What Do You Want To Read?

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Plotters and Pantsers

Recently, over on the Social Media sphere, I’ve seen a lot of people questioning if other writers are ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers’: a plotter being someone who heavily plans their stories and a pantser being the complete opposite, somebody who can just sit down and write without any idea where it’s going to go. Now, what am I? I know you didn’t ask me specifically, but I want to answer it anyway.

            For short stories or poems I can get away without planning anything. The idea is in my head and then I freely write. For the starts of novels and plays I can do the same thing, but soon I become lost in the words and have no idea what I’m doing. This happens especially if I’ve had large breaks between writing, because the story has left my mind. Then I become a plotter.

            Planning a story can be hard, it can be enjoyable, it can also sap the joy out of it sometimes, but it is nearly always useful. Even if all your plan involves is a simple idea, that’s a plan. If you only have a genre, it’s part of your plan. Usually I start a plan with a few basics, even if I don’t necessarily have much else. You start a plan with your idea, your genre, your demographic (age of reader, mainly) and then your Beginning, Middle and End. Characters are, of course, important also. But start with your main character. Plan out their beginning, middle and end. I’ll give you an example, shall I?

            The first thing I write on my piece of paper is my idea. We’ll say:

            ‘The Gods are Playing Table Tennis’

            (Yes, this is a real idea I found that I’d written down a while back).

            Okay, basic idea is down. I could easily write a short story with that, without much planning. But what if I wanted it to be longer. I wanted it to go beyond the basic premise.

            So, I add a genre. A genre changes the way you write the book. If I were to write it as a comedy, then I would have to be make it absurd (more so than it already is). I would have to go over the top with the drama and exaggerate everything. If I were to write it as a drama then I would have to play it completely seriously and make my reader believe that the idea of the gods playing table tennis isn’t a completely absurd idea. I write my genre underneath my idea:

            ‘Speculative, realistic, calm.’

            Yes, these are more an idea of a genre than an actual genre. That’s fine. As long as you know how you want it to feel, how you want it to read, then that can be your genre.

            Next I write the demographic. If you want it to be for your eyes only, then great. Write that. If you want it to be for children, or for teenagers, for women, for men, for the LGBTQ community, for whoever you want. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these will be the only people to read your story, it merely gives you an aim to sell it towards. It gives you clarity on what you want to emphasise in your book. In children’s fiction our main character will mostly be a child; in a fantasy for women we create strong female leads; in an LGBTQ aimed book we emphasise and normalise the relationships from that community. In each demographic we give the people reading someone they can relate to, or aspire to, and that’s why you should choose your demographic.

            I’ll say my story is for ‘Myself’, because I believe I’m the only one who would want to read it. That’s fine. Your demographic can be you. Other people like you may then become your later demographic.

Now, my main character. The key to any story and the main thing that a reader will take away. You, of course, usually have many ‘principal members’ of your ‘cast’ but there will always be one above the rest. This is the person we’re following throughout. The person who’s eyes were seeing through, even when we use an omniscient narrator. I write it down.

            ‘Main character: Janus, god of doorways’.

Great. Now, after this I would usually do an extensive character plan (see my previous blogs on how to create characters) but for now let’s keep it simple. He’s the god of doorways, a lot of gods look down on him, he has a lot of pride in his work and is constantly trying to hide how inferior he feels by presenting himself with a large ego. He’s the underdog of the gods, but has proven to be a successful table tennis player.

            There we go. A few basic points about the character that can drive the plot. And speaking of the plot, now that I’ve got my main character sorted out I would do my (often used by me) Beginning, Middle and End.

            These are not set in stone. I repeat, these are not set in stone. If, after I’ve wrote my beginning I think of a different twist for the middle then it’ll be changed. If I finish the middle and decide that the ending I have written down wouldn’t make any sense any more, it will be changed. I purely do these as placeholders so that I have a direction to aim towards, even if I end up down another path entirely. Okay:

            ‘Beginning: Janus steps onto the table tennis field, beaming with pride. There are cheering gods on all sides and humans calling to him telling him how important he is to them. He wakes up. It’s all been a dream.

            Middle: Janus infiltrates Hades realm, looking for a secret table tennis paddle forged by Hephaestus, stolen years ago by Persephone’.

            End: The gods put the blame on Janus for their own misdemeanours in the game and punish him by banishing him to Earth.’

There. There’s my beginning, my middle and end. I know the path I have to take. This is the basic format for my plan. If I were to take it a step further I could break the three plot points down into individual parts and write what is going to happen in each chapter. I could develop each and every character, even minor ones, and make sure I know how they would react to Janus. I could play with tropes of the genre, develop relationships, foreshadow the end by having Janus mention how he would hate to live on Earth or have another God tell of the time they were banished to Earth. There are so many things I could do with this story, and it’s all been developed from simply writing down basic plot points.

            If you’re a pantser, great. Have fun and enjoy writing. If you’re a plotter, enjoy plotting (and don’t forget to write). But if, like me, you like a mixture of both, your basics will stand you in good stead. Let your imagination run wild and flesh out your story before writing, and don’t forget: every good story will change as you write it. Don’t rigorously stick to your initial plan. If it looks like it needs to change, change it. If you don’t like a character being in a certain scene, try it with another character. Sometimes we only figure out our true plan when we’re halfway through writing. It’s annoying to go back and change everything beforehand, but it happens, and it makes your story better. Why?

            Because it makes you love it even more, and your love is what truly matters with your work.

A Bientot, Les Ecrivains,

The Literary Onion

Posted in Uncategorized

Re-Reading Your Old Favourites

We’ve been out of lockdown a certain amount of time. We’re constantly watching the news, constantly thinking about how to react to it and constantly worrying about what’s going to happen next. This is we as a country, we as a people, we as the world. Each day we, humankind, get flooded with information. We start to become desensitized to some of the bad and then boom, another thing hits bringing in a new type of bad. At the beginning of the year, there were constant jokes about having 20-20 vision and yet now we’re as blind about what’s going to happen as a badger-mole that’s lost its earth-bending (yes, I have been re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. It’s an amazing show).

            On a personal level I opened a business in the hospitality and tourism industry at a time when nobody wants to travel. I’ve tried multiple other ways to bring money into my household, so that I can keep myself (and my sanity) afloat. I’ve attempted to give people peace of mind, I’ve attempted offering teaching classes to locals, I’ve attempted writing and entering competitions and each time that I’ve failed I’ve felt a little bit more of myself breaking off. And the worst part is, I know there are other people in worse positions. I feel guilty for my stress. I feel like I should punish myself for feeling the way I feel. But everyone has a right to that. Even me.

            So, what do we do when all these worries wash over us? What do we do when the world seems so uncertain and stress-inducing? Do we start a new project, one with a fulfilling end? Do we begin to watch a new show, to enter into an exciting new chapter? Well, from what I’ve been seeing over the internet and in my own household, I’d have to argue no. What we do is we return to something familiar. Something that, unlike the year of 2020, we know the end to. We re-watch Avatar: The Last Airbender. We re-read our favourite books. And then we realise what we hadn’t noticed in those things ever before.

            Beyond remembering how amazing of a show or book something is, we also start to see new things. Last night I started to re-read one of my favourite books from when I was a teenager: ‘House at the Corner’ by Enid Blyton. It’s not a book you may have heard of. Enid Blyton, maybe, yes. She’s an extremely famous author. One of the only authors allowed to continue being published during World War 2, in fact. But when you think of Enid Blyton, you tend to think of The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Malory Towers, Noddy etc. These are all big household names (speaking as a Brit. I’m not entirely sure how well known she is in America etc.). I love all of these books, don’t get me wrong. Despite the fact I didn’t know until University that Lacrosse was a sport still played today, despite the fact that many of the views and language are outdated, even despite the fact that the main characters in reality would never have even probably had the time of day for me, I love them (bar Julian from ‘The Famous Five’, who for some reason annoys me no end).

            But ‘House at the Corner’, one of her more obscure works is my favourite. It relaxes me, and even as an adult I give a round of applause to how well the characters are portrayed. I still love it. I still will re-read it and re-read it again, but I could not stop laughing at certain things that happened on this journey into it.

            Okay, to quickly summarise. The story is about the Farrell family. Pam, the oldest: eighteen, too smart, too beautiful, big ego. Tony: fourteen, again too smart, doted on by mother, fairly strong, joker, big ego. Delia and David: ten year old twins, the most sensible members of the children, very serious, very kind, very honest, love them completely, always get ignored by their family. And then there’s Lizzie: sixteen years old, plain looking, wears glasses, wears braces, dotes on her family, drops anything in a heartbeat to help them, shy and quiet. Most importantly for this discussion, she’s a writer.

