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Unreliable Third

Write a fragment of a story from the POV of an unreliable narrator – third-person limited (or attached) narration.

Wordcount: 500 (+/- 10%)

Notes:
Usually, an unreliable narration is spoken in first person, so what happens when you give us a slightly detached, yet still unreliable narration? (Think Hitchock’s movie Stage Fright) In third person unreliable narration, the readers will believe more of the lies, so see if you can present a deceptive character’s perceptions as what he/she believes or wants to believe. You have to both believe the lie and show it to be a lie.

it’s a bit too long really… I’m going to go back and have another couple of goes at some of them, but I’m posting my first efforts anyway!

Helen smiles at George and tries to ignore the little frown lines around his mouth. He is trying to make her a better person, and it is working – slowly, but it is working.

She turns back to her ironing, standing up straight, ensuring that her back is elegantly poised and her shoulders are not slouched. He hates slouching, but only because he doesn’t want her to get backache. He only slouches himself because of his own back trouble, and he doesn’t want Helen to suffer the way he does. After all, he couldn’t afford for them both to visit the masseuse.

He turns the television up a little higher. He’s forgotten that she hates this show, hates the presenter. He wouldn’t have put it on if he had remembered, but she forgives him, because he’s just trying to relax. He’s been working late, it’s not his fault his job is so stressful. She’s grateful his secretary is such a sweet girl, always so obliging, staying late at work so he doesn’t have to make the phone calls himself. Jeannie. A lovely girl. She even calls Helen herself when George is working late, so that George can get on with things and be home a little earlier. Jeannie is such a pretty thing, she could be a model, but George says she prefers to do something useful with her life.

Helen folds up the last shirt with care as the programme finally finishes and places it in the pile of ironing. George harrumphs and hauls himself up from the settee. There’s a faraway look in his eye that reminds Helen of their honeymoon. She’s about to say something when he catches her eye and frowns again.

“I’m going to bed.” His voice is gruff, but that’s just his way. She knows he loves her. She’s sure that tonight when she goes up he’ll be waiting for her, not turned away and snoring as he has been recently. He’s just been tired, and she can’t blame him for that.

“Can you…?” She gestures towards the pile of ironing, but he puts a hand in the small of his back and grimaces.

“Can’t. Back trouble.”

His terseness can’t cover up the fact that he’s still miles away, looking past her at some memory that softens his expression and reminds her of the man she fell in love with.

She’s sure now that he’s remembering their honeymoon, and once he’s gone up the stairs she starts to bustle about, getting everything quickly tidied away so that her beloved won’t have to wait for long.

She tries not to move too quickly when he is in the same room – she knows he gets irritated when she makes a noise. It’s not his fault – he has sensitive ears. That’s why they rarely have music on. It’s something to do with the beat or the pitch or – Helen doesn’t really understand, but she loves him and she can listen while he’s at work. The neighbours won’t tell.

There’s more to do than she had thought, and she doesn’t want to leave anything untidy. George probably won’t be up before her in the morning, but if he is he won’t want to be tripping over things. It only takes a few minutes, but George is so tired, and when she pushes open the bedroom door he’s snoring. She sighs. She’s disappointed, but not surprised. He’s been working late. Jeannie told her so. Maybe at the weekend he won’t be so tired.

He’s only doing it for her, working himself into the ground so that she can stay in all day and not have to work. He loves her. She knows he loves her. She’s sure of it. She is.

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http://3amepiphanyproject.blogspot.com/

Write a fragment of a story that is made up entirely of imperative commands, e.g. “Do this; do that; contemplate the rear end of the woman who is walking out of your life.” This exercise will be a sort of second-person narration.

Wordcount: 500 (+/- 10%)

The Headmistress

“Stop! You there, stop running immediately. Come here. Tell me your name.”

Steel yourself. Don’t imagine this will be over quickly.

“Call me Fonzie.”

Try not to roll your eyes as she inspects you more closely, and don’t be surprised when your clever remark doesn’t get a laugh.

“Don’t be funny with me, boy. And don’t be fooled that you won’t be punished for your impertinence. Call yourself what you like, but don’t imagine it’ll make a difference.”

Hide your smirk beneath a frown. Try not to imagine the kudos the others will give you for making her turn that delightful shade of puce.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you. And don’t scowl. If you think that’s clever, well, think again!”

Don’t rise to the bait. Remember that one day you’ll leave.

“And while I’m on the subject, bring in your homework tomorrow. Don’t be late, and don’t keep the class waiting. Have some respect for your fellow students!”

One day – oh don’t forget that one day the harridan will be old and grey. Imagine it.

“I could be talking to a brick wall – if there’s anything going on in that head of yours, knock once for yes!”

Ignore her cruel laughter. Bite your tongue, it doesn’t do to answer back, so think – but don’t say it out loud.

“Go on, dream away. Dream your life away! Look at me and try to work out if I care whether you succeed or not.”

