Writing is a constant learning process.
I recently took part in J Thorn’s Supercharge Your Scene 5-day challenge. Along with the instruction from J, this challenge involved writing a scene (or short story). He presented us with a number of prompts and suggested we pick one in a genre we don’t normally write or read (because stepping outside comfort zones is a great way to learn).
The one that drew my attention was the Western prompt, and the end result is The Hangman. I’m not sure how well it ‘works’ (according to J’s teaching), with much of the ‘action’ left to the imagination, but overall I’m pleased with it. For something that could have become very dark, I think there’s a lot of hope in this story.
You can read The Hangman here.
And, in case you’re interested, this is the prompt, which I used word for word as the opening to the story:
The hangman took down the body from the gallows. It was the third execution Sheriff Sands had ordered this week—three more than all of last year.
This story was another one that started life as an exercise in free-writing (writing whatever came to mind, with no plan). For ages, I wasn’t sure where it was going, and it was only when I returned to it recently that I added the last few lines, then the first few—and the story made some kind of sense.
At least, I think it does.
Decide for yourself. Bugs is free to read here.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Just add a comment after the story.
There’s a classic study from 1972 where children were presented with a small marshmallow. They were offered a choice— eat it straight away or hold off for a short time. If they waited they were rewarded with a large marshmallow. Further studies seemed to indicate that those children who were better able to wait would later perform better in SATS tests, and would ultimately be more ‘successful’ in life.
But it’s not only children who struggle with delayed gratification. Too often, we all want something good straight away, grabbing what we can in the moment. Sometimes it’s hard to take that step back and view each situation subjectively.
This idea rears its head in my latest short story, Payment. It’s also influenced by the Raymond Chandler books I’ve been reading recently (partly as research for a new project I’m working on, and partly because I enjoy his writing).
You can read Payment here. As always, I’d love to hear what you think of it.
Another free story for you. The idea for this one, The Long Way Round, came to me while ironing (strange, the places the mind wanders when plodding along). It’s not as dark as my usual stories, so if you’re looking for a lighter read, this could be just what you’re looking for.
You can read The Long Way Round here. And as a reminder, I have four collections of short stories in ebook form, for those who prefer to read on an e-reader. Click here for links to these books.
Since the start of this year, I’ve been listening to the fiction short-story podcast The Other Stories. The team behind it (Hawk & Cleaver) describe the stories as ‘A modern take on The Twilight Zone, Tales From The Crypt, or The Outer Limits. Sci-Fi, Horror, Thriller, WTF stories’, which is what I aim for with quite a few of my stories.
Their stories are arranged in short seasons, each with a separate theme, and I’ve considered submitting stories a few times. But with everything else I’m working on, I haven’t completed one in time.
I have the start of a few stories, though, and I’ve gone back to one of these, based on the theme of ‘trophy hunters’. That story might have missed the podcast deadline, but you can read the finished Trophy Hunters here.
And if listening to a new creepy short story each week appeals, check out The Other Stories.
I don’t want to say much about this story. It’s obviously influenced by things that are happening in the world at the moment (although the idea came to me while watching Opeth’s Universal Truth video), and it’s more of a viginette than a short story.
You can read In The Dark here.
The fourth and final part of the short-story sequence What Goes Around is now out.
It’s called It Takes A Steady Hand, and probably works best if you’ve read the previous three parts (Get The Right One, Always A Silver Lining, and No Return). It also features the first appearance of a character who has been mentioned a great deal in the Dominions novels and stories (including the first of these short stories, The Job.)
It almost feels like I’ve had a plan for Dominions right from the start!
Anyway, you can read It Takes A Steady Hand here (and the previous parts of What Goes Around by clicking on the titles above). As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
The third part of this short-story sequence is called No Return, and after the lighter feel of the second part, we’re back to darkness. This story focuses on the assassinated girl’s father, and he’s not a nice person.
To read No Return (What Goes Around, Part 3), click here. And if you want to go back to the previous stories, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
(If you haven’t read Part 1, Get The Right One, you can read it here).
The second part of What Goes Around is Always A Silver Lining. It’s a bit more light-hearted than a lot of my stories (if a story about a dead body can ever be light-hearted), a little moment of release between the other darker, more serious parts.
You can read Always A Silver Lining here. And, as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
This story’s part of something I’ve wanted to try for a while now.
I enjoy reading books in a series, but cliffhangers between books frustrate me. In my own series, I’ve always aimed for each book to tell its own story, while also being part of a larger story, told over the whole series.
And I wondered if I could write a series of short stories in the same way—each one its own thing, but all connected.
I’ve done something similar before, with For Blood (I) and For Blood (II), but that was one event viewed from two different sides. But now, I have a series of four stories, under the title What Goes Around. They’re set in the world of Dominions, and this first story, Get The Right One, is another tale of Rodin. He prides himself on always fulfilling a contract, and he’ll pay close attention to the wording, too. Even if that means he has to look past the obvious.
You can read Get The Right One (What Goes Around, part 1) here.