Thursday, 27 June 2013

Hardwired - A Creative Vision of the Future

I recently received my final two grades of the year, and they're my best yet! When I pulled them out of the envelope and saw 74% and 78% a huge grin broke out across my face. Two Firsts! My mission for my final year of uni has been achieved - to get at least one First.
The amazing feeling still hasn't worn off yet, and it has really inspired me to write more. So next week, when my social life is a little less hectic, I am going to do some serious writing. Maybe I'll get a good chunk of a novel done. Here's hoping at least.

One of the pieces is a short story, untitled at the time of hand-in but I've now entitled it Hardwired. I was so nervous about this piece as the lecturer was incredibly picky about everything. I edited it over and over, then had my friends and sister read over it many times too. This assignment was for the Creative Visions module - looking at life in fifty years time. I was going to write the first chapter of Tainted Blood, but the lecturer tore it apart, so I ditched that idea. I figured in a slightly more down to Earth, more compact short story she would have less to question and complain about. My last Creative Visions piece Logged On got 64% with feedback saying the ending could have more of a twist, so I took their advice.

Anyway, less talk, more reading...

Life Beyond 2050
He stumbled through the door, the hallway lights turned on automatically.
‘Lights down,’ he slurred, shielding his bloodshot eyes from the glare.
They dimmed and he lowered his hand, leaning against the wall for support.
‘Jensen?’ Sylvee stood at the end of the hall. She looked like a ghost, shrouded in a long white dressing gown, her pale hair curled over her shoulders. There was no smile to greet him, no hugs, no kisses. Wobbling slightly in the spinning room, Jensen stood up straight.
‘Where've you been?’ Her voice was controlled.
‘Out,’ he said, trying to meet her cool stare.
‘Out where?’ Her tone never changing.
‘Just out,’ he growled as he pushed past her to their bedroom. She didn’t flinch; she only stood there, watching. Jensen wanted to apologise. He always did, yet the words never seemed to come.
The full beam of the lights in the bedroom burned his eyes and he ordered them off. The darkness was better; he could avoid Sylvee in the dark.
He fumbled with the zip of his overalls. He’d gone straight to Alfie’s from the wind farm, and they smelt of beer and illegal cigarettes. Tugging off his dirty clothing he called for the laundry chute. A hatch opened in the wall and he dumped his clothes down the tube. He had crawled under the starched covers when Sylvee came in. Neither of them spoke as she shed her gown and climbed into bed next to him. She lay on her back staring up at the ceiling, whilst he curled up on his side facing away from her.
Even in the darkness the room was still spinning and Jensen breathed deeply to calm his churning stomach. He was regretting spending so many credits on what tasted like heavily watered-down piss. A sudden turn in his gut made him desperate for the bathroom, but he could tell from Sylvee's breathing she was still awake. Rubbing his stomach, he urged it to settle. He couldn’t hold it any longer. Saliva flooded his mouth and his throat convulsed. Pushing back the covers he stumbled to the bathroom. Vomit choked him, and he couldn't order the lights on. Kneeling on the cool tiles, he threw up in the dark, hoping he aimed right. Soon his stomach was empty.
‘Flush,’ he ordered as he got to his feet. He took his time brushing his teeth and gargled multiple times. When he entered the bedroom again he could see Sylvee's eyes were still open wide, reflecting the dim light of the solar lamppost that seeped through the curtains.
Jensen sighed. ‘Go to sleep. Please.’
For a moment she didn’t move and he thought to repeat himself. Then she rolled on her side and closed her eyes. Jensen practically fell into bed, suddenly exhausted. Once again he promised himself he wouldn’t go out again. And once again he would think of her and the urge would be too strong.
When Jensen awoke the next morning, Sylvee’s side of the bed was empty. The curtains were open and warm sunlight spilled into the room. Grumbling, Jensen pulled his pillow over his face. He knew he’d have to get up eventually but the thought of his wife sitting in stony silence at the kitchen table made him want to tear his hair out.  With a yawn Jensen rolled out of bed to his feet. The wall next to his bed flashed brightly.
‘Eleven forty-two am. Sunday the eighth of April 2063. Dagenham weather: sunny spells with highs of twenty-four degrees. The main headlines today are-’ Jensen cut off the chirpy infovoice with a hasty swipe. Sylvee would know he was awake now.
He padded into the bathroom, making sure to lock the door behind him. Rummaging through the medicine cabinet, ignoring the Paroxetine, he grabbed a brightly coloured box. Hangover Ex! The New Morning After Pill was written across the front in bold letters. There was only one capsule left in the packet. Jensen swallowed it with a glass of water. Instantly his queasy stomach was gone and the sunlight no longer pierced his eyes. He still didn’t feel any better about facing Sylvee.
Once he’d showered and dressed he slouched into the kitchen. Sylvee sat at the table, her back straight and stiff. Her hands rested on the table, a full cup of tea sat in front of her. A film of milk covered the surface. She looked directly ahead, her gaze flickered slightly when he sat down next to her.
                ‘About last night,’ he started.
                ‘You’re a grown man; you’re free to do what you want.’
                It was not the answer he was expecting. He wanted anger, shouting, fighting.
                ‘No, I shouldn’t be free to do what I want. That’s not right.’ He slammed his fist down on the table.  She blinked at him.
                ‘If that’s what you say,’ she agreed with the smallest of nods.
                Suddenly, all the fight left him and his headache came back despite the pill. ‘It is what I say.’ Jensen stood up quickly and went over to the countertop. ‘Coffee, black.’ His voice seemed too loud in the silence of the room. There was a whirring in the walls and a cup of steaming coffee was revealed behind a hatch. This is more warmth than I’ll get from her, he thought as he cradled the cup in his hands. Jensen watched her as he drank. Whatever she was feeling, if she could even feel, she hid it well; her face was expressionless. 
                ‘Go, do something with yourself,’ he found himself saying.
She looked at him then. ‘Like what?’
‘I don’t know. Fluff the pillows. Read a book. Take a walk. Do whatever, just stop sitting there.’
She nodded, got up from her chair, and left the room. Jensen hadn’t meant to sound so rude; he just couldn’t control his temper around her anymore. He put his half empty coffee cup carefully on the counter, resisting the urge to smash it against the wall. His thoughts turned back to her. Her gentle eyes and loving lips. Tonight he’d be with her again. He could never keep his promises.

