Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Prompt - Trick

Fool Me Once

Bobby was a practical joker. He liked nothing more than playing a prank on an unsuspecting victim, reducing himself to hysterical laughter and his victim to red faced embarrassment. As a child he had spent all his  Saturday mornings and most of his pocket money in the joke shop on the High Street, filling his pockets with itching powder, rubber snakes and plastic flies. Throughout the week he would search out new victims, hunting them down with all the stealth and ruthlessness of a big game hunter, luring them in until he was ready to strike.
At school he had tormented his teachers with frogs in their desk drawer, rubber chalk, whoopee cushions and the like. He had spent more time in detention than any other child in his year and on one occasion had been suspended for putting a potato in a teacher’s exhaust pipe and causing several hundred pounds worth of damage to the car. His father had beaten him for that and threatened him with further beatings if he ever did anything that serious again. So Bobby learned to play less serious pranks, ones that would give him the thrill of fooling someone without the risk of causing any real damage.

As a teenager Bobby was often the centre of attention as he pranked the girls, reducing them to red faced screaming ninnies. He positioned a hairdryer under a desk and as they walked past he switched it on and blew their skirts up, affording the boys a flash of thigh and knicker. He put superglue in the keyhole of the head girls locker and watched as she wept with frustration when she couldn’t get her text books out for her lessons. He switched the soap in the girls’ cloakroom and shrieked with laughter when the prettiest girl in school emerged with a sooty black face. Not many people laughed with him when she was sent home in her father’s Bentley after becoming hysterical.

Bobby’s parents hoped that he would grow out of these tricks when he became an adult but they were disappointed. If anything the tricks got more cruel. He would play on the most vulnerable part of a person, finding just the prank that would sting them the most. A shy woman at his work was horrified to find a picture of her face pasted onto a naked body and displayed around all the offices one morning. She became hysterical and had to be calmed by the office manager before the paramedics arrived. He never saw her again. She was replaced by a fat woman who he tormented for three months with deliveries of pizzas and diet club application forms until she stormed out one day, throwing her letter of resignation in the manager’s face on her way out. The man with the stammer only lasted a day after Bobby gave him a list of customers to phone littered with names containing m’s and l’s. He had to retire to the toilet after that one, tears streaming down his face and unable to speak for laughing.

Bobby moved from the office job when he was outed as the one who put cling film across the gent’s toilet seat on the day the chairman of the board was visiting. He though he should quit before the internal enquiry began. He found a job in a warehouse and many fruitful opportunities to pull pranks. He stacked some empty boxes so that the next person through the door would make them topple. A few broken pots in the top one made a wonderful sound as they crashed to the floor. He’d never heard a man scream as loudly as John did. John was a wonderful victim, so gullible, so trusting. When he started work at the warehouse Bobby singled him out for special treatment. He sent him on wild goose chases for tartan paint, left handed screws and glass hammers. The look on John’s face when he came back empty handed and apologetic was priceless.

But it couldn’t last. John worked out what was going on and complained to the manager that he was being bullied by Bobby. The firm took a very serious view of bullying and sacked Bobby on the spot. All his pleading that it was all done in fun fell on deaf ears. There was a zero tolerance for bullying and he was to be made an example of. He was given such poor references that he found it hard to get another job, drifting in and out of dead end jobs like litter picking and collecting trollies in supermarket car parks. None of them lasted long as he was unable to curb his pranking ways and always fell out with his co-workers. On one memorable occasion he was sacked for surrounding the manager’s car with trollies so he couldn’t drive off. Bobby thought that was one of his finest but it cost him yet another job. Eventually the offers of jobs dried up and he settled into a life on benefits, living in one room in a bed and breakfast. He’d alienated all his friends and family so lived a lonely existence, drifting from one pub to another until he got barred for playing tricks on the regulars.

As an old man he liked to slump on chairs in cafes pretending to be dead. When a concerned customer or member of staff came to see how he was he’d open his eyes and wail at them, causing more than one young girl to burst into tears and getting himself barred from more establishments around town. He took to pulling the same trick in the park, slumping on a bench and lying very still until someone came up to him concerned for his welfare. Dogs would sniff him and he’d wait until the person was really close before he shouted in their face, making them scream or jump back in horror. He got a reputation in town and people would walk quickly past him or turn and head back the way they had come. None of the locals bothered with him and the trick was rarely played to its conclusion.

And that’s how Bobby the prankster, the master of the practical joke, the great trickster, came to be found stiff and cold on a park bench one Friday afternoon, having sat there, dead, for seven hours.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Losing confidence in my novel

So what do you do when you start to lose confidence in your novel?
I got some good feedback when I went to my local writer's group but as well as pointing out a few things that I hadn't thought of it put some doubt in my mind about the whole direction the novel was taking. The more I think about it, the more I'm not sure how this novel should pan out and it's not the way I planned it.

So I'm now left with a stranded novel and no idea if I can finish it. If the plan isn't working anymore should I write a new plan? Or should I dump the whole thing? This is worse than writer's block, it's paralysing my thoughts rather than my writing.