            Now, maybe there’s a particular reason I’ve always liked Lizzie (or sorry, Elizabeth, as she prefers). Maybe it is that she represents a successful writer at sixteen (let that age wash over for you for a while. Does it sting, just a little?). Basically, Lizzie gets persuaded to write stories because her Great Aunt says she’s good at writing letters. We’ll let that one slide for now. Although a woman I talked to recently mentioned that her friends believed the same of her because she was good at writing letters, and she found she was not very good at stories. Hey hum, moving on.

            So Lizzie writes a successful story, with little to no editing. As you do. Her Great Aunt loves it. Amazing. She sends in to a newspaper aiming to be published. Gets rejected and her Great Aunt persuades her to try again. Great. That’s amazing advice, from a writer to a writer (thank you, Enid Blyton). She sends off to another paper and they accept her. They agree to publish her across six of their papers in children’s corner and agree as well to publish one of her stories in each edition for a paid sum. She starts at £3 a story and then moves to £5 a story. A substantial sum at the time.

            Tony comments at the end: Would they have published her if they’d known her age? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, they were publishing her knowing nothing about her. She could have been under the age for working for all they knew (which, as far as I’m aware, though lower, did still exist at the time). She could have been anyone.

            I think what irked me about this is, not that she’s successful at a young age and I’m still sat here desperately trying to find the confidence to put down words, but that she gets to be completely anonymous. I know that’s not what she wanted. She wanted her name in print. But I want that, please. I’d love to publish things without a name, just get paid and then get on with writing again. That’d be great. Please. Can I do that, instead of making my books all about selling me? I’m not nearly as interesting as what I write. Believe me. I have to live with myself.

            Why, you ask, am I sat in my garden writing a rant about this one point. Well, to be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve written on my blog and it was about time. If Lizzie can be anonymous, getting published and being paid for it, then maybe there’s hope for the world yet. It turns out even in the 1940’s (or around about when Blyton was writing) writers still had a fantasy of being a writer. It’s okay to dream about it. It’s okay to want to earn a living from it. At sixteen. Anonymous even to your publishers. You do you. And have fun with it.

            For real though, how was she so productive? One story each edition? Edited? And she claimed she wrote children’s stories because she wasn’t up to the standard of writing adults fiction? Come on, children’s fiction is hard work. They’re very harsh critics. Although, ironic that a children’s author should have been the one to write that line.

            I would highly recommend reading ‘House at the Corner’, especially if you’ve got any aspiring young novelists in your household. I hope you’re all having a good time escaping into your own fantasy worlds.

A Bientot, les ecrivians,

The Literary Onion

Posted in Uncategorized

Characters In Quarantine, Part 1: Dorothy (of Oz) and Alice (of Wonderland)

Quarantine’s quite a fun thing, isn’t it? Lots of drama, lots of boredom, lots of lessons and lots of arguments. So, how would certain characters feel if they were forced into 2020 Lockdown with each other? Fun scripts for anyone to preform (at least one adult joke is made in this one). If anybody has any ideas for characters combinations, send them my way.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

We enter onto a plain room. It has white walls. There’s an ugly, old brown couch in the centre with a colourful knitted throw thrown over it. There’s a fireplace to the side of the couch, lit and a pile of ash at the bottom of it as it’s been going a long time. In front of the fireplace there’s an old knitted rug, in similar colours to the throw. There are a few pictures of cats hung on the wall and one picture of a scarecrow in a field next to another cat. Dorothy is sat on the couch, flipping through an old book. Alice is sat on the rug near the fireplace, her shirt partly down as she’s too hot in her dress. She’s hugging her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth and fanning herself.

Alice:              Can we go out yet?

Dorothy:        Nope.

Alice:              (brief pause) What about now?

Dorothy:        Still nope.

Alice:              Surely it must be over now?

Dorothy:        Not according to the news. We just have to be patient.

Alice:              I don’t like being patient (kicks the floor with her heel).

Dorothy:        Well, unless you want to be a patient, you have to be patient.

There’s a minute silence as Alice rolls around on the floor, doing many different silly poses to try and get comfortable. Dorothy continues to flip through her book and doesn’t look up.

Alice:              How are you so good at this?

Dorothy:        I’ve had to sit inside for days when tornado season comes to my Aunty Em’s farm.

Alice:              (shuffling again) Lucky.

Dorothy:        Not really. Why don’t you read a book, Alice?

Alice:              Don’t like books.

Dorothy:        Maybe paint a picture then?

Alice:              (gestures to the room) I’ve already done that. Do you not see all the cats?

Dorothy:        (looks up from book) Oh, yeah. They’re… nice.

Alice:              You didn’t even notice them.

Dorothy:        No, I did.

Alice:              Well, you didn’t say anything about them.

Dorothy:        I was busy, reading.

Alice:              You’re always reading. Can’t you play with me instead?

Dorothy:        Can’t you do your homework for class on Monday?

Alice:              Already done it. What about you?

Dorothy:        I’ll do it later. After I’ve finished my book.

Alice:              Ugh, I should’ve just stayed with my sister. Either way I’d just get someone reading a book and ignoring me.

Dorothy:        Take a nap. That’s what I do when I’m bored.

Alice:              Tried that. Not one sign of a White Rabbit.

Dorothy:        Honestly, I think that’s kind of a good thing to hear. I haven’t seen a sign of Oz lately either.

Alice:              They’re probably all stuck in quarantine too. Ugh, they must be so bored.

Dorothy:        Well, they do say it can get anywhere. I wouldn’t want to get the Good Witch ill. I don’t think she’d ever forgive me.

Alice:              Are you ready to play yet?

Dorothy:        No, Alice. Let me finish my book.

Alice:              Please.

Dorothy:        No.

Alice:              Come on, you know you want to.

Dorothy:        I’m busy.

Alice:              Can we at least turn the fireplace off? It’s boiling.

Dorothy:        No. It took me ages to light that fire. It stays on. A book’s always better with a roaring fireplace going on in the background.

Alice:              Who told you that? The scarecrow or the tin-man? (snickers)

Dorothy:        Don’t be silly. The scarecrow can’t go near fire. And the tin-man’s too scared that he’ll set his forest on fire.

Alice:              All your friends are kind of lame then?

Dorothy:        Oh, yes, what about your friends? The Mad Hatter who’s high on caffeine all the time or the caterpillar who’s high on something else entirely? Doesn’t everyone in Wonderland pretty much just want to kill you?

Alice:              At least it’s interesting there. Never a dull day. Unlike here.

Dorothy:        Well, then, next time this happens you can go and stay with someone else. I’ll be quite fine on my own.

Alice:              Oh, please. You like the attention too much to be all alone.

Dorothy:        How dare you. Get out.

Alice:              I can’t go out, remember?

Dorothy:        Then, go to another room.

Alice:              Fine. I’ll go play with the yellow bricks in the garden (makes to leave).

Dorothy:        It’s raining outside, remember?

Alice:              Ugh. I hate this stupid house.

Dorothy:        Hey, at least you weren’t swept up in a tornado.

Alice:              Oh, please, Dorothy. Everyone knows it was all a dream.

Dorothy:        It was real. I’ve got bruises to prove it.

Alice:              If you had bruises to prove it, why would they still be there? Liar.

Dorothy:        Call me liar again and I’ll…

Alice:              You’ll what? Read me to death?

Dorothy:        (throws her book at Alice, Alice dodges) Get out!

Alice:              Fine. I don’t want to see your stupid face anymore anyway.

Dorothy:        I don’t want to see yours either (goes to pick up her book). It’s corn on the cob for dinner tonight.

Alice:              Ugh, again?

Dorothy:        If you want to do the shopping, why don’t you go next time?

Alice:              I don’t want to.

Dorothy:        Then, we’re eating corn on the cob.

Alice:              Fine.

Dorothy:        Fine.

                        Alice storms out and Dorothy brushes down her book. She wanders back to the couch and fans herself.

                        Wow, geez, it’s hot in here.

                        She continues reading.

Posted in Uncategorized

COVID-19: The Wrong Time to Open a Business?

Front of the Retreat– Believe it or not, this picture was taking in Winter.

It was March 14th. A lot of milestones were happening, a lot were yet to happen. I turned 25, I went out to eat at one of my favourite chain restaurants in France, I went to the zoo (another favourite pastimes of mine, harkening back to my ‘Animal Studies’ days), I planned to go home and buy some kitchen equipment to use in the future, and most importantly all of the adverts I’d painstakingly paid for, written and worked on were coming out or were already out. Finally, the future looked bright; finally, I felt proud about something I’d done, something I’d created to help myself and to help other writers.

