Sunday, 21 February 2010

Making everything better

I was going to do a photo based entry based on my recent skiing holiday, but I lost the thing that connects my camera to my laptop so I can’t upload any photos. This is also the reason for the lack of project 365 for the last week. Don’t worry when I get a replacement I will update it.

Anyway, I have no idea what to do this week and I’m pretty tired, so I’m going to cop out slightly. Over the last week I have had a good look at some of the fiction I’ve written recently, most notably this and this and done some pretty major editing. I’ve had quite a bit of time to go through them in the last week when I should have been working, so I’ve made a lot of changes, especially to the first one, some of which has changed beyond recognition. The plot and the dialogue has remained pretty much the same although there are some subtle changes to the dialogue and I’m still not entirely happy with it.

Anyway, here is the first one, the original can be found here.

She sat in the corner of the coffee shop, the novel she’d picked up on her way out of the door this morning sat open on her lap. The tattered, well fingered pages were not her work; she had read the first page and a half, and then thrown it across the room in disgust. Her coffee was cold on the table where she’d left it after buying it for far more than it was worth. Bland, characterless sound blared far too loudly into her ears from cheap earphones. The sound of the music, if you could call it that, was audible from anywhere in the empty room.

Her hair was mostly black with streaks of red and blue scattered like emotions dancing motionlessly in her head. The black was as natural as the blue and red; blond had never suited her. It lay unkempt over her ears and her forehead, obscuring her emerald green eyes. It had once fallen down past her shoulders and rolled part of the way down her back.

She didn’t see him trying too hard to look absent minded as he walked too casually to her table, coffee in hand.

“Excuse me, do I know you?” He did not ask permission to sit down.

Not looking up, she murmured a barely audible “I hope not.”

“You look like you could use some company?”

“Can’t you seem I’m reading?”

“You’ve been on that page for twenty minutes now.”

She looked up. The boy’s hair mirrored hers, except that his was sandy blond and styled to achieve the same unkempt look that she achieved naturally. “So how long have you been watching me?” her voice was even, but betraying hostility that he either did not pick up or chose to ignore.

Half a smile crept across his face. “About twenty minutes. How long have you been sitting here pretending to be busy?”

She did not answer, returning her gaze to her book. There was a silence penetrated only by the sound of the power ballad inserted arbitrarily into the middle of the album she was pretending to listening to. He supped his coffee and looked around; studying without interest the drab, meaningless splatters of emotion they called art and hung on the walls.

“What are you listening to?” It was asked apathetically, forced out by the pressure of silence.

She looked at him through her eyebrows and the hair falling over her eyes like a drawn curtain. “Music”.

“Just sounds like noise from here.”

The curtain was blown aside briefly as she snorted air through her nose in what could be interpreted as a laugh and allowed half a smile to flirt onto her face. She wiped it off and looked back to her book, redoubling her efforts not to care.

The silence resumed as though the fleeting bond of solidarity between them had never existed. He sat and watched the emotions dancing in her hair, not on the wall this time, leaving the coffee to get cold.

She looked up, half out of boredom, half out of the uncomfortable feeling that his grey-blue eyes were fixated on her. “Any reason why you’re staring at me?”

“Because you’re pretty.”

She raised her eyebrows and peered through the curtains. “I know” she returned again to her book.

“So why do you object to me looking at you?”

“Because it’s unsettling.”

“Being ignored is pretty unsettling too you know?” For the first time his relaxed, conversational tone was cut with frustration.

“No one invited you to sit down.” Her voice carried a chill that invited no excuse.

“You looked like you could do with some company.”

“And what made you think that?”

He shrugged. “You looked lonely.”

“I’m not.”

“Then why are you sitting in the corner of a coffee shop all alone, pretending to look busy?” the agitation rose in his voice.

“Because I wanted to be alone.” There was a icy coldness to her voice that should have ended the conversation.

“Why?” he asked anyway.

“If you must know, apparently you must because you consistently fail to take a hint,” the ice had melted away to anger. “My parents died in a car crash a week ago.”

