Monster #FlashFictionForay #FFF31

The Flash Fiction Foray is upon us again, and the song The Book Blogger has chosen this week is “Monster” by Imagine Dragons.

In case you don’t know the rules, the challenge is to write a short story of fewer than 100 words based on the song title or lyrics. A challenge indeed! This week I have managed to keep my word count to fewer than 170, which is better than the monster (ha-ha, see what I did there?) offerings of, ooh, nearly 500 words I’ve submitted in the past, but the magic 100 word story still eludes me.

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Freddie was sitting on the stairs late at night, listening to Mother gossiping with the neighbours.

“The boy’s father,” exclaimed Mother, “is a real monster!”

“Monster. Monster,” agreed her companions.

Glowing with excitement, Freddie sneaked back to his bedroom to pack his meagre belongings. His dad was a real live monster – just wait till the bullies at school heard about that! Mother never did anything when Freddie came home in tears on a daily basis, other than telling him to grow a pair of balls. How was he supposed to grow balls? Why couldn’t she buy him some from the toy shop?

“Do you remember the awful things he used to do to Freddie?” Mother was saying, deaf to the front door clicking shut behind her small son. “I swear he’d have killed the child…”

Freddie didn’t hear these crucial details about the monster who’d fathered him. He was already on the streets, a bounce in his step as he set out to find his hero.

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#MayDay Mayhem Part Two – Let The Carnival Begin!

“It is my pleasure,” boomed Lord Lah-di-Dah, “to declare the Bell End May Day fête…OPEN!”

“Oh, Your Lordship, Your Lordship.” Mrs Sanctimonious simpered around the minor aristocrat as the opening ceremony drew to a close, virtually clutching at his sleeve in a bid to ingratiate herself. “Please, allow me – I mean, it would be my honour to show you around…”

“What, what, what?”

“Show you around, Your Lordship. Perhaps some refreshments first?”

“Splendid, a bevvy or two sounds like a blahdy good idea. And there’s no need for the Lordship malarkey – yer can call me Rupert.”

Mrs Sanctimonious’s laugh positively tinkled. First name terms with an aristocrat…

“Yah, got stripped of me title a year ago. Spot of bother on Clapham Common.”

“Ew,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, a little deflated. “Well, er, how’s life at Lah-di-Dah Hall?”

“Sold it!” The former Lord Lah-di-Dah slapped Mrs Sanctimonious on the back and gave a bark of laughter. “Gambling debts, what?”

“Ewww.” Mrs Sanctimonious looked all of a sudden as though there was a nasty smell under her nose. “Well if you want refreshments, Rupert, might I suggest you’d be more at home in the pub?”

“The Drover’s Arms? Jolly good idea. Spent many a night in the barmaid’s arms, what?” The disgraced aristocrat guffawed unrepentantly. “Tally ho!”

Her mouth tighter than a duck’s arse, Mrs Sanctimonious watched him go.

“Common as muck,” she muttered. Feeling a tap on her arm, she painted a smile on her face which faded the second she saw it wasn’t anyone worth cultivating.

“Mrs Downtrodden.”

“Mrs Sanctimonious, is there anything I can do to help? Only Farmer Rosy-Cheeks seems to have everything under control in the refreshments tent…”

“Farmer Rosy-Cheeks is meant to be manning the produce stall.”

“The only produce he’s brought along is his apple juice,” replied Mrs Downtrodden. “It’s going down a storm. No one wants tea.”

“Oh, for goodness sake, woman, you’ll do anything to get out of working,” snapped Mrs Sanctimonious. “Go and see if Justin’s elephants are ready for the maypole dance yet.”

Feeling self-righteously superior as Mrs Downtrodden slunk away, Mrs Sanctimonious started walking across the village green to see how the raffle tickets were selling. She didn’t get far.

“Mrs Sanctimonious?” A woman holding the hand of a confused looking small boy stopped her in her tracks. “Mrs Sanctimonious, that man you’ve put in charge of body painting is, quite frankly, inappropriate!”

