Writing 101, Day Twelve: (Virtual) Dark Clouds on the Horizon

Today’s prompt: Today, write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. Today’s twist: include foreshadowing.

 

Last night I dreamt I returned to….  Part 2.

I had to go back. I needed to go inside. I had to speak to him again. Just one more time. I knew he was still there. He told me he would never leave…

‘Good morning. My name is Stella Naiman, I lived in this house when I was a child and I’d like to go inside, just once.’

‘Good morning. I am Stella Naiman, I used to live here many years ago. May I come in?’

‘Good morning. I know this sounds strange, but many years ago, I lived in this house. It has many memories for me. Would you be so kind as to let me in for a few minutes?’

‘Good morning. I need to speak to someone inside your house, someone who has been living with you all these years, although you may never have seen him. May I come in?’

‘Good morning. When I lived in this house there was a friendly ghost. I wonder if he is still here, you see I need his help. May I come in and find him?’

‘Good morning. If you don’t let me in I’ll break in. I need to go inside and see if someone I once knew is still here. I need to tell him he was right and I need his help once more, you see he said he would always be here to help me. Please let me in.’

‘Good morning. My name is Stella Naiman. You can help me. Please let me come in and I will explain everything.’

***

My finger pushed the faded button. The familiar buzz sent a jolt along my arm to my shocked ear. Why hadn’t they changed the shrill-sounding worn doorbell? 

Good morning, my name is Sandra Norton. I work for the Highwood Observer.” I showed her a card with my picture and the name of the newspaper I had printed out and laminated. ‘I am preparing a special feature on living in Highwood Hill which will also appear in national newspapers. I have been interviewing various residents in the area, and I was wondering if you would mind answering a few questions.’

She took the card scrutinizing the contents. Then she looked at my face, making sure it was the same as the one on the card.

‘I took that picture last year. My hair was shorter then.’ I reassured her. ‘Glasses off looks more like me!’ I added with a friendly tone pulling my glasses down towards my chest, away from my eyes.

She pursed her lips. ‘You can’t be too careful nowadays, can you?’

‘Well, I’d like people who read the article to think about moving to Highwood. It actually has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. House prices are sure to go up…’ I curled my lips slyly. She didn’t look very well off.

‘Sure, please come in.’

 

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Writing 101, Day Eight: Death to Adverbs

Today’s prompt: Go to a public location and make a detailed report of what you see. The twist of the day? Write the post without adverbs.

The Corpse

I strolled to the beach front to have breakfast. The coffee shop I had planned to go to was closed, so I walked on to the next one. I stepped along the floorboards wobbling on the sand, and sat at a table facing the sea. I drank my coffee and ate my toast, while listening to the breaking waves. I checked the customers, looking around for information to complete my assignment, and decided they looked northern European, no doubt searching for a respite to their protracted winter. It was then I saw a swimming trunk, floating by the shore. I fixed my gaze on it for some seconds because it seemed odd, and I had been trained to check things which looked out of place. I noticed there was something attached to it — a body!

‘Call an ambulance! There’s someone floating in the water!” I shouted.

The other guests screamed, discarded their food, and followed me to the spot where I had seen the corpse. My walk had ended. It was back to work for me, I sighed, as I called my colleagues at the Police Department.

End of todays’s assignment.

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I think adjectives and adverbs should be carefully chosen, but I am sure as a linguist, an English teacher, a reader, and a writer, that they definitely have their place, in all types of written discourse.

However, for the sake of following today’s assignment, the previous version was ‘adverbless’ and almost without adjectives, too. If you want some more, the following is another version with many more adjectives and adverbs.

Which do you prefer? and Why?

The Corpse

I strolled to the beach front to have a long, lazy breakfast, on my first free Sunday morning for weeks. The coffee shop I had planned to go to was closed, so I walked on to the next available one with a free table. I stepped along the wooden floorboards wobbling on the uneven sand and sat at a sunny table facing the sea. I drank my coffee and ate my toast while listening to the soothing swish of the breaking waves. I checked the other early risers on the neighbouring tables distractedly, looking around for information to complete my assignment, and decided they looked mostly northern European, no doubt searching for a warm respite to their chilly spring.

I looked back to the sea. It was then I saw an inflated swimming trunk floating aimlessly by the shore. I fixed my gaze on it for some seconds because it seemed odd, there, and I had been trained to check things which looked out of place. Seconds later I noticed there was something attached to it… a body!

‘Call an ambulance. Now! There’s someone floating in the water!” I shouted franticly.

The other guests screamed, discarded their food, and followed me to the spot where I had seen the corpse. So much for my quiet, peaceful morning walk. It was back to work for me, I sighed, as I called my unsuspecting colleagues at the local Police Department.

