1.

Whack, whack, whack!

Only a solid typewriter like the Olivetti can handle such abuse, and have now for over ten years. Anger, frustration, hatred and more hatred flows from his mind through to his fingers and explode on the keys as they hammer the page, imprinting his poison on sheet after sheet of paper. Cigarette ash, dust and dirt accumulate between the keys where it floats around or cling to sticky alcohol or beer.

He burps, takes a last drag from a bitter tasting cheap cigarette and reach for the glass whilst glaring at the page.

Yes, we were wrong. Yes, no one can ever justify something that brought about so much division, hatred, or animosity as Apartheid did to South Africa. And yes, we probably deserve every ounce of frustration we now feel. But no one, no one can ever justify the damage you are doing to our children – the next generation, who had absolutely nothing to do with it, yet have to suffer the consequences.

 

She was friendly, or at least trying to be. “Hi Max, it is Wendy.”

            Wendy, news editor, and the one who gets to decide whether they take his writings and pay him, or leave him dependant on a daughter whose hate for him have changed to apathy – it’s lowest form.

            He knows the next sentence by heart.

            “We love your writing. Straight from the heart, hits like bullets. But …”

 

2.

He looks up through the water at the naked bulb in the ceiling. Light dances here and there as the water plays with the picture. Blow out slowly, all of it, and then one deep breath of water. Hold it, hold it, hold it, until the light goes and you step out into wherever.

            But he can’t.

            Not even this.

            Not even … anything.

            Luke warm water and tears run down as he sits up. One pale fucking bulb still burning. And only just.

 

He shuns fresh air on all but one day a week. The day of the weekly paper. One nice fat paper with page after page of fuel to feed what he already knows. That the world is wasted, and none righteous, not one. And yes, here it is. Another arms deal, more corruption, more greed, more evil on page one already. He licks his lips, reading as he walks back inside, slumps into his chair, lights a cigarette, and unclips his red marker without missing a word.

            He pages and marks, grunting here and there as his mind consume and stores for who knows when, adding to an increasing mountain of muck.

 

“What do you think of …?”

            “Asshole!”

            “And …?”

            “Asshole!”

            “So who is not one?”

            “Me.”

            The joke he made when she was younger is now confirmed – with him one too.

 

3.

He floats further and further from the light with the cold calling, calling – the sound of nothing … and as he wakes the chill remain, the darkness still.

            The telephone sounds new, foreign, yet persisting until he gets up.

            “Yes!”

            “Dad, it’s Mom – you’ve got to come!”

 

The clothes hang loose and make him about as uncomfortable as the faces around her bed.

            One by one they look down at her, frail and white in her bed, then slowly up at him, their eyes asking ‘why?’.

            Their daughter looks like her, same blond hair, blue eyes. Beautiful. The little girl tuggs at her arm. “Who is he?” She leans over, the words grandfather and others make the girl frown as she hides behind her mother already knowing about him, that it was him, yes him who caused all this. Every single tear her mother cried, all the pain her dying grandmother had, and yes, even this thing happening to her now.

            He takes a step forward to reach for her hand, but their eyes stabs him back and keeps him away. You caused enough harm. Stay!

            A nurse offers coffee, tea,  which all but the young girl refuse. She drinks slowly, peaking a glance at him every now and then. Then up at her mother who still has to acknowledge his presence.

            So they wait till death takes her.

            And leaves him in his hell.

 

4.

One photo, thousand memories.

            She hesitated.

            He convinced.

            They became.

            But never quite.

            They say that marriage is not what you get, but what you bring. He brought his bags. Heavy, filthy, many, and in time her smile faltered, then went … but reemerged in the little girl. For many years they lied to each other, and to her, until even she could see. And when it became time, she took up the bags, looked down and believed what they showed.

 

5.

The knock is faint, but persistent. He growls, turns the other way and closes his eyes. Still the knocking.

            “No sales!” He yanks the door open, angry face ready to devour.

            They stare at him with wide eyes. His daughter and the little girl.

            “She wants a grandfather.”

            He looks at her unbelievingly, shuffles this way, then that, then invites them in whilst trying to move clothes, plates, cups, saucers into a corner, realising the futility thereof before raising both hands.

            “It’s ok, we won’t stay long. She saw you at … at … and now wants her own grandfather.”

            He sits down, staring at them. Not believing.

