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Another Blip by our resident writer, editor and genuinely human person, Seth Godwynn. This story shows the inner struggle every writer faces as they go through the daily grind of failing to make money while devoting their entire life to a completely failing art-form.
This uniquely expressed story takes the creative process in a direction that you haven’t seen done before.
All you need is an idea—even a terrible one!
Writer’s block is a curse—a dead end, they often say.
I prefer to think of it as more of a cul-de-sac.
A dead end is an insurmountable wall, but a cul-de-sac is brimming with possibility: fresh blooming lavender to smell; bungalows and extended semi-detached houses filled with interesting people, or awful people, or spewing empty crisp packets and cans of White Diamond into the streets. There are Priuses to borrow, steal or vandalise; children to play with (as long as they’re not skateboarding—I nearly broke my hip on one of those things as a kid). Before you know it, you have something—anything—that you can develop a story from.
Writing is after all a process, and not just a final result: how you get to that result is every bit as important as arriving, it speaks volumes about who you are as a person, your abilities, your worth. It’s like systems vs goals thinking: goals encourage you to cheat, but follow the system and wherever it takes you, there you are. And if you don’t like where you are, you’re in a much better position to go back and change it!
And once you start writing, the possibilities begin to reveal themselves, to take shape, even if you don’t quite have a specific end in mind. The writing process doesn’t have to be a linear one.
It all started for me with a aimple idea, inspired by a comment in the news. ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if…’ I heard myself thinking, and there it was. The idea took root, and all I needed to do was start writing. But where to begin—the beginning? No, that’s a terrible place to start! I began by writing some notes in the hope that the next stage of the process would come to reveal itself.
Two people—Alice and Brian (A and B)—have been set up by an agency, a kind of matchmaking operation. They’ve never met, so they’ve decided on a relatively safe place—a nondescript coffee shop! Public places during the daytime are always the best when meeting somebody for the first time. It’s also a good idea to have a close friend on standby that you agree to check in with once an hour, failing which they contact the police on your behalf with your GPS whereabouts. It’s just common sense really, so I don’t think it needs to be explicitly stated that both of them have done this, nor why they chose a coffee shop in particular. I can instead jump straight into the action and an astute reader would easily infer that both parties have taken sensible precautions.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been matchmade with somebody before, but they can be a mixed bag of fortunes. As with anything else, first impressions count, and choosing appropriate topics to talk about while retaining some sense of empathy towards the other party is paramount. Are they enjoying the conversation? Are you boring them? You need to look out for the tell-tale signs and be sensitive enough to accommodate them. Don’t kick a dead horse when its down!
So with basic greetings and simple introductions already out of the way by now, let’s take a look to see how these two are getting on…
“It’s like we’re living in the dark ages!” spat Alice with an exaggerated swish of her hands, as though slapping the nonsense out of the world around her.
Brian shrugged wearily and nodded in presumed agreement.
“Women today are still only paid 77 cents to a man’s dollar, and despite this still get charged exorbitant rates for pink versions of the same hygiene products as men. Don’t even get me started on the monthly period tax! I can’t even! How is this allowed?! There needs to be some kind of law to address this. Are you listening to me?”
He looked up suddenly, apparently breaking from a daydream, and nodded again.
“We can’t even walk down the street without being raped at least twice on any given day. And the bloke always gets away with it. ‘What were you wearing, love?’ laugh the coppers at the station as they eat their Hobnobs. ‘Come on, admit it—you were asking for it weren’t you!’ Even wars are sexist against women! Men go off to fight leaving the women at home to clean the house and make tea, and then they bloody come back dead. Fat lot of use you are to us like that!”
“Sounds nice,” said Brian with a flicker of a sad smile. “I often think about death. I think about how I’d do it: drink a bottle of vodka and slit my wrists with a box cutter, jump in front of a bus… None of them sound particularly appealing if I’m honest. It’s just hard to find information about it as it all gets blocked by well-meaning service providers that instead offer suicide hotline numbers. They’re not much help either. Some days I’ll think about it for hours on end, motionless, unable to find the energy to move so much as a finger. I mean, what’s the point?”
“Exactly,” said Alice with some enthusiasm. “It’s that unwillingness to act that’s got us where we are today. I mean, did you know that it was still legal for a man to rape his wife right up until the 90s? Did you know that they were still burning witches at the stake as recently as World War II? Did you know that 100 years ago, women were considered chattel in this country? Chattel! Property to be sold, or worse, gifted! And what have the men in charge done about it? Nothing!”
“Nothing…” repeated Brian. “I wonder what it feels like to be nothing. I mean, I sit here now and I’m something. I know how that feels. Some days the loneliness is stifling, the silence deafening, and I wish it would all just go away. How would that feel? Poof… nothing! Nilch! Nada! How would it feel to feel and know nothing at all? Do you ever think about that?”
