Monthly Archives: January 2012

[Fiction] Friday Challenge # 242

The [Friday] Fiction Challenge for this week from Write Anything is “Martin Luther King Jnr was born this week in 1929. Use the first four words of his most famous speech to begin your story (of any genre) with “I have a dream”.”

I have a dream. It’s in the small silver casket on the sideboard. I found it at the beach last week. It’s a bit battered and bruised, you know, like someone has just dabbled with it and not fully committed to achieving it. That’s the thing with dreams, if you don’t give one hundred per cent to following them through, they begin to deteriorate, become emaciated, and eventually die.

I’ll keep this little fellow until he’s regained his health. It could take a while, but when he’s feeling better I’ll take him out and see if I am able to take him on myself. Once I know if he can become my dream, I will start making plans towards achieving it. I’ll have to make a list of pros and cons, and use the pros to create strategies to overcome the cons. I’ll have to set a time-frame and some mini goals so I will know I am on track. I’ll have to step out of my comfort zone and stretch a little.

Yeah, it’s going to take a lot of work, and will probably be hard at times, but if I take the dream on, the end result will be worth it.

So, what will happen if the dream up there on the sideboard is not something I desire? Then, I will release the little fellow back into the Universe for someone else to discover.

[Fiction] Friday Challenge #241

The people over at Write Anything have a weekly writing challenge called[Fiction] Friday. The rules can be found on their  [Fiction] Friday page. The following is my first, (albeit belated), attempt at their challenge, but I hope it will become a regular part of Writing From The Ashes. This week’s challenge was:- Include these characters somewhere in your story–a weasel, a priest and a spinning wheel.

“Father, please, I’m begging you. Please officiate at Sam’s funeral. I can’t bear the thought of having a stranger do it. It has to be someone who knew him, who loved him.”

The priest stood silent. He had known Sam for a long time, that was true, but he wasn’t sure it was appropriate for him to take part in Sam’s funeral. Besides, he was having great difficulty keeping his composure in the face of this request. If he was on the verge of hysterical laughter now, how would he be able to keep a straight face during the ceremony?

On the other hand, how could he deny such a serious request from Jim? Dear Jim, who he had loved for ten years, and who meant as much to him as a son?  Jim, whose innocence was such a rare thing to find in this day and age?

It was the thought of hurting Jim while he was devoured by grief that caused the priest to hesitate and consider agreeing to the request.

“Jim, it might be better for someone else to conduct the funeral. Have you considered doing it yourself matey?”

Fresh tears flowed from Jim’s blue eyes. His nose became redder as he attacked it with a handkerchief, and the freckles on his cheeks seemed painted on his face because the spaces in between were so incredibly pale. He opened his mouth to speak, but was overcome by wracking sobs that left him bent over double and choking.

The laughter the priest had felt bubbling to the surface dissipated in a heartbeat. He walked to Jim and knelt next to him. He placed his left arm around Jim’s shoulders and gently drew Jim into a hug. Feeling Jim’s body shudder against him, the priest chastised himself for treating the impact of Sam’s death so lightly. He waited for Jim’s choking sobs to subside and then said, “Jim, just for you, and just this once, I will step away from my better judgement and agree to your request. But Jim, you must promise not to make a big deal of the part I will play in Sam’s funeral, and I will not be able to wear my robes.”

Jim’s cheek rubbed against the priest’s rough shirt as he nodded his head in agreement to the conditions. He closed his eyes and leant a little harder against the priest, drawing comfort from the embrace.

The priest allowed Jim to remain in his arms a few moments longer, then carefully drew back, placed his fingertips under Jim’s chin, and tilted Jim’s face so he could look directly into his eyes.

“Now Jim, you need to go and make the necessary arrangements. The funeral’s tomorrow afternoon, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. It will be under Sam’s favourite tree.”

“I will see you tomorrow then.”

Jim threw his arms around the priest once more and whispered, “Thank you.”

******************

The mourners gathered in the shade of a large oak tree. Before them was an open timber coffin. Jim was at the front of the congregation, and in one hand h held a small blue and silver, toy spinning wheel. In the other hand was an extra-long, green woollen sock. The front of Jim’s shirt was wet from the tears dripping from his cheeks.

