It was writing group today and we’d had free choice about what we chose to write; I think we decided later that having to make a decision on what to write is much harder than writing to a topic! In fact I’ve just sat here for half an hour pondering on that very thing! I shared my offering here yesterday, the true story of my dad as a boy taking revenge on a woman whose actions had really upset his dad. What he did I would never condone, and I don’t think his dad would have either but it was a true story!
The other writers are a very talented bunch, and today they really shone! We shared very different stories, but I couldn’t help thinking what quality had been produced. In fact we are in the process of getting stuff together for our first anthology, to be called ‘Pendemic – five writers in lockdown’. I will write more about that when it appears!
The first piece to be shard (we Zoomed today) was a witty poem about the difficulties older people have with using technology; the irony was that today for some reason technology did fail us and it took ages to get into the room and people were locked out for no reason. In the end all was well, but we were amused that this was the piece our poet had chosen! We circulate all our stories/poems in advance so we can properly discuss them so it was a real coincidence that was what he had chosen.
The next piece was one of two short stories by one of our number who is brilliant at telling a story, complete, beginning, middle, satisfactory ending, in an amazingly few number of words. The first piece was an observation of a couple sitting at an adjacent table in a rather dismal café in Tetbury. The writer and her husband were disconsolately regarding the rather stale teacake and insipid tea they had been served with when the other customers arrived, It was clear he was an unpleasant bully, and she was a rather sad, brow-beaten wife. The writer encapsulated the whole, seemingly unremarkable episode in just over three hundred words. I wish I could be as economical and write such a vivid account of a scene observed! Her second piece was even shorter, under three hundred words. We started with a trip to Amsterdam, then went on a trip to a typical picturesque English village in a Morgen. In the third paragraph we realised that in fact the narrator was doing jigsaw puzzles, and she went on to have a quiet rant about the previous owner of these second-hand puzzles, name Beatrice, who had annoying habits – taping frail pieces together, putting all the edges in a plastic bag, for example. The concluding line has a happy puzzle-maker, Beatrice was not the previous owner of the latest jigsaw!
It’s always interesting when a writer you know very well decides he’s going to write from a different perspective from normal, telling his story from a woman’s point of view. Mary, the main character had a phone call but it was an annoying wrong number, however, for some reason, instead of being cross and putting the phone down, there was something in the voice of the young girl who had misdialled, and Mary spoke to her. The girl was in a desperate situation, and Mary found herself talking to her, and the girl, in turn, unburdened herself. The cal ending with the woman hoping she had helped in some way, and couldn’t stop thinking about the conversation, and the similarities with her own life when younger. There was a brief middle section, when tragedy seemed to have occurred, and then the conclusion, where the stories were unravelled, and the kindness Mary had shown bore fruit. It was an elegantly told story, gripping, yet well-balanced and believable, and we all agreed it gave us much to think about.
I think we all agreed that the next story we read was the best this writer has written, and she is a really excellent writer, really gifted from every point of view. Her story was a gentle tale of an old lady in the last hours of her life, with her son beside her as she slowly slips away. He’s not alone, a companion who has been beside him throughout his life is there, supporting and loving him at this very sad but important time. I don’t want to say more, because should you ever read it, the ending is an absolute masterpiece of perfect writing and I don’t want in any way to spoil that. What I can say is the pace of the writing, the story of the son’s life which unfolds as he thinks about his past, the characters of the three people which are so subtly evinced, and then the perfect ending, which is somehow a surprise, but not surprising, are just perfect. I think if this was entered for a writing competition it would surely win!
Our last member is writing a novel, and sharing his progress as he goes. He knows where the story is going so he doesn’t want to reveal too much in response to our comments. Obviously writing a novel is very different from a short story, it has a different pace, longer descriptions of characters and locations can be included, and no doubt there will be much re-writing, editing, and changes before it is finished. Therefore, his contributions are at a different stage in their writing than our short stories are, so it’s difficult to balance comments and criticisms with that in mind. He has a wonderful ear for conversation, although sometimes we felt, they could have been condensed. His story is set during the war so it’s sometimes difficult to properly create characters, and reproduce their conversation, when it’s set eighty years ago! We all look forward to seeing what happens, and how it develops over the coming weeks!
Our next topic is ‘Panic’… I wonder what variety of different ways of dealing with that will be!