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Nigel Gordon

Creative Writing Course - Discussion Group

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I will - once I've written it.

So will I, unfortunately it will not be till next week, I also doing two other FutureLearn course plus research for a PhD so I'm not in a position to get a week ahead at the moment.

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I'm hoping you will let AD people who aren't enrolled in the course contribute to the discussion.

But of course! Except for those who have a secret collection of occasional hair pieces for their puckered pudgy puerile pudenda. :flasher[1]::tongue:

Oh lord I love my Collins. :icon_thumleft:

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This is going to be a work in progress, and the story will change as we go through the sections of chapter 3. What we could do is edit our story in-place where we originally posted it, and announce that the story has been updated. That will be better than having multiple copies of each of our stories posted in the forum. Anyone who did a Quote of an earlier version will still have the earlier version of the story, so their comments will be in context.

Does that make sense?

Colin :icon_geek:

I haven't quite figured out how to navigate in the FutureLearn system. I'd much rather do what we're supposed to do for the course here and then do what critiquing there is to do with each other's submissions. And let James and others have at us, too. It's a kinder and smarter group here, and I don't have to scramble around trying to figure out how to post something and then find it again later.

C

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I haven't quite figured out how to navigate in the FutureLearn system. I'd much rather do what we're supposed to do for the course here and then do what critiquing there is to do with each other's submissions. And let James and others have at us, too. It's a kinder and smarter group here, and I don't have to scramble around trying to figure out how to post something and then find it again later.

C

You can find your own posts and any replies to them by going to your profile.

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I haven't quite figured out how to navigate in the FutureLearn system. I'd much rather do what we're supposed to do for the course here and then do what critiquing there is to do with each other's submissions. And let James and others have at us, too. It's a kinder and smarter group here, and I don't have to scramble around trying to figure out how to post something and then find it again later.

C

Actually, that's what I was suggesting -- to post on the AD Forum what we've been working on, and updating, on the writing course. Once we post our story here, then as we make updates to it on the writing course, go back to where we posted it here and edit that post with the new/revised version of the story. If we created a new post each time we made a revision, we'd fill up the topic with post after post of our revisions.

Colin :icon_geek:

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Actually, that's what I was suggesting -- to post on the AD Forum what we've been working on, and updating, on the writing course. Once we post our story here, then as we make updates to it on the writing course, go back to where we posted it here and edit that post with the new/revised version of the story. If we created a new post each time we made a revision, we'd fill up the topic with post after post of our revisions.

Colin :icon_geek:

Great! So post your 500 words or less story.

C

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a short story 500 words or less. Take a snippet from the radio and extrapolate.

"...ash on the ridge at the junction with...."
I almost aborted changing the station as my brain filled in the gaps; a crash the obvious reason for the nose to tail jam on a road that seldom saw one or two vehicles an hour.
The car behind hooted, the road in front now empty. I waved placatingly, crawled around the bend in first gear, then slammed on the brakes and cursed. There were a plethora of flashing lights along with police, paramedics and a tow truck.
Robert's avatar, looking irritated, stood between his crushed and bloodied bicycle and a body bag; I didn't need to ask whose. He slid over the road, through the door and sat, before kissing me lightly on the cheek.
"I wasn't expecting to be killed this afternoon, Kate," he said, sounding rather miffed. "Obviously, our cover is blown."
"Obviously." I said, trying to keep a grip. If our cover was truly blown we were in a lot of trouble. At least I'd arrived in time to see his corporeal form before it dissipated for the week it took to recover. "Before you go," I began, "is there anyth...."
Like Carroll's cheshire cat he smiled, mouthed 'see ya soon, hun,' and with an audible pop, was gone. The only thing remaining: the strong scent of his nanite aftershave. Absentmindedly, I started his clock on the re-birth app, reported, and drove home.

***

Ten days later the app was flashing '72hrs overdue.' Robert still hadn't checked in and I was frantic.
"What can we do, Yassa?" I asked, gritting my teeth. It was irrational, but I'd disliked him from the first time we met. Yassa, a ninth generation AI, was the project's leader. He appeared as a goth teenager complete with raven hair and piercings - a look he'd worn since the first case we'd worked, a week after Robert and I had been seconded to the project.
"I'm Sorry?" he said, distracted.
I inhaled sharply. A distracted AI? It was impossible; the laws of robotics said so. Then, as I thought back over our time working together, I noticed Yassa's bloodshot eyes and chewed nails, and it all became clear. AI's had crossed the last barrier; they had taken hold of the final imponderable, that which humans call love.
Yassa was in love with Robert, and with that thought my dislike of him evaporated. I felt nothing for him but pity and sorrow, for unrequited love is a lifelong sentence and unrequited it most surely was. For Robert was his father, and Yassa the best I've ever given genesis to.

