there they were: her father and her brother sitting by the fire. They were both facing the flames, holding out long forks on which they were toasting bread. The scent – combined with the fir of the tree behind her – was as familiar as it was intoxicating. They looked up to greet her and her father, placing his fork on the hearth, welcomed her with a warm smile and open arms. She rushed over to him, leaping delightedly onto his lap.

This was their time. She loved her father deeply but his work kept him away from home for long hours, and often for weeks on end. He even worked on Christmas Eve and missed all the frantic preparations, the final dressing of the tree and the ritual placing of brightly-wrapped presents under its branches. But he always made it home an hour before midnight and they never failed to meet by the fireside like this, the three of them enjoying their special, festive tradition while her mother slept upstairs unawares.

And so the minutes passed happily. Her icy hands and feet were soon warmed by the fire and their father told them tales of his travels as they snuggled on his knee, their eyes shining bright in the firelight. These were perfect moments. It was her favourite hour of the year.

Then the hall clock chimed midnight and as its final note faded, the kitchen door flew open with a blast of cold air. The fire guttered in the grate sending a shower of sparks onto the hearth. Before them stood a vision in white, with long hair flying in disarray around a pale face and a night gown that flowed to the floor. Terror suddenly filled the little girl’s heart. Of course: now it must happen. She always forgot this point in the night and yet, year after year, it unfolded the same way. And she was always helpless. As her mother swept towards them, she trembled to her core.

To be continued…

PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR PART TWO

Prose for Thought
mumturnedmom

 

Nikki Young Writes

thunder

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She felt the rumble before she heard it: a gentle buzz that set the hairs on her arms tingling. It was a long way off, though; not something she needed to be concerned with. Or at least that’s what she told herself. She concentrated fiercely on adjusting the buttons on her blouse and smoothing the fabric, all the while urging her feet to keep moving. Don’t worry.

Yet the vibration and sound were insistent. A deep, sonorous hum was building, moving closer and becoming more urgent. She paused and closed her eyes as bright flashes of anxiety started to leak their way across her vision. Breathe, she whispered, just breathe. It will pass.

Forcing her feet forwards again, her body soon resonated with the sound: a thundering that shook the ground beneath her. Sweat prickled her scalp and ran in an icy trail down her back. Relax, she urged herself, It will be ok. You can do this.

Finally as the rumble became a roar and the air trembled with shouts and cries, she reached the curtain. Pasting a smile on her face she stepped out of the wings. The lights were dazzling and the calls of her fans escalated as she walked to the centre of the stage.

A hush fell as she picked up the microphone. The audience held its breath. Then as her voice soared out over the concert hall she felt her fears fall away. Anxiety fragmented with every note and drifted away leaving behind only the beauty and purity of her song.

 
Written for The Prompt – this week it was ‘Thunder’

Also linking up with Wonderful World of Writing and Friday Fiction:

Nikki Young Writes

summer

sky

It was a beautiful summer’s day. The deep azure sky was flecked with only the fluffiest of clouds and the birch trees shimmered and shuffled their leaves in a gentle breeze. Alice sat on the edge of the lawn with her bare legs stretched out in front of her. Before her, the grass was a deep green and the sweetly-scented geraniums that swept across the flowerbeds around her drenched the scene with vibrant pink.

The sun was warm on her back as she watched her younger brothers and sister running around the garden. They were spraying each other with water and the air was filled with laughter. Alice tilted her face to the sun and felt contentment wash over her.

But a sudden chill wind disturbed her reverie. It swept across her, carrying away the shouts of her siblings and washing colour from the trees, the grass and the sky. In moments, summer had dissolved.

Alice blinked. From her bed she could see the ward door swinging shut sending another draft of cold air over her. Her frail hands clutched at the blankets as she gently eased herself further under them. She didn’t want to be here. Not in this hospital. Not old and ill and alone.

And yet there was comfort for, even seventy years on, her memories remained as clear cut as the day they were formed. Nested under her covers once more, Alice closed her eyes and smiled. It was a beautiful summer’s day.

Written in response to #ThePrompt over at Mumturnedmom. This week it was “Memories of Summer.”

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on the pier

waves dark

I entered the Paper Swans flash fiction competition this month with the following piece. It was written in response to a photo prompt of an elderly man asleep on a deckchair on a pier. I didn’t win but I did enjoy writing the story. I think flash fiction is really useful writing practice especially for someone really wordy like me!