The last word came out as a scream and the small boy started to cry.

“Show the lady, Tarquin.”

Tarquin held up his hands. Painted across his small knuckles were the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’.

“I wanted a Spiderman face,” he wailed.

“Mr Wouldn’t-Say-Boo-To-A-Goose did that?” asked Mrs Sanctimonious in disbelief.

“Mr Wouldn’t-Say-Boo-To-A-Goose is running backwards and forwards to the refreshments tent,” snapped Tarquin’s mother, “getting an endless supply of Farmer Rosy-Cheeks’s apple juice for…”

“Oh dear God, no!” exclaimed Mrs Sanctimonious, clapping her hands over her face as the unmistakable roar of motorbike engines cut across the tranquillity of the spring afternoon. Squinting through the gap between her fingers, she saw her worst fears had been realised.

The local Hell’s Angels had turned up in support of their leader, Horace, who was currently engaged in painting nipples on to a five-year-old girl’s chubby cheeks.

“Horace!” Mrs Sanctimonious summoned her courage and stormed over to the large and hairy man. “You…you…what are you doing?”

“Tattooing the kiddies, Mrs S,” replied Horace affably, draining his mug of apple juice and sending Mr Wouldn’t-Say-Boo-To-A-Goose scuttling off to the refreshments tent for a refill.

“But”, Mrs Sanctimonious laid her hands on the shoulders of the baffled looking five-year-old, “this is highly inappropriate…”

“No it ain’t, Mrs S.” Horace gave the nipple adorned cheeks a friendly squeeze. “Just givin’ the little ’un a fine pair until she grows a fine pair of her own.”

“Jolly good show, man,” roared the former Lord Lah-di-Dah, glass of apple juice in hand, clapping Horace on the back. “Can’t have too many titties about the place, what?”

“I thought you were in the pub,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, rubbing the bridge of her nose wearily.

“Came back with the Morris dancers.” The former Lord Lah-di-Dah clinked his glass against Horace’s. “Mighty fine apple juice, eh?”

“Oh heck,” groaned Mrs Sanctimonious, “the Morris dancers…”

Jingle, jingle, jingle, clack! Jingle, jingle, jingle, thud! Thud! Raucous laughter. The Morris dancers, complete with a splendidly toothy Reverend Benign and an equally toothless Mr Wolf, were gathered outside the refreshments tent, giving an impromptu display – of falling over.

“Justin!” shrieked Mrs Sanctimonious. “Justin, where are you? Get the maypole dancing going, now!”

“Can’t,” replied Justin.

“What do you mean, you can’t? You’ve had an hour to train the children…”

“Yeah, and things were going swimmingly until Mrs Rosy-Cheeks instigated an ‘eat your body weight in burgers’ competition.”

“And,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, looking over to where the children were now slobbing out around the maypole, electronic tablets in hands, “I hardly dare ask, but did any of them manage it?”

“No.” Mrs Sanctimonious’s relief was short lived. “But only because there aren’t enough burgers in the country. Once they’d finished Mrs Rosy-Cheeks’s supply – in record time, I might add – they started on the…”

Justin was interrupted by a scream from the raffle stall. Mrs Downtrodden was staring in horrified disbelief at the empty stand where the magnificent prize cake, the weight of which eager fairgoers had been paying a pound a go to guess, had once sat.

“Once they’d finished, they started on the cake,” murmured Mrs Sanctimonious, feeling a little faint. Someone shoved a glass of Farmer Rosy-Cheeks’s legendary apple juice into her hand and she drank a healthy slug before continuing. “And what, pray, are the not so little darlings doing now.”

“Dancing,” replied Justin as chubby fingers whizzed over tablet screens. “They’ve all downloaded ‘Killer Zombies’ Dance of Death’ and they’re bloody brilliant at it.” Grinning, Justin produced an iPad from his man bag. “It’s great. The zombies dance round the maypole, binding the living with the ribbons, then they feast on brains. I’m on level two.”

His finger already busy, Justin returned to the maypole and disappeared into a sea of fat and ribbons.