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Carny, I like you story, will be interested in seeing what comments it gets on the course discussion..

Nigel

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Well here is my story for this weeks exercise:

Agnus Grey walked carefully along the pavement, stopping occasionally to glance into the shop windows. The bitter cold of the previous week had been driven out by the first brightness of spring but there were still patches of ice underfoot in places and at her age Angus could not afford a fall.

She had caught sight of the young man as she was withdrawing some cash at the machine outside the bank. Now she had the impression that he was following her, though he was on the other side of the road. She disliked the feeling of being watched.

Pausing for a moment outside the opticians, where she momentarily considered going in and making an appointment for a test, she adjusted her hat, taking advantage of the reflection in the window. The young man was still there, looking at her from across the street.

As briskly as she dared, considering conditions underfoot, she turned into ally that led through to the bus station. Increasing her pace she took eight or nine steps before a hand on her shoulder pulled her round and pushed her into the ally wall. The smirk on the young man’s face as he reached for her bag changed first to surprise then to agony as six inches of steel hat pin slid in between his fifth and sixth ribs.

Agnus looked down at the body and wondered if he was just an opportunistic petty criminal out of his depth or a professional who had identified her. Not that it mattered, the outcome was the same. She removed her phone from her handbag and called an unlisted number. “Tommy darling, I’ve a package that needs disposing of…” Once she had given instructions she proceeded on down the ally to the bus stop, catching the three forty five to Hendon. She seated herself next to elderly black lady, clearly on her way to church. By time they left the bus neither was carrying the hand bag they had boarded with.

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Good story! I like it.

I have to assume you've posted it so we can comment on it. I posted mine for that reason, yet, so far, nada. Oh well. Some are hits, some are misses, and you get elected to the All-Starts team batting .327.

Anyway, guessing this was posted to elicit comments, here goes:

I see a couple of things to discuss here:

Agnus Grey walked carefully along the pavement, stopping occasionally to glance into the shop windows. The bitter cold of the previous week had been driven out by the first brightness of spring but there were still patches of ice underfoot in places and at her age Angus could not afford a fall.

First, in my opinion, the bitter cold should be driven out by something that has to do with warmth. I don't equate brightness with warmth, and so feel a disconnect when I read this. I'd think it better to use something that actually could drive out cold, something like, say, warm spring air, or spring sunshine. Something on that order.

Second, I wonder about Agnus as a name. When I discovered it was a lady, I was surprised. I assumed it was a man. It looks a bit like Angus, a man's name, although it certainly could have been a woman's name based on Agnes. The only way I've ever seen the word is in it's Latin meaning and often used in religious settings, like the lamb of God. I wonder if the name needs to be so unusual, and if the reader might be less distracted buy using a different one? I do see the dichotomy, having a stark killer named 'lamb', but still...

Later, thre is this:

Increasing her pace she took eight or nine steps before a hand on her shoulder pulled her round

I found this unlikely. She was walking briskly, I imagined. He'd been across the road. But in eight steps he'd caught up with him. I think it might be better if it was less specific how far she'd gone. Perhaps something like: She was nearing the station when a hand on her shoulder...

Moving forward:

Agnus looked down at the body and wondered if he was just an opportunistic petty criminal out of his depth or a professional who had identified her.

I really like this. We learn that she's much more than an old lady, and do so without being directly told. Very deft.

One last thing:

“Tommy darling, I’ve a package that needs disposing of…” Once she had given instructions she proceeded on down the ally to the bus stop, catching the three forty five to Hendon.

Even after finishing the story, I don't know what this means. Is the package the body, or the knitting needle? It could be either.

Very good story. I love the element of surprise in any story, and this was well done. This is one story that could benefit from having the shackles of a limited word count removed. More description of Agnus as a tottering old lady would have increased the surprise.

C

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Thanks Cole for your comments and my apologies for not commenting on yours, must admit I have been rather lacks in participating after I started this discussion. Can only plead time pressure. Retirement turns out to be very busy.

Agnus is a variation on Agnes though I believe its usage is very localized to part of Northern England, I had a Great Aunt Agnus which is where I got the name from. She once told me, when I was about eight and I think she was in her nineties, that it meant Lamb, my comment was something to the effect I thought she was more the sheepdog to which according to family legend she laughed and said "a bloody great Alsatian no doubt." I can't remember it but the story was told a number of times at family gatherings.

