Writing Engagement – A checklist of what you should be doing

In the previous week, I shared with you my checklist of things I try to avoid as a writer or be aware of in my words. It will most likely be of no surprise, to now expect a list of what you should include as a writer. This is of course just my opinion but you may find some use for it never the less. 

Feel free to print this off and use it as a guideline.

  • Dramatic Characters – Especially if there are many. e.g. a fat man could cause the room to shake as he slugs down the stairs. 
  • Good description – Weave it in. Choose the right detail. What makes them unique? Use the character’s viewpoint and personality. Minimum, relevant details allow the reader to use there imagination.   
  • Like a film – Tell the story like you’re watching a film or looking through a camera. All you’re doing is saying what you see. Good characters have the control. 
  • Work in reverse – A handy tool if you’re struggling to create your plot. If you know what the climax or end of your story is. Write that first and work in reverse order. 
  • Use yourself – Using your own fears, desires, passions etc is a great way to create depth in characters if you’re struggling. An overly descriptive person (me) who doesn’t understand the meaning of words but uses them to be important (not me), see how you can create from yourself.
  • To begin with – Try to use different ones such as, I imagine, I feel, I picture, I can picture, I think.  
  • Be precise and exact with words – Don’t waffle. Get rid of anything that doesn’t directly add to the story. If you love what you’ve written, save it for another story where it fits better. 
  • Be creative – Think outside of the box.  
  • The fourth wall – A handy technique in some stories, breaking that fourth wall and talking to the reader is a great way to keep them entertained and adds wonderful depth if done right. 
  • Italics – Use italics for someone’s exaggerated wording in speech. 
  • Set up expectations – Make the reader continue to read in order to find the answer. E.g. refer to something that happened in the past but don’t tell the reader what it is. Keep them guessing. 
  • Fitting naturally – Anything you write needs to fit naturally in the story in order for it to flow well for the reader. Don’t write random accounts of a past memory if nothing the character is doing would cause the recollection to appear. 
  • Foreshadowing – Foreshadowing focuses on dropping hints about certain things that the reader may or may not pick up on. If done well it can really bring the ending together nicely. 
  • Prologue – Prologues are sometimes a great way to begin a story. Whether it’s the beginning of a romance in which someone gets divorced or the beginning of a horror where someone wakes up on the floor, covered in blood. It can be a great way to engage the reader. 
  • A good plot – Character + Problem = your plot. Meet the requirements for a story. 
  • Twists and turns – This goes unsaid. You want an exciting story. Otherwise, you might as well be writing a dictionary.             
  • Character profiles – Create a profile of a character and stick to it. Write every little detail. The evilest of people make sense in their own head. 
  • Use the five sensesSight, sound, smell, taste, touch. 
  • Living to the scene – Live to the scene and character. An old lady, for example, might notice someone not wearing a coat if it’s raining out. Simple things like this can remind you of the character and connect to them more. 
  • Metaphors – Be clever with your words. 
  • Words saying more – Create hidden meanings with your words for example through attitude, beliefs and feelings. 
  • Fewer words – It’s better to have fewer words that are more relevant than to drone on.
  • Make it obvious when speaking – Don’t make readers have to use there brain too much. They will lose interest. Use hints, yes, but don’t make things difficult for your intended audience. 
  • Write like you’re having a good day -Try to write like you’re having a good day. Put 100% into your work to create good work. 
  • Something happens often – Something exciting needs to happen fairly often to keep the reader turning the pages. Every 250 pages minimum is a good guide to keep people interested in the story. 
  • Trends and fads – Try to avoid writing about specific trends and fads to avoid the story seeming outdated and not connecting with younger readers. Usually, there’s no need for such specifics anyway. 

I will continue to add to this checklist as I add more into my notes. Writing is indeed a learning curve and it never stops. If you think of something you feel like should be on the list or perhaps you disagree with something. Comment below and let me know. I’ll reply ASAP to your comments.

Writing Avoidances – A checklist of what not to do

When I first ventured forth into the world of writing I had a lot to learn and made a lot of mistakes. Over the past year, I have begun compiling a checklist. This is something I use as a guideline to follow when checking overdrafts. It’s quite simple, a list of things I like to make sure I avoid. Some points are what most writers would also recommend avoiding whilst other points such as ‘Offensive language’ isn’t a rule as such and many writers including myself will use certain language if they feel it’s needed as part of the story. For example, I felt that swearing in Detective Mentis added to the development of the detective and detailing for his personality. 

Feel free to print this off and use it as a guideline.