Writing 101, Day Seven: Give and Take

Today’s prompt: Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.

Real Versus Virtual World.

I have two lives, a real life and a virtual one. The virtual life (VL) is very easy-going, she never moans or complains, and is mostly polite, friendly, and supportive. The real life (RL) is far more demanding, complex, and exhausting. I want my two lives to understand each other and get on, because it would make my whole life easier for me. This was the discussion they had…

RL. I’m a life. I’m her life. I’m her real life. I’m full of people she can see, touch, hear, and smell.

VL. I’m a life, too. I’m her life. I’m her virtual life. I’m full of people from all over the planet she’ll be able to meet and interact with.

RL. But she can’t see the expression on their faces or hear the sound of their voices, or smell their perfume, or shake their hands, or have a coffee with them…

VL. But she can read about their opinions, know what they think, and travel around the world. She’ll see photographs of places she’ll never visit. She’ll read about experiences she’s never had, and learn about anything and everything she’s interested in.

RL. You aren’t leading her anywhere… you’re dead-end. She doesn’t need you. She needs me. She need to go shopping, speak to her neighbours, go to work…

VL. Excuse me, but she’s in touch with all her ‘real’ family and friends on Facebook, skype, twitter, line, and whatsapp. She’s more in touch with ‘real’ people through her virtual life and she gets to meet many other people, who happen to be ‘real’, too, as far as I know…

RL. You take up too much of her life…

VL. I’d say it’s you who takes up too much of her life. She has to spend at least fourteen or fifteen of the seventeen hours she’s awake, dealing with all the problems you cause, while she only has two or three hours to see to her virtual life, which is much less stressful…

RL. She needs me…

VL. She needs me, too…

They’ll never agree, so at least they’ll agree to disagree.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep them both, because they’re both part of who I am and how I live, although my real life is going to have to be more generous and give up some of her time in favour of my virtual life…

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Writing 101, Day Six: A Character-Building Experience. Elsa.

Today’s prompt: Today, you’ll write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014. In your twist, develop and shape your portrait further in a character study.

 

Lucy and Elsa

Elsa was born two days ago, 8th July, she’s the reason I’m late for my blogging challenge! I’ve been busy helping my daughter and her husband with their new challenge for 2014!

Elsa is my first granddaughter and my third grandchild. She’s got rosy skin and lots of shiny black hair, she hasn’t opened her eyes yet, so we don’t know what colour they are. She’s slim with long legs and feet. She spends most of the day breast feeding and sleeping, and cries occasionally.

Elsa is named after my sister who died tragically in an accident when she was twenty-five. When my daughter told me she’d be calling her own daughter Elsa, I was overjoyed. It’s a lovely name and it is also an emotional tribute to my sister.

I wonder if a person’s character is determined at birth, or if it develops over time? The ‘nature versus nurture’ dichotomy is still unsolved. There is evidence to support both theories, so I think, there’s a mixture of both in our characters. We are born with certain traits, which can develop in different ways depending on our life experiences.

I can’t tell what Elsa’s character will be like in the future. At the moment, she seems calm and quiet, and she smiles frequently. She’s not demanding or noisy, which is a good sign. Most people tend to prefer easy-going and cheerful people, and they’re probably happier with themselves, too!

I like to think I’m not superstitious, but I’ve heard this poem recited since I was a child, and have always thought (probably illogically) that there was some truth attached to the divination of a person’s future through according to the day they were born.
Monday
Elsa was born on Sunday, so she’ll be bonny and blithe and good and gay!

This popular English rhyme was first recorded in A. E. Bray’s Traditions of Devonshire in 1838 however, the tradition of fortune telling by days of birth is much older. Thomas Nashe recalled stories told to “young folks” in Suffolk in the 1570s which included telling what luck everyone should have according to the day of the week.

If you’re interested you can check out the day you were born and see if you think it’s true for you!

In any case, I’m sure that Elsa is the most interesting and most important person I’ve met this year.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-day-six/  Check out some of today’s other posts here!

Writing 101, Day Five: The Letter.

Today’s prompt (well, yesterday’s I’m overdue!): You discover a letter on a path that affects you deeply. Write about this encounter. And your twist? Be as succinct as possible.

The sun stroked my cheeks as I sank lazily on the deck chair at the Bankside Café, facing Richmond Park. I indulged in this small luxury every Friday, before checking in at the library. As I sipped my cappuccino, a grey weightless bubble caught my attention, rolling along the pavement. The torn page, which had been crumpled furiously into a ball, and discarded carelessly onto the floor, stopped by my surprised feet. I unraveled it and read the highlighted words…

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever.’ I gasped, trying to shock my lungs back to work, before continuing, ‘I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago.’ My heart was now racing uncontrollably, ‘Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.’ I wiped away the tear that burst out of my eye, while I read the rest of the message, ‘Call me’, followed by nine numbers firmly engraved over the typewritten words on the back of the page.

