Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Westwich Writers Club. 7

At ten o'clock, Stephen got up from his word processor and made coffee. The program had been open for forty minutes but the new page was still blank. He had already made a forced start by saving the page with the title, Sir Montague's Squire, Chapter One, but that hadn't been enough to tempt the first faltering words of the novel from his fingertips.

Stephen swore in frustration, it had all seemed so clear in the car. Now the time had come to get it written up, he couldn't think of a way to begin. He had never believed in writer's block but now he was almost convinced of it.

He made more coffee and stared at the screen. Thirty minutes later he made a sandwich, watched an episode of Blackadder, sorted the recycle bin for collection the next day, then settled down in front of the computer again.

He consulted Sol Stein and his namesake Stephen King, for their thoughts on opening chapters, but found no solution. Eventually he decided to do a little background work to see if that could inspire him.

Stephen opened his notebook and jotted down a few of the ideas he had thought about when driving home. He decided that the last chapter could remain pretty much the same, the new twist in the plot would come from the introduction of a completely new character.

He scribbled down a few character traits and a brief description, then built a short history of the new man's life. It was not something he had done before, he normally liked to 'go with the flow' and let situations arise rather than plan them meticulously. He'd had many an argument with his creative writer tutor over the issue. 'Planning is the key,' she used to nag. He decided he had nothing to lose by giving it a shot.

Stephen began to make a list of background information. He had just written out the list of main characters when he heard a gentle tap on his door. When he opened it, he found Charlie on the landing holding a mug in front of her.

'Hi, Stephen, sorry about the time. I saw your light was on. I don't suppose you could let me have a drop of milk could you? I've been on the afternoon shift and by the time I got to the shop they had sold out.'

'It's always a cup of sugar on the estate,' laughed Stephen.

'Yuk,' said Charlie. 'Chocolate is the only sweet stuff this girl would borrow and I'd want it in a wrapper, not a mug.'

'I could run to a chocolate digestive.'

Charlie made the sign of the cross.

'Get thee behind me, Satan. Don't you dare tempt me, I lost weight on safari, I intend to keep it off.'

'You looked fine before you went,' grinned Stephen. 'Is now a good time to try it on?'

'You missed your chance last night, Buster,' said Charlie. 'I'm shattered. It's my first day back at work. I should have organised it so I had the rest of the week off.'

'You've just had a month off,' laughed Stephen. 'If you aren't unwound by now you never will be.'

'It's hard work on safari I'll have you know. Anyway, we were two nurses down on my team today so we had to cover for them.'

Stephen fetched a carton of milk from the fridge.

'There you go, what are you having, Horlicks?'

'I won't need Horlicks tonight; I could sleep on a clothesline. Thanks for this; I'll repay you twice over... Ooh, that reminds me, I've got something for you.'

Charlie skipped across the landing and came back with a large photographic print.

'This is to say thanks for dinner last night.'

Stephen studied the photograph.

'A lioness with her kill. What a fabulous shot. Thanks Charlie, I'll get a frame for this.'

'You're very welcome.'

Charlie held a hand to her mouth and yawned.

'Right, bed for me, see you over the weekend. I'm staying at mum's tomorrow night.'

Charlie stretched to kiss his cheek but Stephen put his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. His lips brushed against hers, then he kissed her again, this time more urgently.

Charlie put her hands on his chest, then slipped them around his back.

'That's more like it, you're getting the message at last.'

'I thought you were tired,' whispered Stephen.

'I am, dog tired, so don't go trying to take advantage, Mister.'

'I wouldn't dream of it.'

'That's a shame,' said Charlie, wistfully. 'I dream of it quite often.'

She opened the door, stepped onto the landing, then turned and blew him a kiss.

'Goodnight, Sir Galahad. See you over the weekend.'

Stephen returned to the screen and willed his fingers to type, but nothing appeared on the page. He scratched his head and decided to try another tack.

'Just write anything,' he told himself. 'It doesn't have to make sense, just get something on the page.'

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep...

'Where the hell did that come from?' he laughed.

Stephen closed his eyes, within moments the picture of Charlie's lioness standing over its prey came to him.

'Got it,' he cried. He began to type, slowly at first, but the speed built up as the idea took shape.

The white wolf stood in the snow covered clearing and howled at the winter moon. Beneath his feet lay dinner, its spilled blood still warm. The pack circled the Alpha male, eyeing the meal, their turn would come, but only after the leader had eaten. One of the younger pups darted forward impatiently but was put in its place with an ill tempered snarl.

The white wolf dug its teeth into the carcass, ripping through its strange fur. There wasn't much meat on the creature, but enough to keep them alive for another few days. The winter had been savage and pack numbers had dwindled. Farmers had taken their sheep and cattle into pens and were guarding them through the night hours.

The carcass was a good find, they hadn't had to use up precious energy chasing it down. The wolf's powerful jaws snapped through ribs like they were rotten twigs, his teeth found the heart of the creature and gripped it firmly. He pulled hard and dragged the still warm organ from its host and held the dripping trophy aloft. After a few seconds he took his prize aside, lay on the snow and began to eat. At this signal, the rest of the pack fell onto the carcass, one pulled away part of an arm while another feasted on genitalia. Within an hour there was nothing but a pile of gnawed bones and a few tattered rags.

Below, on the plain, four men cleaned their bloody swords in the snow, wrapped their cloaks around themselves and headed towards Durberry Castle to claim their reward.

When he next looked up it was three o'clock. Stephen was tired, but elated. He now had the first two thousand words of his novel. He saved the document, turned off the lights and went to bed with a smile on his face.

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