Short stories - A Different World

Entering short story competitions and submitting work for anthologies gives writers a forum for their work, particularly at a time when many magazines are cutting short story sections in favour of more celeb style features. Until these magazines see the light, short stories may be destined to hide out in the anthologies forward-thinking publishers collate. And as long as readers are reached, I will keep on writing!

Having entered a couple of short story competitions this week, I have been working through my most recent creations and applying my usual re-edit before entering them. The short story is an enjoyable medium to work in and I have a number of collections by author or subject matter which are well thumbed and have provided me with many enjoyable afternoons. The short story collection allows its readers short sharp bursts of intrigue, laughter, suspense and tears during journeys or a rare hour sitting at home with music on and the children in bed.
The writers group I am part of, Creative Writing Support, is a rather eclectic mix of over one hundred individuals with equally diverse tastes and writing styles. When we were asked to create a short story or poem on any theme with a song lyric as its title, many ideas flowed. Of course, writing the actual short story or poem to a particular title is no easy task and taking inspiration from various cliched lyrics left me numb and uninspired.
However, it was a few weeks later, when waking to Radio Two, my song title was introduced and I came round to a this classic song, considering the bones of a short teenage fiction story I had recently started and wondering if the two might fit together somehow.

Here's a little paragraph to whet your appetite - the anthology will be available from Creative Writing Support soon and I will keep you posted.

It Started With a Kiss

“What was that?” she whispered, rubbing her cheek gently.

“Just a cobweb, probably,” he laughed. “This room is covered!”

The young couple moved in to the small turret room from the stairs and felt their way in the dark across to the small sliver of a window.

“It’s so dusty in here,” Erin squeaked, rubbing her hands together. “And so cold.”

A sliver of moonlight shone through the stagnant dusty air, lending dim light to the room.

Danny rubbed his hands across the crumbling stone-work, the yellowing chalk-like substance wet between his fingers. He wiped them across his jeans, leaving damp dirty traces.

“It smells damp,” he muttered. “We should go. What are we doing here anyway?”

“I wanted to get right to the top turret,” Erin whispered, stamping her blue Doc Marten boots in victory. “Look how high we got!” They looked down to the castle walls below, barely visible in the fading twilight. Below them, the world was mapped out in miniature, like a toy town trail of green and brown. Cars lit their travel along grey snaking roads away from this medieval place, back to reality and modern times. Yet here, alone in the silence of this turret room, the centuries fell away and except for their uniform of faded jeans, floppy hair and faux-dirty sweater and sneakers, they could have lived in another time.

“There is supposed to be a ghost of a princess here, you know. She was trapped by her evil father so she couldn’t rule the kingdom.”

“Of course there is. Where’d you hear that?”

“I don’t know,” Erin smiled. “My dad told me last time we came. I think it’s supposed to be true. Poor love.”

“Your Dad’s full of stories like that, Erin. That story’s as true as the folk songs he sings. I don’t know why you brought me up here.”

“I wanted to talk to you. Away from the others.” Erin smiled shyly to the floor before composing herself and meeting him eye to eye once more.

“Oh yeah?” Danny ruffled his fringe and smiled awkwardly. “So, shoot.”

“I wanted to show you something.”

Erin walked over to this friend of hers. He was no longer eleven and neither was she, the age they had been when they became inseparable in Year7, first Literacy session when they were sat together as strangers. She felt different now, whenever she was with him, and she was sure he knew it.

“Are you okay?”

Erin blushed. “Yes.” She knew she couldn’t do it. Bringing him up here like this was madness. What had she been thinking? Walking over to the window again, her eyes were drawn to etching in the crumbling stone below the narrow window. “Look.”

Danny knelt down to where she was pointing. His fingers traced the heart carved deep in the wall.

Erin rubbed her finger over the D carved underneath in a cursive script. “Look. She was here.”

Quite accidentally, the tale became a rather tragic ghost story with a teenage romance just blossoming throughout and I did wonder by the end of it if the title really referred to the kiss of a princess or just that of a young girl in love for the first time.
The story starts with kiss, but the young boy's life is perhaps saved by the love of his companion. That's what I love about a short story: the nuances, the possibilities and the interpretations. I look forward to hearing how the story and the anthology is received.


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