  • Unnecessary Description – Don’t describe how someone got to the door. It’s not worth the words. Leave such things to the imagination of the reader. 
  • Don’t be afraid of ‘said’ – Sometimes we feel like using ‘he said’ ‘she said’ dulls our writing. Not at all. By avoiding these you may find yourself overcomplicating writing and using unnecessary wording. 
  • Predictability – Don’t be predictable in a story, it’s just boring. Wallpaper could be skin. A lamp could be a portal to another world. 
  • Be strict – You have to be strict on yourself when writing. Cutting over the unnecessary parts and only using things that are relevant to the story and add something to the plot. It’s easy to get carried away with words if you’re not careful.  See what I mean? 
  • Bad Grammar and Punctuation – This is a given. If a reader spots any mistakes then they may not read on. Whether it takes 1 draft or 20. Make sure you keep your readers turning the page. 
  • Too many characters – If you have to keep a record of the characters you’ve used then you most likely have too many. Simplify the amount you use. Characters can play multiple roles in a story. 
  • Write for the intended audience – Keep in mind who your audience is.  There’s no point writing a story about a loveable giraffe if your audience is middle-aged adults. 
  • Characters not being unique – If you create flat, boring characters then the pillars of your story will not be able to hold the weight. 
  • Overusing speech tags – Every writer has ones that they favor. Watch how often you use them. ‘He said’ ‘She said’ are your basic speech tags.
  • Using names too often – If you mention Derick at the beginning of the paragraph you don’t need to remind people of his name 4 times over in that same paragraph. Once is plenty. 
  • Inconsistency – People’s names, behaviors, habits occupations all need to be consistent throughout your story. Don’t make Derick a salon owner and then change it to Dennis the golfer halfway through.
  • Being too experimental – It’s good to be different but don’t go so far outside of the box that you can’t even see it. Remember your audience and don’t overcomplicate the story. Different, not confusing. 
  • Character Actions – Derick is a vocal, no-nonsense character and yet he’s just kept his mouth quiet when someone had a go at him. Would Derick do that? Don’t make your readers think “Why the hell would they do that?” Characters actions need to fit.
  • Stakes need to be high – All plots have a cliffhanger or problem that needs solving but for a story to work the stakes need to be high (and make sense). Derrick isn’t going to risk his own life to save a fish, however, he would risk his own neck to save the life of his child. 
  • Backstory/memories – These are important components to add depth to characters and a storyline. However, don’t info dump. You have to weave these details in.
  • Don’t add random characters – You may have a problem in your story that has created a plot hole. Don’t take the easy route and add a character to fix the problem. That ruins the story. It might take another edit but it’ll be worth it. 
  • Offensive language – Back to what I was saying about your intending audience. Don’t swear in a kids book and don’t put gory scenes in a romance. Focus on your audience. 
  • Don’t use a simple plot – You need to make your story seem new and fresh. Like nothing that has been done before – even if it has. Without being too out of the box. You need to find a balance between simple and complicated. 
  • Don’t make it too long and wordy – Sentences should be short and to the point unless necessary. Keep an eye on your word count for your genre and only use what is relevant to your story. (The joys of editing)
  • Bad structure – Don’t put all the best bits of the story in the middle. Spread out the good bits to keep the readers going.  Again, who is your audience? 
  • Italics – Sometimes you may use italics to set something apart on the page which is fine, just don’t do it too often. No more than one line should be necessary. 
  • Don’t stereotype – Generally, you shouldn’t stereotype unless it’s obvious i.e. someone fat making a lot of noice coming down the stairs. Don’t stereotype other than in the simplect form otherwise you risk being called out by the reader and that can easily effect reputation. 

This is the checklist as it stands now but I will without a doubt add to it as and where from my writer’s notebook. The great thing about being a writer is that the learning never stops.

Meanwhile, if you think of something you feel like should be on the list or perhaps you disagree with something on the list. Comment below and let me know. I’ll reply ASAP to your comments.

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 5

Charlotte draws her attention back to the present. Lenita has disappeared. She must have been stood there for a few moments but it felt like an hour the way the dream replayed in her mind. I must tell someone. Is Charlotte’s first thought. She doesn’t care anymore if they think she’s crazy. She must tell her parents, even if it means being taken to the place where the screams come from. How did it have today’s date on it? I really must be crazy. Many thoughts are running through Charlotte’s head as she scurries towards home, hoping her parents will be there. Reaching halfway across the field, Charlotte isn’t sure why she does it but something compels her to look back. The familiar sight of Lenita is walking out of the park and speedily walking, almost jogging, straight towards Charlotte with what looks like a large kitchen knife in her left hand. Horror grips Charlotte’s heart and she runs. Her feet drive her forward to the closest place where there might be people, the new park. She isn’t the fastest runner so she knows she won’t be able to make it home or even to town before Lenita catches up with her. The park is her only option. She tries forcing thoughts of her dream and its resemblance to reality from her mind as she runs but the date on the newspaper terrifies her. Reaching the park, she tries to look for anywhere to hide other than the wooden climbing frame but she has no time and she can feel Lenita getting closer. Clambering in as quietly and quickly as possible, slight relief befalls her shoulders when she finds it empty. Crouching in the middle of the box shape, Charlotte forces her breathing to slow down as she hears footsteps crunching on the bark covered playground. This park is smaller than the old one and the footsteps are getting closer. Charlotte holds her breath and covers her mouth. 1,2,3,4,5,6. She counts in her head to stop herself from screaming in panic. The footsteps begin to sound further away and she relaxes.

Thud! 

A long, cold arm pounces through one of the gaps in the climbing frame and grabs Charlotte’s arm, causing her to hit her head on the roof. She screams in alarm and grapples at the arm, pulling at the fingers and the death hold they have on her. Somehow managing to free herself Charlotte climbs through a connecting tunnel and jumps off the climbing frame and onto the floor. Stumbling as she falls, she quickly scurries to her feet and carries her weight forward. Running as fast as she can without paying attention to where she is going. She’s most focused on getting away from the sound of the loud ‘Thump’ of the footsteps behind her. Within five minutes she runs back up to the familiar sight of the derelict park. 

“No! This can’t be happening!” 

Charlotte breathlessly shouts in a panicked acknowledgement of her dreams substantial resemblance to her current situation. Reaching the rusty slide, she stops and turns to see if Lenita is behind her. Not yet, she still has time. She looks for somewhere to hide but unlike the new park, this place is just a foundation of what it once was. Charlotte weighs her options. If she runs for home Lenita is sure to catch up with her. She could possibly make it to some of the shops on the outskirts of town but they’re a bit further out than she would feel comfortable running. Her only option is to hide, she thinks to herself as she spots a selection of shrubs to her left. 

“Charlotte?” 

Lenita’s voice floats in a wave of terror towards Charlotte’s ears. Looking up towards the sound, Lenita is walking towards her with a haunting expression of calm on her features. She still carries the knife in her hand. Charlotte tries to run but her legs are stuck as if she isn’t in control of them. She can’t drive them forward. She focuses her attention and all her efforts on trying to move her feet. They feel like stone, so heavy under their weight. Charlotte feels her fight fading and her grasp on what’s real begins to fizz into the air. 

“Lenita. Stop!” 

Charlotte shouts at the looming figure. Crying, large tears splash onto the ground in waves. 