Silence descended like a pall, he just stared at her, unable to force words that had come so easily to him before. The colours in her hair danced.

Eventually he choked out noises that sounded like words. “I’m sorry, I had no–”

“Just go.” Her whispered voice pierced through his bumbling apology.

“I honestly didn’t know. I’m so sorry. Please, I… if I’d known…” he left, his unfinished sentence hanging in the air.

She sighed and slumped back into her chair, ripping the earphones from her ears, and throwing them to the floor. She sat and stared through drawn curtains at the drab, meaningless splatters of colour they called art and hung on the walls. The colours in her hair were still.

She didn’t like lying.

You see, it now has metaphors and deeper meanings. I realised that I could still do clever things with descriptions and imagery while keeping my narrator as a fly on the wall, rather than in the head of one of my characters. Anyway, I think this is much more interesting and poignant now, although I may still change it a bit.

The here is the second one, the original can be found here.

“Will he ever wake up, doctor?” It was a man’s voice. His confidence barely masking creeping exhaustion. I recognised it, but could not place it.

“I sincerely doubt it.” The voice was youthful, but its formality was grinding. I assumed he was the doctor. “I’m sorry.” His tone was professional; he could think of nothing else to say.

There was a pause. I thought I heard the sound of weeping and gentle comforting over the whirr of the medical equipment, buzzing and clicking, carrying out its own conversation with itself, without a care for the flesh and blood and tears.

“How long, doctor, until…” the man choked as he spoke, trying not to cry, “Until he passes away?”

“His position is stable.” The words came in a clipped, over formal, unsympathetic tone; I wondered how long ago the doctor had been a mere student in med school. “There is no reason not to say that his life may go on… indefinitely.”

“So he could remain like this… forever?” there was an incredulousness in his tone, with undercurrents of anger. I wondered exactly who this man was, and why I recognised his voice.

“As long as we continue to sustain him, in theory, yes.”

“And if we don’t ‘continue to sustain him’?”

“Then he will die.”

“So he is to spend the rest of his life attached to a machine, with tubes stuck down his throat to feed him?” The anger dominated is voice now. “You see, Penelope, what kind of existence is that?” I wondered if it was Penelope I though I’d hear crying.

“How can you talk like that John?” I guessed that this was Penelope speaking. I could not blot out the feeling that I knew this voice too. “He’s your brother for god’s sake!” If my eyes had been working, I would have blinked. How could I not even identify my own brother’s voice? And if my own brother was but a familiar stranger, who the hell was Penelope?

“I’m just saying that it’s not much of an existence. That body, that empty, functionless shell is not the man you once loved.” My world shattered. Anger and shock battled through my motionless, un-sensing body.

“I can’t believe you could say that! How do you know that he’s not still alive in there? How do you know he can’t hear us?” her voice was tight with anger and barely disguised tears.

“Doctor, can he hear us?” I screamed that I could, but my mouth refused to listen.

“As far as we are aware his mind has all but closed down completely, I doubt if he can even think, let alone hear anything.” I redoubled my efforts, hopping that will power would miraculously mend my broken body.

“You see Penelope; he’s nothing but a body. He’s an empty shell, a body, nothing more. Not the man you married anymore.” His words made my mind spiral in despair. The madness of not knowing and not seeing consumed me.

I heard a door slam.

“I think we should consider turning off the life support machines. There’s no sense prolonging a life so devoid of meaning.”

I screamed. And no one heard.

The changes here are more subtle. The wording is less awkward now I think and the whole thing flows a bit better. Some of the dialogue is changed a bit too. Again there are metaphors, but this one is less steeped in imagery than the other; I was still trying to keep to roughly 500 words.

You might be asking the reason for all this editing. Well before half term I went to a creative writing even organised by a group at my school which it occurred to me that I should join. Unfortunately I have a chronic fear of humiliation, so I wanted to edit them until I was happy enough with them to present. I have a couple of other pieces that I’m not entirely happy with yet and a few poems that you don’t get to see (you might in the future if I run out of other things to do).

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