The phone rang and Jensen hurried to answer it before Sylvee could.
‘I got it,’ he called out.
Looking at the screen he recognised the number straight away. He debated whether he should answer it or not then swiped his finger across the screen.
‘Hey, Jen,’ Matty’s cheerful face appeared on the monitor. ‘What night is it? It’s bowling night!’
Jensen could not share his enthusiasm. He picked up the handheld receiver. ‘I told you not to call me. What if Sylvee picked up?’ he hissed, looking over his should to check she wasn’t close.
‘I wouldn’t have told her anything,’ said Matty, his cheeriness gone. ‘I got you.’
‘I know you do. It’s just been a rough morning.’ Jensen massaged his temples.
‘Guess that means no bowling.’
‘Sorry, I can’t. I just keep thinking about her.’
‘Look, Jen, this is going to come out eventually, you can’t keep her a secret forever. You know I’m fine with it, but the others, well, they’re not as understanding about this sort of thing.’
‘You’d think people would be more open-minded these days,’ Jensen said grudgingly. Everything Matty said was true, but he didn’t want to think about it. Not now.
‘Well they’re not. Jensen, I don’t want you to get hurt again. I was there for you last time but I can’t keep doing it. You have to tell Sylvee the truth or get rid of her.’
‘I know. I love her so much though; I can’t just stop seeing her. It’s too painful.’
‘Life is painful. Let me know if you change your mind about bowling.’ There was a beep as Matty hung up.
Jensen placed the receiver back on the wall, ignoring the advert for a new upgraded phone that scrolled across the screen. Matty was right, he needed to tell Sylvee the truth and live with the consequences. He was being selfish and it wasn’t fair to anybody.