“Why are you doing this! Please stop!” 

Lenita’s steps toward Charlotte don’t hesitate. A target in mind. She has her victim in her sights. 

“Help!” 

Charlotte looks around for help, screaming at the top of her lungs in what can only be described as a child’s plea for help but it’s too late. She feels a sudden pressure in her chest like she has been punched. Looking down, Charlotte can see the knife being forced into her chest. It takes a moment for Charlotte to feel the pain. It’s excruciating, like nothing she’s ever felt. Her life ebbs away as she tries to focus. Blood is on her hands, dripping from her fingers as she tries pulling the knife. It’s futile, Lenita is strong and pushes it further in, forcing Charlotte to fall back on the ground. Her mind becomes filled with a fog. Things begin to darken. Vaguely aware that someone is knelt over her she focuses her attention. Lenita is looming over her. Her cold eyes are focused on Charlotte’s as if sucking the energy from her. Charlotte begins to feel tired. She can smell death and decay. She can also smell iron as a taste of metal fills her mouth. The last thing Charlotte remembers is the feeling of silky hair on her face as Lenita whispers in her ear. 

“My turn”

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 6

“Girl commits suicide in abandoned playground” The newspaper header would read. 

“Parents reported Charlotte Evans missing after three days without an appearance. After an afternoon of searching, police find the decaying corpse in an old playground next to a dilapidated slide. The single stab wound was categorised as being self-inflicted due to the lack of evidence and the young girl’s previously diagnosed problems. Parents are distraught over the loss of their daughter. School friends of the deceased, Dorothy, Hannah and Tony tell of Charlotte’s creative and beautiful personality” 

The article became front page news that week. Charlotte’s parents made sure to keep a clipping of their 5-minute fame for future boasting opportunities whilst the girls that bullied Charlotte became more popular for being able to tell so many stories of the girl who committed suicide.

Charlotte’s life and death became nothing more than a leaf in the breeze. There was never any mention of Lenita, the blonde girl with no teeth. If anyone had taken the time they would have noticed other newspaper articles with worryingly similar characteristics. One tells of two boys who committed suicide in an abandoned house, three towns over. Nobody ever knew of the others, just like they never knew the truth in Charlotte’s sad ending, and with Charlotte’s death, the stories end.

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 4

Three weeks later and Charlotte’s nightmares and everyday eventualities continue in her life. Dorothy, Hannah, and Tony have been creative with their most recent advances on Charlotte. Most recently, they tricked a fellow ridiculed victim into punching Charlotte every time she walked past, and, as a result, Charlotte has an impressive purple/black bruise on her upper arm. Yet another thing to hide from her parents. Meanwhile, her parents continue their ignorance of Charlotte while Charlotte continues hiding her nightmares.

She is still dreaming about the playground, it forms in her head like broken glass. She can’t yet figure out the order the dream is meant to be in but she can picture each section of it in her mind. It always begins at the playground, she pictures waking up with blood on her hands. There’s a ghostly figure or presence that she can feel but can never fully make out the features of, she knows she’s scared of it though as there’s a lot of running in the dream. She also hears things. Boys laughing and shouting at her. The part she can remember the most detail of is the same thing that forces her awake. Someone or something stabs her in the chest with a knife, this part feels scarily realistic. Charlotte can feel the pain as the knife slides into her chest, she can smell her blood pouring out of her, but then everything goes dark and she always wakes up at the park.

Parts of the dream are missing and muddled up in her head, especially at the beginning. Charlotte feels like she’s losing her hold on reality. She’s pretty sure she imagined that blonde lady in the park. She still thinks of her often, more from confusion and a lack of answers. Maybe seeing that lady along with these dreams are just obvious signs of Charlotte’s poor mentality and she’s just ignoring them because she doesn’t want to end up in the Asylum. All Charlotte knows for sure is that she hasn’t seen any evidence, other than the footprint, that the lady even existed. She made sure of it, checking the local paper and even going as far as checking the public records at the Town Hall. No evidence of a mysterious blonde woman with no teeth hanging around town or the park. Charlotte has returned every afternoon to that spot, even on weekends, but she hasn’t seen any glimpse of the familiar figure.

Today is no different. It’s Saturday, Charlotte’s mother and father are out for their usual trip into town. They always dress in their finest clothing to smile and greet their neighbours and then go for lunch in the fanciest restaurant, making sure to get a seat by the window where they are seen by passers-by. Charlotte is never invited. Not like she would go even if she was. Pompous swine’s. Charlotte grumbles under her breath, kicking dirt out from under her feet, picturing her parent’s upper-class noses hovering over the heads of the just as cold-hearted townsfolk. She walks up and down the non-existent fence line of the park just like she has every day since seeing that lady. Pacing back and forth. As her legs begin to ache she is tempted to sit down but then shrugs off the feeling and continues. Afraid to sit down in case she misses sight of her. Charlotte feels drawn to her, she can’t stop thinking about her and needs to know who she is. Letting out a sigh of exasperation on her 67th lap of the playground’s edge, Charlotte stops abruptly when she reaches the spot where the lady’s footprint once was, now only a flattened level of soil can be seen. Halfway across the large open field, walking towards her is the lady.

She recognizes the way she’s walking and her blonde hair, this time it sits prominently on her front at her waistline. The wind is still today and the sun is setting. Charlotte stands motionless as the figure descends towards her. She looks as though she’s gliding rather than walking as the long tartan skirt she wears skims the floor. On her top half, she wears a white blouse tucked in. Charlotte feels a pang of jealousy as she sees the lady’s breasts bouncing under the blouse, the moment is quickly ridiculed when she remembers the woman’s lack of teeth though. Staring straight at Charlotte with no expression the woman continues her fast approach. Charlotte questions herself about whether she should stay or not but no matter her choice her legs feel rigid like stone removing from her the option to leave.

