Title-less tales and twisting plots: an autumnal Readaround – 28 October 2020

‘Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans’ said John Lennon. Certainly for myself, there has been plenty of ‘life’ happening when I was planning for a full year of AWC meetings. A brief reprieve allowed the chance to join the Autumn Readaround evening on Zoom. After everyone checked in with each other, Ajay gave his apologies as he had other commitments – life doing its thing again – and he left once the blogger was found. Jeanette took up the reins and proceeded to steer all of us through the next two and a bit hours of delight.

Eight of us had material to share so Jeanette shook the magic bag and sorted us into our numerical running order.

Linda B took the lead with her piece of flash fiction – Dandy for The Underworld (apt title for time of year). Linda treated us to an entertaining account of a concerned partner ‘nagging’ her beloved as he drunkenly mused on his perceived failing career. Little snippets such as the trademark feather boa hinted to the flamboyant personality behind the wheel being Metal Guru himself – T-Rex, before the reveal as the story concludes with his fatal crash. How can she cut out sixty words to make this – what we considered faultless – piece worthy of SAW entry? Perhaps make it first person was the general advice.

Linda H kept up the pace with her untitled story of teenager Dylan’s lust for his best friend’s mother. Her use of dialogue captured characters and the realistic situation perfectly – particularly around room cleaning and family engagement (or not) – which kindled memories of some participants’ own teenage son’s behaviours. The general feedback was this is a piece definitely worth taking further.

Demaris then took us back to rural Umbria with another chapter from her collection. We were lead through layers of emotion and left with some tantalising morsels of detail as The Verdict told of Renaldo’s guilt and confusion – did he truly kill his fellow hunter by accident? His wife’s very typically Italian frank support, with Renaldo’s use of the table’s condiments for demonstration, left us with some hope of a happy ending.

Nigel brought us to tea-break with his tale from a family funeral. We all agreed that he had the recipe for a good read with his setting, strong characters and potential for cliff-hangers and twists. As his intention is to work this into a longer piece, Nigel asked does it leave us wanting more? There was a resounding yes across the squares!

After replenishing cups, glasses and catch-ups we reconvened for part two. Then Samhain Spirits were definitely warming up for Saturday’s Halloween as technical issues stole Maggie from us and gave double Marion. We were not deterred and proceeded with Fiona giving results of the Scottish Article Competition. Well done to all those who made submissions and congratulations to the winners – it sounded a tough call for adjudicator Gill Sherry to choose her placings as all entries were of a high standard.

Anne then read a chapter extract from her novel in progress – about the murder of Emma Howard. She asked if the pace and descriptions gave a good portrayal of her character Gordon. We were in no doubt of his deliberate, repetitive, observant nature and hooked by the emerging twist and final cliff-hanger. The only suggestion was in the detail of what glass would be used for Gordon’s tipple – surely a tumbler rather than a goblet?

I was up next. As time was racing on, I swapped my initial piece of non-fiction which was just over the 1,000 word limit for a piece of flash fiction. This was the reworking of a short story however the mischievous technical witches were back and I ended up with the full version instead. Top Tip – reading faster when you are visually challenged is not a good idea. Cake with conflict is centred around a trio of sisters – visualise Keeping up appearances – making arrangements for their Mother’s funeral service with a little help from the kindly Deacon. Lots of helpful feedback was given – watch out for those rolling eyes, no need to be so descriptive with actions and focus more on strengths of good dialogue and characterisations. All was gratefully received and has been duly noted.

Marion concluded our read-around session and asked if we would prefer a children’s or adult short story. The latter won the vote. The lucky strip is a humorous tale of making the most of an opportunity. A confident designer uses the chance of stumbling into the launch of Scotland’s new football strip by making a few ‘helpful’ suggestions. Marion’s research paid dividends as her attention to detail brought the story to life and gave it validity – particularly the addition of a ticket shaped pocket to the new the Scottish fan’s football strip.

And so the Autumnal Readaround came to a close. In good Halloween tradition – we had a few tricks played on us but the evening gave many, many treats. Thank you once again to Ajay, Jeanette and all who took part.

Joanne Bailey

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