            And then, the Virus came. Yes, I realise that this all sounds like a rough draft of an apocalypse or dystopian story. I realise that even my backstory would add to a character in that world, but unfortunately it was a reality. Its name was Coronavirus, Covid-19 was its street name, and on the 14th March (although earlier in some countries) it shut down France. My birthday meal was the last time, to this day(it’s been a week at time of writing), that the restaurants in France were open. I was either extremely lucky or extremely bad luck for somebody else.

            I’d planned a blog post about my business, about how excited I was to show writers what I’d created for them, following up to the blog post I’d written for the Good Life France. Eventually, I’ll hopefully be able to put that up for real but it seems stupid to put it up now. The borders are closed, there’s quarantines throughout the world and everyone is worrying over the economic future of their country. Not exactly a time to be presenting a new business to the world.

            Honestly, of all the things I thought could put a stop to my dream: the Mairie denying us, Google not seeing our website, people not wanting to come, I never even once considered an illness preventing people from leaving their homes. It sounds so storybook, right? Like somewhere there’s a writer realising that their pen is enchanted and trying desperately to burn the pages? But, no, it’s real. It’s really here. It’s killing people around the globe and people are scared. Suddenly, there’s anxiety everywhere, and I’m sure most other usually-anxious people would agree, it’s really freaking weird.

What can I do about it?

            The short answer, nothing. I have to hope that after all this over, after we’ve finished our self-isolation and helped to continue people’s lives, people will still want to come. We’re in a beautiful, peaceful spot with plenty of fresh air and lovely views. I’ve managed to get more writing done here than I have in the last few years. I’m inspired and have helped to inspire ideas from my non-writer of a mother and even my no-imagination of a father (he’s great with numbers and has been a big help with other jobs though, so we’ll forgive him).

            It works. My place works and I’m really hoping one day writers will feel safe to come across and see if it works for them. I’m working on new recipes, made all the more difficult by the lack of ingredients in the supermarkets (the only place we’re allowed to venture to, basically). I’m getting some of the garden ready so it can look really nice by the time we actually do manage to open. All three of us inmates at the Retreat have delved into the library of books and are working our way through the different genres. If nothing else, we won’t run out of books to read.

What’s the point of me telling you all of this?

            I know, I know. Other people are having it hard to. As I said, people are dying of Covid and I’m not going to lessen that tragedy. Even the tutor I’ve booked in for teaching my summer courses is currently stuck in self-isolation (although an extreme form where she isn’t leaving a bedroom with en-suite) because she’s high risk. I worry for her and anybody else who could really suffer from the disease every day but my own worries about the future are still there, and I can’t simply make them go away.

            I’ve always believed in being honest. I’ve had a horrible habit of keeping things to myself and increasing my anxiety in the past. Okay, yes, I still do that a little bit now. But not on this. This is too serious. So, I’m telling you, whoever’s reading this, how I’m feeling. I’m trying to show you the mind of an anxious person who has opened a business at the same time as a pandemic strikes. I’m proving that your random story ideas are as likely to happen as anything else. Because anything can happen… to anyone.

            I know it’s hard to stay calm right now. The world’s pretty much telling us we should panic. But don’t give up on your writing. If you don’t feel like writing, that’s fine, but don’t lose it forever. Your story is just as valid and realistic as everything that’s going on in the world right now. And maybe, if anything happens similar to this in the future, by reading your book future generations may be able to figure out quicker and better solutions to prevent any more deaths.

            Because, as proved by the media in this wild situation, words are even more powerful than a small, invisible virus. Make your words be powerful in the right way. Make the world better one word at a time.

            Sorry for the unintentional sappiness there and, if you have any downtime, would you please consider checking out our website: www.lestylonoirretreat.com . Be safe and let’s get through this.

A Bientot, les ecrivians

Signed,

Amy Rose, The Literary Onion

Posted in Poetry

Unmoved By This War

It was a decision that we made,

Not completely but many the same.

A voice came together and shouted

That our kingdom should be held accounted,

Should stand alone and rule alone,

Should keep our pride tied to the throne.

That we should give our love and guidance

To only one, and we picked a side and

Civilly war against our families

And in the middle we collapse entirely.

—————————————–

It was a decision that we made,

That we should all have our say,

That each of us had something to give

And that allegiance made us somewhat captive

To a decision made by a forced group mind

Turning us against our kingdom, ‘our kind’.

We fall apart, on buses, on channels,

Creating our own television and radio panels

On exactly why each other is less than us

And in the middle we regretfully remain nonplussed.

—————————————

It was a decision that we made I suppose

That all these fights that we have proposed

Have left us miserable, scared, waiting and wanting to sink,

For now we are cowards for not knowing what to think.

We are cowards for thinking of each other,

For reminding ourselves of sisters and brothers.

The things you taught us of loyalty and love

Are not important to anyone else above

For these do not matter to the other side

And in the middle, it’s clear you have no pride.

—————————————–

But I do have pride, a pride for each person.

I have hope that we will come back to care soon

For each other as we fought to pretend,

A hope that these schemes will soon end

And a knowledge of this forgotten future

Were we sow the seeds into this rotten manure

Of the history books that will simply read

‘Humans died because that’s what humans need’.

And so, yes, I choose to watch, I choose to fear

Because in the middle I am making sure I remain

And I see…

People Clear.

Author’s Notes: My father is heavily into politics. Growing up he would take me with him to his party meetings, I would help stick flyers in envelopes and deliver them around in our area before and after school. Somehow, despite this, my sister and I grew up to feel uncomfortable with politics and explaining to my dad why was and still is hard. After an argument between us, in which I failed to explain my side and he believed I had no opinion on politics at all, I went upstairs and wrote this poem. Finally. I felt my dad understood my side. I’m a writer and I want to remain somewhat open-minded but it doesn’t mean I don’t care. If you’re into politics, like my dad, then great– you do you. But don’t assume other, quieter people, aren’t thinking about it too. We’re just less vocal, that’s all.

Posted in How to Write

The Impossibility of ‘How To Write’

Writing blogs or articles on writing, teaching classes on the subject, even attending said classes is one of the hardest things you can/will ever do. I can stand and tell you the basics of my experiences, or of my fellow writer-friends’ experiences and I can do my best to encourage and support you – but I’ll never be right. If I wrote a book to show you ‘how to write’ and it was read by 100 people I’d be very lucky if I was 25 percent correct.

            There are basics every writer should learn. We should all know our grammar, our spelling, how stories form and how characters are created (most of which I’ve been taught and could teach) but after the basics are ingrained in your mind you’re let loose. You can do whatever you want. If you want to break these early rules, do it. Experimental literature exists for a reason.

            It’s the great thing about any form of art, be it words or painting or even food. It’s all an imperfect jumble of subjective passion. It can be whatever you want it to be; whatever you need it to be at that moment. It grows with us, constantly sliding back and forth through all the stages of life—from first conception to rebellious teen to self-critical adult and then back round again (and not entirely in a linear fashion).

            I do believe in learning the fundamentals/the basics of writing, just as I took professional cookery training so I could have the abilities and knowledge needed for experimentation. ‘Go on a course, get a degree, join a writer’s group’ – as a person who’s done all of these and more I can attest to how helpful they can be. They can be a helpful hand or a step towards confidence (and a great place to meet new like-minded people or inspirations for future stories).

            But don’t forget that you’ll continue learning throughout your writing career. As your writing flops back and forth through the stages of life so will you. You’ll be confident, miserable, shy, brave and the rules will change as every person in the creative industry changes around you. Everybody needs help with the basics, over and over again, but your words will always be yours.

            As I said, previously, I can tell you my experience and I can teach you the basics (the FUN-dementals, excusing the pun) but I can’t control your mind, your imagination. You will always pick out the bits of the self-help book that you want to hear, that you may already partly believe in. Just look at the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, each writer as different as the other but able to communicate and celebrate those differences.

            Continue to do this, continue to write. This isn’t something I’ve found easy recently but it is something that I believe in. Books change all the time. So do you. Accept that and you’ll hopefully find the words to say how your experience can help someone else.

            And don’t assume there’s a fix-all for writer’s block. I’m learning the hard way that there isn’t.

            The simple answer for ‘how to write’, beyond all the guff and ‘experience of others’ is to keep writing, keep reading and keep caring. With this as your mantra and as your guide to writing then you should be just fine, degree or no degree.