“It’s all going wrong!” wailed Mrs Sanctimonious. “Give me strength…”

Taking another gulp of apple juice, she discovered her prayer had been answered. An inner strength she didn’t know she had came to the fore and she regarded the mayhem around her with a new appreciation.

“This stuff’s delicious,” she said, draining her glass. “Any chance of some more?”

“Ish nectar from heaven,” slurred Reverend Benign, draping an arm round her shoulders. “A gift from almighty…wash ’iz name again? Ooh,” his teeth turned in the direction of the newly crowned May Queen, Miss Pretty-Young-Thing, closely followed by the rest of his face, “don’t mind if I do.”

Reverend Benign scuttled off rather unsteadily in pursuit of Miss Pretty-Young-Thing, accompanied by wolf whistles and an accordion rendition of the Benny Hill theme tune courtesy of the Morris dancers. Meanwhile at the body painting stall, Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village was sharing a large roll-up with the former Lord Lah-di-Dah while Horace showcased his artistic talents on her Leanne’s face.

“Is that a…” began Mrs Sanctimonious, looking bleary-eyed at Horace’s artwork.

“Nah, Mrs S,” replied Horace with a grin. “Dirty mind you’ve got, lady. It’s just a nice picture of meat and two veg.”

“What a relief,” said Mrs Sanctimonious, turning with a beaming smile as Mrs Downtrodden appeared at her side.

“Mrs Sanctimonious,” said Mrs Downtrodden, her voice quavering, “it’s a disaster.”

The Morris men were back at the refreshments tent, singing a collection of bawdy songs at the tops of their voices, their bells jingling frantically as they swayed to and fro, while random declarations of “Brains” from the direction of the maypole heralded more victories for the zombies. Giggling and rustling coming from a nearby bush, punctuated by the occasional “Glory be to God”, suggested the whereabouts of His Reverence and the May Queen, and the large roll-ups appeared to be multiplying at an astonishing rate as Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village got increasingly mellow with the local Hell’s Angels chapter and the disgraced aristocrat.

“Disaster, my arse,” replied Mrs Sanctimonious, linking arms with Mrs Downtrodden and leading her in the direction of the refreshments tent and Farmer Rosy-Cheeks’s glorious apple juice. “It’s the best fête ever!”

apple-cider-vinegar-and-honey

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*****

Authors, looking for an editor? For editing advice and services or to arrange a free no-obligation sample edit, please either click on the image below or contact me directly via alisoneditor@outlook.com.

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#MayDay Mayhem Part One – The Calm Before The Storm

Mrs Sanctimonious surveyed the hive of activity on the sun-drenched village green with satisfaction. It was rumoured far and wide that no village threw a better May Day bash than Bell End, and this year’s fête was shaping up to be the best ever.

Looking around, Mrs Sanctimonious frowned. Something wasn’t quite right. She had spent the last six years organising the village fête committee to within an inch of its lives, so why, oh why, did someone always see fit to do their own thing? And why, oh why, did it always have to be the same someone?

“Mrs Downtrodden,” she snapped, sashaying over to the jumble stall. “Mrs Downtrodden, what did we agree at the last committee meeting? What did we agree, hmm? Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village is dealing with jumble, you’re meant to be in the refreshments tent.”

Mrs Sanctimonious paused. There was an obvious flaw in her plan.

“So, where exactly is Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village?”

“Er, she went to see if the blue dress would fit her Leanne…”

“The blue…” Mrs Sanctimonious spluttered, turned an alarming shade of crimson, then tried again. “The blue Gucci for kids dress? It belonged to my Sophia until she wore it the once and got bored with it. I can’t have it gracing the slums of Gutter Street.”

Beckoning Mrs Downtrodden closer, Mrs Sanctimonious whispered, “Did you know – Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village doesn’t even know who her Leanne’s father is? Or her other seven kids’ fathers, for that matter. The woman’s never heard of marriage.”

“Or contraception,” murmured Mrs Downtrodden.

“I beg your pardon?”