Reaching only a few feet from where Charlotte stands the lady stops, still with a lack of expression or emotion on her face. She is close enough for Charlotte to finally get a good look at her face. The first thing Charlotte notices though is, in fact, the smell. Rotten Flesh. Her mother once bought a chunk of ham from the butcher that she forgot about and left in the pantry for months. After that time, it was infested with maggots and let off an exuberant smell of decay. This beautiful jealousy invoking lady standing before Charlotte now reminds her of that smell and she breathes through her mouth to try and avoid throwing up. Other than the loss of teeth she’s seen and the retch-worthy smell. The lady is breathtakingly beautiful. More beautiful than the Barbie look-alikes at school and the models in magazines. With sunflower golden hair tumbling over her sleek shoulders. She has glossy and somewhat light undertoned skin like a china doll. Slender eyebrows sit above larger than average sparkling hazel eyes with largely defined eyelashes attached which flutter like silk threads. Set in the middle of her elongated face is a dainty button nose, either side of that sit dotted shadows of freckles, perfectly formed and symmetrical on either side of her high cheekbones. Almost like they have been painted on. Charlotte notes the plump rose colour showing through their surface. She looks like an angel. Charlotte silently acknowledges in her mind, she carries an untoward aroma of elegance and beauty cemented into her skin. However, Charlotte’s nerves feel ravaged by the arrogant imperfections she has seen on her. The lack of teeth, the smell and Charlotte can also see dirt coated fingernails on her slender hands. This angelic woman comes across as somewhat ambiguous and yet, still hasn’t spoken a word. Charlotte takes a deep breath through her mouth to avoid the stench and gives herself a moment of courage before diving into her words.

“Hello. Are you lost?” Charlotte asks in her most approachable yet guarded voice. 

A long silence fills the late afternoon air. Charlotte is about to prompt another question but she gets as far as saying ‘I’ before the woman interrupts.

“I’m Lenita. I can help you Charlotte”

Lenita’s voice is as radiant as her beauty. Soft with melodic undertones. Enough to lull Charlotte into a false sense of security. It almost makes Charlotte forget the stench until she takes a long inhale through her nose. Her stomach quivers in disgust and she bites down hard on her tongue before continuing

“You know who I am? Do you know the girls at school?” 

Charlotte’s first assumption is that she may know the gossipy girls at school. They have more than their fair share of horrid, cruel stories to tell of their antics, starring Charlotte as the main attraction.

Charlotte’s question is met with a blank stare and a smile from the young elusive. Charlotte can confirm she doesn’t have any teeth. It’s like a black hole inside her mouth, who knows where it leads. She doesn’t see a tongue in there either although how the lady is talking without either she isn’t too sure. The sight makes her take a defensive step back a little further. Charlotte can’t think of any positive reasoning why the woman wouldn’t have any teeth.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? This park is private property. You shouldn’t be here” 

Charlotte squeezes the sentence out in a single bated breath. A sure sign of her fear and impatience about this conversation and the fact that the woman knows who Charlotte is whilst Charlotte, on the other hand, is ever the more in the dark.

“I’m here to help” the woman responds.

“Help with what?” Charlotte asks begrudgingly despite being pretty sure that she doesn’t want to hear the answer.

A series of strange misconceptions happen at this point. Firstly, Charlotte notices a scar on Lenita’s face, just above her cheek close to the side of her temple. It must be no bigger than a button. She must have missed it before. It draws Charlotte’s attention because it has a strange resemblance to a butterfly. Brown in colour and faded as if old but it has the small body and wings to the side of it marked like a butterfly corpse. The second thing that happens is that Lenita takes a quick step towards Charlotte and reaches for her, causing Charlotte to stumble back to avoid her grasp. Righting herself, moments later a butterfly flutters past her eyes. Charlotte is distracted and watches the emerald green butterfly float towards the tree line behind her and disappear out of sight. As if experiencing a flashback, it reminds Charlotte of her stubborn recurring dream, it moulds the pieces back together like gluing the pieces of a smashed vase. 

Her dream begins with her walking to the abandoned park. A woman is there with blonde flowing hair and a thin, gaunt, yet beautiful figure. An enviable beauty that spikes a feeling of jealousy. The dream cuts to her running away from the woman who is walking behind her, chasing her, wearing a white dress than bounces to and fro at the knees. Charlotte runs to the new park, the closest place that there may be people. Getting there she hides in a wooden climbing frame with a roof where she finds two boys. They look of a similar age to Charlotte but they have scratches on their faces and are ghostly white with petrified faces when they see her. Charlotte tells them she’s running from the woman. The youthful boys tell her ‘Lenita is the bad one’. They then show her a newspaper article. ‘Young girl found with single stab wounds. Police referring to it as a suspected suicide” The paper is dated ’23rd August 1967″. A date that hasn’t yet been. 

Chapter 5 & 6 Available here 

Copyright 2018 

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 3

How long have I been standing here? Charlotte questions herself, partly to distract herself from the situation and partly to secure herself back into reality. It feels like a long time, she’s sure of that.

Trying her best to keep her posture and stern face, Charlotte’s body betrays her as she feels a drop of sweat trickling down her brow. Her hands are getting wetter by the second. There’s just something about this situation that is shouting at her to run but she can’t. No matter how much she thinks it, her legs and feet refuse to move. Almost as if the lady has an aura around her drawing Charlotte’s attention to her and forcing them to stare into each other eyes. If anyone happened to walk upon them at this moment she is sure they would think that they were about to fight. A crazy thought to have regarding a stranger. Charlotte has never been in a fight and hopes to keep it that way. Suddenly, wisps of blonde hair begin moving in the wind again as the lady takes a single step towards Charlotte. She stops just as quick but turns her face upwards into a smile in the process. Charlotte can’t see any pearly white teeth in her smile. In fact, she can’t see any teeth at all. Charlotte screams in a panicked breath and forces her mouth closed just as quick as she tries to hold herself together. Don’t be a stupid girl. Charlotte corrects herself in the voice of her grandmother, an intimidatingly independent woman with only a few stubborn wrinkles to show her age. If her grandmother was here right her she would push Charlotte forward and tell her that she’s being silly. Maybe this has all been a misunderstanding and the young lady just needs directions but is too afraid to approach. Enough is enough. Feeling belittled and increasingly more annoyed at this figure and her encroaching presence as well as the fearful turmoil she is creating in Charlotte’s mind. Charlotte forces her feet and marches toward the woman with vigour.