Small Note: I know. This is a short post. I’ve been struggling with finding words recently, due to being close to the opening of my own writer’s retreat and stress increasing because of it (a great discourager from writing). Soon, it’ll be open and I’ll hopefully get to meet some of you amazing writers in person.

And a quick announcement: due to lack of money I will be merging all past and future posts on literaryonions.com into literaryscribbles.com. Nothing will change for you on this site, other than some amazing food creations and book reviews coming your way.

Posted in Poetry

South to North: The Life of Little Miss. Hale

A poem inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘North and South’

South to North

Edith buttoned up her dress,

And sat upon her silly mess,

Calling out to ‘Dear Ma Mere’;

The fanciful call of a love-not-shared.

And my dear Aunt did answer the call.

My cousin following in her lovely shawl.

Plain at sight was dear Miss Hale,

But how prettily, yet averagely, she came.

She was not like them, oh, not at all.

She was herself, and she answered the call

Not from sympathy, as did her Aunt,

But from worry, fear and slight contempt.

Some day she would leave, this dear cousin of mine,

Leave the South: the Lord’s great shine.

She’d go to the North, where Milton men

Shall go to her, this open cousin.

And I shall remain down South with Edith and Aunt,

Waiting in boredom: attending the plants,

And cleaning the dress that Edith has worn,

And mending the rug which Edith has torn.

Miss Hale shall be free, my dear hearted friend,

And I shall be here to mend and to mend.

To sort out the growing family from Lennox line,

Waiting for the day my freedom shall be mine.

And then I shall stand in the steam and the smog,

Knowing that once it was her that had turned all the cogs

Of the new life they led here, in peace and in kind.

And on that day, I know, I shall have dear Margaret on mind.

South-West to North-West

One day I shall leave and partake in some games,

Of a Northern kind, and all of their ways

Will seem strange at the start, but oh so much fun.

Strangeness in identity is identity in some.

And there I shall meet someone dear to my heart,

Who, once I had met, my eyes could not tear apart.

And on her arm would be the most strapping of men.

A man of bliss, this Master Thornton.

Next to him would stand his sister and mother,

Ready to meet Miss Hale’s long departed cousin.

They will happily greet me, and exclaim and shall praise

All of my newly sought little northern ways.

My accent shall sing into all of their astounded ears.

T’life’s not so hard here once hoo’ve learned t’phrase.

And how proud she will be to announce that I have known her long.

How proud she will be to discover that I have learned Northern songs.

These songs might be peculiar to my little Southern mouth,

But if I’m in the North, I’m not to be down South.

South-East to North-East

Aye, by gum, I shall sit ‘pon Yorkshire dales

Watching and squandering in my happiest days.

I shall watch all of the sun; I shall watch all of the rain.

And she will be sat with me, my dear cousin, Miss Hale.

We will stare at the skylarks, and all of the little swallows

Will dive in-between our little cultural hollow.

We shall sip tea, and sup on the nicest of dishes.

We shall hold one another’s hand and make all of our wishes.

We’d wish to be reunited, and then, with a laugh,

We’d remember that that wish had been for the past.

Together we’d sit, away from our little northern houses,

And watch as the sheep did heckle the cows, and

We’d sit until the moon did pass over the sun,

And then we’d sup and tea some more. It wasn’t yet done.

A few handsome men would pass by our way,

And bow their heads at us, as they did during the day.

But we wouldn’t care, not whilst our family was near,

Because family was what mattered to I and my cousin, dear.

It is then that he’d come, that dear Mr. Nicholas,

And wish us merry tidings on our family adventures.

He’d ask us to arise now, and come with him to Milton:

Our home town was awaiting us. It was we who they’d depend on.

Miss Hale would smile at him, and she’d look to me instead

To decide on our actions, and I’d nod my head.

It would only be with my opinion, the one for which she cared,

Would we follow Higgins back from Yorkshire to the great city, Manchester.

North to South

One day he would come, the greatest of Southern men;

He’d come up to Milton to see Miss Hale again.

In the background I’d be stood, whilst they talked over papers,

Before Miss Hale turned to me to ask what I made of

All of the declorations that Mr. Lennox was proposing;

And I’d smile and sagely nod, whilst holding back my blushing.

He’d see my dainty glances, my poise and Northern grace.

He’d wonder and he’d wonder why he’d recognized that face.

Two days would go by and then he’d run up to the door,

Asking Miss Hale if he was entirely sure who he’d saw.

And my dear cousin would nod profusely and say quite clearly,

That indeed it was her little cousin, the little baby Hilary.

She’d announce I had grown, and was now wise beyond my years.

No longer was I working for my Aunt and Edith’s little cares.

Instead, I was now a Northern lass, a bonny-eyed eighteen.

No, I was not looking for a groom. How silly would that seem?

He’d beg and plead that he could come cross and glance at my face,

But my cousin would not let him, if he was to know his place.

It is with a kind heart I’d beseech to him to come with us and dine,

In the tall broad house, which, of course, was partly mine.

Thornton, my dear cousin’s groom, would cheerfully announce

That Henry Lennox had arrived. I’d beg him not to shout.

But Mr. Lennox would not care for the rudeness of his call.

He’d be stuck trying to understand how I, little Hilary, had grown so tall.

I’d smile and jovially tell him, ‘Of course, why wouldn’t I have done?

It’s not like I haven’t twice been allowed to play out in the sun.’

We’d laugh and he’d come closer, to stare onto the beauty that was mine.

Miss Hale would watch with those frosty, cold and piercing eyes.

But he’d continue to be a gentleman; he’d bend down on one knee.

Inside of his pocket he would pull out the greatest diamond on a ring.

My mouth would fall down all ‘cross my jaw. I would be amiss.

Miss Hale would stay far away from her little cousin, dearest.

I’d gratefully tell the man that, though he had been most kind,

Marrying wasn’t for me yet. I had more things on mind.

He’d sigh and he’d smoulder; two proposals to Miss Hale and I,

And it seemed both to be failures. The failure that was mine.

For years I would stay annoyed at my own decision’s choice.

Master Thornton would go first and then I would lose my lovely cousin’s voice.

She’d tell me, in her old ripe age, that all was to go to me.

I’d weep into her dressing gown, and on her dressing sleeve.

And Mr. Henry Lennox? He never would arrive.

The funeral would be quite empty, my small company aside.

I should move down to the South, but they would hate my Northern ways.

They’d hate my Northern songs, Northern accents and my phrase.

I’d lose everything that once was, until a rose in bloom,

Would fall onto my cheeks. I’d live from then on in Helstone.

Author’s Note: I had to complete an essay exam on ‘North and South’ and a method of memory I used back at University was to create a story or poem based on the text or theory. This was the conclusion of my memorising and is one of the poems I am proudest of (though many ‘North and South’ references are made, so apologies for that).

Posted in How to Write

Writing and Why Mistakes Can Be A Good Thing

I know. It seems like a weird choice for a topic. How could a mistake be a good thing? We spend hours, days, months (years, in my case) editing or writing. We fix the spelling, wording, syntax. We re-write whole sections of work to show our writing at its very best.

            But, hear me out. Imagine if we didn’t do that. Imagine, if you could just write a piece and it was perfect. Imagine how stale it would be and how complacent we would become. We’d have nothing to strive for, no reason to write anything or read anybody else’s work. As it is, whilst editing we’re learning. We’re growing into a good writer (emphasis on not stretching to greatness or perfection, which is impossible to reach in such a subjective artform).

            So that’s one reason right there to love mistakes. Now, after all your editing is done and you’ve published your story or poem, surely any mistakes left in by this point are a bad thing? Well, actually, for the most part, I would argue otherwise. I’m not saying put in a mistake on purpose. I’m not saying you should have thousands of grammar or spelling mistakes. I’m talking about a rare, simple mistake (specifically focusing on wording).

            I started reading Chris Colfer’s ‘Land of Stories: An Author’s Odyssey’ the other day. It’s an extremely engaging story with extremely realistic and lovable characters. So far in my read I have found three mistakes and only one of these I would count as being a negative one (just a personal negative writing choice which I see often in children’s book and disagree with).

            The positive ones however were just a matter of wording and it had to do with names. Alex and Bree are two separate characters with clearly defined characteristics but all of a sudden, during a scene with Bree and her cousins, Bree’s name is accidentally written as Alex. It was jarring. It stopped me reading, made me question myself. And then I started laughing. It was clear that Colfer had been so used by this point to writing ‘Alex and Conner’ that as soon as he was supposed to write ‘Bree and Cornelia’ his hand wrote for his brain. ‘Co… nner… Co…rnelia’, the beginnings were the same, so Bree became Alex.

