How Ideas Die on the Tongue

Just a short post today, but one with a very important message!

As writers we spend a lot of time thinking. Thinking about characters. Thinking about setting. Thinking about plot. But a lot of this early thinking will usually be focused on ideas. We think of something interesting and then we go about our daily lives, still thinking about and expanding on this initial idea.

Then, it will usually go one of three ways:

  1. The idea turns out to be a dead end. We abandon it and move on to the next interesting idea.
  2. The idea turns out to be really good. We incorporate it into our project or create a whole new project around this idea. It becomes something exciting. Exciting enough to write about.
  3. We think the idea is so great, so utterly ingenious, that we have to share it with someone. Against our better judgement, we corner a loved one or a friend and we flood their ears with our primordial, unspoken idea.

Continue reading

7 Deadly Perils of… Underplanning

Time to kick off another brand new series!

‘7 Deadly Perils’ is going to be a series of short, snappy posts about different aspects of writing and the seven possible pitfalls/disasters that you may encounter. The aim is to try to give you some useful advice in an easily digestible format. When working through my novel-in-progress I tend to come across various problems/ideas/thoughts all at the same time, depending on what I’m currently focusing on. The want to be able to share all that stuff with you while it’s still fresh in my mind is what led to this series’ creation.

So, I hope you find what is about to follow useful. Once I have a couple of these ‘episodes’ out there, I may even compile them together under their own category.

7 Deadly Perils of… Underplanning

  1. You will lose your way.
    Sensible Side of Your Brain: Buddy, I think we should turn back. We probably took a wrong turn somewhere back there.
    Stupid Side of Your Brain: No! If we keep going straight through this field, we’ll get there quicker!
  2. The purpose of your story will not be clear.
    Gandalf: You must carry this burden, Frodo Baggins. You must destroy the ring.
    Frodo: Uhh, why?
    Gandalf: Honestly? I have no idea. Probably just so it’s not left lying around.
  3. You will make things up. These things will not make sense.
    And then he was falling; falling to his death. But then a dragon swooped in and caught him on its back. ‘Phew!’ the walrus said. ‘That was a close one!’
  4. Your plot will lack cohesion and depth.
    I don’t have a piece of comedy gold for this one. Just say the words ‘cohesion’ and ‘depth’ over and over while gently caressing your half-finished manuscript.
  5. Your characters will be Pinocchios.
    Character: I’m a real boy!
    Reader: No you’re not, get back in your cardboard box… the same cardboard from which you are made!
    Character: Nooooooo! *sob sob*
  6. Your story will have no believable conflict. Your characters will experience no inner conflict.
  7. You will give up.
    Author: Well, this story about a magical wizard school and the boy who goes there isn’t going anywhere. Time to consign it to the bin. I’m gonna write a story about casual vacancies… whatever they are!

Next Time: 7 Deadly Perils of… Overplanning!

Getting the Best From Your Characters

If you write fantasy fiction (or at least read it) you’ll be familiar with the trend of having multiple viewpoint characters. It’s become such a part of fantasy, that we almost come to expect it when we pick up a new book. As writers, this can be a blessing… but it can also be a curse. You see, every time you add a viewpoint to your novel, you divide the reader’s emotions, thereby making your job 2/3/4x harder. That’s the theory at least.

Want to know what I think? I think a writer’s job is only as difficult as he chooses to make it. If you start off planning your novel and throwing in characters left, right and centre then you’re going to have a hard time. Characters should be carefully considered before even making it into your plan, let alone your actual first draft. If you add a character whenever you feel like it, you’ll soon end up swamped and having to contend with dozens of potential plot threads.

Think of it like this: every character equals a new story to tell. Every character equals a chance that you’ll lose your readers. But if you think of those two sentences together, you’ll soon start to see how you create an effective character. It’s all about the story.

Take a look at your characters. Now ask yourself some questions. What is that character’s story? What do they have to do with the main plot? What will they/do they actually do in your book? Too many times I have created characters who just seem to be there for the sake of it; characters who don’t have their own story but instead piggyback on the main character’s.

Here’s an example for you…

Robin Hood steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He loves the Maid Marian but has to contend with the evil Sheriff of Nottingham for her affections.

Now, what if we also had Little John as a viewpoint character?

Little John is Robin’s friend and greatest ally. As Robin and his Merry Men plot to defeat the Sheriff of Nottingham once and for all, Little John must ready the men for battle.