“I said, isn’t it time for the maypole inspection?”

“Ah yes. For once you’ve come up with a worthwhile idea. And now,” Mrs Sanctimonious added as Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village reappeared through a cloud of cigarette smoke, “you can return to your duties in the refreshments tent.”

“Di’n’t fit,” said Ms Wrong-End-Of-The-Village, chucking the Gucci dress unceremoniously back on to the jumble stall. With a moue of disgust, Mrs Sanctimonious moved off in the direction of the maypole, thinking that if Leanne Wrong-End-Of-The-Village’s daily diet extended to something more healthy than burgers and pizzas, the dress could have fitted a treat. Or perhaps if she got a bit more exercise. Mrs Sanctimonious’s Sophia was forever active, out and about in the saddle, training for gymkhanas, following the hunt…

“Mr Wolf!” she snapped as the village’s oldest resident hobbled past, making his ponderous way with his equally ancient Yorkshire terrier towards the refreshments tent. “Get that dog out of the full sun. Really, I can’t abide cruelty to animals.”

“I was…I was just…Mrs Sanct…” Mr Wolf attempted to wheeze a reply in his defence, but Mrs Sanctimonious had already moved on.

“Justin!” she called, summoning the self-appointed choreographer. Unbinding himself from the maypole’s ribbons and tottering over (his bright pink trousers way too tight to allow for anything resembling a normal walk), Justin launched into a furious tirade before Mrs Sanctimonious had the chance to speak.

“Where are they?” he demanded. “Where are the little angels? How am I supposed to turn them into a posse of Wayne Sleeps if they’re not even here?”

Glancing around, Mrs Sanctimonious saw that Justin had a point. There was no sign of the local children she’d bribed with endless bags of Haribo to dance round the maypole later that day. There was, however, the Reverend Benign approaching from the east, hands clasped in prayer, eyes no more than slits in a face dominated by bottle bottom glasses and prominent front teeth.

“God bless you, my children,” he intoned.

“God bless you too, Your Reverence,” purred Mrs Sanctimonious, a pious smile upon her face.

“A maypole? A little, er…” Reverend Benign lowered his voice and inclined his head towards Mrs Sanctimonious, “pagan, don’t you think?”

Mrs Sanctimonious trilled with sycophantic laughter.

“Justin,” she said, “perhaps the maypole isn’t appropriate for a Christian environment. You should just nip off home…”

Reverend Benign had other plans for the overtly camp Justin.

“Oh Heavenly Father on high,” he chanted, making the sign of the cross in Justin’s face. “Forgive this filthy heathen for succumbing to the sins of the flesh…”

“You what?” said Justin. “I’m in a monogamous relationship, you holier than thou hypocrite.”

Reverend Benign adopted an expression of serene piousness, but Justin hadn’t finished with him yet.

“I’m not the one who spends his afternoons chasing after Miss Pretty-Young-Thing…”

Serenity forgotten, Reverend Benign glared at Justin.

“I’m grooming her,” he snapped.

“That’s about right!”

“For holy orders…”

“What, in her bedroom?”

“The children have arrived, Justin,” Mrs Sanctimonious cut in, sighing with relief at the timely distraction. A fleet of four by fours had indeed pulled up at the edge of the green, the vehicles’ suspension audibly creaking and groaning as a hefty child got out of each one. Reining in his temper, Reverend Benign recovered his dignity and turned to Mrs Sanctimonious with a contemptuous sniff.

“I’ll let you and this…this…”

“Fairy?” suggested Justin helpfully. “Queen?”

Gentleman,” hissed His Reverence as though that were more distasteful than either of Justin’s suggestions. “I’ll leave you to get on with your pagan rights. I suppose you’ll be telling me you’ve hired Morris dancers next…”

“Oh dear,” said Mrs Sanctimonious as the tell-tale jingle of Morris dancers’ bells carried clearly on the spring breeze. His piousness fully restored, His Reverence clasped his hands in prayer once again and made his way to the refreshments tent.