She plans on demanding why she was here but Charlotte never has a chance to ask her. When she’s just a few yards away Charlotte looks down at her wobbly feet to rectify them, when she looks up a split second later the blonde hair and all that was attached have disappeared. It was an open field and there weren’t many hiding places so unless the lady was laid down in the dirt which Charlotte highly doubted, she must have imagined her. That’s the only plausible explanation for the girls disappearing act. Wrong again though, because where the lady was stood there is now the engraved markings from her feet. 

Dumfounded, Charlotte stands in the marked footprints where the woman was and circles her head slowly trying to catch a glimpse. Even if the lady was running she would be able to see her in the open fields surrounding the park. There’s nothing though. Other than the footprint that Charlotte now skims with the sole of her shoe to make sure it’s real. There’s nothing else that would indicate she was even here just moments ago. Saves me the trouble, Charlotte’s thoughts praise her resilience. Bending her neck down to get a closer look at the footprint Charlotte places her own inside and is surprised to note that they have the same shoe size. Charlotte’s feet lack womanly properties at their rambunctious larger than average size. She’s never met any girl with the same shoe size. 

With a confused last glance towards the spot where moments earlier she recalls the details of the blonde-haired lady’s facial features and her lack of teeth, Charlotte decides it’s best to head home after this afternoon’s suspicious dilemma. 

Unbeknown to Charlotte at the time, it wouldn’t be the only time she sees the estranged woman.

Chapter 4 available here 

Copyright 2018 

Should you study writing?

Some people will tell you that courses in writing are a waste of time. The most basic and influential way of learning to be a writer is by writing and reading.  You observe and write what you see. You read and then write some more. This is the simplest way to learn and improve your skills. You learn by doing. 

So, should you study writing? Simple answer. Yes and no. It solely depends on what you’re studying and your reasons for it. Let me explain.

If you want to sharpen your tools and techniques, talk to a community filled with other writers that can, in turn, help each other to become better writers. Then studying a course may be the perfect thing for you right now. Writing courses offer a safe space to experiment and practice with the knowledge that everyone is in a similar boat. You don’t have to worry about receiving a negative reaction such as you would from friends and family. Instead, you will most likely be offered genuine advice and criticisms on how to improve. Courses are great for a pick me up or boost when you have gotten as far as you can on your own. When you get to that step that you just can’t seem to swing your leg over.

On the other hand,  writing courses aren’t great for everyone and some courses are better than others.

There is no such thing as a good writer or a bad one. Every writer is different and what someone hates about your writing, someone else will love (as long as you put your whole heart into it) so sometimes courses aren’t great for certain people. Maybe you’re picking the wrong course and it’s too limited and is teaching you how to be a certain kind of writer. Sometimes you can find yourself on a course filled with hateful people that think they’re superior. They will dumb down your work and quote books you’ve never heard of. Don’t waste your time with those people. Sometimes you may even have a crap teacher or course. It can’t be helped. 

It’s a bit of a lottery finding a perfect course for each person but the benefits are plenty in my opinion. 

So, should you study writing? Yes, when you need to learn and improve your skills with a different tool. Courses are a great place to chat with other writers and really tune into your skills. They help you become a more knowledgeable writer. Just don’t expect everything to be easy or different with your writing as soon as the course is finished. Things take time and writing is a long winding road with plenty of hidden junctions.



Charlotte’s World – Chapter 2

Six years later, Charlotte’s nightmares are more gruelling than ever. Only last week did she wake up in a farmer’s field miles from home and was chased by the angry farmer with a large rake in hand. Another time she recalls waking up and all most falling off a cliff edge into the depths below as she casually turned over whilst stretching. She’s even tried to secure herself to the bed but her mother nearly caught her tying the knots. It was too risky. If her mother catches her they will send her away where all the others go. There seemed to be no desirable ending to her situation. My life is a constant torment. Charlotte wallows in her own dark thoughts as she leaves the school grounds after another long-winded day.

Cutting through the edge of town, Charlotte scoots around the local grocery and heads around the back. This isn’t the shortest route home but she never rushes. Her mother is normally having one of her meetings or out with friends whilst her father is at work in the city. At 4 pm there’s nothing to rush home for. So, she dawdles as usual. Taking her time and heading the long way around town through the Drive-in theatre and around the new park. She would never understand the appeal of moving pictures. Her parents, like a lot of others, had grasped onto the ideals of such a thing. Most people in this small town of 2000 were now driving fancy cars and enjoying unusual hobbies. Charlotte preferred to contemplate her surroundings and read the latest inquisitive novel by her favourite writer Anthony Burgess. Twenty minutes into her dawdling routine Charlotte arrives at the old park. Unlike the town’s main park filled with in-bloom flowers and forest greens, this park was old and forgotten. When the new one was made this became washed up garbage dismissed like a mouldy bloomer.

Not long-ago Charlotte didn’t know of this place either. She woke up here one frosty morning in September last year. Her bare feet on the degraded tarmac and her head next to the rusty pole that used to hold the weight of a swing. It wasn’t until she woke up here that she remembered this place. It was squished into the back of her mind blocked off by newer memories. Waking up that morning she remembered like she was here yesterday. She could recall falling on her knees and her mother helping her up when she jumped off the swing. The feel of the wind in her hair as she whizzed around the roundabout pushed by her father. She must have been quite young at the time because her mother and father don’t have the time for her now. They sigh a lot or shrug off her presence when she’s in the room with them. They act kind towards her for appearances on behalf of other people seeing a perfect family but that’s about it. They resent her for being anything but that sparkling precious diamond. They often busy themselves with hobbies, holidays and work with Charlotte being at the bottom of that list. The silver lining on every cloud though. It made it easier for Charlotte to hide her bad dreams. Still, sometimes she found herself wishing they’d had a second child so she would at least have some company.