Meh. Kinda boring, isn’t it? I mean, what are we going to get from Little John that we don’t get from Robin Hood? Maybe a few scenes focusing on the battle tactics and training of the Merry Men, but that’s it. So what if we gave the character some depth. What if we gave him his own story?

Little John has been with Robin Hood since the beginning. But as he readies the Merry Men for a daring raid on Nottingham to end the Sheriffs reign of terror, something preys on John’s mind. A son he had thought dead almost a decade ago has been sighted in Nottingham under the care of a corrupt friar named Tuck. If John is to reunite with his son and win his affections, he will need to convince Tuck to side with Robin’s men in their righteous struggle.

Ok, it’s not great, but you get the idea. Give each of your characters a purpose and a perspective all of their own. In reality, our lives don’t all revolve around, say, President Obama, the Queen or the astronauts up in the ISS just because they’re deemed important. We all have our own stuff going on. Make sure your characters do too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. How do you develop your characters? Got any tips to share?

It’s not a race… It’s a marathon

Something I learned just recently, which has changed my approach to writing for the better, was the idea that writing a piece of fiction is not a race. For years, I was competing to write my novel as quickly as possible in order to get it out the door and sell. But it doesn’t work quite like that (at least, not for us amateurs). No… writing is a marathon, you see. It isn’t so much a question of when you finish, but a game of seeing if you even can finish.

When you’re rushing your writing, you rarely have a chance to pause and actually enjoy what you’re doing. Characters don’t develop in your head, so much as splat onto the page in a bloody mess of literary abandon. Plot lines become knotted abominations, settings broken and/or bland and your own mood takes on a dark, savage quality. In short, you are no longer writer and story; you are now raving madman and word-scramble.

The greatest thing you can do for yourself as a writer is to take time over what you are doing. The time you might think you’ll be saving yourself writing the first draft will come for payback, doubling, trebling even, when you come to re-drafting, IF you rush! Who cares how many words you wrote today, or yesterday, or last week? Is your story moving along? Are your characters developing? If so, what have you got to worry about?

As an old friend of mine said recently, everyone has time to write at least 100 words every day. Whether you bash them out on your phone while waiting for a train, or on a scrap of paper during a boring meeting, or even on a napkin (a NAPKIN, dammit!) while you’re knocking back your morning Starbucks… *pause for breath*… it doesn’t really matter.

Oh, and if you think you need to get your story written and out in the world ASAP because you might get hit by a bus next week, I have these pearls of wisdom for you:

  1. There’s more of a chance agents/publishers will reject you if you’ve rushed your manuscript.
  2. Your manuscript probably isn’t that good anyway (no offence, but let’s be honest with ourselves).
  3. What do you care if people read your story or not once you’re dead? Just relax and have fun haunting that guy at work you don’t like!

In all seriousness, though, just enjoy your writing. When you’re having fun, your best work will come through.

Writing 1K a Day

If you’ve ever had a go at writing fiction, short story, flash fic, full-blown novel or otherwise, you’ll know how difficult it can be to maintain a good pace. By that, I mean it’s not only hard to write something every day, but also to write enough every time you put pen to paper/fingers to keyboard. I know I struggle with both and for the last six months (at least) I haven’t really been that serious about my writing. Various events are to account for this (birth of my son, getting married, getting a new job) and, when I realised that, I gave myself some slack.

But now I am back in the saddle and ready to write. And not just write, but write and FINISH a novel. I know, right? Who would have thought I hadn’t ever achieved that in twelve-ish years of writing. Continue reading

Fiction Friday: The Story – End of Part One

I’ve decided that we’ll leave the first part of our story on a cliffhanger. We’ll resume with Part Two sometime after Christmas. Well done Lauraducky for your chosen entry (and for giving us a great mystery to solve)!

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

* * *

~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

‘You have come a long way, boy,’ the knight said. ‘Beset by enemies at every turn and hunted by those who desire your power.’

Aleks could feel Naia’s fear. He kept his blade between him and this stranger. ‘And you?’ he said. ‘Do you also desire it?’

The knight laughed and it sounded like a swarm of locusts cutting through a desert. ‘What I desire is none of your concern. What the Knights desire, however, will soon become apparent.’

Naia put a protective arm in front of Aleks, shooting the knight a dangerous look. ‘Tell us what to do,’ she said. ‘Tell me what you need.’