            I’m sure Colfer must know about this mistake by now, and it may be fixed in future publishing, but I loved it. It showed me how absorbed in the book I was and just how much I cared for the characters. It made me think about the work with logic and it made me realise just how much I actually cared.

            The same thing happened when I was younger when reading ‘Candyfloss’ by Jacqueline Wilson. After they finished baking a cake (Floss and her father) they ‘cooked’ it. Of course, it was supposed to be ‘cooled’ and child me thought it was hilarious and somewhat gratifying. Jacqueline Wilson made mistakes. Maybe it was okay for me to make them too. I haven’t read ‘Candyfloss’ in years but the small mistake is something ingrained in my memory and I love the book all the more for it.

            Not even a book series can escape making mistakes. In Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’ series, the first book states that the Fisherman’s son who looked after Timmy was ‘James’ and by book five or six he’d become ‘Alf’. She’d forgotten his name but I hadn’t and I never held that against her because it was a testament to how great a writer she was that I had noticed. I cared about the most minor of characters and that takes true skill.

            I’m not saying you should try to make mistakes and I’m not saying you shouldn’t edit your work (editors need to make a living too, you know?) but I’m just trying to show you a new perspective. If you make and publish a small mistake, well oopsy daisy, but it’s not the end of the world. If you’ve done your job right and your work sucks your readers in, and they care for your characters deeply then maybe a small mistake will give them the same reaction I had. Maybe you’ve given them a good laugh. Maybe you’ve given them the courage to know that they don’t have to be perfect.

            And, regardless, before editing focus all your energy on your story and characters (or poem, for all you poets out there). If those parts are great then being merely a ‘good’ editor could be enough.

            Thank you for reading and (gosh, it’s been a while since I said this)… A Bientot, les ecrivians.

Posted in How to Write

Mental Health and Writing (An Anxiety Meltdown)

It’s New Year again, everybody. Give yourself a round of applause. We made it. We can tell our descendants that we saw a repeated-number year; we got to see all the silly ‘seeing 2020’ jokes that were/are going around. We did it.

            With New Year comes the old adage, the resolution inspired phrase ‘New Year, New Me’ – I’m going to lose so-and-so amount of weight; I’m going to write more/start a new hobby; I’m going to get more exercise/any exercise. These are great goals and, if you actually go through with them, well done. But there’s one resolution I think, for me, is the most important for myself and my writer friends: to be more positive.

            And that ladies and gentlemen et al is how you do a not so clever segue into todays topic: mental health and writing. Apologies straight away to those with schizophrenia or any other psychosis etc. as I’m actually going to focus on something a bit closer to home for me personally: anxiety and depression (heavily focused on the former).

            Imagination is a double-edged sword. Myself and my friends, most of them also writers, have it in excess and it helps us create the most marvellous stories, poetry, characters and worlds—but it also makes us worry and panic about situations out of our control. It, on many occasions, breaks us.

            This is the situation I was stuck in, entering the New Year. I was constantly tired, depressed and stressed about everything I should be doing and had no motivation to get done. Anger consumed me when I caught brief glimpses of myself in doors and windows. I avoided mirrors altogether. I felt worthless. Nobody was interested in who I was or what I had to say.

            And then, the worst thing possible happened. I was blocked. I couldn’t draw or write. I’d lost interest in food—I didn’t have the capacity to care or bother about looking after myself.

            Now, I’ve been having problems like this since I was seventeen—it’s even been worse before this (cut to university me terrified to leave her flat)—I know what I can do to help myself. If you’ve experienced all this yourself, maybe you know how to help yourself too. If not, a quick glimpse online at a reputable source or (if really serious) a visit to a doctor or trained therapist can help a lot (find the right therapist for you though. It takes time but the right one is out there).

            I’ve got many ‘Works in Progress’ (I believe the cool kids on Twitter call it a ‘WIP’), all started happily and paused when I’ve become overwhelmed. Everytime I log on to my computer I see folders of unfinished stories or unfinished series’ of stories. I want to finish them but the words are stuck.

I wish this was more of a joke than it is.

            They’re there. I can feel them. I know the stories and the characters better than I even know myself but the words are wedged between my long-term and my short-term memory. My head is buzzing as it tries to force them out. So, what do I do?

            I move onto something new, a brand new WIP. It’s not a perfect solution but it relaxes my brain; takes away the stress of trying to force something that’s clinging to the back of my mind. It gives the story time. It gives me time. Separation only makes the heart grow stronger.

            So what do you do if you’re facing the same problems? My only advice, purely from my own stressy, overthinking perspective, is to be a bit selfish. Focus on yourself, not on what you ‘should’ be doing. Learn to enjoy again by doing something different. Do your exercise, lose some weight, write a poem, draw some pictures, learn to make cheese—whatever it is, do it for you. Make yourself happy.

            Hopefully the story will find you again and if it doesn’t, there’s plenty of others waiting for you. It’s a bigger world than you’re led to believe. And if you really, truly can’t find one here in this big, wide, beautiful, mad world we live in—congratulations, your imagination that’s caused you so much pain can finally come in useful.

            Our 2020 mantra – the mantra of the 2020 #writingcommunity should be ‘I am a writer. I chose to be a writer and I choose to be happy too.’

Posted in The Street Crawlers

The Street Crawlers: The Soldiers of Hell

Daisy was running down the corridors. They were practically empty, though before they’d been full of screaming, panicking agents. She was panting hard as she ran. She wasn’t the most athletic of the soldiers and ever since she had joined the artillery division she hadn’t needed to train as much. Right now she regretted avoiding the gym as much as she had.

            There was a shadow behind her, following her every step. It was because of this that she was running. It was because of this that all of her colleagues had disappeared. The shadow was a prisoner, a prisoner that had escaped from their jail cells. In fact, no, Daisy thought, it was worse than a prisoner—it was a Street Crawler.

            It was because of the Street Crawlers that Daisy had joined the Soldiers’ Academy in the first place. She thought back to it now, still running. She could remember the smell of the office where her interview had taken place. The interviewer, who Daisy now knew as Danny, was a very young man, barely any older than herself, but he’d been raised in the soldiers’ base so there was nothing he didn’t know about it. He’d asked Daisy why she’d wanted to be a soldier. What did she think she could do for the world?

            The Street Crawlers had been her answer. She’d wanted to save the ordinaries from the beasts that were the Crawlers. And as to what she could do for the world, well, she was hoping that they could teach her; mould her into somebody who could do something. That’s why she wanted to come to the Academy in the first place, and she felt it was a silly question to ask. Who would come to learn what they already knew?

            At that point she thought she’d failed miserably. She’d always been far too honest for her own good. But obviously Danny saw something in her that could be of use because she was accepted almost immediately. Daisy still couldn’t believe her luck.

            But was it lucky now? She was being chased by the very thing that she wanted to save others from. She could hear its footsteps all around her, on the floor below her, on the walls surrounding, on the ceiling. How could it have got onto the ceiling?

            She hadn’t meant to be put into this situation. When she’d walked out of her flat with her friends and flatmates, Ant and Sammy, this morning she’d been just as surprised as them to see the panic spreading through the station. Instantly they’d stopped their silly shenanigans and run to their sectors, though Daisy thought she’d seen Sammy run to the main hub which wasn’t where she was supposed to go. Sammy worked with the team that sorted out travel for the agents (so that the operatives could get to all of the people around the world that needed help). It wasn’t a very helpful sector to be in at this time though so Daisy could understand it if Sammy didn’t go there.

            Daisy had reached the artillery sector and greeted her four co-workers. They were checking through the weaponry, making a note of anything missing and locking up the vaults as quickly as they possibly could. If the escapee managed to get their claws on any of these weapons nobody would be safe. Daisy had joined in and began pulling crates of guns and stun-blasters out from glass cases and into the piles ready to be taken to the vaults. The lights had been tampered with and security cameras were switching off one by one. Everybody in the division looked terrified. They could only do their job.

            That’s when Daisy had noticed that there was a crate missing. She’d remembered that Danny had borrowed the electric-rods for testing the day before and shouted to her commander to inform her that she was going to go and get them back. Cr. Berkeley had nodded in agreement and Daisy had run out of the room. She’d run to the hub and realised that the hallways had become scarily quiet. She didn’t think of it at the time. She’d assumed that everybody had managed to get their sectors and had stayed there. She hadn’t thought for one minute that they might not have had a choice.

