Who tells the story? Not always the point-of-view you expect.

gwnWe had a lovely evening at the Gloucestershire Writers’ Network writing competition award, last week.  It’s an annual event that happens at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

The theme for the festival and the competition, this year, was East meets West.  It drew in some lovely pieces of poetry and prose from writers across Gloucestershire, and most of the authors were brought together to read them for us.

‘What did you think?’ I asked my friend Louise, when we caught up six days later.  She’d had to rush off to another event just as that one finished, and we’d not had chance to compare notes since. ‘How did you find your first time at a reading?’

‘Yes,’ she said, ‘it was good.’ She paused. ‘And interesting: aren’t poems quick?’ Louise fronts a band. ‘One minute they were stepping up to the mic, the next it was over.’

‘It felt like a lifetime when I did it,’ I said.

Louise laughed and shook her head. ‘They all read really well, though, and the stories were excellent. I did like the one about the shawl, by the woman from your writing group.’

‘Lynda’s,’ I said. ‘It is a lovely story.’

‘I’m looking forward to sitting down quietly with the anthology,’ Louise said. ‘It was a really subtle approach to the theme.’

‘It was perfect,’ I said, ‘a lovely piece of flash fiction.’

How do you tell a grim story without dealing out graphic detail?  Lynda did it by giving voice to a scarf. ‘I remember,’ she begins, ‘how she held me up to the window and I delighted in the way the sun shimmered through my rich magenta and green folds, throwing rainbow patterns across the tiled floor.’

The scarf can observe and remember, but has limited understanding of the events that disrupt it’s soft, perfumed life: that’s left for us to interpret.  This is where the power of words becomes clear. It’s not just a question of finding the specific order that describes a picture, the other side of fine writing leaves spaces that the reader cannot avoid filling.

Dust seeped through the bag and cries and shouts accompanied the endless days of trudging. Later it became quiet and the cold crept through my silky sinews.  How I longed for the warmth of that sun…

What does it mean to be a refugee? Lynda provides us with a sense of it in around six-hundred words.

13 thoughts on “Who tells the story? Not always the point-of-view you expect.

  1. Wow, good stuff. I think Lynda got the balance between words and space just right. Is your group’s work to be published? I’m in total awe of anyone who can convey so much in just 600 words. And what about you? Are you publishing?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Sheila, I’m glad to find i managed to convey a taste of the story with only a couple of very short extracts. No one from the group who heard Lynda read this before she submitted were surprised to hear that The Scarf had been got a place in the anthology.

      I always encourage my groups to submit their writing to competitions, magazines and any other opportunities i spot, and I’m pleased to report that there have been several other successes over the years.

      As to me, this summer I’ve managed to polish-up a couple of short stories and send them out, so I’m currently keeping my fingers crossed, and wishing I had more time for a couple more pieces that need finishing. Where does the time go?

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  2. Fascinating! Not that we have to take the Toy Story approach, but experiencing events through the eyes of an object involved rather than a person is most intriguing. It’s involved, it takes a part, but can it initiate? And I think the right object can, when it inspires the right reaction from people…if that makes sense…ugh, I’m tired…. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      • YES. You word that far better. 🙂 On a slight-side note, I think it also fits to me because as a parent, I hear kids giving voices to inanimate objects all the time–blankets. trucks, nutshells and more can all have a voice in the right story. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • I love it when kids do that. When one of my nieces was very young, she told me that she remembered when she was a dog – i know that’s animate, but it was the incongruity of a child far too young to have heard of reincarnation describing in deep detail how she’d felt and what she did.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. What a brilliant idea, writing from the perspective of a scarf. I can imagine it must convey the gravity of the subject matter without too much graphic detail. You showcase this piece of flash fiction brilliantly, Cath, as you always do. I’m itching to read the whole story. And, like the person above, I’d love to see some of your own writing published.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Ruth, for getting what i had to say in the post, and for your boost to my lackadaisical approach to sorting my own writings out. I am trying to be more consistent about that, so who knows…

      I was so tempted to ask Lynda about publishing the whole of her story, but as it’s just out in the GWN anthology I assume there might be restrictions about how much i can share.

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