Monthly competition – Nov 2018

About Forums Den of Writers Monthly Competition Monthly competition – Nov 2018

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  • #2706
    Jonathan
    Participant

    For this month’s comp I’d like to think about the inciting incident; the moment when things deviate from the norm, and to which the noteworthy events of the story can be traced. To hopefully help you (and because I was caught by surprise this a.m.) I have done a brain dump of items, events, bits and other bobs, and I’m looking for one of these to feature or be referred to in one of your first 5 sentences. That sentence should encapsulate/define/otherwise form your inciting incident. But from there on what happens is up to you. The prompts are:

    An astrolabe; a swan sculpture; the Punic Wars; a patriarchy; the idea of a Klein bottle (as opposed to an actual one); six accountants; a leafy suburb of Kuala Lumpur; professional jealousy; the gap between a bee and a flower; a discovery in the eastern part of any country; the top cabinet in a Welsh Dresser; a path or staircase rumoured to “go nowhere”; a rare doily; a sporting icon (real or imagined, living or dead); the coloured shapes you can see on the insides of your eyelids; a Hindu deity; a roast.

    500 words maximum. I look forward to reading your entries, but for now, it’s over to you! Good luck 🙂

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Jonathan.
    • This topic was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Jonathan.
    #2709
    Seagreen
    Participant

    I’m not sure what fascinates me more – the list of items you came up with or the fact you came up with them when you were caught by surprise…🤔

    #2713
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    I haven’t entered a comp for a while though lack of time but this one intrigued me and my entry is short.

    I suppose it’s a form of Writer’s Block – except that I can’t stop writing. Does that make sense? Probably not. Think of it as writing your way around the surface of a Klein bottle. Yes! That’s it exactly. Thank you. I know where I am now. I’m on the outside looking in. There is a lot to see in there. I keep writing. Describe what I see. Keep writing. What I feel. Keep… Oh! I’m on the inside. I am what I see. I am what I feel. And I’m looking out. Keep writing. What’s outside? It looks different from what I recall. Keep writing. Describe what used to be. Still is? What others feel. Outside. Keep writing. It’s as if… I am! I’m outside. Looking in. I suppose it’s a form of Writer’s Block – except that I can’t stop writing. Does that make sense? Probably not. Think of it as writing your way around the surface of a Klein bottle… …

    #2874
    Jonathan
    Participant

    Guys, it’s dawned on me that not only have I set a ~bit~ of a demanding comp here, but I’ve gone and done it while everyone’s at Nano! 🙂 Would you like me to change it to something easier/shorter/more fun while we have a bit of time – would that be ok – or shall I leave as is?

    #2875
    Daedalus
    Participant

    My inclination would be for you to leave as-is Jonathan. I’m sure you’ll get plenty of entries as and when. NaNo month is always a bit difficult for things like this, but I for one am keen to make sure I enter every Den comp

    #2878
    Raine
    Participant

    I liked the prompts, Jonathan – their utter randomness and the idea. Stick with it. Nano will be a slow month, but we all might need a little breather mid month to keep ourselves sane!!

    #2879
    Seagreen
    Participant

    Don’t change anything! Mr Sea is in Doha this weekend with instructions to visit the Museum of Islamic Art to take photos of their amazing collection of astrolabes. I don’t have any ideas yet, but I know an astrolabe will be involved.

    #2884
    Jonathan
    Participant

    Ok, great, thanks everyone, I’ll leave it 🙂

    #3186
    Seagreen
    Participant

    Up to my neck in astrolabe pictures and nary an idea as yet. Still, there’s a week left. Plenty of time!

    #3211
    Seagreen
    Participant

    UNTITLED (437 words)

    I don’t know where I am.
    No, really, I don’t.
    You’ll think I’m kidding when I tell you about this later and we’ll probably have a good laugh about it, but don’t be surprised if it takes more than one bottle of wine for me to get over today’s little episode. This whole thing at Moira’s Mystical Meditation is freaking me out, not least of all Moira herself who was a bit more… intense… than I expected. She started me off with some quiet reflective time, contemplating the coloured shapes behind my eyelids. You know what I’m like with that sort of thing – I can’t focus for more than two seconds, and somehow I ended up here. Well, it threw me, didn’t it? To find out that the only colour behind my eyelids was grey and I was looking into shadows.
    I mean, grey’s not a real colour, is it?
    And now I’m standing with my toes curled round the edge of something (God knows where my shoes went – I wasn’t barefoot when I left the house) and it’s strange, but I can feel a tug somewhere in my spine.
    I lift my arm to stop myself from falling forward and my hand penetrates this cold, nothing-type void in front of me.
    You know, for a second, I thought it looked black, only it’s not. It’s blue. Shot through with pinpricks of silver. Vibrant. Energising. Oh, this is too weird! Extreme tingling. Like Space Dust, but on my skin instead of my tongue. Not pain exactly, although it makes me want to cry out.