The Knight chuckled malevolently. His deep voice didn’t quite fit with the surroundings, as if he didn’t exist. Maybe he didn’t, Aleks thought desperately. Maybe this was all a hallucination. Then he looked at Naia’s frightened face and decided otherwise. He could never dream that up.

He looked back at the Knight. The Knight opened his mouth as if to shout, though Aleks could hear nothing. Naia, however, doubled over as in pain. Her hearing was far beyond that of a normal human. Aleks realised that the Knight was calling the other Knights, and a shiver of fear ran up his spine. Escape was impossible now.

An instant later, the full troop of knights stood before them in gleaming armour. They looked so similar that Aleks could no longer distinguish the first one from the rest of them. There were twelve of them in all, standing motionless before them.

Naia sucked in a deep breath. “Knights of the Last World,” she said. “Give us your demands so that we may give our answer.”

End of Part One

The Importance of Being Competitive

Do you like what I did with the title there?

Nah, I didn’t think it was that good either…

Today I want to talk about writing competitions and how important they are to a fledgling writer. It’s sometimes as easy as Googling “writing competitions”, but other times you’ll only hear about them by word of mouth.

I’ll start by giving you a list of current competitions that you can enter:

  • Fish Publishing – These guys run four competitions annually, including a Short Story and Flash Fiction competition. It’s judged by renowned poets and authors and the prize is pretty good.
  • Writers’ Forum – This site runs a monthly short story contest. It’s a reputable site and well worth a look.
  • Whidbey Writing Competition – A contest based in the USA, but open worldwide. You can write about anything and for any audience.
  • Cazart – You can enter short stories or flash fiction, you can swear and it’s £5 to enter. It’s open throughout 2012 each month, so get over and have a look!
  • Flash 500 – A humorous verse contest. The prizes are pretty decent, for the length of your piece (30 lines).
  • Cinnamon Press – These guys run a range of writing competitions, which change regularly. It’s a good idea to bookmark their competition page.
  • Fantasy Writing Contest – This is a yearly contest, run by Fantasy Faction, for fantasy writers. If your story wins, it gets entered into an anthology with a host of other well authors’ work. They start taking submissions from 1st January 2013.

You might be thinking, ‘Yeah, so what? I might win a small amount of money, but I might not win anything at all.’

Well that’s not the attitude to have. If you’re serious about your writing and you want it to lead somewhere one day, it’s a really good idea to enter some competitions. Here are the benefits that I see from taking part:

  1. You’re committed to finishing a piece of writing (especially if there’s an entry fee).
  2. You’re focused on an end goal and possibly a prize.
  3. You’re usually confined to a particular genre/theme.
  4. In some cases, you make connections with other writers and it’s great for networking.
  5. It maintains your “edge”.

That’s right – like the knives in your kitchen drawer, there’s always one that’s sharper than all the rest. If you want to be successful, you need to make sure that’s you. Writing contests are great for honing your skills, expanding your toolset and exercising your “writer’s brain”.

If there’s one thing you do today, why not commit to entering a competition and start planning out your story?

I’m also going to do a special series of posts during the approach to NaNoWriMo in November, to help you get prepared and learn all about this annual tournament.

If you’ve got any questions about entering competitions or need some advice on writing, drop us a comment below!

~ James

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Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 7

It’s that time of the week again… it’s episode seven of our ongoing fantasy story! Congratulations to Flowerfarie, who concludes last week’s thrilling installment. It’s going to be a short piece from me this week, because I want to leave the next twist in the story mainly up to you guys.

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

* * *

~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

‘Just what we need?’ Aleks said. ‘What do you mean? You told me we would find it. The answers I want are there!’

‘Hush!’ Naia hissed. She put a finger to her mouth and her ears seemed to prick up. ‘They’re here,’ she whispered, eyes wild.

Aleks glanced about him, searching in the darkness above and below for unseen enemies. ‘Where?’ he said. He drew his short blade, though he knew he was vastly under practiced with it.

As if on cue, a rushing, roaring noise came from all around them and evil, disembodied voices wailed out of the chaos. Aleks swung wildly, trying to destroy whatever this strange force was, but to no avail.

Naia reached out and took Aleks by the hand. ‘We’re getting out of here!’ she yelled. She closed her eyes, recited something under her breath and the world as the pair knew it fell away. They had evaded the hunters once again… but how long could they keep running?

