Thursday, 11 January 2018

NIBS - 'First'

We had a full house for NIBS this week, our first meeting of 2018! So it seemed only appropriate to have a theme of 'First' for the evening.

We kicked off with a short warm-up, of three words. The words could be taken as three nouns, or two nouns and a verb, as one could've been used for either.

Some great hilarity ensued, as folks produced either multiple sentences for different selections of words, or produced a short section of text based on just one.

My own offering is what follows, based on 'Ghost, Wheelbarrow, Watch.'

The ghost of the first gardener kept watch over the wheelbarrow. That's what they told me.

I didn't believe it of course, not until the day I ran it into the potting shed wall and put a great dint in it. The wheelbarrow I mean, not the wall. 

Course, I left it. Was only a wheelbarrow after all.  

Nothing went right the rest of that day. There was compost spoiled, pots broken, and stems snapped.

"You've got to knock the dent out," Seb told me. "The First Gardener (and yes, he gave it capital letters) won't let you get on until you do."

"Rubbish," I muttered, and ignored the dent. Up until I cut my finger for the umpteenth time taking apple cuttings. I threw down the knife. "Right, have it your way." I stomped over to the wheelbarrow and did what I could. It wasn't perfect, not by a long shot, but I gave the wheel a drop of oil to make up for it.

"Will that do you?" I asked no-one in particular. "Will you let me work in peace tomorrow?" 

If I believed in ghosts, I'd have said that someone breathed 'that'll do' in my ear.

But I don't. And they didn't.

I've never run the wheelbarrow into any walls since, though.

The only problem with having a full house of eight members meant that the feedback took a bit longer than normal, so we launched ourselves into the second task as quickly as we could, whilst still allowing enough time to share whatever we were going to write.

I'd found out and scanned a selection of first pages from novels at home, trying to cover as many different approaches to openings as I could. I asked the NIBSers to choose one, read it, and at a point of their choosing, continue writing the story... One sentence was the minimum requirement.

Unfortunately, I'd given the group far too much choice of potential text to use; I tend to be quite impulsive in my own choices when doing these types of activity, and can make a decision quickly. But others within the group had a much harder job deciding because I'd overwhelmed them with too much choice. Eventually, everyone picked something, and silence descended as we scribbled. (As a result, our February meeting theme will be 'One' - a single picture to provide inspiration AND cut out choice completely!)

The results from these continued first pages were amazing. Some remained in the idea stage, because of course we have planners as well as pantsers among our merry little band, and although the planners knew what they wanted to achieve, they hadn't written anything 'finished' to read back. Those who are pantsers produced some fabulous work, very emotive in some cases and full of laughter in others. I would have to say that the quality of several of the pieces were worthy of submission to competitions, and I told their authors so!

If we'd had more time, we'd have tried to work on another short piece, based around first prize, first glance, first love, first person or first encounter. But we didn't, so I offered it as homework to anyone who wanted to scribble a bit more between meetings.

Anyway, here's what I wrote, based on the opening sentence in my friend Jody-Klaire's book, The Empath.

'My problem is that I know too much.' That's why they're after me, sir. I tried not to see, tried not to listen, but when you need to light the fires, you have to go into the bedrooms while they're sleeping.

If they didn't want anyone to find out, they should've been more careful. She should've woken him early, pushed him out from under the bedclothes to get dressed in his night-chilled shirt while she stayed warm in the love nest they'd created.

I promised not to tell, I did. And I wouldn't, cos I've seen with my own eyes what they do the ordinary folk caught up in a lovemeet. Effra knows what they'd do to those as important as the Chairman of Elders and the White Woman.

No, I wouldn't tell. But they woke, and seemed to think I might, so they gave me a headstart. Until the sun rises, that's all the time they gave me before they started after me. When they catch me, they'll silence me.

So excuse me sir, but I have to run... 

I feel quite fired up about writing at the moment - long may my enthusiasm continue! And these two bits of flash feel like a good start to the new writing year.

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