    So… this is awkward. My left arm is gone. Nibbled by the nothingness.
    I press my other hand forward and watch as the cells of my forearm peel away from the rest of me like tiny shards of crystal quartz spiralling upwards into the blue. I try to follow with my eyes, but the shards spin and swirl and lose themselves in the multitude.

    It’s beautiful.

    I think I’m crying, although obviously I can’t wipe my tears away because I don’t have any hands. Whoa! This is such a strange sensation. Do you suppose Moira put something in that herbal tea she gave me? She might have had the decency to warn me – there’s no way I can drive home in this state.

    I think I’m unravelling. My toes are gone. Ankles, too. When the rest of me goes, I hope she calls you to let you know where I am. Good thing I gave her your number. I’ll be here. Waiting. Swirling.

    Although all this swirling is making me feel sick.

    #3212
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Editing
    “Listen to me, Luigi; we’re always on the lookout for new stage plays and this one sounded interesting. Ingenious plot, bit of sex, incest, prostitution, a potential murder and ending up with a suicide.” He put down the cigar he had been waving like a conductor’s baton and folded his hands on his expansive belly. “What’s not to like?”
    “I have a feeling you’re going to tell me, sir.”
    “Six accountants. Accountants! Are you crazy! As your agent I can be brutally honest. It’s 1920, these are exciting times – drinking, dancing, gangsters pursued by heroic cops, sexy architecture, ground-breaking art. What on earth made you choose accountants as your characters?”
    “Well, a friend is an accountant and he tells me it’s the most exciting profession in the world. I thought I’d tap into that.”
    “Your friend is an idiot. No-one, just no-one, thinks of accountancy as anything other than boring. If you put out a play called “Six Accountants in Search of an Auditor” it will be watched by three people and you will be, quite rightly, a laughing stock.” The fat agent waved his hands in the air as if declaring a goal offside. “But enough, already. I’m telling you it won’t fly like this. Never. You need to rewrite it. And no bloody accountants.”
    Winter turned to spring, the trees were decked in blossom, daffodils nodded in warm breezes and the days grew longer.
    “Mr Pirandello’s here to see you.” said Maria.
    “Hey, Luigi, welcome, welcome. Come in, sit down. Maria, please bring coffee and biscuits.”
    When they’d settled down, pleasantries and small talk concluded, Luigi Pirandello asked:
    “I take it you’ve read the new version?”
    “Yes, and we have a winner on our hands, my boy.”
    “So, you think people will be more interested in actors than accountants?”
    “Of course, Luigi, of course. They could have been soldiers or, maybe, priests, but what you’ve come up with is a stroke of genius; Six Characters in Search of an Author. Brilliant.”
    Luigi Pirandello sat back, smiled and sipped his coffee. He was savouring the moment, the door to success was opening, a bright new future beckoned.
    “And now the real work starts,” said the agent, slapping a chubby hand on the desk.
    “What do you mean?” said Luigi, sensing his euphoria may have been a little premature.
    “Editing, Luigi, editing, editing and more editing.”
    (398 words)

    #3271
    Raine
    Participant

    The Flower and the Bee (370 words)

    We watch the open window, falling sunlight, a red flower and an amber bee. This is just the start. Remember that. This is Venus raining diamonds above the black horizon in a damson sky. You have begun to breath the sea and your skin is a map of evenings and the moon will always rise, remember that. When my hand shakes with trying not to hold yours too hard, when we hold our breaths between words because this word, or this word, or this one. They are each a starfall and a broken bone. When I comb the spidersilk of your hair to help you relearn how to smile, we know they are lies and truths and that strange, heroic kindness going the wrong way. Remember this.
    I will lay photographs at your feet, scatter a lifetime geometry and we will marvel at it all. At the miles, the tiny endless joys. We will marvel at these too, the faces that are only there, in those pixels, and this is just the start, we will think. This is the space between the flower and the bee, we rush towards it dancing, and then we must find our way home. Come home, with memories of flowers to last your family through the winter, to give your children the taste of flight. This is the beginning.
    I will make your tea with too much sugar, and you will remind me to eat, and all the time we are echoes of ourselves, all our past selves. And this. We are echoes of each other’s selves. I am your echo, I will speak your words when you cannot, I will find your footsteps and follow them, I will trace your bones in my children. This is just the start.
    Rest now, you will need your beauty’s sleep. There are so many things we leave unsaid, but it is no sin, no shame. We will speak when you awake, if you wish, if you do. And I will sing. If you wish. And this breath is a gift, and this one, and this. And if I trace each line, each bone, it is to hold your echoes. It is to carry you home.