Jensen sat opposite Sylvee and watched her as she played with her food. His lupine steak was tasteless and every mouthful was an effort to chew. He thought about what Matty had said. He did need to end it, but he had to know he was doing the right thing.
‘Do you remember, a couple of years ago, when we had just started dating? I was trying to be cool and threw that bottle at the recycling bin but it completely missed. You picked it up, and as you walked over to me you said “Your awful aim will cost you hundreds of credits in litter fines one day.” Then you popped it over your shoulder and got it in the bin straight away.’
                ‘I don’t recall that. Was it important?’ Sylvee said as she pushed her peas around, the fork scraping on the plate.
                I fell in love with you that day. ‘No, nothing special, just a memory.’
                Silence hung between them. Jensen looked down at the remainder of his meal and grimaced. He got up suddenly and threw it into the compost chute. All food waste in the apartment complex went down chute to the compost heap, which was then spread on the surrounding gardens and parks. Sylvee had once lost an ill-fitting bracelet down there. She’d said it was a precious heirloom of her Grandma’s, so they’d spent the day digging through rotting vegetables. They’d shared a shower after too. But she probably didn’t remember that either.
                At the sound of the fork scraping on the plate again Jensen turned around. ‘Would you just eat the damned food.’
                Jensen watched her take the first bite but soon left, his head pounding.
He had wanted to go out that night, to drink and be with her again, even if it was for just a few hours. But he had work tomorrow and he already had two warnings for being late. Another would see him fired.
He had tried to sleep. In his dream an army of Sylvee’s chased him down a narrow corridor. The more he ran the slower he went. The corridor was endless. Each one of them screamed, ‘It’s your fault I’m like this!’ One eventually caught him. Her thin fingers bit into his flesh. He wanted to scream but no sound came out. ‘It’s all your fault!’ she shrieked as she tore off his face.
He woke up in a cold sweat, breathing harshly. He tried to remember the dream but it was already fading. No longer tired, he lay next to his wife, yet all he could think about was her. How she had felt lying next to him in bed. His arms wrapped around her, her soft body warm beneath his chest, feeling her heart beat in time with his.  The cold woman beside him was no more than a stranger.
When his alarm went off he leapt out of bed.
Beep. Beep. Beep. ‘Seven am. Monday the ninth-’ Jensen swiped a hand across the alarm screen shutting up the infovoice before it could wake his wife. He pulled on fresh grey overalls and headed out the door, careful not to make a sound.
The Dagenham wind farm was already bustling when Jensen arrived. The turbines needed plenty of maintenance checks if they were to supply the South East with enough energy. There were still plenty of people opposed to the idea of wind farms too; Jensen couldn’t believe how narrow-minded society could be.
                ‘Hey Jensen,’ Randal said as he scanned the schedule. ‘You’re on E-13 today.’
                ‘E-13? That’s on the other side of the estate.’
                ‘Yeah and we’re out of solar carts I’m afraid. Looks like you’re walking.’ Randal smiled crookedly.
                Jensen knew he shouldn’t be surprised; that was his luck. The hammering in his temples grew, and no amount of drugs would help. He needed the booze, and her. He grabbed his tools from Randal before setting off between the forests of turbines.
It was over an hour before he finally reached E-13. His head had pounded with every step. The turbine was over a hundred and twenty metres tall if you included the rotor. When he first started work there Jensen had nightmares that the entire wind farm had fallen over in a domino effect and crushed him, the rotors slicing his friends and family to pieces. A shudder washed over him as he looked at the slowly rotating blades. Just get this work done. Then you can drink and be with her, he thought as he unscrewed the work hatch. But Sylvee will still be there. His hand tightened around the screwdriver. His conversation with Matty ran through his head. He needed this to be over with. He put the screwdriver away and glanced at the other tools in the box, one especially caught his eye. He would end it tonight.
Unsurprisingly, Sylvee was sat at the kitchen table when Jensen got home from the farm. He had considered going straight to Alfie’s but he knew he had to deal with his wife first.
                Her blonde hair was perfectly curled as usual, her pale skin unblemished and smooth. The top she was wearing had been one of his favourites, low-cut and clingy, but now he felt nothing. Cold, blue eyes flickered over him as he walked behind her and ordered his coffee, but otherwise she didn’t move. She would have been perfect, he thought, but she just wasn’t her. As his coffee was being made, Jensen fingered the object in his pocket with a shaking hand.
                ‘Work was fine, thanks for asking,’ he said, hoping she didn’t hear the waver in his voice.
                ‘That’s good.’
                The coffee was done but Jensen didn’t pick it up. Instead he drew the tool from his overall’s pocket. Staring at the back of her head, the hammer suddenly felt too heavy in his hand and he was afraid he would drop it.
                ‘How was your day?’ he asked. If she would just say something, anything, that could change his mind.
                ‘It was fine, thank you for asking,’ she said, not even turning around.
                Jensen closed his eyes, shook his head. The hammer slipped in his sweaty palms. He raised his arm up. He thought back to all the days they had spent together, before this. They were carefree, they were happy, they were in love. But it could never be the same again.
                ‘Can you even say it?’ he whispered, a tiny bud of hope still growing inside him.
                ‘Say what?’
                ‘That you love me!’ he said in a sudden burst of passion.
                ‘I can say it, if that’s what you would like.’
                It’s not what I want, it’s what I need. ‘Say it.’
                ‘I love you-’
                He brought the hammer down heavily on the back of her skull. Jensen felt it collapse beneath the weight of the tool. Satisfaction sped through his body as he swung it down again, this time harder. Pieces of skull, circuits and wires scattered over the kitchen floor. Again and again he brought down the hammer until the back of her head was an electrical mess. The body slumped forward, all the stiffness gone. Jensen took a deep breath, the hammer slipped from his grasp with a loud thunk as it hit the linoleum. The sight of a synthetic flesh with blonde hair attatched made Jensen retch. Tears chocked him. The pain in his head almost blinded him. Slowly, he lifted the head off the table. Its eyes had reverted back to factory settings. Grey with no pupils. He let it drop. He wanted a drink, but even that wouldn’t bring her back now.