“Oh dear,” echoed Justin with a cheeky grin, which faded abruptly as the first substantial child slouched over.

“Hello, er, little boy. What’s your name?”

“Chubby.”

“Fabulous,” murmured Justin, turning to the next child. “And you are?”

“Chunky,” she replied.

“Don’t tell me,” said Justin, turning to the third child. “Tubby?”

“Nah,” he said, cramming a large piece of cake into his mouth and spraying Justin with crumbs as he spoke, “Sumo.”

“Delightful,” said Justin, rolling his eyes at Mrs Sanctimonious. “If a butterfly’s wings can cause an earthquake on the other side of the world, I shudder to think what damage this lot dancing will do. Come on,” he added, shepherding the children towards the maypole, “grab a ribbon each and let’s get started.”

The smug ball now firmly back in her court, Mrs Sanctimonious smiled sweetly as she surveyed the last minute fête preparations going on around her. The crowds were gathering for the grand opening, everything was in place, and even the bank holiday weather was being uncharacteristically kind.

What could possibly go wrong?

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*****

Join me again on Monday to find out exactly what could go wrong…

Getting Edited

Great post from the wonderful Jo Robinson. Forget ‘killing your darlings’; the editing process is often a very rewarding and worthwhile process for authors.

Lit World Interviews

Some writers love being edited, and others really, really don’t. Once we’re finished with our darling that we think is absolutely perfect as it is, the last thing we want is criticism. Ann Rice refuses to be edited. Other than proofreading, her words are all written exactly as she wants them. Most other writers, famous or otherwise, tend to have their work edited.

Getting your manuscript back with comments all over the place, and your favourite scene completely trashed could very well lead to apoplectic rage or rivers of tears. If so much is wrong then obviously you must be an absolutely rubbish writer and you may just as well give up could be your next thought—the one that comes after writing the rudest, most insultingly literate letter to your editor before hopefully having the good sense to delete it.

The thing to remember is that when it comes to…

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Flash Fiction Foray – Jealous #FFF30

This week’s Flash Fiction Foray challenge is to write a short story inspired by the song “Jealous” by Labrinth.

I’m not even going to attempt to capture the raw emotion of Labrinth’s singing in my offering, so instead here’s a light hearted view of jealousy itself. Once again, please accept my apologies for going way over the word count.

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Jealous

“Daaaaahling,” trilled Singer, kissing the air above Actress’s shoulder, “I’m sooooo thrilled about you Bafta nomination.”

“Mwah, mwah, Singer, I just know you’re going to sweep the board at the Brits this year.”

Model tottered through the door on impossibly high heels. “I simply adore your new single, Singer daaaaahling. Take no notice of those awful accusations in the Current Bun – we know you sing on all your records. Mwah!”

“Mwah!”

“Mwah!”

“Model, daaaaahling, your hair extensions are divine. No one would ever tell they’re not real.”

“And your Botox treatments are going sooooo well, Actress. Who wants a face that moves anyway?”

Snatching up a plate from her dressing table, Actress would have looked outraged had her over-Botoxed face been capable of expressing emotion.

“Catering!” she screeched. “One lettuce leaf, not two, you moron. How can I maintain my beautiful size zero figure if you double my daily calorie intake?”

Catering stepped out of the shadows where she’d been waiting quietly with Hair-and-Makeup and Wardrobe, grabbed the offending lettuce leaf and stuffed it in her mouth.

“FAT COW!” shrieked Singer, Actress and Model in unison. Dancer pirouetted into the room and burst into tears.

“Daaaaahling, what is it? Have you been sacked from Strictly? We all know you didn’t really sleep with the politician you partnered last year…”

“No!” wailed Dancer. “Far worse than that – you called me fat!”

Singer, Actress and Model giggled prettily behind perfectly manicured fingers.

“Not you, daaaaahling. Caterer. Stuffing her fat face on lettuce.”

Dancer’s crocodile tears vanished in an instant. Smoothing her hands over her Stella McCartney dress, she looked over at Wardrobe and sneered, “What are you looking at, you jealous bitch? This dress cost more than you’ll earn in a lifetime.”