Naia peered through the clearing mists of transition. She’d made a mistake; which really very rarely happened.

‘Where on earth are we?’, Aleks looked at the bright blue sky and the burning orange sun. The colours were vivid and he thought to himself that it was the most beautiful place he had seen in a long time. A river flowed out in front of them, the water sparkled full of diamonds; the trees and grass were lush; and he immediately felt his vitality returning.

Naia couldn’t understand it. This was not the place she’d had in her mind.

The gauntlet was still in her grasp; and the stones that decorated it were glowing strongly. As she examined it closely she recognised the intricate decoration that was only now becoming visible. ‘The magic this contains’, she said shakily, dropping the gauntlet to the floor, ‘ Is that of The Knights of the Last World’.

Aleks saw the confusion on Naia’s face. She was usually so sure of herself; but now she was pale and had never looked so vulnerable.

‘You should have realised that when you first saw it, Naia, I know it’s been a very long time; but I had hoped you would remember us’.

The voice belonged to a very tall, thin being who suddenly became visible to them. Dressed in the unmistakable uniform of the Knights; the armour clad man smiled and introduced himself to Aleks.

Episode 7

This week in Fiction Friday: The Story…

‘You have come a long way, boy,’ the knight said. ‘Beset by enemies at every turn and hunted by those who desire your power.’

Aleks could feel Naia’s fear. He kept his blade between him and this stranger. ‘And you?’ he said. ‘Do you also desire it?’

The knight laughed and it sounded like a swarm of locusts cutting through a desert. ‘What I desire is none of your concern. What the Knights desire, however, will soon become apparent.’

Naia put a protective arm in front of Aleks, shooting the knight a dangerous look. ‘Tell us what to do,’ she said. ‘Tell me what you need.’

Now it’s your turn to tell us where the story goes next!

Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.

Writing For Children: World Within a World

Welcome to a brand new subject area here on the blog: Children’s Fiction! You’ll find all future posts like this one under the Children’s Fiction category or you can just do a search from the top of the blog.

One of the things I see time and time again in stories for youngsters is the idea of the world within a world. It’s in Harry Potter and it’s in Artemis Fowl. It could even be argued that it’s in the Young Bond and Alex Rider books, too. Essentially, it’s something fantastic or impossible, existing within the confines of Earth as we know it. The reason I think it is so used and so successful, is because of the following reasons:

  1. It’s so versatile
  2. It gives the reader familiar references
  3. It makes our boring world feel more fantastic

You only have to look at concepts such as Diagon Alley and the Ministry of Magic to know that it’s such a great concept to use in children’s fiction. You can literally take anything from the real world; be it school, home or something as generic as a forest and transform it into a place only possible in the reader’s imagination.

Personally, I feel this concept works the best when reality is tweaked very slightly. For example, a secret restaurant for London’s pigeons hidden at the top of Big Ben. The environment and landmarks are all there, we’ve just changed one tiny thing, but it’s something that could never possibly happen… or could it? There’s the beauty. Nobody really knows whether pigeons have a restaurant at the top of Big Ben, because nobody ever looks. You need to make children believe that these fictional things could possibly exist in the real world. Take Harry Potter as another example. You had tourists trying to push trolleys into a solid brick wall at King’s Cross Station, between platforms 9 and 10.

How many hopeful geeks out there occasionally wave their hand about in the hope they have been granted superpowers? Loads, I bet. There’s the secret – make people believe that something could be real and you’re onto a winner.

Remember, you’ve only got 3 days to leave your entry for Fiction Friday: The Story! Episode 6 is at this link!

~ James

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Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 6

Here’s episode six! Only one entry this time *sad face*. Congrats to Lauraducky!

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

* * *

~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

‘What do we do?’ Naia asked.

Aleks took the gauntlet in his hand and studied it closely. He could see no markings or insignia which would bring him closer to its creator or owner. Perhaps it had never had an owner? What if it was meant for him and him alone?

Naia reached out a hand to touch the gauntlet, but Aleks snatched it away, scowling. ‘Get away!’ he snapped. ‘It’s mine!’

A rush of blood went to his head and he suddenly felt dizzy and sick. Naia was looking at him as if she’d never met him before in her life. Suddenly, her face contorted into a frown and she slapped him hard across the face.

‘How dare you?’ she cried. ‘Remember your place, boy.’