The priest cleared his throat and started the ceremony.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are gathered here today to farewell our friend Sam. Sam has lived a full and active life, and has brought a tremendous amount of joy and love into the life of his closest friend, my nephew, Jim. When Jim asked me to conduct today’s ceremony I was hesitant to do so, but now I understand how important it is for Jim, and Sam’s other friends, to have the opportunity to say a proper good-bye.”

Looking skyward, then bowing his head and closing his eyes, the priest continued, “Dear God, please find a place close to your heart for Sam’s soul and keep him safe and well until we meet him again.”

After a moment’s silence, the priest said, “Everyone, please say a silent prayer for our friend, Sam, and then feel free to approach the coffin to say your final farewell.  Tea, coffee and refreshments will be available in the kitchen.”

Jim approached the coffin first. He carefully placed the sock in the coffin and stared at the spinning wheel in his hand. Slowly, he raised the wheel to his lips and kissed it. As he placed the toy into the coffin he whispered, “I love you Sam. I will miss you always.”

Jim walked away from the coffin and the other mourners approached in single-file.

Meanwhile, the priest stood with his head bowed and looked at the inscription on the lid of the coffin. It read, “Fare Thee Well my Dear Sam. The best ferret a boy ever had.”

The last mourner winked at the priest as he approached the coffin, and said, “Bit over the top for a weasel, ain’t it?”

Thank you Mr Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway circa 1937

It has been the most productive day I have had in quite some time. I have been revising the first seven chapters of my novel and the feeling of being alive has returned.

It’s probably obvious to regular readers of this blog that my motivation for writing ebbs and flows and I go through periods of manic activity which then give way to periods of procrastination. If it was possible to pinpoint one thing that turned procrastination into action, those periods of not writing would probably not worry me so much. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be any connection between the things the seem to revive my writing motivation.

So, who or what was it that brought about a resurgence of motivation and activity this time? Believe it or not, it was reading Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not.

This might not be considered such a strange event, especially since Hemingway is considered one of the greatest writer’s of all time, but it’s not exactly what you might think. The reason Hemingway’s book motivated me is not because it was a fantastically well-written novel, in fact, it was the exact opposite.

This was my first Hemingway. I plunged into it expecting to be blown away by some mystical power of amazing literature – boy, was I disappointed. Part 1 was okay, nothing totally amazing, but it wouldn’t be the first book I have read that took great persistence to get really involved in the story.

The change of perspective in Part 2 was when I started to have doubts about the greatness of Mr Hemingway. Although, in truth it wasn’t just the change in perspective, lots of novels do that, it was also the disconnected and disjointed feeling that came through reading it.

When I started on Part 3, I wondered out loud if the book wasn’t really a collection of short stories.

Then, I was overcome with complete confusion as the whole thing seemed to take a major detour from the original idea. I was seriously starting to question why this guy was supposedly considered to be some kind of writing God. Hope and motivation for my novel were starting to return.

I finished the book, and straight away started to research Mr Hemingway. I discovered that To Have and Have Not came 8 years after his previous novel, although he had published some short stories in between. I also discovered that this novel started life as two short stories and a novella, so some of the change in perspective and disjointedness started to make sense. But then, according to some contemporary reviewers from the late 1930s, disconnection seems to be a common theme through all Hemingway’s work (that and the lack of distinction between characters in his dialogue).

To Have and Have Not has been referred to as a ‘bunch of junk’ although there seems to be some confusion as to whether this comment should be attributed to Hemingway, himself, or to film director, Howard Hawks, who made the novel into a film of the same name. However, once you start looking into the novel a little deeper than words on a page, and start to question Hemingway’s motives for writing it or what he was trying to explore, then you can start to see that, as a piece of literature, and as an author, Ernest Hemingway was bordering on brilliant.

Regardless of whether this is Hemingway’s worst book or indicative of his work in general, if a great writer can produce a novel like this, there is hope for me yet. That is not to say that I, in any way, shape or form, consider myself in Hemingway’s league (heck, I haven’t even finished writing 1 novel yet, let alone published 7 of them!), but if readers of my novel are not left scratching their heads or having to resort to Google to work put the story together then I will consider myself successful.