I got to thinking about killing Hitler this morning – not in a real world sense, of course, but a conversation about the Christmas armistice of World War One got my creative juices flowing. I think there is some comedy to be mined in that scenario.
I am slowly plodding along with my challenge tales, but this week has been mostly about the mystery of Last Chance Lagoon. The only trouble is that it has now bloated to over 1100 words, which is a wee bit longer than I had anticipated it would be. Still, every story is fluid until you put a cap on it, so I won’t stress too much about it. And if it wants (or needs) to grow from there, all I can do is put the words down.
The other two are still moving forward, although not with the same fervour. Juggling several pieces at once is bound to have its ebbs and flows, so I’m not worried about it. This time next week it would not surprise me if the words were coming thick and fast for one of the others.
Word count – 3,700
Strawberry Spring is told as a flashback tale about the murder spree at a college in the late sixties, as experienced through the eyes of one of the students.
This short story surprised me – not with the twist, because I saw that coming a mile away – but with the accomplished manner in which it has been written, given that this was originally published when King was only twenty-one.
It’s one of those stories where it doesn’t matter if you can see you ending before it happens, because predictability is not necessarily a bad thing. If it is written well – and this is – then you just have to stand up and applaud the work, and this is one of the best entries I have read so far in Night Shift.
Word count – 9,700
There is an interesting idea buried in here about reincarnation, but it takes so very long to get to anything interesting in Sometimes They Come Back that it’s already an uphill battle to win my attention over, and it never manages to do it.
The second act is fine and the most involving part of the story, but it is flanked by a beginning that takes forever to get where it is going, and an end that doesn’t really pay off what has happened before.
This is the halfway point of Night Shift, and although the entries have been mostly positive so far, Sometimes They Come Back is a let down – not least of all because they managed to make a trilogy of movies out of it. It is one of the longest entries so far in this collection and certainly one of the weaker ones.
Not Recommended ⇓
The three challenge stories I am doing for the household – that I talked about several weeks ago – are well underway, and should probably all come in as flash fiction.
The Fiancée© decided upon a thriller with the word cave as inspiration. Her tale is called Tites Go Down (although I’m really not impressed with that title, and it will probably change). It currently sits at just over 600 words. I quite like it, but I’m not sure the kids are going to enjoy what happens in the story to them!
Daughter went with the word lake and wanted a mystery… so that’s what she is getting. Her tale is about 600 words and is called Last Chance Lagoon. I’m enjoying this one too and at this early stage it feels like it may end up being the best of the three.
Son went for a drama with the word equality. I initially struggled getting some traction with this one because it is such a broad genre and – dare I say it – a bland word to use. But that was what I was given, so I won’t shirk the challenge. Monochromatic is currently around 500 words.
I have decided to give myself a Christmas Day deadline for these three stories. I can print them out and save myself a few quid on gifts.
Word count – 6,200
Trucks is about a bunch of autonomous – yes, you guessed it… trucks. The story is set entirely in a rest stop after the trucks have taken control of the surroundings and are keeping the patrons as their playthings.
There’s not much going on in Trucks, and we never find out why the vehicles have suddenly become sentient – not that it matters, I guess. Sometimes keeping the mystery is fine, and let’s face it: any explanation would probably sound like bullshit anyway, so why bother trying, right?
The story picks up in the second half, as the survivors decide on the best course of action, but this never really clicks the way I would like it to, or indeed the way that it should. I think if King wrote this ten years later it would be a much better piece, but as it stands it’s only just passable.
With this little writing challenge I set myself a couple of weeks ago I reckon I have stumbled upon a trifecta of (potentially) good stories. It may take some time to get them done, especially at this busy time of year, but perhaps I will stick them under the tree and offer them up as Christmas gifts.
Admittedly, the stories took a while to get to where I wanted them to go, but I now have a clear direction for each of them and it’s just a case of joining the dots and finding the picture that they make.
My biggest hurdle will be once I present the final products, because I can see the narratives putting a few noses out of joint in my closed audience.
It’s fiction, people. Try to remember that.
Word count – 3,600
Battleground is a simple idea, as the best short stories often are. A hitman finds a mysterious package has been delivered to his apartment, and when he opens it he discovers it is filled with a platoon of toy soldiers who are out to kill him for the job he has just done.
It’s all action, all the way, and there is little room to catch your breath. There is next to no character development, and not much in the way of a backstory, but it really doesn’t matter, because it’s just so damn cool.
Battleground is the best story I have read from Night Shift so far. There would perhaps be an argument that at its brief length it reaches its conclusion far too quickly, but that is a minor quibble in an otherwise very strong entry for this anthology.