    #3316
    Daedalus
    Participant

    Stairway

    In the church in my village was a staircase that went nowhere. It was not such a very rare thing. Lots of mediaeval churches in my part of the world have a little alcove near the pulpit that used to lead to the rood gallery – an actual gallery, often beautifully decorated, high above the congregation from where the priest would deliver the gospel. The rood screens were, I was told, smashed by puritans during the Civil War or afterwards. Many of these little alcoves are just that, blocked up at the base level. But in All Saints Church, Great Oakley, the old, frighteningly narrow, spiral stairs, wind up and out of view. I’d often peered in as a child. It started pretty high up, several feet off the ground, so just getting in wasn’t that easy, and not the kind of thing you could really do during a Sunday service. It took until I was eleven to actually climb up there, one afternoon when the church was left open. I snuck away and wriggled into the stairway. It didn’t go far, barely higher than my head, but a couple of steps from the top my hand settled on something. I picked it up, blew the thick crusting of dust off it, and found myself holding a shell, the kind used for baptism. When I got back into the church, I inspected my find. It was indeed a scallop shell, inscribed with various markings. One of them was an elaborate cross, the engraved lines inked green, which an excited churchwarden declared was the device of Saint Alban. Here is where memory must play tricks, because the other thing I remember inscribed on it was a figure that looked remarkably like the Egyptian god Anubis. As I think back on it I know that cannot be right. Saint Dominic is sometimes represented as a dog with a torch. Perhaps it was him.

    I will never know. Probably, no-one will. A while after I made my excited discovery, I realised nothing had happened, nothing further had been said. I asked the rector about it. And he denied all knowledge of ever having seen such a thing. He cut me off. I walked away wondering if I had imagined it.

    I discovered some years later that the shell had indeed existed, and had been left in the vestry. A local family had decided to play a trick. It was a very odd sort of trick – they all placed their finger and toenail clippings in it. When this was noticed, somebody panicked. It was a sign of something demonic, they said. Apparently nail clippings have some significance. The hysteria spread and the shell was destroyed in a ritual by the rector.

    What did this incite? A mistrust of adults. A mistrust of priests. The lesson that grownups can act in very illogical ways. The lesson that historical artifacts are not always valued, and indeed are sometimes feared? Perhaps just that people are strange and fearful.

    #3317
    Daedalus
    Participant

    (Sorry, 500 words not inc title)

    #3323
    Xander Michael
    Participant

    Home

    It had always been a struggle, Kristjan’s relationship with Safiya, but it had been worth it. They met when she was studying in Reykjavik from Malaysia and it was love at first sight. It was a difficult courtship because Safiya never appreciated anything about Iceland save for it “having made you,” as she would say.

    Kristjan could only see one solution to stay with her and so he took the plunge and moved to Kuala Lumpur with her at the end of her studies. They wed earlier than planned in order to help with his immigration paperwork, and afterwards he found work quite easily. Life was full and exciting and everything seemed to have snapped into place.

    There was always something happening Kuala Lumpur, taking them from music festivals and night markets to impromptu circus performances in the park. People were everywhere and always on the move. It was invigorating compared to home, but also a lot to adjust to.

    Safiya liked to go for long walks in the evening as the air was starting to cool. Kristjan partly thought that it was for him because it was so much more calming than anything else.

    One evening in late August, a little over a year after they wed, they were out for one of these walks. Though always beautiful, the sunset was getting repetitive to Kristjan. Sun up, twelve hours later, sun down.
    However, Safiya’s soft hand fit perfectly in his, her thumb unconsciously rubbing back and forth, making every walk special. They’d taken this route many times, knowing it was the best way to avoid certain nosy neighbours who still treated Kristjan like a commodity that Safiya shouldn’t be keeping to herself.

    This evening walking through the leafy suburb in Kuala Lumpur, something was different. Kristjan felt out of place and not for any stray comments he’d overheard. He’d made Malaysia his home, but now there was a bubbling inside, feelings he’d ignored that were straining at the surface, ready to erupt.

    To clear his head he looked up at the sky as he always did at home, but the foliage blocked any view there might have. Leaves were everywhere, crowding the sky and even the houses around them. He could barely see the
    homes on the other side of the street.

    He let go of her hand, but she barely noticed.

    He tried to take a deep breath, but there was no fresh breeze coming off the Atlantic to reinvigorate him. Instead it was humid and stale and made breathing more difficult. He could feel his sweaty shirt bunching in his armpits as he walked.

    After a few more steps he stopped walking.

    A couple heart beats after that and she turned back to him, a concerned look on her face. He couldn’t look at her. It was too much. He loved her and she loved him, but this wasn’t him. He was endless sky, cool air and drastic changes in light.

