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The House on the Hill: Short Story response to billybuc's writing contest; tips for writing, hubpage community

Updated on July 27, 2017
annart profile image

Ann loves to write stories & poems & is always eager to meet challenges issued by other hubbers, to improve by exceeding her comfort zone.

How to Start, what to Keep in Mind

What a great idea! What a great inspiration! I was out of practice so found it quite hard to re-enter the discipline of fiction but was so glad that I took the plunge. Photos are a great way to get you going, especially ones so carefully chosen as these (a million thanks to billybuc).

Don't forget to plan carefully; a beginning that grabs the attention, a plot that unfolds and a satisfactory ending which can be unexpected, have a twist, reveal a fact that the reader might be wondering about. Keep the reader thinking, drop some subtle hints, make him/her wait until the end. Vary the length of your sentences. Avoid repeating the same words.

When you write a story you go through various drafts (unless you're lucky and it flows first time, just needing a few tweeks). The story can change, it can take over, in fact I think it's imperative to go with the flow when your characters dictate a certain path. To keep it simple is important, along with a mind to avoid clichés and to be grammatically accurate. Proof-read carefully, leave it for at least a day then come back with a fresh mind. Being limited to a number of words makes you disciplined in your choice of apt, colourful, original language.

The photos were well chosen to suggest a myriad of ideas, to interpret as one felt in one's soul, like a spider's web spreading out its fingers to catch ideas.

So with a big thank you to billybuc for getting me back to fiction, here goes!


The House on the Hill

The house on the hill creaked, aching to find a new beginning.

Its magnificent outlook and rambling garden provided no solace to the tired weatherboarding, the bare windows, the empty porch. The verandah held no relaxed spirits to warm the air and speak of hope.

Alice and Fred had nurtured it; she tended the shrubs, he painted the weatherboarding, she hung lace and cotton at the windows, he made fences and furniture. The house pulsed with their love and devotion, overflowing into its very foundations. It sheltered them, shone with pride, all-surveying, king of the hill.

In his workshop, Fred had created a perfect replica of the house. Leaving the final coat of paint to dry, he strode off down the path to visit a neighbour. Alice watched him go, waved from an upstairs window, her piercing blue eyes sparkling as she smiled at her good fortune.

She never saw him alive again.

He was almost home when a car veered onto the pavement, swept him up, flung him down and blew his and Alice’s life away with one long scream of tyres.

Within weeks Alice died, her heart torn, her world gone. They found her car in the water two days after she disappeared. The house slumped its shoulders, ignored life, wondered for years what had happened to its world.


The Sunday market buzzed with many out to buy on a carefree day full of encouragement. Jack and Cathy strolled past the stalls, picking up the odd item. An appointment to view a flat in town had turned their thoughts to possible furnishings.

Cathy’s gaze was drawn to an object at a nearby stall. A woman with piercing eyes sat a little back from her display, watching as Cathy studied the delicate model. Cathy smiled; it was perfect, pleasing to touch, friendly even. The price was modest. Cathy put her coins into the box the woman held out. The purchase in her bag, she felt an inexplicable contentment. She turned to question the stall-holder but the woman had left her seat.

Leaving the market for a lazy drive in the sunshine, Jack and Cathy explored the streets, turning left and right at random. They came upon a wide road, houses on the upper side, dominating a wonderful panorama below.

Cathy’s heart lurched. Jack, startled by her sharp intake of breath, stopped the car and followed her gaze.... to the life-sized version of the model she’d bought in the market. They sat stunned for a full five minutes, then got out of the car.

The house felt a fresh breeze, a forgotten life tugged at its footings.

They explored. No locks prevented them, no-one told them to clear off. The house gave them free rein, holding its breath, feeling appreciation and friendship after so long. The garden paraded its colours and shades.


The garage sat back, shrouded in shrubbery and creeping ivy. The double doors smiled a welcome, waiting to be opened. Stiffened with cramp, they allowed Jack to gently drag them ajar.

Inside, shelves and a workbench still strewn with Fred’s tools, jars of nails, pieces of wood, the odd tyre. Jack would love a workshop like this.

Sturdy boxes piled up neatly to one side, off the floor to save them from damp. Cathy had no qualms about lifting a lid. Photograph albums greeted her.

She flicked through one, then another; all portraying a family long gone. Why still here? Cathy treasured her own family records; generations’ birthdays, holidays, weddings. The garage, lost in memory, sheltered a lost family. Sad yet peaceful here.

Flick, flick, flick. People, flowers, sunshine, snowman. Flick, flick, flick. Oh!

Cathy stopped. Those blue eyes, smiling now but still strangely piercing, stared at her. The same eyes as the lady at the market stall. Mother maybe? Sister? A family group in happier times.

As they left, Jack and Cathy heard a ‘Hello!’ The old man leaning across the hedge continued, ‘Come to buy it? Rambling old place. No one wants it. Spooky if you ask me. Pull it down and start again, I say.’

Cathy smiled. Jack nodded a goodbye.

They sat in the car. Cathy picked up the model. They looked from house to model, model to house. They looked at each other... then smiled.

‘It’ll be too expensive,’ said Cathy. ‘Mmm,’ said Jack.

Without discussion they went into town, found the agent, asked about the house. Within a month they were in it.


The house was uplifted. Cathy tended the herbs and flowers, Jack painted the weatherboarding. Cathy hung lace and cotton at the windows. Jack cleared and tidied the garage, set up his workshop, whistled and sang at his tasks.

The miniature house, also freshly painted, was given pride of place in the airy entrance hall; the final piece of the jigsaw in place.