Aleks’ face stung, bringing him back to his senses. He shook away the rest of his annoyance, knowing it was irrational. He felt as if the gauntlet had somehow been controlling his emotions. The shame hit him like a wall, and he felt his ears heat up. Of course Naia was justified in looking at the gauntlet.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

With some reluctance, he handed over the gauntlet. Naia smiled at him, but he thought there was a patronising edge to her smile. She turned it over in her hands, peering closely at it. Her expertise, he knew, would be valuable.

Naia smiled. “This is a very powerful magical object,” she said. “It could be just what we need.”

Episode 6

This week in Fiction Friday: The Story…

‘Just what we need?’ Aleks said. ‘What do you mean? You told me we would find it. The answers I want are there!’

‘Hush!’ Naia hissed. She put a finger to her mouth and her ears seemed to prick up. ‘They’re here,’ she whispered, eyes wild.

Aleks glanced about him, searching in the darkness above and below for unseen enemies. ‘Where?’ he said. He drew his short blade, though he knew he was vastly under practiced with it.

As if on cue, a rushing, roaring noise came from all around them and evil, disembodied voices wailed out of the chaos. Aleks swung wildly, trying to destroy whatever this strange force was, but to no avail.

Naia reached out and took Aleks by the hand. ‘We’re getting out of here!’ she yelled. She closed her eyes, recited something under her breath and the world as the pair knew it fell away. They had evaded the hunters once again… but how long could they keep running?

Ok, you carry it on!

Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.

Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 5

It’s time for episode five! We had three entries last time and it was really difficult to choose between them. Nevertheless, I had to choose one, so read on to find out whose got chosen…

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

* * *

~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

Aleks carefully shimmied down a shallow slope and touched down on a wide ledge. He could see what Naia had meant when she said that something was lodged down here. ‘What is that?’ he said. ‘It’s huge.’

Naia joined him and shifted effortlessly back to her human form. ‘I-I don’t know,’ she said, stumbling over her words. ‘Is that what we’re looking for?’

‘It can’t be,’ Aleks said, scratching his head. ‘Can it?’

Naia squinted at the object, trying to make out what it was. “I can’t see anything,” she complained.

“I’ll make some light,” Aleks replied. He hadn’t wanted to because it would drain his energy reserves, but being in total darkness was beginning to make him feel uncomfortable.

With a flourish (which he later realised nobody could see) he clicked his fingers and a bright orange orb of light appeared above their heads, illuminating the crevasse for the first time. The light had an ethereal quality to it, making the black rocks around them seem smoother and shinier that they actually were.

As their eyes adjusted to the sudden brightness, Aleks heard Naia quietly gasp. The curiosity within him burnt even brighter at this, and he took a closer look at the object in front of them.

Nestled within a huge bed of pure crystal which shimmered in the orange glow was an intricate gauntlet made of a bright silver metal. What it was doing there, neither Aleks nor Naia could tell, but it seemed to radiate with power. It seemed like a strange thing to do, to leave a single glove deep below the ground in such a deliberate spot. It made Aleks think that someone had wanted him to find it, but who? He could think of no such person.

Episode 5

This week in Fiction Friday: The Story…

‘What do we do?’ Naia asked.

Aleks took the gauntlet in his hand and studied it closely. He could see no markings or insignia which would bring him closer to its creator or owner. Perhaps it had never had an owner? What if it was meant for him and him alone?

Naia reached out a hand to touch the gauntlet, but Aleks snatched it away, scowling. ‘Get away!’ he snapped. ‘It’s mine!’

A rush of blood went to his head and he suddenly felt dizzy and sick. Naia was looking at him as if she’d never met him before in her life. Suddenly, her face contorted into a frown and she slapped him hard across the face.

‘How dare you?’ she cried. ‘Remember your place, boy.’

There you go. Let’s see what you can come up with!

Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.

Fiction Friday (Thursday): The Story – Episode 4

I really must apologise for not putting up episode four last Friday. I had a week off work (a rare occurrence) and I let it go to my head ;) Here it is, on a Thursday. Episode five will be up tomorrow as usual, so get your entries in fast!

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

* * *

~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

A few hours later, the pair came to a huge split in the ground; a crevasse that seemed as if it had torn a painful wound in the world itself. Aleks slowed and carefully approached the edge. Naia circled overhead, having taken the shape of a hawk, and let out a cautioning cry.

