Friday Fictioneers – The Cottage


Photo Prompt © Sandra Crook

Tom has halted beside the woodcutter’s cottage, a stand of burly oaks patrolling the fence line. He can’t make his feet go on.

You picture dread and think of a sudden shape in the underbrush, a howl in the night. If only it were so simple. How little separates us from what we fear!

To count as brave you must first be afraid of death. Tom’s fear runs much deeper. He can see the weave that connects the worlds. The fools tried to make us go away, but what use is that when we’re always a part of him?


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

Fancy sharpening your skill with writing exercises? The Scrivener’s Forge offers a new exercise every month to hone one aspect of your craft. Take a look at this month’s exercise on point of view.

48 thoughts on “Friday Fictioneers – The Cottage

  1. Coincidentally, I saw a clip today about how humans are born with no fear of anything. It featured a baby, a few months old, sitting while a (harmless) snake slithered around, quite happily playing with it. We learn fear as a survival method from those around us. I hope Tom has learned well.

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  2. That tree does bring up a kind of creepy dread, doesn’t it? And your line “A stand of burly oaks patrolling the fence line” adds to the fear. Kudos
    (P.S. I wonder if you need an apostrophe in the first “Tom’s.”)

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  3. I love the use of the pronouns in this. I’ve read it a few times and I think it’s these and the omniscient narrator that gives it its sinister edge. That you use ‘you’ and then ‘we’ suggests that other, deeper, darker things are going on. Lovely.

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  4. Obviously this is about fear, but whose fear… I sense an echo… along with Tom’s viewpoint, then an alternate voice, as if Tom is schizophrenic?

    The use of the continuous present tense while working with a third person narration is something my lecturer’s at university frowned upon to the point of telling me to stop. I wouldn’t listen though… until an editor at Faber a year later working with me on my first novel, (who had worked with our latest noble prize winner for literature) encouraged me to find alternatives.

    I would never tell you to do anything, Neil.

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    1. Yes the present tense can be problematic, even annoying. It’s very common these days though if you look at winners of major competitions..You’re right that a third person narrration makes this even more problem. However. this isn’t really a third person. The voice is Tom too

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  5. Your usual elegant contribution, Neil.
    I suspect you did it intentionally, and I am reluctant to critique some as accomplished as you are, but I found the repetition of the word ‘fear’ in three successive lines slightly off-putting. Sorry.


  6. Dear Neil
    This is a good story, but I’m afraid I don’t think it’s as well written as most of your stories. On a first reading it’s by no means clear that Tom can’t make his feet go on because of fear. I took it as being fatigue on my first reading. I didn’t follow the second paragraph at all until I’d read the story several times and realised you were saying “When you picture dread, you think…” And I just find the multiple voices confusing.
    I could well imagine that the multiple voices could work in a longer piece, though. 100 words means there’s no time for a reader to become accustomed to a device, and it becomes an irritation rather than a clever storytelling aid.
    I’m sorry this reads so negatively. I’m so used to reading your stories and thinking “That’s the way to do it…how can I copy it” that I am probably being too harsh.

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  7. Not as easy read on many levels but worth the work of a few reads. It’s a great idea to give voice to the psychosis – might drive you mad in the process of writing like this! I like the use of the second person – creates a sort of sinister, unsettling intimacy.

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  8. “He can see the weave that connects the worlds” For me, this line was evocative and took me to a different direction – inwards. I have two doubts. “The fool’s tried to make us go away” Would that be fools? And I am not sure I got the connection between the title and the story – Cottage as in the world?


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