The Judge: a short story response

This isn't something I'd ordinarily do. As part of the cut-and-thrust on Twitter earlier today, I mentioned that the idea of an openly gay, ex-Olympian fencer who was a judge sounded like top superhero material. An old-school costumed vigilante in the Detective Comics-era BatMan or Zorro mould. Maybe a flash of Baroness Orzy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. A couple of people commented that it sounded like an agreeably daft idea. 

And I had a couple of hours free. So here it is. The Judge. Some caveats here. It's a 2800 word single draft piece written in a single sitting. I'm likely never to go back to it ever. And it's a work of fiction. No real people are meant to be inferred etc. We clear? Good. Just an afternoon's writing amusement. 

Anyway. The story's here, it's free for you to read and enjoy/comment on/disparage, and can be downloaded as a pdf file

Two short stories for Christmas

Om my old blog I'd put up a pair of short stories - each with a Christmas theme - that I'd written in 2011 and in 2013. That blog's since been put unto the great recycle bin in the sky, though I kept the stories. 

As it's the season, here they are again. I've read them back through, made only the most minor of tweaks, and have loaded 'em back up. They'll open as .pdf files. Hope you enjoy them!

A Glass of Sherry and the World Entire

Kris and Caz: a Story for Christmas

That's me pretty much done till 2016. I'll be back on the blog on Tuesday 5th January, and the January newsletter - if you've signed up to the mailing list - will be with you on Sunday 3rd Jan. Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you in the New Year!  

A found story

I found a story yesterday. It was late, and I was half-heartedly sorting through a box of stuff that I hadn't opened since I moved four years ago. I was working on the assumption that there was nothing in here that I'd need and the contents would end up in one of three piles: charity shop / recycling / bin. And yep, pretty much the entire box was headed that way. Most of it was paper of one sort or another; none of it of much relevance.

Then, about two-thirds of the way down the box (which had a couple of paperbacks in that went straight onto the charro heap) a folder. A plain blue cardboard slip kinda folder. The sort you might stick last year's tax bumf into. There wasn't anything written on any of the top-right-hand corner lines to indicate if there was anything of value or relevance tucked within. I gave the folder a squeeze. If there was much inside, there could only be three or four sheets of A4.

Worth a peek anyway. You never know, after all.

Inside were half-a-dozen printouts, old handout sheets from a class I'd taught somewhen. Quite possibly from more than one week's work, because there were sheets on planning a short story, on the 8-point arc, on first lines, on prompts for writing. One sheet went through story archetypes. 

One of the sheets was handwritten. A page from an A4 refill pad. Lined, margin.  My ungainly handwriting all over it in a black gel-type pen that was fading to a muddy brown here and there. Some smudges; I'm a leftie and I drag my hand over what I write. If I've been scribbling down notes, then I'll like as not have a smear of ink on the outside of my little and second fingers.      

It's a story. There's a title and three acts blocked out, with characters, locations, the main beats plus a few additional ideas. It reads OK. I've no recollection of writing it. There aren't any notions I've used elsewhere. it all fits onto a single side of paper.  

I assume I made the notes in a class while the students were doing the same task; fifteen minutes, get your ideas out of your head and onto some paper. That kind of thing. 

I'd guess the work is five years old. Maybe a touch more. I'll have to write it now. The title I gave the notes is Horseshoe Point. Keep an eye out for it. I'll keep it. If the story ever comes out, gets itself into a competition long-list or a magazine, then this is where it started. Just bear in mind it spent half a decade in a box of oddments, forgotten. Or just waiting for the right time to reappear.  

Makes me wonder what else is boxed up, waiting to be found.

Jumping-off points for stories / The Girl and the Sadness Inside (a short story)

This was going to be a blog post about short story writing competitions, and to a certain extent it still is, though not in the way that I'd imagined. Last Wednesday, while waiting for a delivery that hadn't shown up, I was browsing through Twitter and came across a 50-word short story competition being run by the Scottish Book Trust in association with The Literary Gift Company. So I had a quick look at it. (Incidentally, the competition - at the time of writing - is still open. Why not give it a go?)   

The task was a seemingly simple one: in 50 words, write a fairy story. OK, I thought, I'll give it a go. Starting with "Once upon a time...", off I went. Now, I didn't get a 50 word story. Instead, what I ended up with was a 350-word piece of flash fiction, still staying with the competition's brief, that came more-or-less fully-formed and was out of my head and down on paper in half an hour. A bit of tidying-up and it was done.

I was in the middle of something else. I was a bit distracted - the delivery never arrived, by the way - and so was grateful for the task. But, and here's the little lesson I reinforced to myself: you never know where the stories might be lurking. 

So, keep yourself open to opportunities and springboards. Look at competitions and magazine calls for submissions in particular, because they often come with a rubric, an idea, a theme, or a start point. These can be really useful for triggering ideas. They can work better than author website or creative writing guide how-to prompts, as they're "real world". 

It doesn't matter if what you produce doesn't really fit with the competition. It doesn't matter if you've no intention in entering the competition, or sending the story off to that publication. What does matter is reminding yourself that, when the stars align, you can do this and produce something out of nothing.

Big thanks, therefore, to the competition organisers, for providing the writing prompt. And as for the story itself, which I've called The Girl and the Sadness Inside? Well, you can read it here.   


My novel The Prospect of This City is out now and available in paperback from me (signed if you prefer!) or in both paperback and ebook via Amazon.