The House on the Hill: Short Story response to billybuc's writing contest; tips for writing, hubpage community
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?
© 2013 Ann Carr