            She reached the hub, where she assumed Danny would be helping his father (who was the commander of the entire station) but the door was locked. She tried swiping her hand over the lock. It should have recognized her hand print but it looked like the hub was on lockdown. She’d shrugged it off. The hub needed more protection than anywhere else. If it fell, the entire station would fall.

            She went to the computer labs next, Danny’s actual sector. If he’d been testing the rods anywhere it would be in there, but that too was locked. She’d shrugged it off again. She’d figured that if any place had to be protected after the hub it would be here. All of their records were on files in the computer lab.

            Slightly ashamed that she had failed in her task she’d ran back to her sector, hoping that Cr. Berkeley would understand why the rods weren’t with her. At least, she’d thought, they were safe in the locked rooms. Nobody would be able to get to them in there.

            She’d made it back to the artillery division only to find it locked as well. If her hand print hadn’t worked at the hub it should definitely have worked here. This was her sector. But the door wouldn’t budge. The alarms were silent and the back-up generator could only provide a dim light. Daisy had suddenly begun to feel nervous. Beforehand she’d been too focused on her task to realise the danger that was facing her, but now she knew.

            She knew even more now, as she was being followed by the shadow. She could feel her heart racing in her chest, her breath becoming shallow, and her legs were aching all over. There was an unbelievably painful stitch in her left side. But she couldn’t give up yet. The shadow hadn’t given up on trying to catch up with her.

            She ran into the only open door she could find. It was a blessing to discover that there was one. She’d thought she’d be running forever. She swiped her hand over the pad and the doors shut behind her with a crash. They weren’t the quietest doors in the world and she jumped, though she’d known it was coming. She collapsed onto the floor, out of breath.

            “Hey, do you mind, this is our hiding place,” said a high-pitched voice in the middle of the room. Daisy sat up, shakily. There were trucks parked in rows everywhere. It had been the garage door that had been left open.

            “Who’s there?” she asked, slowly crawling back to her feet. She could still feel her thighs and side burning.

            “It doesn’t matter who’s there, just get out.” The voice seemed annoyed. It wasn’t the only voice here with Daisy.

            “Be nice, Bobby,” a second, even higher-pitched voice said.

Daisy looked on in surprise as a girl’s head peeped over the top of one of the trucks. She’d never seen her before. In fact, she’d never seen anybody that looked so much like a Barbie doll. “Who’re you?” Daisy said.

            The girl didn’t smile but beckoned her over to the truck, disappearing again as soon as she had. Daisy went and looked down into the front seat. The blonde girl was sitting in the driver’s seat, looking cheerily at a miserable looking boy sitting in the passenger’s seat. The boy had brown hair, a square jaw and the brightest blue eyes Daisy had ever seen.

            She slid open the door of the truck and slipped into a seat behind theirs, closing the door after her. They’d had the right idea, she thought, there was nowhere safer to hide than an armoured vehicle in a quiet, heavily fortified garage.

            “Hi there,” the girl said, finally smiling. “It’s Daisy, right? Daisy Kennington?”

            Daisy nodded, shocked. She didn’t even want to question how she’d known that. Knowing Daisy’s luck they’d already met before and Daisy, with her absent-mindedness, had completely forgotten. She knew that, if anything, the Academy hadn’t accepted her for her memory. Her memory was strictly reserved for things that seemed important at the time.

            “I’m Gwen.” The girl pointed to herself. “And that bowl of joy over there is Bobby.”

            Bobby mock-waved and grimaced.

            “I keep telling him he should be happy. We could’ve been locked in a safe-room, but we’re free to run around in here instead.” Gwen was leaning on the wheel. Daisy was watching in fear. If Gwen leaned just a little bit further into the middle then the alarm would go off. She wasn’t entirely sure if the Crawler had figured out she was in here yet. For all they knew she might have ran into another corridor.

            “Yeah, but it’s not right is it,” Bobby grumbled. “Here we are waiting for Gray to show up, and she takes his place instead.” He pointed at her and Daisy pulled a face. What right had this boy to think she didn’t deserve to be here? She had as much right as him.

            “Gray’s not coming, Bobby, just get over it. They’ve probably got him locked up in the safe room by now.”

            Bobby sighed and leaned on the dashboard. “It just doesn’t feel right without him. We’re always in a three—buds forever, mates together, remember?”

            Gwen nodded and sighed too.

Daisy looked at them both. “I’m guessing this Gray’s a friend of yours?” she said.

            Bobby rolled his eyes and grinned. He had a really nice grin. “How’d you guess? The fact I said we were buds?”

            Daisy grinned back. “Something like that.” She took a proper look at the two children (or where they teenagers? She couldn’t tell) and realised they reminded her of someone. “I think I know how you feel,” she said. “I miss Ant and Sammy, too. They’re my best friends.”

            “The best one’s come in threes,” Bobby said, with a laugh. Gwen had started to grin as well.

            “It’s weird to think, but it was only about an hour ago that we were dancing around our flat together,” Daisy said. “I’d love it if they were with me now. I don’t even know if they’re okay.”

            “They probably will be.” Gwen was now leaning on the door instead of the wheel. “As far as we know nobody’s been hurt. And Sammy will probably be in one of the safe-rooms. All under twenties are in them.”

            “Nearly all,” Bobby objected. “We never got that far.” He turned to face Daisy and looked at her proudly. “A couple of agents were taking us when they got called back to the cells to help, so we ran off and hid in here instead.”

            “You ignored orders?” Daisy was appalled. She’d never have had the nerve to do that.

            “What orders? We don’t work for the soldiers, we just live here.” Bobby laughed. “They actually thought we’d go, too. You’d think they’d know better by now.”

            Gwen giggled and Daisy laughed too. There was something about these two children, she thought. Their happiness was contagious and so was their laughter. Ant had the same effect on her.

            “So what are you planning on doing? Just camping out in here until it’s over?” Daisy asked, her laughing finished.

            “Why, was that your plan?” Bobby looked at her, seriously.

Daisy shook her head, nodded and then shrugged. She didn’t know what her plan had been. “I just knew I needed to run,” she said. She looked down at her feet, ashamed, and sighed. “I should’ve stayed and done something.”

            “Why?” Gwen asked.

            “Because that’s what agents do—what soldiers do.”

            “Yes, and they die doing so.”

Bobby agreed with Gwen on this. “My mum always said that the best agents protected people, but how can you protect people if you’re already dead? It’s better to watch your enemy, learn from them and then act when it’s the right time.”

“And when is it the right time?” Daisy was quite enjoying their strange wisdoms.

“That’s up to you really, isn’t it?” Bobby stretched his arms out and yawned. “Me, personally? I’m not sure it’ll ever be time.”

“That’s just because you stayed up all last night watching stuff on the internet,” Gwen said, poking him. He jumped and poked her back. Soon a large poking war was going on and both of them were giggling hysterically.

There was a crash and the hood of the car flew open and then shut again. All three of its occupants flew into the air and down onto the floor.

Bobby rubbed his head and groaned. “I knew we should have put on seatbelts,” he grumbled.

Daisy got up onto the seat first and leaned closer to the window, trying to see outside. There was a large dint in the front right-hand side of the truck. Daisy looked up at the vent system on the roof. There was a hole in one of the pipes—about small person size.

Her eyes grew wider and she quickly pressed the button that activated the truck’s locks and shield. “Guys,” she said, “I think it might be time.”

Bobby and Gwen scrambled to their feet and looked out at the front of the truck. There was a body slowly climbing up off the floor. She was wearing a black prison uniform and rubbing her body all over as she stood up. It had been quite a big height to fall from and it had hurt.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Bobby panicked. He looked at Gwen and then at Daisy but neither of them seemed to be moving. They were barely breathing.

The Crawler turned around and saw them. Their blood ran cold. Her eyes were as silver as a fog. Nothing could be seen in them: not happiness, not pain, not anything. She was blank.

She moved closer to the window and, instinctively Bobby (who was the closet to her) shuffled over onto Gwen’s seat, almost crushing her in the process. Gwen was too scared to notice.

“Soldiers!” The Copper Fox stared at them through the glass and hit the window with her fist. Daisy jumped and moved over to Gwen as well.

“No, no. There’s no soldiers here,” Bobby mumbled. “We’re—erm—we’re clowns. I don’t suppose you’ve seen the circus around here, have you?”

The Copper Fox sneered and it sent a shiver down Bobby’s spine. “Clowns? What, that’s the best you can come up with?”

“Well, it was either that or plumbers and I didn’t think that’d be very believable.” Bobby shrugged awkwardly. Gwen came back to her senses and poked him in his side. Her leg was starting to fall asleep.