“Mwah, mwah, Dancer, you’re sooooo funny.”

Trademark pouts in place, surrounded by surly bodyguards, Singer, Dancer, Actress and Model sashayed down the hallway, the clack-clack-clack of Jimmy Choos gradually fading into the cheers of a thousand fans and the click of a thousand press cameras. Catering, Hair-and-Makeup and Wardrobe watched as the heavy doors closed behind the four celebrities who currently had the world at their feet, then fell about with helpless laughter.

“Jealous of them? Really, daaaaahling?”

Sooooo thrilled for you – and everyone knows they hate each other.”

“And everyone knows they’re jealous as hell of each other.”

“If that’s fame and fortune, you can stick it.”

Catering looked at her healthy size ten figure in the mirror and smiled approvingly. Turning to her two dearest friends, she draped her arms around them and said, “Come on, ladies, that lettuce leaf’s given me an appetite. I hear the local Italian restaurant’s giving away free garlic bread with every bowl of pasta, and I’ve got a fat cow reputation to maintain.”

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Writing Tips – Show, Don’t Tell

Consider the following passage:

John-Paul was a successful businessman. He was six foot tall and athletically built, with blue eyes and blond hair. His brother was called George. John-Paul was a rich man who drove a Jaguar and owned a large house in the suburbs. All his family holidays were taken abroad and they always flew first class. His parents were huge fans of the Beatles, which was how John-Paul got his name. He was named after John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Despite being rich and powerful, John-Paul was a kind hearted man…blah, blah, blah

Snore – oh, do excuse me. I dropped off for a minute there.

If this passage were to be used as notes for the author’s own reference, fine. Even if this were a first draft, there’s plenty that the author can edit and refine at a later date – as long as they do edit and refine it. Sadly, though, I have encountered self-published books (clearly un-edited) which actually begin like this, bombarding the reader with far more information than they can take in at once. Whether or not the writing style improves I can’t say, as by page four I’ve usually given up.

Why?

Because it’s boring.

So how does an author get information across to their readers in a way they’ll enjoy and remember? Two ways: one, introduce the information bit by bit so the readers can gradually get to know the characters as they’d get to know someone they’d met in the “real” world. This is also true for places, background information – anything essential to the story.

Two, pretty much anything can be shown to the readers. They don’t need to be told when they can work it out for themselves.

John-Paul parked in his reserved parking space and locked his expensive car, then strode with natural athletic grace towards the door of the pristine Financial District skyscraper in which he worked.

What does the reader now know about John-Paul? Well, he’s rich (expensive car), successful (he has a reserved parking space in the Financial District) and he keeps himself fit (couch potatoes don’t tend to have athletic grace). However, not one of these facts has been stated in so many words.

On the way into work, John-Paul’s blue eyes alighted upon a homeless man, shivering as he sold copies of the Big Issue. Making a detour into the nearest Starbucks, John-Paul ordered a large coffee then crossed the road.

“Here you are, Joe,” he said, handing the steaming drink to the Big Issue seller. “Milk and two sugars, just as you like it.”

From this our readers can deduce the blue-eyed John-Paul is kind hearted, clearly on a regular basis (he’s friendly enough with Joe to know his name and how he takes his coffee), and they don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes in order to make the deduction.

Later that day:

Walking into the bar to meet his friends, John-Paul was transported back to his childhood as “Love Me Do” rang out from the jukebox. Growing up with two Beatles fanatics as parents, he and his brother George had passed every day of their formative years to a soundtrack of the Fab Four’s music.

(I didn’t have the heart to give John-Paul another brother called Ringo!)

John-Paul’s visit to the pub tells the readers enough about his childhood for them to work out for themselves how he got his name – and please don’t try to explain for the benefit of readers who may not be familiar with the Beatles. Can you imagine it?

John-Paul was called John-Paul after Lennon and McCartney because his parents loved the Beatles. That is John Lennon and Paul McCartney, you understand, the main songwriters behind the Beatles, the highly successful sixties band

Snore, indeed!

