Friday Fictioneers – Courtship

PHOTO PROMPT © Bradley Harris

“Got a trout for you,” he said brusquely.

He shuffled at the door and coughed.

I took the glistening silver fish from him. “That’s kind.”

The man seemed to be waiting for something. Did he want payment?

“Will you come back this evening and share with me?” I suggested.

Demasiado pequeno. Too small for both.”

“I’ll make roast tatties, lots of them.”

“Alright, entonces,” he said, almost grudgingly.

There was no telling what was in the man’s mind. Still isn’t, and we’ve been married now these twelve years.

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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

Friday Fictioneers – Street Artist

PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

He has grown old at this marketplace table. One day, we were young and easy, running in the narrow allies; the next, he was shackled to his brush.

“Chrysanthemums sell best,” he says, a flick of his hand tracing the stem of his eighth gaudy flower. “And waves, Hokusai waves.”

I notice the slightness of his wrist. As if all the meat has boiled away, leaving only a skeleton that paints and paints.

“Oh, that’s beautiful,” a woman says to her beau. “Let’s buy it.”

And my old friend’s face brightens in a smile, skin stretched parchment thin.

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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

Friday Fictioneers – One is not enough

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

One is not enough—not to carry the load. Two can share it, but we bend under the strain. Happy voices ring out in song and laughter but, when we turn the corner, they have vanished.

Two is not enough. Nor even a single family—parents, little ones, and grandies.

It takes a whole community.

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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

Friday Fictioneers – Uncertainty

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Behind us, bright lights ho-ho-humming in the night, and the merry jingle of coins pinging into their slots, the city one immense pinball machine. Ahead, darkness.

Oh, they were good times! We didn’t know it then, but we do now. Simple times—the times before. We understood what to expect.

Anything can lurk in the obscurity to come. Maybe a dragon, but maybe also a unicorn. Probably nothing. But it’s the uncertainty we fear. Even if we believed cataclysm was coming, we’d be buoyed by the knowing, and step forward jaunty to meet it.

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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

162. People do not have as much character as portrayed in novel

By convention, we think of character as the essence of the novel. At least of the literary novel. Or, at least of the Western literary novel.

I picked some writing advice from a random internet search: Masterclass has this to say:

“While a mastery of plot can help you develop exciting twists and turns, great character development draws readers in by giving them strong characters with whom they can identify…A novel consists of a character interacting with events over time.”

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/writing-tips-for-character-development

Someone told me that once you have a character with a want, you have the beginnings of a plot.

But, of course, the idea that stories should be about characters striving to achieve their goal is a comparatively new one in story-telling, and depends on historical preconditions. These include the development of the belief that what goes on in other people’s heads is interesting, and the existence of societies in which it’s meaningful for individuals to strive towards goals.

Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature has an interesting take on the primacy of character.

“The aspect of the human being we call ‘character’ is a historical construct and,…just like our own psychological and emotional makeup, the character of literary figures is an artifice we choose to believe in… Since I believe that the essential aim of the art of the novel is to present an accurate depiction of life, let me be forthright. People do not actually have as much character as we find portrayed in novels, especially in nineteenth- and twentieth-century novels…

“Furthermore, human character is not nearly as important in the shaping of our lives as it is made out to be in the novels and literary criticism of the West. To say that character-creation should be the primary goal of the novelist runs counter to what we know about everyday human life…In the beginning, there are patterns formed by people, objects, stories, images, situations, beliefs, history, and the juxtaposition of all these things—in other words, a texture…

“The character of my novel’s main protagonist is determined the same way a person’s character is formed in life: by the situations and events he lives through…The defining question of the art of the novel is not the personality or character of the protagonists, but rather how the universe within the tale appears to them…

“Novelists do not first invent a protagonist with a very special soul, and then get pulled along, according to the wishes of this figure, into specific subjects or experiences. The desire to explore particular topics comes first. Only then do novelists conceive the figures who would be most suitable for elucidating these topics.”

Orhan Pamuk, The Naïve and Sentimental Novelist pp 67-77, Faber & Faber 2011

Note that he is not denying the premise that readers become immersed through characters.  He is saying that character is a product of a wider interplay of forces (what he calls texture) than simply a want. This texture is shaped by landscape, class, gender, and ethnicity. Character brings those forces to life.  As a writer who was shaped by successive periods of military rule in Turkey, he is probably more sensitive to historical and political forces than are his Western counterparts.

