Writing Fiction – the final story

8After eight wonderful weeks, the time has finally come to submit my own short story using the techniques learned along the way. I’ve included the feedback too – warts and all!

My story: Extraordinary Circumstances

Calling an extraordinary meeting of the residents’ association demanded attention and I’d made sure of their attendance with some minor untruths.
Now I watched them. Their eyes glanced up to the clock; left to the window; down to their wristwatches and ended with a unified shake of the head like some bizarre dance routine. Suppressing a snort, I buried my nose in the paperwork on the table before me, enjoying the tension the delay had created amongst them. If tutting and clock-watching were Olympic sports, then this group hunkering towards the back of the room had serious medal potential. But there’d be no podium for them tonight.
Their customary table overflowed with glasses as they refuelled on Rioja and San Miguel in the upstairs room of our local bar. Outside, lamplights flickered into action, coating their corner of the room in a fitting, but eerie glow.

Last year they’d pounced on me like hungry wolves attacking an intruder and I was voted in as president without even knowing their names, let alone their terms. One chap joked, ‘Hey, this one’s still got his own teeth,’ which resulted in uneasy laughter from the pack. Awkward compliments were not their only tactics. A welcoming party three weeks earlier masqueraded as a slick, fact-finding mission. Days later, white-haired ladies presented me with cakes and biscuits. ‘Gluten-free,’ they chimed in unison.
Such a sweet gesture.
Then, old Arthur (I’d been introduced to him as such) knocked at my door, bearing a brass bicycle bell. Another fact gleaned from the party.
My suspicions multiplied together with the gifts, ranging from veggie casseroles to yet more sugary offerings. Well, there’s friendly, and friendly. My ex-wife had befriended the guy next-door. Now they have two kids, a mortgage and a gas-guzzling Lexus.
The woman never understood me.

Days into my term of office, Ralf, a neighbour not of their clan, delighted in informing me that I was not the first to be seduced by their generosity. He implied these random acts of kindness came at a price. My subservience.
Perhaps he was resentful of their camaraderie.
Soon after, a portly man, grey hair fringing his bald head that brought to mind my auntie’s lace doilies, introduced himself as Ron, the book-keeper.
‘I’ve got the accounts sorted. If you’d just sign these cheques…’ he said, thrusting several blank cheques and a silver-nibbed fountain pen at my right hand.
‘Sundries,’ he said, in answer to my unasked question. ‘Won’t have to bother you over trivial stuff then.’ It was a remark delivered by a sergeant-major on drill, communicating orders not to be refused.
Purposely, I took the pen from him with my left hand and signed the cheques with a flourish. The hairs feathered on my arms as I caught sight of his icy glare.
I doubted we’d be friends.

Getting into the inner sanctum of this group proved impossible. Every time I called for a meeting, they’d find some excuse. ‘Not this weekend, we’re parachuting,’ or ‘Can you make it after our jet-ski challenge?’ These pensioners were living life to the full, ticking off goals from their bucket lists. Who was I to interrupt their “joie de vivre”?
But months passed and still I had no idea of how the community accounts operated. I contacted Monica, the community’s Lilliputian legal advisor.
‘Yay!’ she squealed, pulling me into a vice-like hug. ‘At last, a Gulliver to stand up to those silver-haired bullies.’
I towered her by a mere five inches, but as she explained how the community showed clear signs of neglect in spite of vast overspending, I felt empowered to act.
But, what could I do? Their constant excuses to avoid a meeting left me floundering in the deep end of our empty-and-waiting-to-be-re-grouted swimming pool.
Cue Ralf!
Their repeated rejection of his ideas and exclusion tactics saw him labelled a trouble-maker. But he agreed to be my fall guy.
Whilst I appeared to maintain a neutral stance as he pushed for an investigation, together with Monica, we forced Ron to reveal the true accounts. After much finger-pointing and name-calling – mainly at Ralf’s expense – I finally got my hands on that precious information, and the contents only validated my earlier doubts.
A throbbing headache exploded like fireworks across my temples when I read how the community bank account had been plundered: from a healthy high of twelve thousand euros to a miserly eight hundred now.
Where had the money gone? The same question was soon asked of Ron.

With no receipts to explain the outgoing payments, we were forced to scrutinise the figures further and a disturbing pattern soon surfaced. The dates matched those of certain spectacular activities that Ron and his merry posse had bragged about. I recalled having been impressed by their antics, that was until I realised where the money had come from.
With Monica’s help, I cancelled the outstanding unused cheques and called an extraordinary meeting. Following Ron’s subsequent disappearance, I convinced the rest of the group to attend, assuring them there were no allegations directed at them. Indignant huffs and cries of, ‘It was all Ron’s doing anyway,’ came as no surprise.