                ‘I’m sorry Sylvee. I should have let you go instead of clinging on. Now I’ve lost you twice.’

Thursday, 20 June 2013

How to Write Description

Here is the post I promised earlier. I still haven't settled in properly at home yet; my boxes still crowd the hallway, and I haven't unpacked my hundreds of flowery summer dresses, but I seriously need to blog more (it's on my To Do list, don't worry).

Anyway, this post is all about description and how to write it creatively. I have a real problem with writing description, or setting the scene. I can see it in my head and so think everyone else can picture it too without going into much detail. Rookie mistake. I also think when writing description that it will distract from the plot; I am very much an action writer and love to get to all the exciting bits straight away. I have to slow myself down and force myself to write about the scene. Or sometimes I write all the action parts and then go back through and add the setting later.

I was thinking about this when I came up with a great idea on how to get the descriptive juices flowing. Stick with me here. This workshop comes in three easy steps.

1. Below is a series of pictures and I want you to write a 200 word description about each one.

You can write it from any Point of View, and in third, second, or first person.

Try to include each of the five senses; sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Obviously, it might be hard to include them all. You might think how can I taste a place? Well, in the desert your character's mouth could be very dry, and that would say something about the setting. Don't go OTT as you only have 200 words.

Remember, the best description works with the action.
Don't write: There was an old wooden chair in the corner.
Do write: Ben eyed the spindly chair warily. It looked like it would collapse under the weight of a feather, let alone his hefty backside.

2. Think about a setting in your own novel, short-story, or flashfiction. Even if you're rubbish at art, I want you to draw out the scene. It can just be stick people, or it could be a masterpiece. Drawing a scene can help you to realise what's important in that setting - what's essential to include in your writing and what you can skim over. Now write another 200 words based on that drawing.

3. Give that drawing to a friend, preferably someone who also writes, or send it to me, and see what they write. They could pick up on something you wouldn't have thought of before, or make you realise something the reader will need to know about that place.

Its only a simple workshop but it should help when finally writing that novel.

Okay, ready? Here come the pictures...

They're quite varied, so have fun! I'll write about them too and draw my scene and post them in a couple of days. I hope this helps! 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Today is my final day in Winchester and I've nearly finished packing. The worst thing about packing is that I grow bored of it very quickly, and so do other things. Yesterday I watched three chick-flicks instead of packing. Now, I'm blogging instead of packing. But as my mum says, if it wasn't for the last minute nothing would ever get done. So I'll probably finish five minutes before my dad picks me up tomorrow.

This post isn't about packing though, it's about something I'm going to post once I'm home and settled. I've had the idea for this certain surprise post for a couple of days now, but I've been so busy hosting guests and not packing that I haven't got around to doing it yet. I'll give you a little hint; it's about writing description. I hope you'll enjoy it...when I finally write it.

Now, back to packing while listening to Disney songs. It doesn't get better than this.