            The little girl looks up at her mother, who nods. She takes small steps toward him, hesitates, looks at her mother, then at him, then down. She turns around and walks back to her mother.

            “Coffee .. uh.. tea?”

            She nods, the girl smiles.

            His hands shake as he washes three mugs, fills the kettle and fiddle here, fiddle there, eventually finding a tray and the courage to walk back.

            Three mugs, three pairs of eyes, three worlds.

            “Should I call you grandpa, or just John?”

            A ray of sunshine finds it way around one curtain and then slowly, slowly edges darkness aside.

Instructor Response

Many good ideas.  Moving potential.  Here are some thoughts about alternatives for development.  (I’ve placed some thoughts about the writing interspersed in the text that I’ve copied below.)  The main points are, develop timeline, make cause and effect clear among emotions and action, in next step write effective transitions to cover leaps in time. 

Story now progresses like this:

1.      Man in office or home.  Distressed over what apartheid has done to families and how unfair it is to innocent children.  Wendy, editor, turns down his writing

2.      ?in bathtub.  Suicide attempt.  Backstory of getting paper.  Joke (unclear purpose).

3.      Call from daughter re mom (his wife).  Dying.  Man is the cause (not sure how). 

4.      Photo (of wife?).  Daughter takes place of wife.

5.       Man’s granddaughter comes to accept him, and fulfill his life.

Great!  If you are to progress, remember the concept of blocking out these five sections is to begin story, develop it dramatized, and end it.  The end is great.  Good scene and will serve you well as the focal point of story ending.  Be sure in revision to let the reader know the timeline of the story.  When does it take place and over how long a period?  When you get to the end, be sure to anchor what happened to the granddaughter that kept her away (and why she changed) to make this a meaningful approach to him.  What was her motivation?  Why was she motivated?

The purpose of the first segment seems to be to introduce man and his abhorrence of apartheid, that he is a writer, and that Wendy the editor turns down his writing.  This seems to provide the motivation for the attempted suicide.  Seems reasonable.

In the third segment, he is still in the bathtub.  Continuous?  Then he is on to the hospital for his wife’s death (? Suicide).  As you develop this, you’ll have the space and story time to make all this clear.  When you do continue, develop the relationship between man and wife, present and past, and with specifics of effects on the daughter (it seems that this is a crucial moment that will make the daughter prevent her daughter from seeing her grandfather).  Keep the motivations for actions up front and clear.  Don’t be too obscure in your scenes.  You have a tendency, at times, to overwrite as the expense of clarity—both in imagery and cause and effect.

The fourth segment develops the time from the wife’s death to the granddaughter’s approach, maybe ten plus years?  When you expand this be sure you’ve chosen the best POV.  Also write your transitions effectively and clearly to move through time and to continue the emotional arcs of man, daughter and granddaughter.  This is a strong emotionally-laden story, and for maximum effectiveness you’ll want to develop in scene events to project the heightened emotions to the best, credible level possible.

1.

Whack, whack, whack!

Only a solid typewriter like the Olivetti Reader needs to know when this is occurring, the typewriter puts it many years ago, and for credibility, the reader needs to know and not ask questions like, Did they have an Olivetti then? can handle such abuse, and have now for over ten years. Anger, frustration, hatred and more hatred flows from his mind through to his fingers and explode on the keys as they hammer the page, imprinting his poison on sheet after sheet of paper. Cigarette ash, dust and dirt accumulate between the keys where it floats around or cling to sticky alcohol or beer.  There is a new assignment (4) on beginnings.  See if it has any value for you here.

He burps, takes a last drag from a bitter tasting cheap cigarette and reach for the glass whilst glaring at the page.

Yes, we were wrong. Yes, no one can ever justify something that brought about so much division, hatred, or animosity as Apartheid did to South Africa. And yes, we probably deserve every ounce of frustration we now feel. But no one, no one can ever justify the damage you are doing to our children – the next generation, who had absolutely nothing to do with it, yet have to suffer the consequences.

She was friendly, or at least trying note: this is a shift in POV, not wrong, but may be distracting (“trying” puts it in her head) to be. “Hi Max, it is Wendy.” Maybe, as you write story, open this paragraph with Wendy to replace “She” and take advantage of a different dialogue to introduce conflict and/or characterization.  As is, it is exposition. Something like “It really sucks, Max,”  or “I’m having a hard time looking at you this morning,” or “You couldn’t have spent more than five minutes on this, Max, and you write about nothing” or the like.