She had never experienced any constant with her dreams up until recently when strangely she started experiencing the same dream over and over. She can’t recall all details of the nightmare but it involves a lot of running. Running to something or from something Charlotte wasn’t to know. Sometimes she would wake up with images of blood dripping from fingers engraved in her mind. Other times she woke with a start after hearing a woman’s scream. It would take her a couple of minutes to plant her feet firmly back in reality. Sometimes her dreams were like this. Regular dreams with no set story or structure. Unlike her other dreams though this one was regular in more ways than one. Every time she awoke from it she would be at the park. This had never happened before. Due to the frequency that she had awoken at the old park the past few weeks she had started to include a visit in her afternoon routine in hopes of settling her frequent stubborn atrocities. This recurring dream was broken into fragments. Charlotte only remembers the old park being in it. She remembers running with her feet pounding on the floor. Sometimes she sees images of two figures crouched over something but she can’t figure out what. There’s always a lady in her dream as well. She knows it’s a lady by the way she walks and the way she’s shaped. It’s frustrating to remember something in pieces that you have never experienced. 

Today, Charlotte was sitting in her usual spot on the bottom of the slide – you couldn’t go down it anymore because there were no longer any ladders, just a couple of poles holding it up – when she noticed someone walking somewhat cautiously around the border of the park. Turning around the bends and following the path of the misplaced wooden planks. Only a small glimpse of what was once the park fence and gate remains. Half on the floor and coated in an unkempt thick layer of wild grass and the other half stolen by bored children or drunken men. This person was a similar height to Charlotte and around 500 yards from where she was sitting with her legs crossed, perched on the end of the slide. It certainly looked like a girl, or rather a lady. She carried herself as Charlotte had been taught.

From as young as two girls are taught how to dine with others, how to do their hair and makeup and even how to walk. All in the hopes of moulding them into sophisticated young women. It was the figures confident walk that Charlotte first spotted. A walk she made sure to do in front of others. Shoulders back, hips forward, head up. Unlike this apparent lady though, Charlotte would only ever pretend to be proper. As soon as she was on her own she would slouch her shoulders and kick her feet, scuffing her shoes on the ground like a stubborn child. Charlotte spent several minutes watching the young lady.  She had never seen anyone here at this time before. There was normally only activity here during the evenings when people would use it as a hiding place for their frowned upon or even illegal actions. Charlotte knew people frequented here because they always left a trail of discarded bottles and cigarette butts in the more secluded areas such as the box climbing frame. Now only a few bits of wood it was still enough to duck under as a shelter from the rain. 

The lady looked to be of a similar age to Charlotte’s. She was certainly no older than 18 but she had the playful air about her of an older child. Stepping over broken wood with an energetic leap rather than a womanly stride on tiptoes. Certainly not that young though. Charlotte could see her large breasts bouncing uncontrolled under her floral tunic. Charlotte had certainly never seen her before. She must be new otherwise she would have seen her at school. Unless she doesn’t go to school anymore and doesn’t attend university, but then she would be expected to be courting for a suitable husband by now at the very least. Either way, she shouldn’t be here. Green tentacles loop through Charlotte’s hair and entwine into her clothes as she watches the spindly figure bouncing around the border of the old park as if it were her own property. Laying a tactile slender hand on various posts and flowers as if marking her territory. With Daffodil coloured and exceptionally straight hair moving behind the intruder as she bounces around, she glides around the fence twice in a loop before stopping abruptly on the third time when she reaches the gap where the gate once stood. Charlotte adjusts her seated position. Grasping the edge of the slide with both hands and planting her feet firmly on the ground. She gets ready to run if she needs to. She can’t allow this lady to learn her name. Charlotte has already taken a lot of risk by staying where she is. The last thing she wants is some tattle tale going to her parents. Charlotte would be sent away before the morning rose if her mother and father found out she had been coming here. Charlotte decides she would try to run if the lady walks any closer towards her, confident that she can find a large hole on the opposite side of the playground to scurry through. The slender figure doesn’t move at all though. Not a quiver of her feet that were previously moving so elegantly in their flat white loafers or a strand of her suddenly still hair. If Charlotte hadn’t just been watching her moving she could have sworn that it was a very realistic statue. Despite being unable to see clearly, she would assume that even the lady’s large chest was still and devoid of breaths. 

Standing at the edge without a single toe on the tarmacked square of the derelict playground. The 5’7 tall figure stares straight ahead. Charlotte turns to look behind her and can only see open empty fields filled with shrivelled brown grass and the random spots of yellow weeds. Nothing obvious that would indicate the attention needed of the woman and yet she stares ahead as if watching a play or expecting the world to end before her very eyes. Charlotte’s hairs stand on her neck and she shivers despite the wind carrying a warm breeze. Charlotte is surprised that she hasn’t been noticed, she may be wearing dark clothes but she is still an obvious out of place feature in the park. Something about the mysterious presence of the woman has her courage on tenterhooks. Still, now that she’s closer she can get a better look while the woman’s attention is elsewhere. She’s around 17 years old with a freckled pale complexion and pinched red cheeks. The tunic she’s wearing is covered in vibrant florals and intricate weaving. It looks of the latest fashion. Charlotte recalls seeing something very similar in the latest teen magazine. Brown tights hug her long legs and a yellow pearl necklace hangs from her neck. Her outfit is finished with a flame orange headband in her hair just like the girls at school wear. The bullies would love her. She looks like she’s stepped off the runway and straight into her worst nightmare, so out of place is such beauty in a second-hand disregarded area of the town. Maybe aliens have brought her here. Charlotte silently tells herself off for such a ludicrous thought. Maybe she does belong in the asylum after all. The tentacles of jealousy evolve Charlotte’s aggressive side. She feels betrayed by her own sensibility. To focused on herself, Charlotte fails to notice that the woman’s eyes now focus on her. Looking up she is met with a severe gaze burrowing into her mind.