“No, but I’ll tell you what I do think about. The great sacrifices made by the strong women eras past—the Suffragettes, Amelia Earhart, the girls from Bananarama… They knew what kind of world they were living in, and they did something about it!”
“I know the kind of world I’m living in, and I’m all for doing something about it myself.”
“I hoped you’d say that,” said Alice, almost sympathetically. “A new bill is being voted on in parliament next week that promises accused rapists anonymity until a guilty verdict is secured. ‘Men have rights too!’ they say. What about our rights? Somebody needs to send a message to those politicians that we, the public, won’t stand for it! Women have had enough of being oppressed, and it’s up to them to ensure that any rapists that slip through the net over ‘not guilty’ technicalities become pariahs, forced out of their own communities, never allowed to settle anywhere else because their reputations will follow them everywhere!”
The conversation continues like this for some time, neither seeming to really listen to the other’s point of view with any particular degree of interest. So don’t worry, we can step away for a moment—you’re not missing anything important. Let them chat it out.
And this is where things kind of came unstuck. You see, I have the setup for the first act laid out now, which is what you’ve just been reading, and thanks to my initial idea, I also have a solid conclusion in mind. I just need to make sure that there are sufficient clues in the first act that the conclusion, while unexpected, is still predictable. I’ve just gone back over it several times and added some in, so what you’ve just read is actually the final version.
I also still have the problem of how I’m going to bridge the two acts. I think we need to just dip back into that conversation one more time…
“So we’re good for Friday then?”
He nodded. “Friday it is.”
“You don’t know how happy this makes me!” she enthused, clapping her hands twice, a delighted grin on her face and a twinkle in her eyes. “I always hoped I’d meet somebody like you. I really think this is a match made in heaven!”
“Heaven, yeah,” he agreed with some reservation.
“Well, I guess the agency really earned their cut this time. It wiped out most of my savings, but this is just beyond my wildest dreams! Worth every penny! I must be the luckiest girl in the world! Anyone should be so lucky as to be introduced to somebody like you! This must be what it feels like to have diamonds on the shoes of your soul!”
And that was that. I guess their first impressions were, perhaps, more favourable than we may have inferred.
That’s one of the things about dipping into other people’s conversations: we can only ever really infer what’s going on in their minds. There’s somebody for everyone as they say, and I’m sure we’re all glad it worked out so well for them both!
So with the first act complete, let’s begin act two and fast forward to Friday—the big day!
“Hmm? Mum? What time is it?”
“It’s… quarter past eight.”
“In the morning?”
“Of course in the morning! Come on Alice, get up! It’s your big day today!”
I think we all know how little usually happens before breakfast, and that’s probably quite a way off yet. She has to get up, wash her face, get dressed, go downstairs, take the dog for a quick walk… yadda yadda, all the usual things that a middle-class girl might do while her poor under trodden mum prepares a lavish yet unlikely breakfast platter that nobody will eat very much of.
So with that in mind, and a stomach full of mostly air, let’s jump back into the story a little later in the morning. It’s eleven o’clock, and the local news is about to air!
“Hurry, sweetie! The local news is about to air!”
Alice eagerly grabbed up the remote control and turned the TV on as quickly as she could. It was already set to the correct channel, because it wasn’t the first time she’d watched the local news that morning.
“Today’s headlines,” said the disembodied voice from the TV over moving graphic visuals that were trying a little too hard not to seem overly lacklustre. “High street supermarket raises the price of bananas for the second time this month!”
An old woman appeared on the screen shaking her head. “I don’t know how I’m going to be able to afford them, not on my pension. The pennies add up you know, especially since we went metric!”
“High school student sets new World Record for flatulence!”
An aging suited man with a clipboard and bi-focal glasses on a chain hanging off his nose stood in front of a bright white wall with the corporate logos plastered all over it. “Local boy Jimmy Clagg has shattered the previous World Record of 2 minutes and 42 seconds with an impressive 3 minute and 11 second bout of non-stop trouser-tooting tummy-turbulence. It had overtones of rotting eggs, ammonia and liquorish with a fragrant vanilla afterbite. It hung in the air like syrup, and sounded like a duck practicing the trombone. This is a proud day for us all!”
Alice shook her head sadly. “I already know about the farts and bananas. They covered those an hour ago.”
“It’s obviously a slow news day, sweetie!” said her mother. “Fridays usually are!”
“I know. We should be thankful for slow news days.”
“But first, a story just breaking,” said a flustered announcer who suddenly appeared, hurriedly flipping through pages that had just been passed to him by somebody offscreen. “A young local man was found dead in his flat this morning, an apparent suicide.”