Aleks, she said, her voice somehow in his head but not audible. I sense something terrible inside that tear in the earth. I don’t like this.

Something terrible? Aleks was sure his friend was just being overly cautious, but she had been right about such things in the past. He took a deep breath and shimmied gingerly over the edge into the unknown.

The rock was slippery, and Aleks feared for his life as his feet struggled to find purchase on the icy walls. Naia guided him where she could, and slowly but surely he navigated his way down. It seemed to take forever, and he began panting heavily after just a few minutes. Every metre he would look behind him into the freezing darkness, wishing for some light. This was starting to seem like a bad idea.

Naia had changed into a bat, and she hovered anxiously behind him. “I told you it was dangerous,” she said, her mental voice rising in pitch.

Aleks ignored her. “Can you see anything down there?” he asked.

Naia flew around behind him, clicking at a frequency too high for him to hear. “There’s something lodged in this crevasse,” she said. “Not too far now.”

Episode 4

This week in Fiction Friday (Thursday): The Story…

Aleks carefully shimmied down a shallow slope and touched down on a wide ledge. He could see what Naia had meant when she said that something was lodged down here. ‘What is that?’ he said. ‘It’s huge.’

Naia joined him and shifted effortlessly back to her human form. ‘I-I don’t know,’ she said, stumbling over her words. ‘Is that what we’re looking for?’

‘It can’t be,’ Aleks said, scratching his head. ‘Can it?’

Oo, mysterious, no? Your turn!

Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.

Fiction Friday: The Story – Episode 3

It’s time for episode three (I promise you, it won’t be as bad as Star Wars: Episode 3)! We only had one entry this time around, so make sure you participate if you enjoy reading the story :)

If this is your first time taking part or reading, you can find out more about this regular feature here.

Every week, you will all have the opportunity to continue the story by leaving a comment on this post. I will then choose my favourite entry and add it to the story for next week, at which point I will continue the story from where you left off.

* * *

~Last week’s chosen entry is highlighted in blue.~

Read the entire story so far at this link!

Fiction Friday: The Story

In Last Week’s Episode:

The sea lion considered the question a moment and slowly nodded its head. ‘Aye, I did. The red rage came upon me… I just couldn’t–’

‘It’s alright,’ Aleks said. He placed a comforting hand on his friend’s nape. ‘Come on, we should make ourselves scarce.’

The odd pair took their leave and proceeded across the dunes, away from the beach and back onto solid earth. As soon as they were out of sight, the sea lion let out a cry and started to change even as it waddled along. Slowly, its features began to twist and morph and it started to resemble a human. Whiskers retracted and the leather-grey skin smoothed to a supple pink. The strange girl that now walked beside Aleks gave him a wry smile, her eyes dancing and impossibly black.

‘At least you decided to wear clothes before you shifted, this time, Naia,’ Aleks said.

‘Yes,’ Naia replied, flushing. ‘That was an awkward moment, wasn’t it?’

Aleks smiled wearily as the familiar fields stretched out before them. There was precious little energy left to take from the soil beneath them. The grass was already beginning to brown and die in patches.

“We’ve been too long in this place,” he said in a low voice.

Naia breathed deep, searching, and frowned. “We’ve still not found it.”

The two walked a while longer in silence, contemplating their predicament. They had to move on soon but if they did… would they ever be able to return? A hunter was dead. Soon more would come to see what had happened. Yet that for which they searched was somewhere in these lands, perhaps hidden in a villager’s home, perhaps forgotten in some cave in the mountains.

Naia sensed his struggle and put a comforting hand to his shoulder. “Come,” she said. Aleks could hear the dull clicks of bones changing as Naia began to shift. “Let us continue.”

Episode 3

This week in Fiction Friday: The Story…

A few hours later, the pair came to a huge split in the ground; a crevasse that seemed as if it had torn a painful wound in the world itself. Aleks slowed and carefully approached the edge. Naia circled overhead, having taken the shape of a hawk, and let out a cautioning cry.

Aleks, she said, her voice somehow in his head but not audible. I sense something terrible inside that tear in the earth. I don’t like this.

Something terrible? Aleks was sure his friend was just being overly cautious, but she had been right about such things in the past. He took a deep breath and shimmied gingerly over the edge into the unknown.

Right, let’s see what you can do with that! Drop a comment below the story with your entry. Or, if you prefer, you can send it to me directly.