I started the year well as my Open University assignment ‘The man who killed the thing he loved,’ which was inspired by Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ got 96%.
January’s theme in the Daily Telegraph Creative Writing Group was ‘Natural Hazards’. The Eye of the Storm is about cloud seeding experiments in the early 1960s. I was delighted that this came second in the voting.
February’s theme was a cruising vessel: Murder on the Dejanira ….At the same time I had to write 40 lines of poetry for the next OU assignment. My offering was a sonnet and a poem composed of three nine-line stanzas (total 41 lines).
March’s theme was ‘Trees’. These rather inanimate beings flummoxed me until I visited Coughton Court in Warwickshire, after a Writing West Midlands seminar on drawing inspiration from museum exhibits and historic houses. At the same time the OU course had moved on to Life Writing – biography and autobiography. ‘Tree of Knowledge’ was set in World War 1 Mesopotamia (that’s Iraq to you and me). It came second in the TCWG voting and I started to feel that historical fiction was my genre.
April’s theme was ‘flitting’, in the sense of moving house, but ‘Moonlight Flit’ was acceptable and so I went historical again and found a highwaywoman, my story was based on Catherine Ferrers, the ‘Wicked Lady’. I wished for more time to polish it but the OU beckoned. As did 18th century Paris, and 16th century Spain..
‘The Wah-Wahs’ was suggested by May’s theme of ‘Reunion’ and is an experiment in following a symmetrical five-act structure, having been to a talk by John Yorke, author of ‘Into the Woods: a five act journey into story’ at the Brighton Festival. My story came out as a skewhiff six structure, though, like a lopsided sponge cake. Heigh ho.
‘Time,’ the theme for June, made me think about the characters from May’s story and fast forward them a year or two into the future. A more sombre tale, ‘A matter of time’, resulted, still worked out around symmetry, and a 5 act structure. The story was partly driven by the memory of my friend Lee, who died during an acrimonious divorce. But I also realised while writing this that each one of my main characters contains the traits and sayings of perhaps 8 to 10 different people. This one was a winner, a fitting tribute to Lee.
For July, the story ‘Hikikomori’ was inspired by my son coming back from Uni and retreating into his bedroom. An English family buying an apartment in Japan find it is larger than they thought, but also has an occupant.
I had won the ‘prize’ of setting the August competition, and asked writers to choose any theme, and use the five-act structure. My version of this was ‘The Bones of a Plot’ and was a story of love and death in the Comedie Italienne, set in early 18th century Paris.September’s story ‘The London Spy‘ was written on the theme of ‘Newspapers’ and was inspired by seeing some enamelled advertising signs on the Bluebell Railway, Sussex, and a book ‘Debutantes and the London Season’ by Lucinda Gosling, purchased in the gift shop at Sheffield Park station.
For October, the theme was ‘Computer’, and I decided to have a steam powered one installed at The Analytical Assurance Company.
It came second in the voting!
November’s theme was ‘Deception’…and The Scarlet Thread was set in the Paris of the Terror. A fiction inspired by the disappearance of Philibert Aspairt in the catacombs.
It came fourth in the voting!
December’s theme was Short Fiction, as close to 250 words as possible. ‘Dead Wires’ (264 words) is about not having electricity, and also a Christmas story. David Mamet’s phrase, the eradication of knowledge, had set me thinking.