Anyway, here’s my story:

He reclined on the pier, eyes closed, sun warm on his face, drifting in and out of memories. He was a child, muddy and beaming, collecting tadpoles with his brothers, then a teenager playing football on the back streets with friends. Now he was a young man dancing with his beloved Jean, their futures entwining with every step.

As he floated into dreams, images poured in: his friends from the pit, coal-dust faces over frothy beers; the tiny, sleeping form of his newborn son; his daughter, proud at her graduation; his grandchildren’s faces in flickering firelight and finally – wrenchingly – his wife’s casket descending into the earth. A whole lifetime caught in memory’s flickering reel.

A final fog of sleep descended and the images fuzzed and faded. Then out of the haze a figure came twirling towards him. It was Jean, rosy and radiant. Smiling, he took her outstretched hand. His last breath danced with the breeze over the sunlit waves.

 

Prose for Thought

the tale of the missing finger

“Did I ever tell you the story of how I lost my finger?”

As a child, these words from my grandfather would always make me prick up my ears. He hadn’t lost a whole finger, just the top section of one of them, but it was enough to add an air of mystery to him, and I – and  his other grandchildren – would listen with rapt attention to the tales he told.

My grandparents walking in the alps.

My grandparents walking in the alps – is some sort of finger-chopping drama about to unfold?

Because there wasn’t just one tale, there were many; each one with its own exciting highs and (finger) crushing lows. There was the one where, walking in the alps, he had saved a cable car of people from plunging to their doom by putting his finger into the mechanism, bringing it to a halt moments before it plunged its terrified occupants off a cliff. Another version involved him stopping a dam from bursting (which would have drowned a village full of children) by putting his finger in it, and having it bitten off by a passing shark. Other stories had him stopping a runaway train, encountering a toothy ghost in a haunted house, and inventing a new flavour of ice cream when his finger got caught in the mechanism of one that only produced vanilla (eurgh!)

Of course, we kids knew that not all of these stories could be true. In fact we guessed – even then – that none of them were and that the perils and heroics were purely for our benefit. But that didn’t matter and took nothing from the thrill of his stories, especially with a real missing bit of finger as a prop!

My grandfather’s tales are one of my favourite childhood memories, so when we visited my grandparents last weekend it was with genuine pleasure that I watched him (aged ninety-one) tell my boys ‘the tale of how I lost my finger’.  The sight of their awed expressions and hearing their excited giggles and gasps took me right back to my own childhood and I felt very lucky to be able to share in this moment between a great-grandfather and his great-grandsons.

I love stories in all their forms but there’s something about this passing of tales face-to-face between generations of family members that feels like storytelling at its purest. I hope that by sharing these stories with my sons we can continue this family tradition down the generations for many, many years to come.

And as for how my grandfather really lost his finger? I honestly have no idea… and that’s exactly how I like it.

stories

155-5546_IMG

It’s cold outside so I thought I’d post a photo of a fire!

Right, the baby’s asleep so I’ve got time for a quick writing update!

It’s been a better week than last week. I’m staring to get my head round the changes that are happening/coming and am getting things organised. This, thankfully, seems to have helped my writer’s block. Not that I’ve written much, but on top of my weekly limerick challenge and a poem about sleep deprivation (which was a visual poem too – a bit of an experiment) I’ve also written a short story.

Writing the story got me wondering though – when you write, how do you know how long the piece should be? Do you know at the start? Or do you just start writing and it evolves? What happens if it’s not obvious… if you come to a fork in the story-writing-road?

The thing is, with other things I’ve written I’ve had a sense, from the beginning, of how long they’re likely to be. I’ve written some flash fiction pieces recently and I knew from the outset that they would be around the 200 – 300 word mark. But this story was different and I’ve found myself writing two versions one of which is twice as long as the other! I’m currently undecided as to whether the snappy flash fiction version is better than the longer one which gets in a bit more of backstory and character development. Hmmm.

I experienced similar thing with a poem this week which could have had a fair few extra lines in. In the end, I decided they were unnecessary. But the story feels like a harder thing to judge. I probably just need to leave it for a few days and re-read and go with my gut. But it feels a bit like either decision could be right.

Does this happen with writing books too? Are there novels that would work better as novellas (or vice-versa)? Could some short stories even be expanded successfully to become whole books? Or does every story really have an ideal length and the trick, as a writer, is to find it?

Perhaps there’s no right or wrong. Maybe every story is as long or as short as we want to make it. But I have a feeling that in a truly great piece of writing no word is either wasted or lost.

I’m a long way from greatness though, so I’m still left wondering…