Week three has certainly kept me out of mischief, I have a terrible habit of making short stories too ‘big’ for the word count and think I’ve done it again, but ho hum. It’s done now (after two days, on and off, of working on it).
So, week three was all about ‘scene,’ what it is and the building blocks that go into it, and most especially, the concept of ‘Show – don’t tell,’ as it is important for a reader to visualise the scene and not be ‘told’.
The iceberg theory was discussed, with the above surface level being the personality ‘seen’ by the reader while the depth of the character lies beneath the surface.
Five point action plan
The course discussed a five-point plan of action in establishing a scene (and in this order):
- Intimate details
- Inner POV (React, Reflect or Reveal)
- Definite start and stop point
While I agree that all these points are important, I don’t necessarily believe it’s a strict order to be followed, especially as not all scenes will start with action.
It was mentioned that setting isn’t *just* a physical setting, it’s place and time, and the fleshing out of details that will entice the reader into the ‘world’ of the story. It’s also important that physical objects that appear in a scene are important, something I remember from my Open University modules and a quote from Chekhov:
‘Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.’
Our assignment for this week was to begin with an object the character absolutely must have, and to write for a bit, then give them a disease that would kill them within twenty-four hours. Finally, they had to choose between the object of their desire and an antidote. All in four hundred words. Mine is bang on the word count, even if it did take two days of faffing around with it and some severe sentence tightening which I then had to keep picking at. I’m still not entirely happy with the ending but can’t afford to spend anymore time on it.
Alysia took a deep breath, putting the cramps in her belly down to nerves. It was time. Her days of servicing the sexual desires of repulsive, sweaty men were over. Her wrist would soon adorn the object of her desire—a silver bangle—plain in design, yet it would allow her to pass the barriers of her confinement. She would be free to leave the brothel—free to return to Earth.
A creak disturbed her. She spun around, glaring at the old woman in the doorway. ‘Did you want something, Shonia?’
Shonia gestured to the suitcase on the bed. ‘I don’t know why you bothered. You won’t be leaving.’
‘Odiah has nothing to tempt me with. I’m going home.’
‘Of course you—’
Alysia shoved past her, ignoring the callous laughter. It was no secret that not a single woman had left Odiah’s employ. Rumour said he offered the women a prize they couldn’t refuse. Despite repaying their debt, they continued to serve him, at least until time addled their bodies.
That would not be Alysia’s fate. She yearned for home and had saved hard. Besides, she had been foolish to enter into a bargain with Odiah the first time. Little more than a child, barely surviving on Ruined Earth, she exchanged her freedom for a warm bed and three meals a day. She hadn’t known she would whore to earn them, and on a faraway planet too.
Odiah’s quarters were exquisite but too hot. He pulled the bangle from his pocket. ‘You’re a talented whore, Alysia. Let me make you an—‘
‘I’ve more than repaid your kindness.’ She snatched the bangle, turned too quickly and stumbled.
‘You’ve not heard the value of my offer yet.’
Her legs weakened, and she thudded to the floor.
‘Are you unwell, Alysia?’
‘For now, perhaps.’
He placed a vial before her. She whimpered as pain tore through her belly.
‘An antidote.’ He smiled. ‘For the poison you consumed last night.’
Odiah reached for the bangle. She yanked her arm away, gritted her teeth. ‘I’m… going home.’
‘Of course.’ He stepped back, gestured to the door. ‘Enjoy your freedom. You should have a few more hours to live.‘
The pain in her belly intensified. With a trembling hand she removed the bangle, exchanging it for a warm bed and three meals a day—at least until time ravaged her body.