End of the 101 Challenge.

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The letter quoted in this entry is one of the most famous love letters in English literature. It was written by Captain Wentworth to Anne Elliot in Jane Austen’s last completed novel, Persuasion, written in August 1816, a year before she died, and published posthumously in 1818.

Persuasion has a simple plot, although there are important subplots. Frederick Wentworth is a brave, handsome and wealthy captain, who has returned from maritime victories in the Napoleonic Wars. He is staying with his sister and brother-in-law, who have leased Kellynch Hall, which was estate owned by the family of Anne Elliot, who had broken their engagement eight years earlier. He publicly declares that he is ready to marry a suitable young lady, creating great expectations among the marriageable women of Bath.

Jane Austen, who died the year before Queen Victoria was born, is one of the best-loved authors of romantic fiction involving the landed gentry of the early 19th century. ‘Persuasion’ refers to the pressures employed by society on women regarding love and marriage, and deals with the conflicts they face between free will, duty and responsibility.

I will be writing a fuller review called ‘Rereading Persuasion’, soon, meanwhile here’s the whole letter, which I hope will encourage you to read this wonderful novel.

I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never incon¬stant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent crea¬ture! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W-

Writing 101, Day Four: The Serial Killer. Loss.

Today’s prompt is: write about a loss. The twist: make this the first post in a three-post series. Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more.

I didn’t want to get sentimental today. I’ve tried hard to write about loss in a positive way, but I’ve given up.

Loss is loss. It’s hard and devastating and often irretrievable.

I want to face loss. I need to face loss. The greatest loss that can happen to a person is, literally, losing oneself, not knowing who you are as a result of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other types of neurological conditions.

I first came across dementia when I was a teenager in the 1970s. My mother, my sister, and I, used to travel from London to the north of Spain via Paris by coach, and ferry. We stayed with my mother’s cousins, aunt, and uncle, who had escaped to France from the Spanish Civil War. They lived in the outskirts of Paris, in suburban town houses, much like our house in north London. We always enjoyed our stay there (I’m sorry to say we’ve lost touch now), they were merry and welcoming, and took us to visit the sights like tourists, and cooked us delicious meals, which always ended with lots of different types of cheese and Champaign.

One year, my mother’s Aunt Asunción was different. She kept saying things over and over again. She no longer cooked, or went out. I sensed something was wrong, but she looked healthy. She had put on weight, and seemed to be happy, and smiled most of the time. Until one day she asked me how my father was. My father didn’t live with us, so he never came. In fact, I’m sure she had never even met him. But she insisted in Spanish, which was the language she usually used to speak to me, ‘Where is Antonio, your father? I haven’t seen him this morning in the walk.”

It took me a few minutes o realize she was talking about my grandfather, whom I had never met, because he had died ten years before I was born. Then she called me by my name, which was also my mother’s name. Once more I soon realized she wasn’t talking to me, but to my mother. She thought I was my mother, and she was asking me about her father. I was shocked and distressed, so I rushed to tell my aunt, her daughter, who told me not to worry, ‘Just say yes, and play along.’ She dismissed. I asked her if we shouldn’t tell her about her confusion, and she told me that she was ill, and would never recover her former self. We had lost her, but worse still, she had lost herself.

As far as I can remember, there was no name attached to the condition, at the time. It was dismissed as ‘old age’. Apparently, it had happened to other members of the family who had lived long enough. Years later, in the 1990s, another aunt, on my father’s side, suffered the same ‘strange illness’, which now had a universally acknowledged name: Alzheimer’s, and people started talking about it openly, and investigating to improve the lives of sufferers and their families, but it was early days yet.

This dreadful loss was to cross my path twice more…

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Writing 101. Day 3. Three Songs

Today’s prompt is: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

The most important song in my life is Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty. I was in my first year at college when I first heard it. I was living on campus in Hampstead, and bus number 13 and 113 (I think I’ve got the numbers right) used to take me from the dorms to the centre of town, along Finchley Road, past Swiss Cottage, St. John’s Wood, and Lord’s, along Baker Street and into bustling Oxford Street. But I was well acquainted with this street before College. I used to live in north London, and on special occasions, I would take the metropolitan line into Baker Street Station, from there I’d often walk along Baker Street and into Oxford Street and spend the day window shopping and wandering around the fascinating shops. Now, when I listen to this song, I can hear the murmur of the city traffic, feel the buzz of the busy pedestrians, and smell the dampness seeping out from the river I both love and despise.