Chapter 3 available here 

Copyright 2018 

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 1

“Harlot Charlotte!”

Dorothy spits in Charlotte’s face, a wide grin on her ruby red lips like a lion ready to pounce.

Dorothy hates any moment that Charlotte is near. Her weird ways only encourage hatred in Dorothy’s perfect world. Hannah and Tony stand either side of the queen bee. Ready to join in if given the chance. Acting as personal guard dogs, hanging onto her every word. Maybe guard dogs isn’t the best descriptive of the two. They’re more scaly and sinister than that. They only follow Dorothy because they don’t meet her high standards. If they resist then she’ll find others to stand in their place and then they’ll be with Charlotte. Huddled on the floor trying to minimise her existence by pulling in her limbs, close to her body. Nobody wants that. Not even Charlotte.

Words of abuse are thrown at her 5’2 petite frame. I’m just surprised that they know the meaning of the word Harlot. Charlotte can’t help but smile at the thought.

She would assume girls like Dorothy would think it was the latest French delicatessen cheese. Her smile only aggravates the bullies, with a swift kick to her shin they leave her on the floor in a satisfying heap. Smiles holding onto their porcelain doll-like faces as they elegantly sway down the school corridor. Dorothy and her friends can be compared to well-dressed Barbie dolls that should be on stage next to the Beatles. Fashion inspired haircuts, sky high with layers of hairspray to give the most volume copied from the latest issue of ‘Teen’ magazine. Charlotte works quickly to gather her books before they are stepped on by the oncoming stampede of pupils as the bell rings to indicate next period. Besides, if she doesn’t move swiftly they will likely come back for more fun.

At 16 Charlotte’s small, boy-like figure was an easy target for her fellow high schoolers. With skin so white you could almost see through it and a lack of a womanly figure on her protruding bones. She always thought her breasts would come in at a later stage but the small forms she was given didn’t show any sign of growing. She kept her mousy brown hair short. Cut into a neat bowl style that only aggravated the torment from her peers with their beehive hair in red ribbons and headbands. She used to have hair down to her knees to hide behind. After a particularly rough week at school, Charlotte felt belittled and angry at her appearance. She insisted that her parents take her to the hairdresser that weekend. When Monday morning came around she walked through the school’s double doors with a completely new style. Walking down the school corridor with a spring in her step. People were looking at her and for once she liked the attention. That was until the bullies spotted her. Purposefully sitting behind her in class they spent the lesson throwing screwed up pieces of paper at her and calling her a boy. She ran home crying and didn’t go back to school for 3 weeks. Now she must hide in other ways. Hats are useful but the teachers force her to take them off in class. She tries her best to be invisible. Dressing in dark simple clothes. Wearing scarves and hats even in Summer. Anything to help her hide. Sometimes it works. Sometimes she could go a whole day with only a few words said to her. Other days she wasn’t so lucky. Today was a particularly bad day. So far, she’d had her hair pulled, her shin kicked, paper was thrown at her and now she’s just been spat on for little more than minding her own business.

Picking up the last of her books off the floor Charlotte asks herself why she bothers but she already knows the answer. Despite all this. Charlotte would invite the torment. The clothes she wore to hide were in fact covered in holes and carried a second-hand stink of musk. She wore next to no makeup and wouldn’t follow the latest fashions. It wasn’t just the pupils that didn’t like her. People in the streets hated her mysteriousness. Her unpredictability. To anyone that didn’t know her she was a dangerous entity. An awkward presence containing a whirlwind of the unknown. People hated the unknown. They crave chronic stability and routine. Charlotte didn’t meet these standards. Strangers certainly wouldn’t spit on her like the bullies but what they did was worse in some ways. They looked at her like she was dirt. They would drag their toddlers to the other side of the street to avoid walking near her. She was the cigarette butt flattened into the dirty sidewalk. The lamppost with a broken light that will never be fixed. They pretended she didn’t exist. She knew she didn’t help herself. She could buy the latest clothes or smile at strangers but she was always too focused on her own fear. The hurtful words only allowed her the ability to remind herself that she was alive today. To Charlotte, her daily life was heaven. It was sweet and delightful. Every morning when she woke up was a relief. The only problem was figuring out where she was. The night was her enemy. You see Charlotte was plagued by nightmares. Terrible nightmares. Not your usual monsters or aliens. But instead, of serial killers on murdering sprees hunting their next victim or mental patients breaking out of a ward and killing children. Not unusual you may think. Everyone has nightmares, but again, you’re wrong. You see Charlotte was never the victim in her nightmares. She was always the one stabbing people until they stopped breathing. She could feel the warmth of their blood dripping down her fingers. She could hear the blood-curdling screams of children as they cried for their mothers to help them. They always seemed so very real in Charlotte’s head. Nightmares she couldn’t escape from. The worst part of it was that she would wake up somewhere else. Different to her soft bed. Sometimes soft like sand or grass. Other times hard like stone. Never in the same place and never where she fell asleep.

