Yesterday was Day 2 of the Creative Writing Workshop (Day 1 was on Thursday: Creative Writing Workshop 1), and I enjoyed the session on writing a short story. The stimulus was Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, played twice. From an analysis of the lyrics to a discussion on the images, the participants are made aware of the five main elements of a story:
1. Who? – this would be the characters, which could include people or animals or even things, male or female, young or old;
2. Where? – this would be where the story takes place, such as the town, countryside, here in Singapore, in another/foreign country, or even in space or a place of imagination;
3. When? – this could be the past, the present or the future, and may include a season;
4. What? – this would refer to how the idea or theme is built into the story, such as what is going to happen and what challenges there may be;
5. How? – this would be the genre or type, which could be funny or sad, dramatic or a fantasy and so on.
The next hour and a half was spent on writing a story in a group. Much time was taken to brainstorm ideas and coming up with details for each of the five elements. As with the poem on Thursday, nobody else seemed to be inclined to start the ball rolling, so your truly came up with a random first line/sentence. Then the other participants built on it to come up with something along our earlier brainstorming session. Just like for the poem, I feel it was a case of having ‘too many cooks spoiling the broth‘, hence I’m not totally pleased with it. Just for the record, this was the result (unedited):
A Celebration Gone Wrong
Music plays in the background. Rosmah, looking glamorous, wearing a brand-new wig, and her husband Richie, are getting ready for their party on their private yacht, listening to the gentle lapping of the waves. Celebrating their Golden Anniversary, they had invited fifteen close friends and family along with a private chef. They also have a group of musicians to play and sing their favourite songs. Rosmah is showing off a dazzling diamond anniversary ring, a gift from her husband. Her friend Elizabeth, recently retired, is green with envy because the diamond cost more than what she earned in her entire career.
Just as Rosmah is standing on the edge of the deck taking a selfie, in the midst of the revelry, a loud sound is suddenly heard. The musicians stopped in mid-phrase. That was a gunshot and Rosmah fell overboard with a loud scream. She flailed in the water. Her wig floated next to her.
The gunshot came from a fast-approaching motor boat with six masked and burly men, menacingly brandishing their guns. Then Richie realised he hadn’t brought along his bodyguards.
Rosmah shouted, “Help me! Save me!”
The leader saw the dazzling ring and ordered one of his men to jump in the water. He swam towards Rosmah. Richie shouts desperately, “Take her and the ring and leave us alone!”
Elisabeth was so pleased as the pirates sailed away with Rosmah.
* * * * *
After a short break, the participants had to each write her own short story. The following is my story, written in about half an hour, unedited:
“Oh! It’s another day, and a gloomy one too,” moaned Catherine, a pudgy 14-year-old who lives with her mother, two sisters, her step-father, and a half-sister. Unlike her two sisters, Catherine has never been to school. Though there was no emphasis for females getting a formal education, Catherine’s two older sisters are well-educated, one having attained a Grade One in her Senior Cambridge exam the year before, in 1960, and the oldest one already a freshman at the Chinese University. It was their late father’s idea that Catherine stayed at home to learn how to be the exemplary housewife and mother. When he died suddenly by alcohol intoxication, his wife struggled to bring up three teenage girls on her meagre salary as a clerk.
It was fate that led Catherine’s mother Gim See, to remarry only six months later. Gin See’s new businessman husband is a widower with four children who all live with their maternal grandparents in Seremban; so he insisted that Gim See bore him at least one child, preferable a boy, as he already had four daughters and, to him, girls are a lost cause. Alas, as destined, Gim See conceived quickly but gave birth to a girl, whom they named Sarah.
Being a girl, Sarah felt neglected from young; (she would say, from the day she was born, as attested by Catherine, who described how the two of them are treated like second class citizens by their own mother and father). Catherine also claimed she was mentally and physically abused by her mother. Ironically, her step-father, Sarah’s father, treated her better than he treated Sarah who was a disappointment in everything she did.
The two girls, now 14 and 10, began to form a bond over their abuse and neglect. Over time, they developed feelings for each other that was unnatural but kept it secret from the family. However, their intimacy was suspected by the oldest sister, the undergraduate. She confided in the second sister, and they brought it to the attention of their mother. But before the mother could confront either Catherine or Sarah, something unexpected happened.
In the quiet, private residential neighbourhood, people kept to themselves and nobody knew anything about anybody else’s business; so when patrol cars and men in uniform appeared on their street one day, they were all shocked. The two younger sisters have run away! Where have they gone? And why? What happened? And why are the police here? Would the girls be found before darkness fell? Or would it be another day, and a gloomy one too, for all?
* * * * *
Since the sooner I submitted the story, the sooner I could go home, and I was not feeling too well, I just made do with a piece I was not entirely satisfied with. I look forward to the final session on Monday, and hope to get feedback/comments from the trainers.