Your point about the bitter cold being driven out by something warm is an area where I had problems. I wanted to suggest that it had been very cold and was now less cold but still cold, as stated by the fact that there was still ice underfoot. I'm not really certain how to cope with that, isn't that why we have editors? They have not mentioned that part of writing yet.

The eight or nine steps is totally a continuity error on my part. There was a paragraph in which the young man crossed the road before Agnus got to the ally but I cut it out due to word count and it did not really add anything. However, I forgot to amend the following paragraph to allow for the change.

“Tommy darling, I’ve a package that needs disposing of…” I really was trying to be a bit too cleaver here, there was a TV series in the 1960s, which I cannot now remember the title of, but when the hero had a dead body he would phone up his backup and say he had a package for disposal.

Hopefully this story might well one day escape from the shackles of the limited word count. Agnus Grey is a character I have had floating around for years. The name is from my Great Aunt but the character is from somebody I knew who had a rather questionable past, was a crack shot but looked like Joan Hickson as Miss Marples http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b5/Joan_Hickson.jpg.

I have the outline for a book but have never quite been able to pull the storyline together. The story above came out of a comment during a radio interview where a elderly lady said how frighting it was to get money from a ATM when there were young people watching, how much nicer it had been when you could go into the bank and get it.

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I delight in learning the background for Nigel's story, and can only hope the outline he has for a book-length treatment of this lovely character will produce enough sleepless nights that he feels compelled to write it. I have long wished that goody-good Miss Marple had been nasty Miss Marple; hopefully Miss Agnus Grey will fulfill that desire.

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I delight in learning the background for Nigel's story, and can only hope the outline he has for a book-length treatment of this lovely character will produce enough sleepless nights that he feels compelled to write it. I have long wished that goody-good Miss Marple had been nasty Miss Marple; hopefully Miss Agnus Grey will fulfill that desire.

Oh, you must meet Miss Jenkins. I am just about to send off to my editor a story "Miss Jenkin's Work". The little old lady is certainly the nasty Miss Marple. Hopefully Mike will accept it in due course.

Nigel

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Cole, I read your piece and enjoyed it, my apologies for not commenting sooner. There was one thing though that I found off putting, I got no sense of place. Where was it that these two characters were interacting? If I had that I would have more feeling as to what the relationship between them was. I could not work out if they were boyfriends, room-mates or just friends.

Nigel

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I found the 500-word limit very constricting. As it is, the story is 500 words long. Something has to give if you are hamstrung like that, and description of place and character is one thing I had to forego.

You write something like that and then edit it and pare it down as much as possible so you can add something else, but that only works so well. I agree that it would benefit the story to flesh it out more, and without artificial constraints I'd have done that.

Thanks for pointing this out, however. What we think is important or not so important in our own minds can always use a boost from an outside source, from a perspective other than our own.

C

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Thanks for pointing this out, however. What we think is important or not so important in our own minds can always use a boost from an outside source, from a perspective other than our own.

C

That is something I came across in another creative writing course I did. We were often given exercises with very tight word count limits. The one thing that the teacher always stated we needed to get into any story was the Who, When and Where no matter how short it was. I think my shortest was:

She ran breathless onto the platform to see the twenty fifteen for St Pancras vanishing into the distance.

Unfortunately that was three words over the limit.

The problem is, when trying to cut a story to a limit, that you have such a knowledge of the background to a story that you often think something is obvious so it can be cut out, whilst in fact it is not obvious to the reader who has no idea of the background. I think the Who, When and Where rule is a useful guide.

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When I took creative writing in the eighth grade we had this type of "challenge" every class. I loved solving these writing exercises. The teacher started by giving us a theme and the number of words. Hypenated words counted as their multiple (thus twenty-fifteen would be 2 words).

Here's how I would have (I think!) successfully solved your challenge:

She collapsed onto the platform as the twenty fifteen to Birminghamton vanished into the distance. (15 words)

She stood forlornly watching the twenty fifteen to Wisenton vanish into the distance. (13 words)
(You could substitute breathlessly, etc. for forlornly.)

She screamed as the twenty fifteen to Liverpond vanished into the distance. (12 words)

She screamed as the twenty fifteen to Londonderry exploded in flames. (11 words)

Colin :icon_geek:

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Some years ago, I used to comment on YouTube videos. There was a 500 word limit which I found, challenged my tendency to be a little verbose. :lipssealed:

Nevertheless, I took the opportunity to edit my posts and learnt the value of being more concise. However, the more concise, the more space you have for hi-jacking your own writing.

After all, who can resist using up all the space available?

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However, the more concise, the more space you have for hi-jacking your own writing.

After all, who can resist using up all the space available?

You are so right there Des, I've fallen into that trap more than once.

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