Monday, 31 May 2010

Amazing revelation no.73

I'm not actually counting how many revelations I've had about my writing recently, but it's got to be at least 73. Yesterday I went to a local village hall with a very small group of amateur children (very young kids, some of them) and heard them speak the words that I wrote. Not literary masterpieces, in fact the children told me the characters and stories, at least in overview. I just filled in the words, in first draft, for them to edit and trash and rearrange and ultimately own. They used them just as they were, pretty well, and I had the magical experience of hearing my words as I imagined them, spoken by a lovely cast of kids. Maybe I would feel the same about a radio/stage play for adults. The A363 course focuses partly on dramatic styles, and like the life writing which terrified me and the poetry, I can see how how it will inform my fiction. This is the first scene of one of the plays - beautifully acted by the young lady who came up with the story.

Characters: Jake: an outlaw woodcutter who lives with his grandparents
Storyteller: An olde worlde reporter who follows people around looking for a good fairy story.
Pops: Jake’s grandfather, who is old
Granny: Jake’s grandmother, who had arthritis
Volcano: Just the voice of the volcano oracle, who gives people wisdoms providing they tell the truth.
Witch: Evil witch who lives a hundred miles away and keeps a monster as a pet. She grows magic flowers to feed her pet, otherwise he will attack her.
Monster: Non-speaking acting part
Herald: brings news from the king, a bit pompous and self important!



Storyteller: (dramatically, to the audience) Our story begins in a lovely little land. (shakes his head)
No rewind that. (thinks a bit)
Our story begins in a land full of fear and terror.

Jake: (cutting wood) Fear and terror, hah!

Storyteller: Yes, fear and terror. Hey, you – local person. Tell me more about the fear and terror.

Jake: You mean the king.

Storyteller: Is the king a terrible tyrant? Is he a bully, does he chop people’s heads off? Does he torture them to death in dungeons beneath his castle?

Jake: (sarcastically) Oh, yes, he’s a terrible tyrant is our king.

Storyteller: So what’s so terrifying in this (looks around, pauses) charming little land.

Jake: Actually, nothing. It’s the king that’s terrified. He’s frightened of his own shadow. We call him King Henry the Trembling.

Storyteller: He’s an anxious king? Scared of spiders, that sort of thing?

Jake: No, I mean literally scared of his own shadow. They’ve painted all the walls grey so he can’t see his shadow following him around. He’s a nothing king, no-one takes any notice of him, unless they have to pay his taxes.

Storyteller: Well, this isn’t going to make a very good story, is it? Where’s the drama in a slightly annoying king and a few taxes?

Jake: Well, I’m sorry about that but I have to get on. All this lot of wood has to be loaded onto the boat for the trip down the river.

Storyteller: (Looking more interested) Are you going to rescue your true love? Is the wood in some way magical or special? Maybe you are on a quest?

Jake: Nope. So either get out of the way or help me move it.

Storyteller: (picking up a small piece of wood to Jake’s huge armful) So, boy, what are you doing with this wood?

Jake: I’m taking it down the river to sell. My Grandfather is old and my Grandmother is ill. So, I have to bring in the pennies, ha’pennies and farthings.

Storyteller: Your grandmother, is she under a curse? Maybe she has offended evil fairies or has eaten poisoned apples? Come to think of it, your cottage is a bit – (looks around with disdain) run down.

Jake: This is the Outlaws’ Cottage. It’s a bit damp. And small. And dark. And the well isn’t very good, and the privy is falling down, and the thatch is full of rats. It makes my grandmother’s arthritis worse. But if I sell all the wood, we’ll have a few shillings, enough to buy food for the winter. But lots of people won’t deal with us, what with us being outlaws. We just get the leftovers from the market and then they overcharge us.

Storyteller: (to the audience) There must be a story here somewhere. (Turning to Jake) How did a boy like you get to be an outlaw, anyway?

Jake: I haven’t got time for this. Pops! Granny!


Jake: Pops, you know what they said down the market. There has to be a way to cure the king. Maybe then he will be grateful and stop us being outlaws.

Pops: Now, Jake, remember what I said. Just go to the market. I know they talk about the volcano oracle in the market, but that’s too dangerous for you. Just buy as much food as you can, and hopefully we can just get through the winter.

Granny: They probably couldn’t even cure the king, he’s been scared so long. He was always a bit sensitive for my liking, even when he was a little boy. Do your best, Jake, and whatever you buy, we’ll make it last.

Jake: Well, hopefully I’ll get a good price for the wood and we’ll get some decent food this time.

Pops: Flour without weevils would be nice.

Granny: And vegetables without maggots, and cheese that isn’t hard and green. But you just do your best, Jake. We’ll be OK.

Storyteller: (to the audience) Not even a good human interest story, really. There isn’t much of a market for fairy stories about the elderly.


Meanwhile, I'm working on the course. Activity 1.3 got me reading the short story 'Violin Lessons' by Derek Neale to identify genre. It's got a lot of elements of fairy stories in it, a man in a workshop and a boy, the local woods, machinery that can kill you, a young girl... But the threats that emerge are more crime - he fantasises about the machines drawing her in and killing her - then the girl goes missing. But the man is, in many ways, sexually naive, it is the children who are knowing and rather aggressive. It turns out the provocative girl has run away with her violin teacher. So it raises expectations from one genre to the next, then does something unexpected but bot jarringly so.

I also had a nice rejection letter for a short story, which would have left me sobbing in a ball in a cellar somewhere (I know we don't have a cellar, but metaphorically, that's where rejection used to put me. Woman's Weekly beckons, I think!

Dear Rebecca,

Thank you for submitting Moving the desk for consideration by the Candis reader panellists. On this occasion, I’m afraid your story has not been selected for inclusion on the fiction pages of Candis. As you know we can only accept twelve short stories a year from the hundreds we are sent in so please don’t be discouraged. What may not be accepted for Candis may well be quickly snapped up by another publication.

I do wish you continued luck with your short stories and look forward to reading other submissions from you in the future.

Very best wishes,


Debbie Attewell

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