Oh, go away and die!

“And tell me, boy, what is your mother thinking sending you out looking like that? Let her iron your clothes, at least.”

Try to forget that you have no mother to clean up after you. Try to forget that this woman knows it as well as you do. Ball your hands into fists in your pockets, dig your nails into your palms, do whatever it takes. Just don’t show her she can hurt you.

Wait… wait… be sure the harangue is over before you try and step away. Watch for the sharply indrawn breath. Heed the narrowing eyes. Don’t be fooled by the short silence. Don’t think it’s over when it’s hardly begun.

Wait…

“Come with me.”

Follow her down the corridor and shrug. Pretend not to notice the looks of pity from the older boys. Pretend not to react to the gestures of encouragement and defiance your friends make as you pass. Pretend not to care.

Follow in silence as she enters the office. Sit down, and act as if nothing’s wrong.

“Stand up. Don’t sit down unless I tell you to!”

Stand up as slowly as you dare. Act nonchalant. Try to ignore the implements of punishment and the glow in her eyes as she stares at them.

“Bring me the birch cane.”

Ignore the hiss of triumph in her voice.

Die, bitch.

Wait for the hiss of the cane as it whips through the air, and brace yourself as best you can.

Resign yourself to the inevitable, and comfort yourself by plotting her downfall.

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You may, if you’re a writer type, have come across this blog: http://3amepiphanyproject.blogspot.com/

Me being, well, me, I didn’t find out about it till I was already behind and then I have been bad at finding time to actually take the dratted challenges.

BUT. I will nonetheless post those I DO complete here!

Hope you enjoy…

Reluctant I

Write a first person story in which you use the first person pronoun (I, me or my) only two times. Keep the ‘I’ somehow important to the narrative you are constructing. The point is to imagine a narrator who is less interested in himself than in what he is observing.

Wordcount: 600 (+/- 10%)

Now frankly, I think I can do a better job than this, and may well try it again.

But here’s my first effort.

Don’t Get Caught

Don’t get caught. The best advice an old thief can give, and the old thieves are the ones to heed. It’s easy to say, less easy to do, especially when the guards are coming and the lock picks just aren’t working. It’s a time to consider whether this is a good life path. The door is very ornate, very imposing, and very solid. Wood may seem old fashioned, but when it’s centuries old oak it might as well be cast iron. Coupled with an unexpected state of the art lock it is impregnable to the opportunist thief.

A kick only results in a sore toe and a muffled swearword. Being found isn’t an option – this is not the time to get caught, that’s for sure. The windows on either side of the corridor are starting to look more tempting; falling twenty feet seems a better alternative than having my kidneys used as bongos.

The imposing pillars that line the corridor also provide a little cover for anyone trying to open the window. It’s a small comfort, but in this situation it’s better than nothing. The latch is, naturally, sealed shut, but it is less of an obstacle than the heavy wood of the uncooperative door.

The task is a fiddly one, but doable. The voices are getting closer, but obviously these guards are more easily fooled than some. Doubling back or hiding in a cupboard would seem amateur to an amateur, but in the right situation it can provide those few extra moments to evade capture.

The window finally opens with a noise that could be interpreted as a sigh of relief by those of a fanciful nature. The night air is cold but welcome, like a scent of freedom on the wind.

The drop is enough to give pause, but only for a moment. Whoever designed the gardens planted a shrubbery for this very purpose, or at least never considered a flower bed under the window a security risk. They were foolish, but they earn a quick murmur of gratitude.

Edging out through the window and onto the ledge is the easy part: closing the window again from outside is more difficult. Clearly the architect was less fond of criminals than the gardeners are. It’s necessary, another ruse to give a few moments before the escape route becomes clear to those in pursuit. All those moments add up, eventually equaling a successful getaway.

It’s impossible to close the window entirely. A rush job will have to do. So far these guards have not proven the most observant, and it might just be enough.

Decision: wait and hope they don’t notice the window is ajar, or risk them hearing the rustle of the greenery below? The chill breeze makes the decision – even the stupidest guard will have more trouble ignoring a draught.

At arms length hanging from the ledge the ground still seems a long way away, but it is too late to second guess. Footsteps which have been getting steadily closer for five minutes are now too close to ignore.

A deep breath, a reluctant unclasping of fingertips, and the deed is done. A bush doesn’t provide much cushioning, but it’s better than the cold hard ground. Bruises will have to be ignored for now, a stealthy creep through the shadows stands between me and freedom. The gardener has earned his thanks with an avenue of trees that provide excellent cover, and the outer walls are no barrier to one experienced in burglary.

A moment to brush off the leaves, and a thief becomes an ordinary citizen emerging from an alleyway into the light. Hiding in plain view is another trick the old thieves will teach the young. It’s one of the best ways of following their favourite piece of advice. What was that again? Don’t be afraid to ask – a proud thief is a dead thief in this city.

But always remember. It’s simple. Don’t get caught.

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