Friday Fictioneers – Obsession

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

She was a goddess, a liminal deity of boundaries and of spaces in-between.

“Give me wine, men, and song,” she would say. Sometimes she would grin and say “Wine, women, and song would do just as well.”

Of course, she inducted me into the ways of love and, of course, I became wholly her creature. Her touch thrilled and, yet, drenched me in a frenzy of self-loathing.

When at last it ended, as it had to, and she cast me into the darkness, she gifted me a fine St. Emilion and a song I could sing forever.

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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

Friday Fictioneers – Bequest

PHOTO PROMPT © Claire Fuller

My sister got the house with roses around the porch. Well, fine! I’d broken out of that slammer long ago. Aunt Tilly got the family silver. Fair enough! It has been their mother’s.

But why did I only inherit that photo of a grubby garage? This had to be a clue, the beginning of a treasure trail.

I was in high spirits when I set off for Wensleydale. Roper’s garage was a dump. But, inside those locked doors, I knew there’d be a link. There was. A jumble of engine parts and a note: “Get your life together.”

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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

Friday Fictioneers – The Dunny on Dune View

PHOTO PROMPT © Lisa Fox

There are no dunes on Dune View. Only scrubby marsh—land too poor to develop, left to creatures that slink and wriggle. And above the scrub, ranks of bungalows march down the hill in tight formation.

They should never have zoned this green space residential. But a planning committee trip to the sister project in the Virgin Islands swung the deal.

The crapper was supposed to be a pointed joke. But it became a feature, the only one in a featureless landscape. And after adding the second story, we became celebrities—we have a voice, but the wrong one.

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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

Friday Fictioneers – Shoeshine

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

Horacio recognises trouble when he sees those shoes. They are plain evil—dusty brown, the leather hard and cracked like the soil after a six-month drought. These are devil shoes. The feet plant themselves on the shoeshine stand with swaggering confrontation.  

Horacio’s shoeshine station is reserved for good men. They ascend its throne to rent, for five minutes, the lofty experience of a master craftsman serving at their feet. Uptown is better, in the canyons where they excavate money. Or the tourists in the plaza, but they wear flipflops. You can’t shine flipflops.

“Begone devil,” he says to the shoes.

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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

161. Is originality essential?

Does a story have to be original to succeed? Indeed, can a story ever be original?

The answer may depend on how we define the term, story. I’m going to distinguish here between the terms, “plot” and “story”. A plot is the WHAT of a tale: what happens and to whom. A story is the HOW, the way the plot is related: in what sequence, with what stylistic devices.

There have been repeated claims that there’s only one story (Joseph Campbell’s idea of the Monomyth ) or seven (Christopher Brooker) or 31 (Vladimir Propp). Other thinkers suggest other numbers. In all cases, what they are talking about it plot, not story.

Even if there were only one plot, there might be a large (perhaps infinite) number of ways of telling it. Consider these examples of basic plots and their realisations:

Characters converge — usually in high school or university — and then diverge. But changed!
The Group, Mary McCarthy
The Interestings, Meg Wolitzer
Private Citizens, Tony Tulathimutte
A swindler is double-crossed, either out of vengeance or greed
The Grifters, Jim Thompson
The Mark Inside, Amy Reading
A character’s fall
Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf T
The protagonist is deceived until the scales fall from her eyes
The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Forbidden Love
Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
A woman turns down proposals of convenience and settles on an unexpected Mr. Right
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Jane Eyre, Charlotte BronteBridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
More at https://www.vulture.com/2016/08/encyclopedia-of-every-literary-plot-ever.html  

So, while plots may not be original, stories can be. What devices turn a plot into an original story?

Originality – whatleydude
https://www.whatleydude.com/tag/originality/

  • The words. Evocative language can turn a pedestrian plot into a thing of beauty.
  • Characterisation. People are individual, and endlessly fascinating in the way they act and see the world.
  • The point of view. Relating The Three Little Pigs from the Wolf’s point of view creates a fresh story.
  • The point of telling. This is the location in the plot from which the author starts to tell the story. A tale told from the middle or the end can feel very different from one told in sequence.

In these senses, a story can be original. Indeed, it must be original. If a story doesn’t resonate and hum, give me a sense of something fresh, a new insight, a new way of seeing a familiar problem, why would I want to read it?