ShutUp30.30: 30 Days of Writing


Write a story, in 100 words.

Lorna wanted to go on a journey, so she stood at the junction and stuck out her hand. The car that stopped was not the one she wanted to stop; tatty but chintzy, it was driven by the kind of old woman who tugged a shopping cart up the high street and smiled at pigeons. Did she want to go home, asked the woman? I have no home, Lorna said, gazing out of the passenger-side window.

Instead, the kindly woman found her a new home, with a room of her own. They brought her home-cooked food, in between her clients.

ShutUp30.29: What is Plot Anyway?


Today’s task was to write one sentence plot summaries of movies, and then one of my own work in progress. It feels like a bit of a cop-out, but here’s my one sentence.

After a client is shot and killed on her watch, a young woman is forced to leave her home and go in search of the voices in her head.

ShutUp30.28: Burial Grounds


Write a death scene for the prompt “surrounded by family”.

Edith leaned back on the mauve armchair in the corner of the sitting room. The springs had gone back when it still lived in the back room at number 56, before her older sister Maud had passed. Lucky that she weighed so little these days, and had so little extra flesh to be troubled by the lumps and bumps, she thought. Silver lining to everything. That’s our Edith.

The lace curtains were drawn, but through the crack in them she could see kids straggling home from school, uniforms already askew with the promise of freedom. Tyler would be about their age, she thought, though he was slight and small, still a boy. It had been too long, she thought. He’ll walk through the door all of six foot eight, sprouting hair everywhere, you’ll see. She couldn’t wait to see him. He’s a good lad.

Victoria wanted to be called Tori. With an “I” at the end, to distinguish her from the political party. Edith didn’t let on that she had been voting Conservative for years. Who else was there to vote for? In between her job and her political friends, Victoria didn’t come around half as much as Edith would have liked.

The mantelpiece clocked ticked gently in its chrome-effect case. Edith felt her eyes begin to close. 5 o’clock, she’d said they were coming. Already a quarter to six. They’d ring the doorbell when they got here. No harm if she slept until then.

When Victoria did arrive, Edith could no longer be woken.

ShutUp30.27: We All Have ‘Em


Write about three fears.

Ever since I was young and learned that to journey is to find yourself, I’ve been afraid that if I grow roots, I’ll never be free again. This fear causes me to avoid activities such as marriage, childbirth and mortgages. While I’m curious about what would happen if I faced my fear, I’m bereft of a partner in crime. Men, it turns out, can smell fear.

I am afraid that nobody will notice that I’m here, and that I have all sorts of ideas. Writing allows me to calm the fuzzy muddle of competing theories, yearnings and self-beliefs, to smooth them into something resembling my smooth unblemished surface. But what if nobody’s listening? What if nobody sees me?

I worry that, even after all my struggles, when I burst to the surface, gasping for air with which to give life to my words, my ideas, my truth, it will be found wanting. How derivative, they’ll say. What a load of cobblers. To think she spent years writing this twaddle, when she could have been down the pub. This, of course, is the one that keeps me from doing.

ShutUp30.26: Don’t Be a Stranger


Write a bio of yourself at an earlier stage of your life.


What is she passionate about?

Spiller’s Records, and the big laminated book that lets her order Fugazi records for nothing.

What is her morning ritual?

Staying in bed until the absolute latest that will allow her to walk into morning registration in the final minute.

Is she close with her family?

Close but emotionally reticent. Believes that feelings are a kind of private shame.

What is her favourite holiday? Why?

Staying at home while her parents go away, because it’s almost like being a grown-up.

What does she fear the most?

That she’ll be stuck here forever. That there will always be school. That there will always be predators, never subject to the rules of adulthood.

What is her worst memory?

The predators, and the time they wrote an ironic poem about how ‘beautiful’ she was. They sent it to a local DJ, who dutifully read it out. Oh, how they cackled. There’s a part of her that hates that DJ.

What are her goals?

To go far.

ShutUp30.25: Say My Name


Animate the inanimate. Answer the following questions as if you were that object.

How old are you?

I am five years and four months old, although I was formed before I was named and awakened.

