Dorothy Cannell: I was stuck. Absolutely no idea what to write for this month’s blog. Usually something going on in my life will send up a little spark, and I’d think maybe I could get something that might be interesting or entertaining; but now nothing crept, let alone leaped out. This I thought is what makes fiction – just making it all up – so much easier than working with reality.
I remembered speaking with a writer years ago who told me she had absolutely no idea what she was going write about when she started a book. No germ of a plot, no characters in the wings. She just sat down and typed the first sentence and went from there. Now that I thought would be difficult, but why not on this occasion give it a try? Below is my attempt. All I knew five minutes ahead was that that opening sentence would include the word murder.
“I think I should murder Uncle Horace,” murmured Miranda
Her cousin, Sarah, blinked. “Where did that come from?” The two young women had been talking about the church jumble sale which had absolutely nothing to do with their uncle, other than the fact he looked like an article well past its prime that might be donated to it. He didn’t even live in Lesser Ditchwood where the event took place.
“Okay, if I must repeat myself – I think I should murder Uncle Horace.”
“Shush!” Sarah glanced nervously around the tearoom where they were seated at a table by the window; there were no other customers regaling themselves with orange pekoe and sconces. Betty who ran the place was in the back room. Even so, walls had ears and couldn’t be expected to realize Miranda was joking. Had to be, because she was a very nice girl except for a tendency to think a little too well of herself. “What’s the old boy done to offend? Forgotten to send you a birthday present?”
“Oh, no! He sent me the usual hundred pounds. He really is quite a dear old boy. Not stingy at all. He’s good for Christmas too.” Miranda took a bite of scone resulting in a muffled continuation. “It’s just unfortunate for him that he’s our only rich relation. I could love him to bits and he’d still have to go. You see, I’m in debt up to my ears, and the odd little contribution here and there from him or anyone else isn’t going to dig me out.”
“Debt? Who do you owe money? And why? I’ve never known you splurge beyond your means. You’re quite smug about making your own clothes and walking miles on end to get places when any reasonable person would take the bus.”
“Never mind the reason I’m in financial difficulties. Any suggestions on how to do away with our uncle would be appreciated.”
An enlightened look appeared in Sarah’s eyes. “It’s not you; it’s that idiot Randall Phips–Gibbons who’s in a fix. Goodness, Miranda, why do you always fall for his type? The last three were wastrels and he’s the worst of the lot. I’ve never seen him sober and everyone knows he’s been booted out of his club because he can’t honor his losses at cards.”
Miranda bit into another scone. “I’ve never thought much of your taste in men either. Accountants in pinstriped suits would bore me stiff in five minutes, but if it will relieve your mind Randall doesn’t come into this. Be a gem and focus on how to give our uncle the speediest possible sendoff into the next world.”
“I wish you’d stop saying our,” snapped Sarah, “it makes me all the more uncomfortable listening to this silliness.”
“Yes, I can see that. You wouldn’t be human if the thought isn’t sitting there in your head that you stand to inherit penny for penny what I do under his Will. It really was foolish of our parents to let on to us that one day we would both be very rich.”
I enjoyed that little exercise so much I think with a little twiddling I could have the start of a short story. Perhaps someone out there will enjoy trying writing this on the fly. On that thought, I will return to my immediate reality of putting the dogs out, taking my granddaughter to school, and thinking about what to have for dinner. Maybe I can find a kernel of interest there for next month’s blog. Meanwhile I’ll need to work out who does murder Horace when he comes on his annual visit to Lesser Ditchwood …