    He was going home.

    (500 words including the title)

    #3328
    Jonathan
    Participant

    Happy December 1st Denizens! I have to admit I spent some of November going “They hate me! I’ve ruined the comp (again) with my over-restrictive prompts!” but these stories show me very much otherwise, so thank you. Anyway – comments & results incoming…

    Tony Lyttle
    Untitled
    A short, fractured little piece that I interpreted as being – somewhat autobiographical? It certainly chimed, and I love the repeating infinite loop nature of it, much like what scribbling across the surface of the klein bottle would be like. In that regard you caught the reason I included that in the prompt. I was hooked straight in by the notion of writers block but being unable to stop. It sounds weird. It is weird, and that caught me in. Yes, it’s brief, and it would have been interesting to see what you might have done with the extra words, but it works nonetheless.

    Seagreen
    Untitled
    Again, you have turned the prompt – the shapes behind the eyelids – into exactly something I wanted it to be. I loved this line: “To find out that the only colour behind my eyelids was grey and I was looking into shadows.” And the opening got straight to the thing of note, of not knowing where we are. It’s quite a strange tale, and very well-described, and the contrast between the missing arm and the “It’s beautiful!” absolutely works for me. I’m wondering what the devil’s happened to your narrator. Has she meditated herself into oblivion?

    John S. Alty
    “Editing”
    I see that you took a punt on the six accountants, and Luigi’s got a point: a play about six accountants is going to be a niche thing. I enjoyed the back and forth between the characters, and the way it all develops like the actual writing process – start with something, watch it evolve into something new, then edit the heck out of it. I did check to see whether there were six characters. And there were, in a way – Luigi, his agent, Maria, the auditor, the friend, and the author, which I thought was a rather neat little puzzle to be unravelled. May be just my reading of it though. Oh – “daffodils nodded in warm breezes” shows the passage of seasons beautifully, though it didn’t half make me wish for spring. 🙂

    Raine
    “The Flower And The Bee”
    Took me a couple of reads to get a feel for it. To me, it seems to chronicle someone slipping away – the refrains of “Remember this” and “this is just the start” are less like instructions and more like pleas and acts of denial, and with this in mind, and contrasted with the simple implicit bond of the gap between bee and flower, it cuts deep. They are what hooked me in. “This is Venus raining diamonds above the black horizon in a damson sky. “; “They are each a starfall and a broken bone.”; I don’t really know what to say about some of the imagery you used, and the voice you did it in, other than that they are beautiful, hurtful things. Sublime and inspiring.

    Daedalus
    “Stairway”
    First sentence and I am in. This suggestion was prompted by an article I read about the Winchester House, where passages and doors and staircases lead every which way, or no way at all. A church works even better; what child sees a mysterious through-way and doesn’t want to explore. I loved the detail in your entry – the history, the saints, Anubis, demonism, all evoked with pointillised precision and underscoring an increasing tension. I get the sense that there is something darker here, something that is not being said, a feeling of past trauma that is quickly swept away, leaving confusion and a hole.

    Xander Michael
    “Home”
    For some reason, I get a sense of ending right from the start here if that makes sense. There’s a sadness throughout. Where does that come from? “It had always been a struggle”, I suppose. It sets the tone and we just know it’s not going to go well. I loved this line, “He was endless sky, cool air and drastic changes in light” and the contrast between that and the overpowering humidity of KL was very sensory and real. For some reason when I chose this prompt I had a sudden urge to go to some nice neighbourghood in KL, just to see, and you took me there well, so thank you. Oh – I thought at first that Kristjan had a heart attack! If not, it was certainly intense.

    Great reads all round guys but I’m going to have to give it to Raine with The Flower And The Bee. Your metaphors were brilliant, and the voice and the repetitions produced poetry. I don’t know why I sound surprised. I’m not suprised. I know this is what your writing is like.

    Once more, thank you all for your entries. On a day like today, when the weather is ghastly and grey, I have read well. Raine, over to you 🙂

    #3329
    Daedalus
    Participant

    Well done Raine, fantastic competition Jonathan, many thanks for the feedback

    #3330
    Seagreen
    Participant

    Congratulations, Raine! Well-deserved 🙂
    And thank you, Jonathan, for dragging me out of my writerly walled garden and dropping me who-knows-where.

    #3331
    Raine
    Participant

    Oh crikey, thank you so much jonathon! I wasn’t expecting that at all! There was so much to love in all the others. I actually, despite your concerns, absolutely loved your list of prompts!

    I’m (still) on a train so will mull on a theme and kick off December tmrw. Thank you again. 🙂

    #3333
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Well done Raine, and thank you Daed for giving such good feedback on all the entries. Good comp.

    #3334
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Well done, Raine.

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