A while back I read a blog post advising authors to improve their skills by writing a short story every week. To paraphrase the post, it didn’t matter whether the story was a literary classic or a pile of poo as long as it got written.
Interesting, I thought. My fiction writing to date has been very much character driven, meaning the readers need to get to know the characters in order to take an interest in whatever happens to them. And that, of course, takes time. Not conducive at all to short story writing, so here was my chance to give my work a new dimension.
Having read the post shortly before Christmas, I had a ready-made New Year’s resolution. However, I’m not talking about last New Year – it was the year before. Keeping New Year’s resolutions isn’t my strong suit!
For some reason the blog post’s idea came back to me at three o’clock this morning. Oh the joys of being creative – not that I’d want to be anything else, but why do alpha waves love the early hours so much? By four o’clock my mind was working feverishly on the following short story. By five I was editing and fine tuning it. By six I was still awake and heartily fed up.
Later, after an appalling night’s sleep, I got up and wrote ‘Innocence Lost?’. So here it is: my first attempt at short story writing.
How did this happen? Jenny thought miserably, watching the summer sun sink behind pretty suburban houses. The scent of barbecues filtered into the car, and cheerful groups of people wandered here and there, enjoying the balmy evening. How happy they all looked. How safe.
How Jenny wished she could join them.
Risking a glance at the man beside her, Jenny felt her insides recoil with fear. Even through her drunken haze she realised she was in trouble – deep trouble – and she only had herself to blame. Hadn’t her dad warned her about the company she kept? Hadn’t he repeatedly told her about predatory men who wouldn’t hesitate to take advantage of a pretty fourteen-year-old? Especially one full of a potent cocktail of cheap alcohol.
As the car passed under a street light, Jenny caught sight of her reflection in the wing mirror. An hour ago she’d felt so grown up, drinking in the park with her older friends – ‘friends’ too drunk to notice (or care) when the man beside her had persuaded her away.
Now she looked like a frightened little girl caked in makeup.
Wriggling in her seat, Jenny pulled her skirt down as low as it would go, but still it barely covered her knickers. The man glanced at her legs and made a sound somewhere between a growl and a sigh. Cold terror coursed through her booze-laden body.
Oh God, what’s on his mind? As if I don’t know. But I’m so young, and he looks so old. I didn’t realise he looked that old…
The lights of the town were now behind them, and even Jenny’s fuzzy brain didn’t take long to register that ‘showtime’ was approaching. She pressed her hands over her mouth, vainly hoping to stem the rising tide of panic that threatened to burst out of her.
The man pulled into a layby. It was classic – a deserted country road; no one around for miles; spooky woodland on either side. All the horror cliché was missing was a ground mist.
‘Showtime’ had arrived.
The car was at a standstill, but the man continued to grip the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles were white with the effort. His jaw was clenched; his breathing was ragged.
“It’s no good,” he muttered, looking at Jenny’s bare legs again, his expression hard and determined. “I can’t drive in this state. We’ll have to do it here, in the car.”
“Please…” whispered Jenny, immediately clapping her hands over her mouth again as panic overwhelmed her. No, no, no! her mind shouted. Not here, not in the car.
Her mouth, however, had lost the ability to utter a word.
Jenny fumbled with the door handle, but the man grabbed both her wrists, restraining the inebriated teenager with ease.
“Not so fast, young lady. I’ve not even started with you yet.”
Oh God, no! Why did I drink so much? Why didn’t I listen? No matter what, I’ve got to get out of this car. Now. I’ve got to do whatever it takes…
“Whatever were you thinking, you stupid child? I could have been anyone.”
“I know, Dad,” Jenny mumbled eventually. “I know you’re waiting to read me the riot act, but I’m about to be sick in your car.”
What do you think? Is the twist a little too obvious? If you’d be so good as to add comments or constructive criticisms below, I’d love to read your thoughts. Then I can take them on board for short story #2, which may appear next week, or may appear in two years’ time.
You never can tell with my resolutions.