Thursday, April 16, 2009

Experimenting with writing.

As some of you are aware I have been experimenting with my writing. A while back I wrote a short story which was published on The View From Here which I've now also published below it's called In the Wink of an Eye. It marks quite a different departure for me as it's a war story which has quite a surreal element to it. It is also written in the Second Person; an idea which I'd been toying with for sometime but finally got the push to do it when I read that Georgie was experimenting with it too.

I'm sure that this story won't be to everyone's taste, especially as people are used to me being pretty silly, but any feedback is welcome, either positive or negative. I enjoy exploring different ideas, situations and emotions as much as I like writing humorous material. In fact, my book is turning out to be a combination of the humour and suspense - so I'm not exactly sure whether there will be a market for it! On Gary's advice I've sent the first 3 chapters to a professional critique service that he has used; I guess it will be pretty interesting to hear what they say. In the meantime I'll just keep on writing!

( Ps: There's plenty more silly stuff to come. And you won't believe this but I had one of those strange mystical experiences again the other day when I took the young masters to the zoo - I discovered something quite amazing... but you're gonna have to wait to find out! In the meantime you can always check out my latest BBC article Easter Bunny Blues for a giggle or two.)

In the Wink of an Eye

Caterpillar tracks. Fresh, impressed deep in the sucking mud. The enemy lurks nearby, somewhere close. You can feel them in your bones, taunting you.

A stench of sickly sulphur, fetid corpses and manic fear hangs in the air. Rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat. Your heart pounds, trickles of sweat run down your grimy face. Anxiously you glance around, dilated pupils flickering over ravaged trees, burning trucks and smoldering wreckage. You pause only a second longer on the decapitated head of Sean Watts. Poor bastard.

You take another look. Fuck. Did he wink at you?

Sinking down into the mire, wet sludge clings onto your combats like curds of brown rancid butter. The heavy backpack weighs you down pushing you deeper into the sodden earth. Stay alive, stay hidden. Rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat. Duty calls, there’s no time for sentiment or grief. Remember your training. Block out Sean’s face stricken in macabre astonishment.

But you wonder if he knows something that you don’t.

Fight, not flight. You crawl across the slime, belly wet, face blackened with stripes like a serpent of death and find Sergeant Hughes crouched in a shell hole. Where to now Sarge? No reply. You push his shoulder. Now what Sarge? Then you notice the warm stickiness on your fingers, the hands clasping a split stomach, slippery entrails protruding through bloody fingers. You slump back, breath short.

So Sean did know.

An eerie whistle screams overhead, the earth shakes, explodes. Mud rains down like a plague of locusts, consuming you. Pinpricks of rainbow light appear before your eyes and the sun begins to shine through the wetness. Heat spreads through your limbs and torso.

Ring, ring ring. You shake your head furiously. Ring, ring, ring. It’s 8.50 am. Your knees are grubby from the fall. Don’t get messy before school Robbie. Clean up quickly before the teacher sees you. Hurry, before you line up. You struggle to your feet, body aching as a voice calls across the playground. Robbie! Robbie! Too late. You’re in trouble now.

But it’s not the teacher, it’s Karen. She runs towards you, arms outstretched, white veil billowing behind, the train of her dress catching on thorny shrubs. A small boy follows, thumb in mouth, clasping a toy rabbit by the foot, the long soft ears stroking the uneven ground. You drop your gun and reach out to greet them, overjoyed. Karen, Tommo, I’m here! But Karen runs passed, across the pitted clearing and back into the woods. Tommo trails after her, mud squelching through his toes.

And Superman on his pyjamas winks at you.

The ringing fades as you hear the crushing of undergrowth, the tearing of branches, an unmistakable throbbing, pulling engine. Rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat. Shouts, screams, rise above the shuddering ground. A grey, hideous monster appears, compressing debris, churning the earth. It strikes fear in you standing defenceless in its deadly shadow. Rat a tat tat, rat a tat tat. You turn to run and wonder if God is on your side.

When you awake you hear gentle murmuring in your ear and distant echoing voices. You feel warmth, comfort. Safe at last. Maybe God was on your side. Slowly, you open your eyes, blurred shapes move to and fro. Gradually you begin to focus on the black silhouette at your side, the white collar, the familiar face.

And then he winks at you.

Hello Mate.

© Copyright Jane Turley 2009

Photograph courtesy of K M Ellen/Flickr


  1. Ooooo, Thrilling! I like it! and, I liked your BBC column (I'm an expert invisible brake pusher. I'll let you know if it ever works..hehe). It's exciting to read that your book progress is coming along nicely! Good luck!