A photo appeared of a young man who, could text paint a person’s likeness, would no doubt look familiar.
“Brian Wagglestaff, described by those closest to him as having a bright and cheerful disposition, was found by a co-worker after he failed to show up for his carpool this morning.
“I just can’t believe it!” said a young man, shaking his head sadly as wind blew his unkempt hair hither and tither, and light from emergency vehicles danced on the walls behind him. “He was always so happy! I just can’t imagine what could possess him to do something like this!”
The newsreader appeared on the screen again. “According to a police spokesman—or spokeswoman; a spokesperson as it were—a suicide note was found at the scene, which is currently being investigated. More on this story as it unfolds.”
Alice and her mother stared at the screen, motionless for a short time, their mouths hanging open agasp.
“Um… sweetie? That was him, wasn’t it.”
Alice continued staring at the TV, and very slowly nodded her head.
Well I bet you didn’t see that one coming. Whatever their big Friday plan was, it seems clear he wasn’t quite as into it as she was.
But I’ll bet you want to know what was in that suicide note? I mean, isn’t it just eating you up inside?
Well, the police being the thorough investigative body that they are really took their time over checking into it, but later that day, they were eventually able to release their findings at an impromptu press briefing. Let’s skip ahead to there and see what that was all about.
“Sweetie, it’s four o’clock already!”
“Right, mum! Thanks!” She grabbed up the remote control and frantically switched the TV back on.
The news had already started. A stern looking man in a police uniform was standing at a podium, constantly whiting out by blinding non-stop camera flashes, despite the stage area being sufficiently well lit that additional lighting was just overkill.
“Brian Wagglestaff’s sudden death this morning has shocked our community to its very core—it’s core, I tell you!—and I understand that you all want answers, but you must appreciate the need for a thorough investigation of the matter. We are, after all, the police. It’s what we do!”
He turned his attention to camera two for a moment, and nodded his head with a reassuring smile and a hand patting his badge. “Evening all!” he added. Turning his attention back to camera one, he continued.
“Having examined the scene and the alleged suicide note, we have reached the conclusion that there is no reason to doubt its authenticity, and thus foul play is not suspected, on this particular occurrence. A transcript of the note will be made available in due course, but to offer a brief summary, Wagglestaff expressed deepening discontent with the current status quo and an unwillingness to live in a world where women earn only 77 cents to a man’s dollar, where 1 in 6 women are raped every day, and are often denied the glory of dying in a muddy bog after being ripped in two by machine gun fire. The last straw that closed the final chapter on this promising young man’s life is a bill to be voted on in parliament next week aiming to protect the identity of men accused of rape until such time as a guilty verdict is rendered.
“If this issue is important enough for this young man to make the ultimate sacrifice, then perhaps it’s important enough for us to give some sober thought to, and rally our MPs accordingly.”
The screen cut to a newsreader, who was still frantically shuffling his notes. “Chief Constable Dennis Rumptiously there, taking a hiatus from his County Club Comedy Hour, to share some inspiring words for us all. Amongst the sadness, it helps put into perspective just how important women’s issues are to our young men of today. It should give us all hope!”
Alice and her mother looked at each other, an audible tension in the air. All they could do for now was listen.
“Since his press conference mere moments ago, local representative Tony Barstool MP has confirmed that in light of Wagglestaff’s death, he will be voting against the new bill next week. Other representatives from other districts have also chimed in with a similar theme. Brian, the people’s martyr that he is, may rest peacefully knowing his death was most likely not in vain.”
Alice’s eyes widened, as she attempted to stifle a gasp. “We… We did it!” she stammered, with unexpected glee.
Her mum smiled back at her and nodded her head. “YOU did it, sweetie! Well done! You’ve done really great work here. You should be proud!”
“I am proud, mum! Finally we can have some justice in this world! Still, there’s something that’s bothering me about it all.”
“They never said how he killed himself. He was pondering it when we met, and couldn’t seem to settle on a method. It’s like an itch I can’t scratch.”
Oh, the sneaky little minx. So that was her plan all along?! I’ll bet you didn’t see that coming.
But on the other hand, maybe you did! That’s one of the great pleasures of stories like this, that all the clues are in there for you to figure it out for yourself, and you feel great when you do, but don’t feel cheated if you don’t. It’s a win-win!
So with that said, this is where we conclude our tale. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed torturing myself writing it. Tune in next time as Alice’s family is hounded persistently by a vicious mob of do-gooders armed with spiteful language and sharp edged rocks, after her younger brother is baselessly accused of sexual assault by a girl he doesn’t know on campus, and his name is subsequently published in all the national papers!
With the story complete, I just need to find a way to frame it…
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