Suspense – a writing exercise


I don’t know what the hell the shop at my back sold, but its windows’ steel shutters were cold to lean against, and the concrete sill dug deep into my butt. I’d be numb if I had to stay there much longer. But if I as much as twitched, the sensor above and to the left of me would light up the whole shop front like stage lights.

It was a hell of a night to be stuck like a statue. Chilly—probably a frost coming in. Wet—a slight sprinkle with heavier rain a definite probability. Clothing—absolutely useless for the job.

From my damp and cold position I could see both of them—she, leaning against a lamp post three metres along from the restaurant door over the road; and he, hidden in the dark, half sitting on the window sill of the fashion boutique diagonally across the intersection from me.

I knew he couldn’t see me. A large planter was butted against the shop wall beside the window, its tall, full shrubbery hiding me from his view. There were just enough gaps that I, right there beside it, could see his position. Every so often a pin-point of red, glowing at the end of his cigarette, assured me he was still there, after seventy-two minutes.

She knew where each of us was. She was counting on me, and dreading any move he made. Her job was to wait until the Brit left the restaurant and approach him before my marked man intervened.

I knew she was armed. Her silly little hand gun would be tucked in her left knee-high fashionable boot. Being ambidextrous, but mostly using her right hand for everything except fighting, gave her a fractional moment’s advantage should she need it—which she often did. God knows where she kept her stiletto.

My peripheral vision caught flickering sparks from his fag butt as he tossed it down. He moved away from the wall, by about a half-step.

With a sudden rush of chatter and clatter, the restaurant doors swung out into the entry. The doorman stepped out and latched them open as the inner door glided closed, shutting off the brief sound of diners having a good time. That was appropriate—no one in my sight was going to have a good time for much longer.

The doorman stood with a shoulder tucked behind the edge of one door, his back to the man who had silently moved further to stand in the far gutter. The Brit and his minders came from the lobby and stood waiting for their ride. One minder at each shoulder, they ignored the doorman, who knew better than to look at them.

She had already straightened up and stood away from her lamp-post. She grabbed her shoulder tote and slung it on her right as she moved towards them, a gentle sway of her hips suggesting a less than honourable job.

One minder spotted her. He moved from behind the Brit and around to stand in front of him, already on his toes, his knees relaxed, and shoulders balanced ready to go. His shoulders’ tension was an easy tell. This one meant business.

She raised her hand—just a simple flex of her wrist. He relaxed back onto his heels and eased his shoulders.

She continued towards them, the strap of her shoulder tote now wrapped firmly in her right wrist. As she reached a point where the minder’s bulk blocked our man’s vision—he was now halfway across the three-lane road—she raised one finger from the strap.

The minder moved only an eyebrow—up, down—acknowledging her warning.

Aversion – Show Don’t Tell Exercise


Daniel’s girlfriend caught on to his family’s expectations of Mrs Smith’s cooking while joining them in the dining room, all awaiting the bearer of the platters. The family drew out their chairs and sat. Sue and Daniel were the last to arrive.

She was quick of eye and caught many a surreptitious ‘sniff’ as she sat to Daniel’s left. After each one around the table had inhaled the not too pleasant odours from the kitchen, the conversation around the table died to an awkward silence, filled only with the quiet shuffle of fidgeting.

Mr. Smith’s reaction to the test of the approaching flavours was to pull in his chair tight against the table’s edge, as he pulled from his pocket a tube of peppermints. He sat bolt upright, avoiding everyone’s eyes.

Sue noted Daniel hooked his right ankle around the chair leg of Amy, the youngest daughter, beside him. On Amy’s other side, another brother had her far chair leg also hooked by an ankle.

Peter’s shoulders had slumped, and Rosie’s head was drooping. Thomas rose from his chair and fetched two more salt and pepper sets and another pot of mustard. Mister Smith motioned to Joanna, who began pouring and passing glasses of water. Large glasses.