How do you feel right now?

Sporadically depressed. Partially leaned upon. Overdue an update.

Tell me about your childhood.

They kept me in the dark most of the time. When I was let out of the warehouse, it was always with somebody different. They always wanted to know how I was doing. Was I OK? Was everything in working order? Nobody ever told me what that actually meant, so I just sat there, blinking, until they put me back.

What is your favourite memory?

Seeing her smile as she made me hers and only hers. Being there for her. Netflix and chilling with her.

What are your hobbies?

Sometimes, when she’s really been gone a long time, I play Spider Solitaire. Then I have to spend a couple of days losing, to get the scores back down.

What scares you?

The blue screen of death.

Where do you live?

I’m semi-itinerant, although less so these days. My stamina is not what it used to be. I still make a point of touring the kitchen table, the living room kotatsu table (whose name is Taro), and the sofa.

What do you do for work?

Translate taps into pixels; move pixels; store agglomerations of pixels.

What was your new years resolution?

Cut down on blue light after sunset.

Tell me two truths and a lie.

1    0    3.

What would be an ideal vacation?

A southern island, a long white beach, an isolated collection of beach huts. Looking up at her as she sips an iced coffee. Listening to the sound of the waves. Going into sleep mode with her.

Make a wish.

That she would figure out how to install the latest Windows update.

ShutUp30.24: Black or White


Choose a character. Put them in a moral dilemma and see what they do.

It’s the morning of big sis’s big day, and I can’t sleep in spite of the wine we’d shared the night before. We’d shared butterflies, too, and perhaps that’s why I was so restless. You told me how, every time you heard the word “forever”, your insides went on a spin cycle. Best get it out of your system before the ceremony, we joked. But it scares me too, truth to tell. Even watching someone else go through it.

After four and a half hours of tossing and turning, trying different positions in the unfamiliar double bed, I turned to my usual solace, and went for a run. It was dark enough that nobody would spot that I was sweating into my PJs. Besides, it’s not like anyone in Keswick knew who I was. Perhaps I would go down in local legend. The Pyjama Poltergeist of Derwentwater.

I turned left out of the hotel and jogged past the Cumberland Pencil Museum, feeling the crisp night air between my ribs. I kept to the main road, not wanting to become headline news for getting lost, or, well, worse. It wasn’t long before I hit the bypass road, so I turned south to run along the lake road. A faint pinkish light was beginning to illuminate the gloom.

I hadn’t gone far when I saw him. He was standing in the car park of a rustic lodge, set back a little from the waterfront. Even with this tall skinny girl’s tongue down his throat, I knew him. Ben, our groom, my sister’s intended. He needed to be with his parents tonight, he’d said; from tomorrow, they’d be together forever.

This goodbye was lasting too long for me to believe it could be final.

I stood in the shadows, shivering a little as my heart slowed, until she got into her car and – kiss through the window, some hand-holding, another kiss – finally drove off. Which left me, cold and in the dark in my pyjamas, wondering what to do. I had no idea who the girl was. If my sister found out, it would break her heart. Mum would be inconsolable.

One option: confront Ben.

After he’d left the car park, a solitary light had appeared on the second floor, three rooms across from the reception area. There was no movement on the ground floor of the hotel, but when I pushed the front door it swung gently inwards.

I padded up the stairs and along the corridor to the third door. Light spilled out around the sides. I knocked, twice.

Feet padded to the door and paused, long enough for him to realise that it was too dark to see through the spy hole. The door opened.

“Jessie?” said Ben, desperately moderating shock to surprise. “What are you… what are you wearing? It’s 5 in the morning. Come on in, for god’s sake.” I did.

“What do you… Are you cold?” he said, reaching for a hoodie draped over a chair back. I shook my head.

“Ben, I saw you,” I said. “I know what you did.”

His body seemed to tumble. Before he could fall, he sat down heavily on the side of the bed, and put his head in his hands.

“What happens next?” he said, looking up at her, head still hung low.

“All this time, and you two were-” Jessie choked. “All I want to know is, all this time, why not me?”