I've got a small plan for something I want to write for NaNoWriMo and part of me just wants to plough on with that and forget the troublesome novel for a while. But that feels like defeatism and not the way a proper writer behaves. A proper writer would beat that darn novel into shape and make it submit to my powerful will. But I'm struggling to feel like a proper writer over this. I feel out of my depth, confused and troubled.

So I face a weekend of worrying about what to do and probably doing nothing but worry. I can't even bear to look at what I've written or the plan. That's how much I feel disconnected with this whole novel at the moment. Here's hoping some distance and deep thought will give me much needed perspective ... and maybe a bolt of lightening will strike and the solution will present itself.

The Prompt - Red

Today is the 50th anniversary of the disaster at Aberfan. I was a primary school pupil when this happened and the same age as some of the children who lost their lives that terrible day. It is sobering to think that all the experiences I have had, all the things I have done, all the life I have lived never happened for those young lives.

The prompt 'Red' reminded me of the red Welsh flag, the red shirts worn by Welsh sports stars, the red dragon which represents Wales around the world. So I decided to try a tribute to the people of Aberfan on this most difficult day.


Another school day, classes settle to learn.
Teachers take registers and young voices answer,
'Here, Miss', 'Present' and 'Yma'.

Proud red dragon nation,
Celtic heritage, land of song
And poets, your life is about to change.

A rumble, a rush then darkness.
The blackness engulfs all
And the silence descends.

Blackness covers the red.
Light and hope extinguished,
Buried beneath the waste of your lifeblood industry.

Many rush to the school.
Hands grab at the spoil, digging, pulling,
Frantic rescue and a few are saved.

Red faces, flushed with effort.
Bodies found and hope is fading,
Black eclipses the red dragon's future.

Late morning and only the dead emerge.
One hundred and forty four souls lost,
Half of the children at Pantglas School dead.

Red flags at half mast.
The red dragon weeps as the horror unfolds,
A generation snatched away one Friday morning.

A young girl hears the horror in the Midlands.
The scale too large for her to comprehend,
Yet fifty years on I still remember my mother's tears.

Red roses and flags, tributes to those lost.
We remember those young lives lost,
The promise gone and many hearts broken.

Monday, 17 October 2016

To Plan or Not To Plan

I've signed up to do NaNoWriMo again this year and that's set me thinking about planning.

I've had a few goes at NaNo before but have yet to win. I've enjoyed the experience but have struggled to sustain the writing. This year I thought I'd be more organised and plan my novel properly before I started. However I've been struck down with some ill health and have left things hanging. I've managed to do a little planning - character types, basic idea for story, setting - but not a proper plan.

Now here's my dilemma. I have done a proper plan for a novel that is sitting on the hard drive. It stands at 18,000 words but is not feeling the love at the moment. Since I went to the writer's group and got some feedback I'm not sure that it's going the right way and I need to think it out. This means I'm wondering whether to plan my NaNo novel or 'pants' the thing. I'm quite happy to write this way so it holds no fear. I'll make my mind up at some stage but again this has got me thinking about whether I'm a planner or a pantser.

I know that there are positives on both sides. With a proper plan I know where my story is going and can write any part at any time. I can write the ending first if I want to - rebellious or what? But the novel with the plan is stalling and I'm not sure I believe in it anymore. If I write with no plan I feel freer and the story seems to flow. I can let the story develop as it wants to and I can change things as I go along.

So what should I do for NaNo? Do I force my tired cold-ridden brain to do a proper plan for the novel or do I just start writing on November 1st?

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Friday, 14 October 2016

Word of the Week - Fluffy

After a week away I'm trying to get back into the swing of things and WOTW seemed like an appropriate place to start. Thinking of the word for the past week has forced me to sit down and assess where I am at the moment.

This week I have chosen 'Fluffy' as my word. Let me explain: we had a holiday in the sun, a last chance to warm our old bones before hunkering down for the colder months. It was a lovely week in a super resort and I think we both benefitted from the break (even if OH rushed around trying all the fitness classes on offer!) However on the day we went I was ill. Not just a cold but a proper viral collapse, involving passing out at various stages around Gatwick Airport! I was in and out of consciousness for two days and weak and tired for another two - great way to spend the majority of a 7 day holiday! It was ok as I got to sit quietly and read which is one of the main points of a holiday, even if I didn't get to lie in the sun this time around so have very little in the way of a tan.

How does that involve the 'Fluffy' that I have chosen to sum up my week? Well, since we got back I've struggled to get back into the swing of things. My whole brain has felt as if it is made of fluff and my thinking has been fluffy too. The fact that a cold has popped up this morning might explain what is happening - I'm not sure I'm totally over the whatever-it-was I had and the fluffy feeling that has plagued me all week. I've not even managed to get started on a new book, that's how off centre I am!

So here's to clearing the fluff next week, getting back to some sort of routine and feeling more like myself again.