The Copper Fox laughed. To Daisy’s surprise it wasn’t a horrible laugh, it sounded just the same as a normal little girl’s would. It sounded like an even sweeter version of Gwen’s laugh in fact, but Daisy wasn’t going to let this fool her. She knew that Crawler’s were killers, no matter what their laugh was like.

The Fox moved even closer to the window and Bobby clambered further onto Gwen’s lap, much to her dismay. She punched him but no amount of punching would make him move. Daisy looked down at the panic on their faces and remembered what she had said at her interview for the Academy. Though the interview had been a couple of years ago now (she’d left the Academy last year, after all) she still believed what she’d said. She had to protect people from Crawlers like this one. She prepared her nerve and was just about to step forward and open the door when the Copper Fox stepped back.

“Where’s the way out?” she asked.

Bobby and Gwen both pointed left, where a large garage door was waiting to be opened. The Fox nodded and ran away. The three occupants of the truck let out a sigh of relief as the sound of grating metal came through the room. The Fox had managed to open the door and had run off back to the streets.

Daisy slid open the door of the truck and looked out. The two kids looked out after her. They all clambered out into the garage as the lights of the station came back on. All around them, rooms that had been locked were slowly opening. The crowds had begun to fill the corridors again.

Daisy looked at Bobby and Gwen and they looked at her.

“How about we agree not to say anything about this?” Daisy said. She couldn’t bear to admit anymore failures on her part today.

“So, just an ordinary day then? Cool.” Bobby nudged Gwen in the side. “Come on, let’s go find Gray.”

Gwen nodded with a smile and they both ran out of the garage. Daisy watched them for a moment and then thought about the Copper Fox again. A Street Crawler had let them go? That couldn’t be right, could it?

Daisy was running down the corridors. They were practically empty, though before they’d been full of screaming, panicking agents. She was panting hard as she ran. She wasn’t the most athletic of the soldiers and ever since she had joined the artillery division she hadn’t needed to train as much. Right now she regretted avoiding the gym as much as she had.

            There was a shadow behind her, following her every step. It was because of this that she was running. It was because of this that all of her colleagues had disappeared. The shadow was a prisoner, a prisoner that had escaped from their jail cells. In fact, no, Daisy thought, it was worse than a prisoner—it was a Street Crawler.

            It was because of the Street Crawlers that Daisy had joined the Soldiers’ Academy in the first place. She thought back to it now, still running. She could remember the smell of the office where her interview had taken place. The interviewer, who Daisy now knew as Danny, was a very young man, barely any older than herself, but he’d been raised in the soldiers’ base so there was nothing he didn’t know about it. He’d asked Daisy why she’d wanted to be a soldier. What did she think she could do for the world?

            The Street Crawlers had been her answer. She’d wanted to save the ordinaries from the beasts that were the Crawlers. And as to what she could do for the world, well, she was hoping that they could teach her; mould her into somebody who could do something. That’s why she wanted to come to the Academy in the first place, and she felt it was a silly question to ask. Who would come to learn what they already knew?

            At that point she thought she’d failed miserably. She’d always been far too honest for her own good. But obviously Danny saw something in her that could be of use because she was accepted almost immediately. Daisy still couldn’t believe her luck.

            But was it lucky now? She was being chased by the very thing that she wanted to save others from. She could hear its footsteps all around her, on the floor below her, on the walls surrounding, on the ceiling. How could it have got onto the ceiling?

            She hadn’t meant to be put into this situation. When she’d walked out of her flat with her friends and flatmates, Ant and Sammy, this morning she’d been just as surprised as them to see the panic spreading through the station. Instantly they’d stopped their silly shenanigans and run to their sectors, though Daisy thought she’d seen Sammy run to the main hub which wasn’t where she was supposed to go. Sammy worked with the team that sorted out travel for the agents (so that the operatives could get to all of the people around the world that needed help). It wasn’t a very helpful sector to be in at this time though so Daisy could understand it if Sammy didn’t go there.

            Daisy had reached the artillery sector and greeted her four co-workers. They were checking through the weaponry, making a note of anything missing and locking up the vaults as quickly as they possibly could. If the escapee managed to get their claws on any of these weapons nobody would be safe. Daisy had joined in and began pulling crates of guns and stun-blasters out from glass cases and into the piles ready to be taken to the vaults. The lights had been tampered with and security cameras were switching off one by one. Everybody in the division looked terrified. They could only do their job.

            That’s when Daisy had noticed that there was a crate missing. She’d remembered that Danny had borrowed the electric-rods for testing the day before and shouted to her commander to inform her that she was going to go and get them back. Cr. Berkeley had nodded in agreement and Daisy had run out of the room. She’d run to the hub and realised that the hallways had become scarily quiet. She didn’t think of it at the time. She’d assumed that everybody had managed to get their sectors and had stayed there. She hadn’t thought for one minute that they might not have had a choice.

            She reached the hub, where she assumed Danny would be helping his father (who was the commander of the entire station) but the door was locked. She tried swiping her hand over the lock. It should have recognized her hand print but it looked like the hub was on lockdown. She’d shrugged it off. The hub needed more protection than anywhere else. If it fell, the entire station would fall.

            She went to the computer labs next, Danny’s actual sector. If he’d been testing the rods anywhere it would be in there, but that too was locked. She’d shrugged it off again. She’d figured that if any place had to be protected after the hub it would be here. All of their records were on files in the computer lab.

            Slightly ashamed that she had failed in her task she’d ran back to her sector, hoping that Cr. Berkeley would understand why the rods weren’t with her. At least, she’d thought, they were safe in the locked rooms. Nobody would be able to get to them in there.

            She’d made it back to the artillery division only to find it locked as well. If her hand print hadn’t worked at the hub it should definitely have worked here. This was her sector. But the door wouldn’t budge. The alarms were silent and the back-up generator could only provide a dim light. Daisy had suddenly begun to feel nervous. Beforehand she’d been too focused on her task to realise the danger that was facing her, but now she knew.

            She knew even more now, as she was being followed by the shadow. She could feel her heart racing in her chest, her breath becoming shallow, and her legs were aching all over. There was an unbelievably painful stitch in her left side. But she couldn’t give up yet. The shadow hadn’t given up on trying to catch up with her.

            She ran into the only open door she could find. It was a blessing to discover that there was one. She’d thought she’d be running forever. She swiped her hand over the pad and the doors shut behind her with a crash. They weren’t the quietest doors in the world and she jumped, though she’d known it was coming. She collapsed onto the floor, out of breath.

            “Hey, do you mind, this is our hiding place,” said a high-pitched voice in the middle of the room. Daisy sat up, shakily. There were trucks parked in rows everywhere. It had been the garage door that had been left open.

            “Who’s there?” she asked, slowly crawling back to her feet. She could still feel her thighs and side burning.

            “It doesn’t matter who’s there, just get out.” The voice seemed annoyed. It wasn’t the only voice here with Daisy.

            “Be nice, Bobby,” a second, even higher-pitched voice said.

Daisy looked on in surprise as a girl’s head peeped over the top of one of the trucks. She’d never seen her before. In fact, she’d never seen anybody that looked so much like a Barbie doll. “Who’re you?” Daisy said.

            The girl didn’t smile but beckoned her over to the truck, disappearing again as soon as she had. Daisy went and looked down into the front seat. The blonde girl was sitting in the driver’s seat, looking cheerily at a miserable looking boy sitting in the passenger’s seat. The boy had brown hair, a square jaw and the brightest blue eyes Daisy had ever seen.

            She slid open the door of the truck and slipped into a seat behind theirs, closing the door after her. They’d had the right idea, she thought, there was nowhere safer to hide than an armoured vehicle in a quiet, heavily fortified garage.

            “Hi there,” the girl said, finally smiling. “It’s Daisy, right? Daisy Kennington?”

            Daisy nodded, shocked. She didn’t even want to question how she’d known that. Knowing Daisy’s luck they’d already met before and Daisy, with her absent-mindedness, had completely forgotten. She knew that, if anything, the Academy hadn’t accepted her for her memory. Her memory was strictly reserved for things that seemed important at the time.

            “I’m Gwen.” The girl pointed to herself. “And that bowl of joy over there is Bobby.”

            Bobby mock-waved and grimaced.

            “I keep telling him he should be happy. We could’ve been locked in a safe-room, but we’re free to run around in here instead.” Gwen was leaning on the wheel. Daisy was watching in fear. If Gwen leaned just a little bit further into the middle then the alarm would go off. She wasn’t entirely sure if the Crawler had figured out she was in here yet. For all they knew she might have ran into another corridor.