When I first started editing, I myself wasn’t clear on what writing coaches and other experts meant by “Show, don’t tell”. It sounded like great advice, but how did it actually work in practice? Fittingly enough, I was shown the answer to this question via some of the manuscripts on which I was working, and the first intimation I had was through dialogue:

James and Minnie met for coffee.

“Hi, James, the usual?” said Minnie.

“Yes please,” said James gratefully.

“Two lattes please,” said Minnie to the barista. “So, James, how are you?” she asked, turning back to James.

“Great thanks, Minnie,” said James happily. “I’ve just won the promotion I was after at work, and my daughter’s been accepted to study at Cambridge,” he added proudly.

“My daughter can’t even be bothered to get up in the morning to go to the job centre,” said Minnie jealously.

“I’m sorry to hear that, Minnie,” said James sympathetically.

“Oh great, that makes all the difference,” said Minnie sarcastically.

I’ve added far more information than is needed in the above example. Let’s break it down.

“Hello, Minnie,” said James.

We already know that James and Minnie are the only characters involved in the scene, so “Hello, Minnie” is enough to show the readers that it’s James speaking. There’s really no need to tell them.

“I’ve been promoted and my daughter’s going to Cambridge.”

I’m sure the readers can work out from this statement how James is feeling. The words he’s spoken have shown them he’s proud – well, he’s hardly going to be feeling embarrassed about successful job promotions and prestigious university places. Sometimes, of course, you will have to tell the readers who’s speaking and who’s listening, but wherever possible ask yourself if you can dispense with the constant “he said”, “she said” after every piece of dialogue. Your writing will flow far better for it.

As well as showing the readers who is talking and how they’re feeling, dialogue can also give them plenty of clues about the characters’ personalities (Minnie is obviously rather a bitter and jealous woman, unable to appreciate her friend’s successes as she’s so bogged down by her perceived failures), their lives (James is clearly making a success of his, and they each have at least one daughter) and their tastes (they both enjoy a latte).

Now, I have done editing work for many authors who instinctively use the show rather than tell technique, and as a result their writing style is wonderful. Without doubt, their readers will be hungry for more. However, while having no intention of being patronising, I felt this post was a worthwhile exercise as there are plenty of authors, including those who already “get it”, who ask me to explain show, don’t tell. I hope I have succeeded.

This week I’ve touched upon dialogue, which is a favourite of mine both to read and to write, so next week I’ll delve into it in more depth.

*****

If you’re an author looking for an editor and you’d like more information on the services I offer, please either click on the image below or email me directly on alisoneditor@outlook.com.

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Short Story – Doctor, Doctor, Please

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‘Come in, come in. Please, take a seat.’

‘Thank you, Doctor. So, what’s the verdict?’

‘Good news, Mr Average. I’m delighted to say you have a clean bill of health. All that remains of this year’s medical is a teeny weeny questionnaire.’

Opening a file on his computer, the doctor clicked on page one of 325 and read out the first question.

‘OK, Mr Average, do you laugh?’

‘Er, yes, Doctor, but only on special occasions…’

The doctor fixed Mr Average with a penetrating gaze.

‘Oh, alright then. I do enjoy a good laugh.’

‘How many per week?’

‘Um, seven or eight, I’d say,’ replied Mr Average, crossing his fingers behind his back.

‘We need to cut that number in half,’ murmured the doctor. ‘You are aware of the Government guidelines, are you not, Mr Average? Five chuckles a week. Chuckles, that is, not belly-laughs. So, do you laugh every day, or save your – ahem – seven or eight for the weekend?’

‘Oh, I save them. You can’t beat a few laughs on a Saturday night.’

The doctor drew in a deep breath and jotted binge laugher on the notepad in front of him before scrolling down to question two.

‘When was the last time you enjoyed a good view?’

‘Never, Doctor. I don’t enjoy views. I know the risks…’

‘I see from my notes you regularly walk in the Peak District.’