  2. First off, thanks for the mention, it was very thoughtful of you to do that.

    Now, as for the story. It was interesting. I'm a bit lost on it though. I read it a couple of times, but I'm still a bit lost.

    Was he actually in a battle?
    Was he having a surrealistic dream?
    Was he tripping?

    Like I said, lost.

  3. Thanks Tamera - I'm really pleased you enjoyed both pieces. I'm finding that working in different styles is very satisfying. I'm also hoping the professional critique will give me the final push to finish my book but if it's a "no, no" I won't be too disheartened. Hopefully though it will give me a clearer direction where I should be going.

    Sooo you are an invisibale brake pedaller?! Shocking! Shocking! Now I'm sure you haven't graduated to the arm signalling yet - but I'm thinking if you come to the UK for a visit we'll get a taxi - I don't want to be responsible for the worsening of your condition!

  4. Georgie,

    Well that's interesting feedback. So I'll elaborate on the story and see if it becomes clearer;

    Yes, it is a war story. There's no tripping involved but there is an element of the surreal - what I was trying to do was capture the confusion of perceptions that may occur during battle under extreme pressure.

    The soldier is in an intense battle situation; he discovers two of comrades have been gruesomely killed; in a small amount of time this would be pretty hard for anyone to disgest but what I was trying to achieve with the first "wink" and the soldier's uncertainity about Sean's death was the beginnings of the break up of his mind by mixing up his perceptions. But this guy is a trained soldier so he does what many do in these situations he clings to his training to try and keep going... but the pressure is mounting.

    The para beginning "An eerie whistle" is suppose to lay the groundwork for the next para - ie he has been in the vicinty of an explosion and is now suffering from shellshock so his reactions are delayed and his mind even more confused as the events of his past and present life become entwined. However, I also used the image of the bride and the child because I wanted to add poignancy to the situation and show that here was a young man with everything to live for but whose life could be so easily lost. This para was to try and invoke in the reader the possibly futility of war.

    So the soldier is now very much in a dream world - hence his slow reactions when the tank arrives, his delayed, confused thinking.

    The last para - well that is probably open to interpretation. It could be believed the soldier is rescued or dead or on the cusp of death - the figure with the white collar is a priest. I wanted to leave it that way, to let the reader believe what they will.

    In my own mind, the soldier IS dead. (What would be the chances of him getting out alive from such a situation?) The priest is his welcome into the afterlife - in fact the priest is Sean. Those last few lines have some comfort to them and yet there is still the macarbre ending - I wanted it to be that way - I didn't want it to end comfortably because that would almost be tantamont to saying war is acceptable.. I wanted to leave the reader with an uncertainty and uncomfortableness that might raise some questions in their own mind about the validity of war and indeed the afterlife when death comes in such a manner.

    So there you go! Inside the mind of Mrs T!I hope it's a little clearer now. Trying to capture what you think isn't always easy and conveying it to the reader without detailing every little thing.. I guess I'll keep on practising!

  5. Thanks for the clarification.

    This is probably the first time that I ever had someone deconstruct a story for me.

    I've done it quite a few times for stuff that I've written, but this is a first for me.

    Like I said, a very interesting story. Still got to get used to the fact that a short story doesn't necessarily have to start at the beginning.

  6. Actaually it was an interesting exercise Georgie. It may appear that I planned the story but that's not the way I write; I write pretty much off the cuff with perhaps the germ of an idea and then I let the story/article take its own shape. Then when I reach the end I see a clearer picture of what was lying in my subconcious - then I go back and refine it.

    Thanks for your interest!

  7. Very creative and intense, Mrs. T. I enjoyed it very much.

    I thought it was quite clever and deliberate of you to leave the ending open to interpretation. I assumed the protagonist died, which was a memorable way to end the story.

    My favorite part was realizing the Sarge was dead. I could just sense an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Well done.

    I must say I'm not a fan of surreal perceptions, especially from 2nd person point of view - but your writing was exceptional. Two thumbs up. :)

  8. Thanks very much Mewie; I'm delighted you enjoyed it and I must admit writing this piece gave me a lot of satisfaction:)

  9. Christ how frightening is that eye? That's one hell of a hangover someone was staring into! got to say I'm you're biggest fan - of hunour, but you know that. Still, this one enjoyable, but like you said, it's not everyone's cup of.

  10. I stumbled on this story while looking for "experiments in writing" and this is one heck of an experiment. Really enjoyed reading it. Will be a regular reader now. :)

  11. Hello Rabab and welcome to my blog:)

    It's always pleasing and indeed inspiring to know someone's enjoyed my writing - particularly with my more serious work. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment:)


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