Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Annie pulls the rabbit out of the hat

Misdirection: the art of distracting the audience while you perform your 'secret move'.

 Annie presented her story, The Knife Edge on June 22. There was so much to praise and yet the game of ‘punctuation-pedantry’ (in which members of the Severn Valley Authors could represent Great Britain) was still enthusiastically pursued. Happily, the suggestions regarding: comma splices, hyphenation and use of inverted commas failed to detract from our enthusiasm for what was a top-notch tale.

The story was an ostensibly simple one with a young male protagonist, Jay, who lives a ‘sink’ life where his only escape is found at the bottom of an adhesive-smeared crisp packet. He finds a role-model who trusts him but, as the story progresses, the reader’s heart sinks when it appears Jay is going to betray his new friend and backslide into his old solvent-addicted life. Annie gave us a sympathetic character, provided him with a route out of drug-abuse and appeared to be dashing our hopes that he would take it.

Happily, Annie put a twist in the tail. In an uplifting final scene, Jay, is using the stolen solvent to save the day. ‘He had chosen a different way to make himself heard.’

When, as a reader, you have been misdirected so convincingly it becomes important to re-read the story and see how the author did it. In this case, it was necessary for Jay to break some rules and abuse the trust of his friend to put his redemption plan into action. We were set on the path of believing he was back on the slippery slope. Some clever ambiguous phrases and words opened us to the interpretation that solvent abuse was the answer to Jay’s problems and he needed it to ‘erase’ events from his mind. Annie was misdirecting us to insert the word ‘abuse’ into our interpretation. Jay’s real intention, as revealed in the final paragraphs, was to use the solvent for its proper purpose – a crucial, emergency cleaning job – this was Annie’s ‘secret move’.

So an excellent job by Annie, with some truly innovative and memorable similes. The consensus was that The Knife Edge is a potential competition winner.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Eleventh Hour

The Burning Fence Festival

It is not the passing of the years that ages a man but the surrendering of his ideals.

And as I read Tony's submission 'The Burning Fence Festival' I was reminded of the above quote. Tony's story centres around a man who was too poor to go to music festivals during his youth. In later life when he did have enough money to go it seemed that it was too uncomfortable and the that the idea of queuing for a lavatory was intolerable. The queuing is the easy bit so I've heard.

The protagonist's daughter convinces him to hold his own festival in his garden. It was interesting that no reference was made as to whether our character was discussing the subject with his son or daughter but the group all wrongly assumed he was talking to his son.

The festival is a great success and the climax to the evening is the garden fence burning down.

Linda described the story as a light read that was a gentle family piece. Rob stated that this was Tony at his wistful best. Chris thought it was pleasing writing but did have a little moan about the words 'nice' and 'nicely' as he thought they had been over-used. I was thrilled that at long last there was a climax.

The was a long debate about whether it should be 'oblivious of' or 'oblivious to'. Tony was later to clarify this will the following information. The usual preposition following this word is of (oblivious of the people around her), though to is sometimes used, especially with inanimate nouns (oblivious to the difficulties). Purists have objected to the use of oblivious to mean 'unaware', but this sense is now common and widely accepted.

Everyone agreed that the dialogue at the end of the story was excellent - both well paced and humorous. A very enjoyable piece Tony.