‘I swear, Doctor, I keep my eyes closed the whole time.’

‘Did you ever enjoy views?’

‘I dabbled in my teens,’ replied Mr Average, hanging his head in shame. ‘But I gave up over twenty years ago, and haven’t so much as glanced at a view since.’

‘Excellent. The Nanny State’s strict controls on view enjoying are there for a reason – they’re highly addictive. Here, have a leaflet.’

The doctor dropped a hefty tome on Mr Average’s lap.

‘Sport,’ he said, glancing at question three. ‘Do you practise sport?’

‘Yes,’ replied Mr Average, ‘I play football a couple of times a week.’

‘And do you hate every minute?’

‘Absolutely,’ lied Mr Average, who was actually quite partial to a game of football.

‘I hope you’re telling me the truth, Mr Average. I see evidence of people enjoying sport everywhere I turn, especially at the weekend. Good for nothing low-lives having fun, cluttering up open spaces which are supposed to be empty. Do you realise, some talk about sport, and some,’ the doctor lowered his voice conspiratorially, ‘even watch it.’

‘Surely not!’ said Mr Average, tucking his newly-purchased ticket for the rugby the following Saturday deeper into his pocket.

Shuddering, the doctor moved on to question four.

‘Music.’

Mr Average blanched.

‘Ah, I see that’s struck a chord, Mr Average,’ said the doctor, regarding his patient through narrowed eyes.

‘Music, struck a chord, that’s a good one,’ said Mr Average, just catching himself before he smiled.

The doctor was furious.

‘Are you accusing me of making a joke? Joking is a filthy habit. Filthy!’

‘Sorry, Doctor, no offence meant. I didn’t think.’

‘Well, that’s something, I suppose. There’s far too much thinking going in in this hedonistic world. Now,’ he continued, steepling his fingers under his chin, ‘music. Why did that make you react so?’

Mr Average looked at his shoes.

‘Come now, Mr Average. Trust me, I’m a doctor.’

‘I sang a song last week,’ replied Mr Average in a small voice. The doctor sat up straight, startled. He hadn’t been expecting that.

‘And it gets worse…’

‘How can it possibly get worse than singing a song?’

‘It was on the radio,’ whispered Mr Average.

‘The radio? You were listening to the radio? Oh, hold on, don’t tell me – you were…singing along.’

‘And tapping my feet.’

The doctor leant back in his chair, disgusted.

‘I hardly dare ask, but what was the song called?’

Mr Average shook his head, tears in his eyes.

‘Tell me!’ roared the doctor.

‘“Papa Don’t Preach”.’

For a moment, Mr Average was worried the doctor was going to collapse. Gasping for breath, one hand clutching his throat, he stood unsteadily and towered over Mr Average, glowering down at his patient.

‘You sang and tapped your feet to a popular song. A popular song! Get out, and never return. I don’t have the time for a hopeless addict like you.’

Mr Average leapt out of his chair and hurried from the room, the doctor’s contempt following him all the way home.

*****

That evening, the doctor returned to the house he hated and refused to kiss his wife, satisfied that they made each other respectably unhappy.

‘Turn on the television,’ he said, throwing caution to the wind. As her eyebrows shot up in surprise, he added, ‘It’s these wretched patients of mine. They’re driving me to sitcoms.’

Not wanting to bear witness to her husband’s demise, the doctor’s wife made for the kitchen, intending to force herself to eat a portion of the inedible offal stew she’d made earlier. However, as the signature tune of ’Allo ’Allo burst from the television’s speakers, she was unable to resist a parting shot.

‘You’re a doctor, you imbecile,’ she hissed. ‘You know what watching light entertainment will lead to.’

The doctor’s wife was gratified to see an expression of dawning horror on her husband’s face.

‘Yes,’ she concluded smugly, ‘reality TV!’

*****

There could only be one song to follow this little swipe at the nanny state – the great UFO with ‘Doctor Doctor’. Feel free to sing along, and even tap your feet if you like. I won’t tell…

https://youtu.be/-16KJkJA5Bo