            “Yeah, but it’s not right is it,” Bobby grumbled. “Here we are waiting for Gray to show up, and she takes his place instead.” He pointed at her and Daisy pulled a face. What right had this boy to think she didn’t deserve to be here? She had as much right as him.

            “Gray’s not coming, Bobby, just get over it. They’ve probably got him locked up in the safe room by now.”

            Bobby sighed and leaned on the dashboard. “It just doesn’t feel right without him. We’re always in a three—buds forever, mates together, remember?”

            Gwen nodded and sighed too.

Daisy looked at them both. “I’m guessing this Gray’s a friend of yours?” she said.

            Bobby rolled his eyes and grinned. He had a really nice grin. “How’d you guess? The fact I said we were buds?”

            Daisy grinned back. “Something like that.” She took a proper look at the two children (or where they teenagers? She couldn’t tell) and realised they reminded her of someone. “I think I know how you feel,” she said. “I miss Ant and Sammy, too. They’re my best friends.”

            “The best one’s come in threes,” Bobby said, with a laugh. Gwen had started to grin as well.

            “It’s weird to think, but it was only about an hour ago that we were dancing around our flat together,” Daisy said. “I’d love it if they were with me now. I don’t even know if they’re okay.”

            “They probably will be.” Gwen was now leaning on the door instead of the wheel. “As far as we know nobody’s been hurt. And Sammy will probably be in one of the safe-rooms. All under twenties are in them.”

            “Nearly all,” Bobby objected. “We never got that far.” He turned to face Daisy and looked at her proudly. “A couple of agents were taking us when they got called back to the cells to help, so we ran off and hid in here instead.”

            “You ignored orders?” Daisy was appalled. She’d never have had the nerve to do that.

            “What orders? We don’t work for the soldiers, we just live here.” Bobby laughed. “They actually thought we’d go, too. You’d think they’d know better by now.”

            Gwen giggled and Daisy laughed too. There was something about these two children, she thought. Their happiness was contagious and so was their laughter. Ant had the same effect on her.

            “So what are you planning on doing? Just camping out in here until it’s over?” Daisy asked, her laughing finished.

            “Why, was that your plan?” Bobby looked at her, seriously.

Daisy shook her head, nodded and then shrugged. She didn’t know what her plan had been. “I just knew I needed to run,” she said. She looked down at her feet, ashamed, and sighed. “I should’ve stayed and done something.”

            “Why?” Gwen asked.

            “Because that’s what agents do—what soldiers do.”

            “Yes, and they die doing so.”

Bobby agreed with Gwen on this. “My mum always said that the best agents protected people, but how can you protect people if you’re already dead? It’s better to watch your enemy, learn from them and then act when it’s the right time.”

“And when is it the right time?” Daisy was quite enjoying their strange wisdoms.

“That’s up to you really, isn’t it?” Bobby stretched his arms out and yawned. “Me, personally? I’m not sure it’ll ever be time.”

“That’s just because you stayed up all last night watching stuff on the internet,” Gwen said, poking him. He jumped and poked her back. Soon a large poking war was going on and both of them were giggling hysterically.

There was a crash and the hood of the car flew open and then shut again. All three of its occupants flew into the air and down onto the floor.

Bobby rubbed his head and groaned. “I knew we should have put on seatbelts,” he grumbled.

Daisy got up onto the seat first and leaned closer to the window, trying to see outside. There was a large dint in the front right-hand side of the truck. Daisy looked up at the vent system on the roof. There was a hole in one of the pipes—about small person size.

Her eyes grew wider and she quickly pressed the button that activated the truck’s locks and shield. “Guys,” she said, “I think it might be time.”

Bobby and Gwen scrambled to their feet and looked out at the front of the truck. There was a body slowly climbing up off the floor. She was wearing a black prison uniform and rubbing her body all over as she stood up. It had been quite a big height to fall from and it had hurt.

“What do we do? What do we do?” Bobby panicked. He looked at Gwen and then at Daisy but neither of them seemed to be moving. They were barely breathing.

The Crawler turned around and saw them. Their blood ran cold. Her eyes were as silver as a fog. Nothing could be seen in them: not happiness, not pain, not anything. She was blank.

She moved closer to the window and, instinctively Bobby (who was the closet to her) shuffled over onto Gwen’s seat, almost crushing her in the process. Gwen was too scared to notice.

“Soldiers!” The Copper Fox stared at them through the glass and hit the window with her fist. Daisy jumped and moved over to Gwen as well.

“No, no. There’s no soldiers here,” Bobby mumbled. “We’re—erm—we’re clowns. I don’t suppose you’ve seen the circus around here, have you?”

The Copper Fox sneered and it sent a shiver down Bobby’s spine. “Clowns? What, that’s the best you can come up with?”

“Well, it was either that or plumbers and I didn’t think that’d be very believable.” Bobby shrugged awkwardly. Gwen came back to her senses and poked him in his side. Her leg was starting to fall asleep.

The Copper Fox laughed. To Daisy’s surprise it wasn’t a horrible laugh, it sounded just the same as a normal little girl’s would. It sounded like an even sweeter version of Gwen’s laugh in fact, but Daisy wasn’t going to let this fool her. She knew that Crawler’s were killers, no matter what their laugh was like.

The Fox moved even closer to the window and Bobby clambered further onto Gwen’s lap, much to her dismay. She punched him but no amount of punching would make him move. Daisy looked down at the panic on their faces and remembered what she had said at her interview for the Academy. Though the interview had been a couple of years ago now (she’d left the Academy last year, after all) she still believed what she’d said. She had to protect people from Crawlers like this one. She prepared her nerve and was just about to step forward and open the door when the Copper Fox stepped back.

“Where’s the way out?” she asked.

Bobby and Gwen both pointed left, where a large garage door was waiting to be opened. The Fox nodded and ran away. The three occupants of the truck let out a sigh of relief as the sound of grating metal came through the room. The Fox had managed to open the door and had run off back to the streets.

Daisy slid open the door of the truck and looked out. The two kids looked out after her. They all clambered out into the garage as the lights of the station came back on. All around them, rooms that had been locked were slowly opening. The crowds had begun to fill the corridors again.

Daisy looked at Bobby and Gwen and they looked at her.

“How about we agree not to say anything about this?” Daisy said. She couldn’t bear to admit anymore failures on her part today.

“So, just an ordinary day then? Cool.” Bobby nudged Gwen in the side. “Come on, let’s go find Gray.”

Gwen nodded with a smile and they both ran out of the garage. Daisy watched them for a moment and then thought about the Copper Fox again. A Street Crawler had let them go? That couldn’t be right, could it?

She shrugged it off, as was her way. No, of course she hadn’t. No doubt the Crawler just had other motives for not hurting them. But, no matter what she did, from this moment on Daisy would never be able to look at Crawlers the same way—especially the girl she soon knew as The Copper Fox. But that’s another story now, isn’t it? 

And the Beast Doth Howl

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Do you hear its painful howl?

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Do you hear its horrid growl?

Did you see its gnashing teeth

As it dragged you into hell?

Did you see the fumes escaping

As you were locked inside its cell?

Did the soldiers grab you fiercely,

Tear you limb from limb?

Did they leave you for the beast

So that it could have the kill?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Hunting for its kill.

It howls inside the boxes.

It hollers on the steps.

It groans and groans and squeals,

The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Do you hear it? Do you hear it?

Did you hear its cheerful crunch?

Did you see the jagged teeth

As it ate you up for lunch?

Did the soldiers come in armour

And drag you to its doors?

Did you smell the fumes escaping

As it crunched you in its jaws?

Did it crash and crack and burn you

As you settled in its belly?

Did it play with you and tug on you,

Its own personal, delicious deli?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Hunting for its kill.

It howls inside the boxes.

It hollers on the steps.

It groans and groans and squeals,

The Crawlers’ sign of death.

Do you fear it? Do you fear it?

Did you fear its satisfaction?

Did you realise the suffering brought

On every interaction?

Do you remember? Do you remember

The sounds of screams, of desperation

As it tore away your family

Who had no means for segregation?

Did you run or try to hide

Whilst they suffered in its shell?

Did you do what the bravest have tried

And the fools have yet to tell?

The Beast doth howls

Hollering and hovering.

It crawls over roads and roadways

Looking for its kill.

Its master sits behind him,

Soldiers swarming over steps.

He pulls the siren as a warning,The Crawlers’ sign of death.