The next song belongs to an earlier period in my life, when I was a young teenager and went to my first discos. I remember dancing to ‘That’s the way I like it’ by K C and the Sunshine band. It’s important because it represented the transition from childhood to adolescence. I was very innocent at the time. I loved the beat, and I thought the song was about dancing, because I enjoyed dancing to disco music on the dance floor. I remember sneaking into discos for over 18s with my friends, the one I liked best was under the arches, near Charing Cross, I can’t remember the name, we called it ‘The Arches’. It’s still there, but it has a new ‘celestial’ name now.

Thirdly I’m going to choose a contemporary song which makes me feel ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams. I love it because it makes me feel optimistic. l often ‘feel like a room without a roof’, as if I’ve overcome the obstacles and have burst out and broken free, and can live the life I want to live. At least that’s what I strive to do every day.

Finally, I’m going to cheat a little and add two more, the first is: ‘Rolling in the deep’ by Adele. It has no special meaning for me except that I love singing it in the shower, every day! It invigorates me. I feel brave as I step out and get dressed. In this case I think it’s more the voice than the song or the music. The second one is ‘Slow’ by Rummer, which I love listening to when I’m writing or thinking about writing, because her voice and the lyrics make me feel calm and serene, so I can listen to my inner voice…

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Writing 101. Day Two: A Room with a View

Today’s question is: If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

I’d travel through time and space and look for a shy little girl who’s having a hard time adapting to a broken family, a new country, and a new school. She’s six years old and it’s 1965. She leaves her house in the morning of Friday 4th of June with her mother, and her baby sister, who is in the pushchair. It’s a special day because it’s her birthday, but she has to go to school, the new school for ‘big girls’, which she hates. They walk along the long narrow cul-de-sac  which leads to the school, towering at the end. There’s no way out and no way back. Forward it is. The little girl is crying, tears are running down her cheeks because she wants to stay with her mother and her sister, but there’s no turning around. Move on Lucy.

I take her hand at the school door, gently, and I speak to her, softly. As we walk into the overbearing building I tell her not to worry because ‘in the end’ everything will be all right. Her life won’t be a bed of roses, but she’ll be mostly happy, and mostly healthy, and she won’t have to struggle to make ends meet very often, but she’ll have to work very hard.

Once inside, I sit down with her in the long empty corridor (everyone else is in class), and warn her about the mistakes she might be making, and tell her about the wonderful things she’ll be doing in the following 49 years. I’ll show her a school map, and tell her about the countries she’ll visit. I’ll tell her about the people she’ll meet who will help her through her life. I’ll also tell her about those she’ll meet but will never know how sweet and pretty she was when she smiled. I’ll tell her to dream, because if she doesn’t abandon her dreams, she’ll accomplish them all.

I clearly remember that day, 49 years ago, when I looked at me with caring eyes, and tried to say so many things in twenty minutes, because I was just there.

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Writing 101, Day One: Unlock the Mind

I’m taking part in a new Challenge during this month of June: Writing 101. Today’s assignment is ‘loosening up’ for twenty minutes writing via the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique for twenty minutes!

Well that’s an eternity for me, I write very quickly, you’d be surprised how much I can write in 20 minutes, but I’m so erratic that I’ll need to stop at ten and revise everything I’ve written and make it look presentable, because my blog and my bloggers deserve respect, which means that whatever I write should be written as coherently as possible.

I usually take ages to write my blog entries, I really do, because I take great pride in what I say and how I say it. I write carefully thought out articles about literature and life. I read and reread and write and rewrite until I’m satisfied with what I’ve done. I never am, actually. I believe Leonardo when he says ‘a work of art is never finished, only abandoned’.

I think words are the most powerful instrument on our planet. If you are feeling low and someone says, ‘don’t worry, let me help you’, even if they don’t or can’t actually do anything, it’s a comfort. If I describe an impressive ocean sunrise by the beach, you immediately imagine yourself on a beach watching that magnificent event happening. Words have the power to evoke feelings immediately. The very thought that someone in India, or Australia, or Amherst, or Rabat, or Amiens, or Bremen, or Ecuador, or Edinburgh, or Sydney, or St. Lucia, could be reading this right now and may have even imagined the sunrise I just described is just ‘mind blowing’.

Now, words combined with Internet, that’s something even more impressive. It means we can go beyond ourselves and influence (and be influenced by) people we will never actually see, or hear or feel. We can reach out and find each other, and think together, and affect each other’s lives just by using words.

Well, my time is almost up, and it was (almost) a pleasure to write in a stream of consciousness, as Virginia Woolf would have done, although I’m sure she also did a great deal of editing! It’s been wonderful not having to worry about including ‘important content’, because I can write what I like! So that’s it. Day one, done. Pleased to meet you and to be taking part.

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