The younger Peter passed around the paper napkin dispenser, and Sue noted how they all took at least three.

Daniel gripped her hand, and whispered “Don’t worry. It’ll be alright.”

Why?


Written at March meeting

August’s 250-word opinion piece


Should We Borrow or Hire a Novel?

[Redacted]Public Library should cease charging for “borrowing” Adult Popular Fiction (including paperbacks), of $2.00 for up to three weeks. Currently, each book—if constantly on loan for its maximum time allowed—will bring in $104 in its “shelf life” of three years. Multiply that by the number of books in this section!

This is tantamount to changing the function of public libraries from service to income generator. Adults should not have to pay for hiring a fictional novel.

From the RDC Annual Reports for the financial year 2014-5, the District Library failed to reach its performance target measures in all three parts.

  1. The percentage of the population being members of the library for 2014-5 was 59% (target was 60%) a drop of 0.6% against the 2013-4 year
  2. The percentage of households using the library during 2014-5 was 68% (target was 75%), equal to 2013-4; but below 2011-2 and 2012-3
  3. The percentage of residents ‘Very Satisfied’ or ‘Fairly Satisfied’ with the library was 84% (target was 84%)
  4. Another 16% answered ‘Don’t Know’ (does that mean ‘Don’t use it’?). 2014-5 was the same as 2013-4.

I asked our Library five questions to gather statistics, but received no response. Reluctance? Something to hide?
I now use our library when I want nonfiction, as I refuse to pay a fee for what should be a public service. Perhaps a city-wide boycott of Adult Fiction would force a rethink—maybe a change.


The Brief:

Write 200-250 words expressing your opinion about a topic of your choice.                             Have you persuaded your reader to your point of view or call for action?


Appendix: Not as part of the homework writing…
Before writing this, I had been advised that Adult Fiction was $3 for 3 weeks, with “Hot Picks” rented out at $5. This appalled me (hence I cancelled my membership).

Since removing into temporary premises, (and after writing the above) I’ve been advised Adult Fiction is now free to borrow, with “Hot Picks and DVDs hired out at $3, and Magazines hired out at a fee ranging from) 0.50c to $3 (depending on how long ago the magazine was added to the shelf).

See  actual statistics drawn from the [Redacted] District Council Annual Report 2014-2015
page 37

Level of service
Performance measure
Target for 2014/15
Achievement
Comments
Achievement for 2013/14
Library readily accessible to residents and visitors for the purpose of information gathering, education and recreation.
60% of the population are members of the library
60%
59%
Target substantially achieved. …
59.6%
75% of households which have used the library in the last 12 months.*
75%
68%
Same result as the previous financial year, but still at levels below the 2011/12 and 2012/13 financial years. …
68%
85% of residents are very/fairly satisfied with the level of service.
85%
84%
Target substantially achieved with 16% responding with “Don’t Know”.
Of those responding to the survey who had used the library in the last 12 months,97% were satisfied with the service.
81%

0

Off the Page July’s homework


“I need to go now.” She reached across the sofa for her handbag, fumbling to grab its straps.

“Now? You’ve twenty minutes before the bus comes.” The tea towel in his hands twisted in a knot, his hands winding and unwinding it. “Can you wait?”

Looking through the pouches of the bag, checking without seeing its contents, her side vision caught them both reflected in the mirror. She couldn’t look—at it, or at him. “It’s a nice morning. I’ll walk to the next stop.”

“About last night. I want…“ He turned away, threw the tea towel into the kitchen. Head down, he rummaged in the baggy pockets of his old cargo pants—a cigarette packet. He drew out a half-smoked fag and the lighter.

“Don’t light up inside.” He wouldn’t, but it was something to say. She groped through her bag, as she groped through her mind for the words needed. Nothing came.

From opposite sides of the room—the space between empty with its minimalistic décor, as empty as each felt—they faced each other, not looking.