The other residents took their seats and the air in the room grew thick with voices. The committee shrank into their well-worn seats as the newcomers drowned out their mutterings with good-humoured banter. It promised to be a lively affair.
A strange blue light invaded the room and below us a commotion could be heard before heavy footsteps pounded the stairs. These late arrivals formed a blockade across the single exit, only allowing the diminutive Monica to squeeze through.
‘ Over there, Officers.’ She waved her manicured hand at the corner table where my inebriated neighbours glowered, open-mouthed. The policemen slapped the cuffs on and guided them outside to the waiting black van. Inside I recognised Ron’s bald dome.
Monica winked at me, acknowledging her own personal triumph.
‘Now, Mr. President,’ she said, ‘We have a community to rebuild.’

REVIEW ONE

What were the strengths and weaknesses of the character portrayals?

I loved the descriptions, and admire you for writing like this. e.g. ‘Their eyes glanced up to the clock; left to the window; down to their wristwatches and ended with a unified shake of the head like some bizarre dance routine.’ That’s great and amuses me enough to want to read on. ‘If tutting and clock-watching were Olympic sports, then this group hunkering towards the back of the room had serious medal potential.’ is in the same vein, and really good description. There’s no problem with this, but there isn’t one character that stands out. In fact I don’t really get to know a lot about individual characters. It is more of a group thing – the character of all of them that I am getting, which is quite clever. For instance, they’d never got time for a meeting because they were too busy off jet-setting pensioners. I get a good impression of the group.

Were there any very clear, or any confusing, elements of the story which related to approaches taught on Start Writing Fiction?

This is an amusingly written short story. I had to read twice to see who exactly had been taken off by the police, and now I see why they are jet-setting pensioners. I get the feeling that Lynne is an established writer (and a quick check on Google confirms this). I think you might have written like this before the course anyway as your style is excellent and individual.

Did the story have a plot, causality and conflict? How did it engage you?

It engaged me because of the style of writing. Plot was fine, but simple. But with writing like this you definitely want to carry on. Getting a feel for the characters involved and the amusing way in which the story is told means that the plot doesn’t even have to be that strong. You can enjoy the pleasure of reading this kind of writing style for its own sake.

REVIEW TWO 

What were the strengths and weaknesses of the character portrayals?

This was a great read with humour and a lively cast of characters. The main character was the narrator trying to put order into the chaotic accounts of a community of fun-loving retirees. The narrator has an ex-wife and this is one of the very few details we learn of his (I presume) background. He must be as old as the others judging by the joke about his teeth. It didn’t strike me as important to give him more portrayal. His character comes across through his thoughts and actions: honest, organised, determined and thorough. It is unclear why he was elected by such a reluctant bunch who seem happier living life to the full. The character portrayals mainly focus on the cast around him as he perceives them and they are brought to life with great humour and attention to small details.

Were there any very clear, or any confusing, elements of the story which related to approaches taught on Start Writing Fiction?

The story is rich in detail and creates a very vivid picture of the scenes described. I see evidence of summary (e.g. the beginning); appearance (e.g. reference to white-headed ladies) and successive scenes so a combination of approaches mentioned during the course. The story is clear and had a great pace.

Did the story have a plot, causality and conflict? How did it engage you?

The story had a clear plot (trying to sort out the neglected and misspent finances of a bunch of pensioners), causality (some underhand dealings had been going on) and conflict (getting the attention of the community and not giving in to their attempts to pressurise him). All in all a humorous account that I thoroughly enjoyed and was engrossed in. It was visual and justice was done in the end with the culprit taken away.

REVIEW THREE

What were the strengths and weaknesses of the character portrayals?

I think this is really clever, entertaining writing. The characters were neatly portrayed. Even though a lot of the characters are a group- you get a sense of who they are and what they are about. The main character, i feel is known by his actions or inactions.

Were there any very clear, or any confusing, elements of the story which related to approaches taught on Start Writing Fiction?

I did have to read carefully to get the set up by I feel it was well explained and was entertaining. as the audience you were brought into the action and could see it unfolding from the main characters point of view.

Did the story have a plot, causality and conflict? How did it engage you?

Yes. There was a plot and conflict. It was humorous and developed around the main character, even though the plot was in action before he arrived. I wanted to find out what happened and I was waiting for something sinister to happen. I enjoyed your story – it was engaging. Thanks

So, here it ends. I’m a chuffed with the feedback and can’t wait to get stuck into The Nasrid Charm again – there is so much still to do, but I have more tools available to me now.

See you soon 🙂

Merry Christmas 

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