It first began when Charlotte was only 10. Her Mother and Father were quick to notice. walking through the door in the early hours of the morning wearing her frilly nightdress and a layer of dirt. Her Mother spent hours cleaning the house while Father was at the office. If one speck was out of place she would know about it. Charlotte wasn’t surprised when her mother rang Doctor Sanders. He was lost for words at first but after a lot of phone calls with other important Doctors, he told Mother that it may be Dissociative Identity Disorder. Charlotte always knew she wasn’t normal but by mother’s reaction when the doctors explained to her what her disorder is, well, let’s just say Charlotte didn’t feel normal anymore. Around here people don’t talk about the crazy folk in the asylum. They were a taboo subject that was too daring to form on people’s lips. If you talk about the crazies you risked being called crazy yourself. Charlotte didn’t want to go there. She’d heard terrible stories about people who were more dead than alive wandering through endless white corridors, covered in their own feces and urine. She wasn’t one of them and she made sure to convince the doctor and her parents otherwise. She told them she was happy and that her nightmares had stopped recently. After a lot of convincing she was allowed to stay. From that point on Charlotte did her best to act normal so they wouldn’t send her away to that place. Her head of the wives’ club sophisticated mother made sure Charlotte’s ‘disease’ was kept a secret. They carried on being perfect and Charlotte carried on having nightmares, only she didn’t tell anyone about them anymore.

Copyright 2018 

Chapter 2 Available here

How to be a writer – Pick up a pen

Let’s talk about being a writer. You see recently I’ve been doing some studies that focus on writing fiction, as a means to develop my knowledge.  One of the first things we were asked to do on this course is to introduce ourselves. My introduction went as follows: 

“Excited to get going on this course! I’m still very much an amateur writer but I suppose you will always be learning and therefore always an amateur. I have a website www.charlie-wright.co.uk where I share short stories, advice, and guidance as well as other social links. Follow me! Would love some writing friends”

Of course, I had to promote myself, that was a given but I share this not for the promotion but the common sense. ‘Always an amateur’, this one statement peeked interest with a few including myself. I said it off the top of my head but when I read back it makes perfect sense. 

I’m surrounded by doubts, worries, people never thinking they’re good enough. People always striving to improve. Take note ‘improve’. You never stop learning and the term ‘amateur’ refers to inexperience, but everyone is inexperienced in some way otherwise there would be no room to improve, am I right? So, why beat yourself up about not being good enough? There is no highest level or top pedestal to reach so why do we do it? Strange post, I know. I would just like to put that thought in your head the next time you start beating yourself up about not doing enough. I’m not saying I don’t have these thoughts by any means. I have plenty of worries and doubts thanks to an anxiety problem but I don’t let that stop me.

You’re always an amateur. Always learning something new, always striving too improve. So why hold yourself back and limit yourself? I’m not excepting you to write a novel or jump off a cliff ski diving but too just except that you can never be perfect. Perfection is an impossibility. 

So, to any writers out there. Stop worrying about messing up and your work not being good enough. Write what you want to write and stop blaming writer’s block everytime you get ‘stuck’ with doubts. 

Want to be a writer? Then pick up a pen and write. 

Detective Mentis – Chapter 5

Another long day. Mentis collapses on the armchair. Once a place that he sort-out comfort and relaxation. Stress now sits comfortably on his temples. He’s aged considerably in the last 6 months. Silver Whiskers along his hairline have become snake-like tendrils through his balding head. His favourite radio show has gone unlistened for months. Mentis doesn’t recall the last time he ate some proper grub. Still, he needed to lose some weight. He could make money selling this new diet, he could call it the ‘Detective Doom Diet’ – ‘The stress of an endless case will have you dropping pounds in days’ 

Hell, he’s disillusion. Mentis gives himself a stern acknowledgment of his stupidity with a hoarse grunt just as he would if he was toning down Stinton’s anxieties. Something he’s had to do regularly over recent months. The horrors they all saw and helped drag up out the muddy depths hit a nerve with everyone in a way. Stinton more than most. He’s already been up for a psyche evaluation. Fortunately, he passed it. Since then though, the Cheif has had Mentis watch over him, as a mentor somewhat. Something that Mentis would prefer to avoid the duty of but he wouldn’t leave the lanky kid with Erickson instead. Besides, if he looks after the kid then it keeps Erickson at arm’s length.

For the most part, Erickson is putting in the effort. He’s filing some paperwork and even doing a lot of the questioning. On the one hand, it gives Mentis more time to focus on tracking the killer whilst Erickson gathers the evidence. On the other hand, Mentis feels he would do a better job and may pick on a few things that Erickson would miss in his questions. 

The phone lets out it’s annoying shrill and Mentis hurries to answer it. 

“Yes?” 

The other end of the line is quiet in response. Mentis hangs up the phone assuming it’s some kid with his friends pranking random numbers, he used to be one of them when he was a wee one. There’s a niggling feeling despite what he tells himself though. A whisper of the idea with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the killer he’s searching for could be the one ringing him. 

He shuns the idea to the side and locks it away but it’s not enough. In the morning he unplugs the phone, just in case. He has a mobile if it’s an emergency anyway. He can’t have any distractions today. 

************************************************************************************************************************************************

Later that morning, with paper in hand, Mentis steps up to the podium and gives his speech. He looks upon the many people in black, their mournful faces. Parents, friends, siblings, aunts, uncles, even a few pets. One of which, a rowdy Chihuahua, sits proudly on its owner’s lap, barking once in a while for attention.  73 in total. 73 families pulled apart in grief. They’ll never be the same again. Sure, many will pretend to move on but there will always be those lingering stares when people recognize them or a look too long at the front door, hoping for their loved ones to return knowing even then that they never will again. Mentis hated his job at times. This occasion was the top of his list. 

The service is meant as a consolation. The bodies were…investigated over the months which delayed any planned burials. When the bodies have been poked, prodded and digested they were finally allowed to be buried in peace. As much peace as can be had after the ordeal each went through. His words are prompt, professional. A lot of apologies and sorry for your losses. He doesn’t say anything about the killer or the fact that they haven’t found him. When his speech his done. He sits next to Stinton and stares at the ground while they finish the service. Blocking out the cries of the mother three rows back who breaks down in the middle of the service and screams her son’s name in heartfelt anguish.

In that moment he made a decision to himself. He would find the person responsible for these deaths even if it killed him. A decision he never thought would come around. 

Copyright 2018 

Chapter 6 coming soon.