Ughhh this was by far my worst short story. So bad that I haven’t opened it since and don’t plan to either! We had read American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, and Haunted: a novel of stories by Chuck Palahniuk. The theme was horror but our brief was to write with an unreliable narrator as Bret Easton Ellis did with American Psycho. FYI I do not recommend Haunted to anyone who considers themselves ‘easily disturbed’. It’s intrusive-thoughts central up in there.
Our unreliable narrator pieces were discussed during week twelve, the last class of the module. My piece was called Parasitic Pain and was overly complicated, bouncing around characters and time way too much. Such a shame it was our last written piece of the term and I didn’t ‘go out’ on a high but I learnt a valued lesson – don’t try to be too clever and don’t fuss over the particulars too much. It’s called fiction for a reason!
The books for that week were Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I started Catch-22 but didn’t get very far at all. I must have been too busy making a mess of my short story!
That’s the end of my Elements of Fiction journey, thank you for keeping up with me! You can read a summary of the module and what I learnt in this blog post from December 2016. Where does the time go??
The theme of week ten was point of view and we had been asked to read Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, and Vertigo by WG Sebald. So our brief was simply to produce something ‘uncanny’ for discussion the following week.
I had fun with this and wrote a children’s story about a girl called Hollie who takes a risk and joins Princess Ella on a quest to slay a beast. It’s had a few changes as Princess Ella was originally also named Hollie (it’ll make sense when you gets to the reading) and at one point the title was actually The Land of Animayshun.
I really like this one, there’s a big Once Upon a Time feel to it. Usually, re-reading past work is cringe-a-f but now it’s had the necessary grammar and spelling edits, I can actually read through The Fridge of Adventure (PDF) and feel like I’m enjoying it.
By the end of November 2016 we were nine weeks into E of F. We had a Wednesday morning lecture on writing for children, led by Benjamin Zephaniah and had been asked to read two of his novels. By this point I was seriously struggling to keep up with the reading and couldn’t locate either of the books in the local libraries so skipped them all together. They’re still on my ‘want to read’ list.
The novels from the previous week were both around 3/400 pages long and I only managed to read one of those – The Destructives, by Matthew De Abaitua who just happened to be our tutor (it was a very good read)! The second sci-fi novel was All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, and I didn’t get round to reading that till June 2017!
Any way back to writing for children… we were asked to write something within the genre that captured an element of fairy/folk tales. I started thinking about The Ugly Duckling and that’s how Girl Talk came about. There’s a sprinkling of Sabrina the Teenage Witch and a little Fight Club too… never thought those two things would be seen in the same sentence! Here it is – Girl Talk (PDF).
Our fifth assignment was given during global fiction week. We were tasked with reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Dâiaz and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.
Writing global fiction wasn’t a practical option given our word count and limited resources, so that week we were tasked with producing a short story with a time lapse. I wrote a slightly dark piece about neglected children told from the angle of one of the characters, flash back/forward style.
We skipped assignments in week six and seven as we had mock submissions and tutorials. But we picked the short stories back up again with science fiction in week eight.
Our assignment was to write something with an element of science fiction and to ask ourselves – ‘what if?’
Continue reading “E of F week eight: A Dreamer’s Life”
Our fourth writing assignment for Elements of Fiction was about relationships. We had read and discussed On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, and Summertime by JM Coetzee, and were tasked with writing a short story that involved a love story taking place over a one year period of time.
On Chesil Beach was a very interesting read. There’s much to say about this novel but in summary, it’s set in the 1960s and written with intense depth and psychological insight that threatens to make you embarrassed-by-proxy. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes complicated characters filled with anxiety, detailed locations and cultural nuances of the time. The movie adaptation has just been released but I’m yet to see it.
My short story was originally called Teenage Dreams and has undergone several drafts. It started out at 1200 words with a boat load of cringe that then slightly worsened when I rewrote and submitted it for mock-marking in the middle of the term, at 1800 words.
I’ve since had another crack at Teenage Dreams so here it is, now called Megan (PDF). It’s written from the perspective of a man who wishes he had treated his first love differently. I took a little inspiration from On Chesil Beach and it’s roughly 1400 words long. Enjoy!
Week three of Elements of Fiction had us discussing two novels with a heavy focus on location (Death in Venice by Thomas Mann and Hot Milk by Deborah Levy) which prompted the following assignment:
- You are standing on a train platform. There is a board displaying trains. They are all going to different places. Each of those places is somewhere you have been, or lived, somewhere you remember.
- List these places. And the people associated with them, that you remember. And the incidents.
- Describe it from overhead, and from on the ground, in summary, across seasons until you reach the moment of time in which the story is set.
- Asterix half a dozen. Write a page or two in response to each.
I wrote about a young woman called Rose who is visiting her grandmother’s house but has been asked to stay in the ‘creepy’ room – you know, the one that all elderly relatives have!
Continue reading “E of F week three: The Little Room”
Week two of our Elements of Fiction module involved a lecture on creating characters and discussing two novels, Dexter is Dead by Jeff Lindsay, and Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell. Both deal with character identity and involve killing them off.
We gave/received feedback on submitted work from the previous week and were then presented with the below brief:
Write a single paragraph that conveys the appearance and essential nature of a character. Then follow it up with a character sketch that includes a present day frame and flashback to five years before the action. Anywhere between 1000-1200 words.
I wrote a piece of fiction about Jake, a young man with a longstanding health problem who receives a letter from his past self.
Continue reading “E of F week two: Don’t Forget Me”
Last year I completed my MA in Creative Writing as Brunel University.
Elements of Fiction (E of F) was one of two modules during the first term (Autumn 2016). E of F involved attending an hours lecture every Wednesday followed by a two hour seminar group. We were tasked with reading two set novels each week within a specific genre, that we would then discuss in group – similar to a book club. Along with the reading, we were also set the task of producing a short piece of creative writing each week, that we would gain feedback on after discussing the novels.
Prior to our first seminar we were asked to read The Girls by Emma Cline, and The Mare by Mary Gaitskill. The Girls is told with flashbacks and The Mare is written from the perspectives of multiple characters. This led to our first assignment: write 1200 words on an open topic voiced by two or more characters who are connected to each other within the story.
I wrote something within the roman-à-clef genre. This is where a story is based on real people or events but with slight alterations and a change of name or location. If you love your cat as much as I loved my Rufus, grab the Kleenex.
Continue reading “E of F week one: Missing”