The house settled, its eyes shining, looking out across the calm, lazy river which wound to the mountains. Those eyes had seen the killer car mount the pavement, had seen Alice’s car sink into the river below, had witnessed the loss of it all.

Alice had waited for Cathy and Jack to arrive at the market. She knew they would protect the house, mend its heart, save its life; something her son didn’t want to do, couldn’t do as he sat in his prison cell for the murder of his father.

She could rest now, she could stay with Fred. Her piercing eyes looked away from the house. She returned to the waters of the river. Only the sparkling panes of glass saw the ripples spread and fade in the peaceful evening light.

What About You?!

Have you written any short stories?

See results

© 2013 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 24 months ago from SW England

      Robert Sacchi: Thank you for reading my story and for the kind comment. The spirits somehow invented themselves, as they seem to do often!


    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 24 months ago

      Interesting how you involve the spirit of a dead person and of the house. Thanks also for the back story about how you came to write this short story.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, John, for your kind words.

      Congratulations on having your 'Just a Humble Hero' accepted - you certainly deserved it.

      It's probably not too late to have a go at this challenge either. Why not?

      Hope all's well down under!


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 3 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wow Ann this story drew me in from the very start and would't release me. I never knew about this challenge by Bill but seeing it was 22 months ago it was probably just before I became active in the community here at HP. It has been the challenges on Hub Pages that got me interested in writing short stories as well and in fact I have just had one "Just a Humble Hero" accepted for publication in an anthology journal which is exciting. Anyway this was great and is voted up.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Wow, ecogranny! What a wonderful compliment - thank you so much.

      I love these writing challenges on hubpages. The variety of response is amazing and it's such great fun! Thanks for two visits this morning.


    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      My goodness, you certainly caught and held my attention. It's not often a writer can surprise me with an unexpected ending, but you did. I literally caught my breath when I read of the son killing the father. You've done that other wonderful thing every writer of fiction must do, to succeed, leave my head spinning with possibilities.

      Thank you. This story is a treasure.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 4 years ago from SW England

      MizBejabbers : Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 4 years ago

      Very beautiful story and well tied to friend Billybuc's photos. You have a real knack.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Hello Faith Reaper! Thanks for stopping by and for following me. I greatly appreciate your comments and the votes etc. Yes it was great to enter the world of fiction for me too and the short story is a good discipline as you say. All the best. Ann

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 5 years ago from southern USA

      Really great fiction write here! It was great fun to enter billybuc's contest for me too, as I am, for the most part, a non-fiction writer. It was a challenge to me especially the 1,000 word limitation. I loved using my imagination with the four specific photographs, and it is interesting to read all others' stories using those same photos, and how different each story turned out.

      Voted up +++ and sharing

      Blessings, Faith Reaper

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      marufoptimal: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Much appreciated.

    • profile image

      Maruf Optimal 5 years ago

      Awesome Story.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, MartieCoetser, glad you liked it. I very much appreciate your kind comments.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 5 years ago from South Africa

      annart, I love your style of writing. Especially the end - the sudden revealing of a few facts not mentioned in the beginning - makes this story a winner.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Hi Graham! Thanks for reading and for your kind comments. I'm amazed at the feedback for this story, especially as I was a hesitant entrant! Good to hear from you. Ann

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Kathryn Stratford, for your lovely comments. All the houses I've been happy in have had a feeling about them and I do love a happy ending! Glad you enjoyed reading.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi annart. A really good story, thinking from a different angle. It really works. Well done.


    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      That was an incredibly sweet and touching story. What an interesting angle, from the viewpoint of the house. I'm so glad it had a happy ending!

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      cam8510, thank you so much for your very kind comments, votes and support. I enjoyed giving the house a 'soul'. I nearly had the new occupants have something bad happen too but then decided I wanted to keep the house in a protective role. I'm also over the moon that you've shared my story. All the best. Ann

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Missoula, Montana at least until March 2018

      Ann, you've written an excellent story. I really enjoyed how you brought the house into this, with feelings and the ability to see what had happened to the previous owners. Lets just hope the new couple has better fortune. voted up, beautiful and shared on my fb page featuring freelance writers

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Yes I agree Ghaelach. It was great fun and has started me off on that track again. Thanks for the comment. Hope you have a good weekend too. Ann

    • profile image

      Ghaelach 5 years ago

      Hello Annart.

      Great read and I hope you enjoyed writing in Bill's contest as much as I did.

      I think we are all winners and have all gained a lot from it.

      Have a nice weekend.

      LOL Ghaelach

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you so much prasetio30. Good of you to take the time to read this and to comment. Glad you liked it. Ann

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Great story and very well written. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!


    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Thank you so much Jaye, for taking the time to read this and for your kind comments. So glad you enjoyed it and appreciated the house's 'soul' as I intended. Ann

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Annart....I enjoyed your story so much. You made the house itself one of the characters, and the reader can almost feel it breathing and imagine it thinking. Excellent ending. I'm glad Bill enticed you back to writing fiction!

      Voted Up++


    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Billy: In the top three - wow! I'm thrilled. As I have so many photos of my own I think I might use some for fiction as well as the usual hubs. You've really started something now! Hope you and Bev enjoy your weekend too.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 5 years ago from SW England

      Thanks Randy. I appreciate you reading and I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Ann

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This was actually in the top three, Ann! Bev loved this one immediately and I can see why. You really did a very good job with this contest, and thank you for entering. Have a great weekend my friend.

    • Randy Godwin profile image

      Randy Godwin 5 years ago from Southern Georgia

      Very nice entry, Annart! I enjoyed the read.