“Let’s just pretend last night didn’t happen. It won’t happen again.”

She walked out, touching the new bruise on her eye.


The Brief:

Show a relationship between two characters using Subtext – what’s not said or told, what’s not in the lines, but between the lines.

Off the page – 200-word june homework


The brief: 200 word suspense…1st prsn, or 3rd restricted; no reveal
Suspense can be thought of as generated by the deliberate withholding of information from a reader through the strategic use of point of view.”  Spend some time writing a first person, or third-person restricted, narrative where you lead your reader on but refuse to divulge the full picture of what is actually going on.


The lights are off, inside the building and out in the car park. This place is so familiar I don’t need them. I tighten my grip on the handles of my bag, and feel to check I’ve left the desktop as clear after my rummaging as it’d been when I arrived.

One small chink of keys in my pocket is the only sound. My tread is silent as I cross the room. At the first door, as I place my hand on its handle I remember one hinge squeaks. I work a mouthful of spit, and dribble onto the one at waist height. 

The handle makes no sound, the hinge is silent. I slip through and make sure the door doesn’t ‘clunk’ as it’s forced closed by the fitting above. Across the linoleum floor I feel the cold through my socks. The outer door opens without a sound. I slip my feet into my shoes waiting at the door sill. I get the keys from my right pocket, and lock the door again.

It’s cold, a frost. The night’s black, stars a bright contrast. Cold air stings my lungs, drowns the traffic noise. No-one will know. A sound alarm? Pff!

© Lynne McAnulty-Street, Rotorua NZ, 2016

Off the page – 200-word homework, May ’16


I chose this bach at the end of the beach road after watching for two nights and a day – no lights, no movement, no one living here. A perfect hiding place, its porch faced the headland away from neighbouring baches – just right for recuperation in seclusion from prying eyes. This first night, all I needed was sleep. I’d break the door lock in the morning, after the neighbour took his skiff out for fishing.

I sprawled on the floor. The cotton rug was too scratchy, so I slung it onto the narrow bench-seat. The wooden planks of the partially closed in verandah were cooler to lie on – soothing to aches, bruises, scratches and burns in the summer night’s heat. I started relaxing into sleep almost immediately.

A peculiar feeling, like an ever expanding cold tingle, stirred me wide awake. It crawled over me, my neck, shoulders, back… wrapping me in a creepy prickling sensation. I should have been alone, but I wasn’t. I listened through the blackness.

A snuffling noise. I rolled over and under the bench, pulling the rug back down over me. The click of nails on steps. Damn! The dog had followed me from the crash site!

Off the Page – 200 word homework


There’s something about Douglas Archer…I can’t quite put my finger on anything in particular…it’s just— Things don’t add up. He wears a wedding ring on a cord around his neck, but his house— Have you been inside? Nothing lady-like, feminine. No photos of any woman at all. No frilly touches. How long’s he been here?

That’s eight years more than me, and I still don’t know him. Oh, we talk. At the tea rooms when we sit together over a scone and a shared pot. Always in green corduroys, even in summer. And that green… checky-type… flat cap. Doesn’t  take it off, ever.

But I always get a funny feeling whenever I see him…not up close, but when he’s like, on the other side of the road, or way across the supermarket… It’s like – I’ve known him before. Curious that, cause he’s never mentioned any towns or villages I’ve been. Anyway, enough about “Ginger Head”. Glasses like owl eyes.

What’re  you reading? Oh, I know that magazine. From Scotland? Yes, off you go. I’ll have a quick flick through it while you’re “occupied”.

Oo, Murderer’s Son Looking For Father. I remember that case – Archie McDougal. Old photograph…

…Oh! Ooh!!

_____________

Written as a 200-word homework piece, given the brief to provide background to a character, either Ruth McLean or Douglas Archer, and using the word “curious”, for the April meeting.
The latest 200-word homework piece is at the dedicated page here at my site.