Wendy, news editor, and the one who gets to decide whether they take his writings and pay him, or leave him dependant on a daughter whose hate for him have changed to apathy – it’s lowest form.

He knows the next sentence by heart.

“We love your writing. Straight from the heart, hits like bullets. But …”

2.

He looks up through the water at the naked bulb in the ceiling. Light dances here and there as the water plays with the picture. Blow out slowly, all of it, and then one deep breath of water. Hold it, hold it, hold it, until the light goes and you step out into wherever.

But he can’t.

Not even this.

Not even … anything.

Luke warm water and tears run down as he sits up. One pale fucking bulb still burning. And only just.  This is suicide attempt.

Clarify time here. 

He shuns fresh air on all but one day a week. The day of the weekly paper. One nice fat paper with page after page of fuel to feed what he already knows. That the world is wasted, and none righteous, not one. And yes, here it is. Another arms deal, more corruption, more greed, more evil on page one already. He licks his lips, reading as he walks back inside, slumps into his chair, lights a cigarette, and unclips his red marker without missing a word.

He pages and marks, grunting here and there as his mind consume and stores for who knows when, adding to an increasing mountain of muck.

“What do you think of …?”

“Asshole!”

“And …?”

“Asshole!”

“So who is not one?”

“Me.”

The joke he made when she was younger is now confirmed – with him one too.  This isn’t clear to me.

3.

He floats further and further from the light with the cold calling, calling – the sound of nothing … and as he wakes the chill remain, the darkness still.

The telephone sounds new, foreign, yet persisting until he gets up.

“Yes!”

“Dad, it’s Mom – you’ve got to come!”

The clothes hang loose and make him about as uncomfortable as the faces around her bed.

One by one they look down at her, frail and white in her bed, then slowly up at him, their eyes asking ‘why?’.

Their daughter looks like her, same blond hair, blue eyes. Beautiful. The little girl tuggs at her arm. “Who is he?” She leans over, the words grandfather and others make the girl frown as she hides behind her mother already knowing about him, that it was him, yes him who caused all this. Every single tear her mother cried, all the pain her dying grandmother had, and yes, even this thing happening to her now.

?? who is they? eyes stabs him back and keeps him away. You caused enough harm. Stay!  (Why stay?)

A nurse offers coffee, tea,  which all but the young girl refuse. She drinks slowly, peaking a glance at him every now and then. Then up at her mother who still has to acknowledge his presence.

So they wait till death takes her.

And leaves him in his hell.  When you rewrite this scene make it clearer and carry the reader through it step by step, leading by the hand.

4.

One photo, thousand memories.

She hesitated.

He convinced.

They became.

But never quite.  This feels poetic, but ask if it is clear to the reader and what you want to convey here.

They say that marriage is not what you get, but what you bring. He brought his bags. Heavy, filthy, many, and in time her smile faltered, then went … but reemerged in the little girl. For many years they lied to each other, and to her, until even she could see. And when it became time, she took up the bags, looked down and believed what they showed.

5.

The knock is faint, but persistent. He growls, turns the other way and closes his eyes. Still the knocking.

“No sales!” He yanks the door open, angry face ready to devour.

They stare at him with wide eyes. His daughter and the little girl.

“She wants a grandfather.”

He looks at her unbelievingly, shuffles this way, then that, then invites them in whilst trying to move clothes, plates, cups, saucers into a corner, realising the futility thereof before raising both hands.

“It’s ok, we won’t stay long. She saw you at … at … and now wants her own grandfather.”

            He sits down, staring at them. Not believing.

The little girl looks up at her mother, who nods. She takes small steps toward him, hesitates, looks at her mother, then at him, then down. She turns around and walks back to her mother.

“Coffee .. uh.. tea?”

She nods, the girl smiles.

His hands shake as he washes three mugs, fills the kettle and fiddle here, fiddle there, eventually finding a tray and the courage to walk back.

Three mugs, three pairs of eyes, three worlds.

“Should I call you grandpa, or just John?”

A ray of sunshine finds it way around one curtain and then slowly, slowly edges darkness aside.

 

Good work, and thanks for participating.  WHC

 

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