The Alphabet Story

I wrote earlier in the week that my little book on writing ‘A Writer’s Alphabet’ will be coming out soon. So, in alphabetic mood, and in honour of A-Z bloggers, I thought I’d put up this story. I’ve mentioned before that at my writing group, we take turns to bring an exercise which we do in the first fifteen minutes or so of our meeting. I’m constantly surprised and stimulated by the range of writing that emerges, and the energy that such on-the-spot writing generates.

Recently one of the group brought an exercise to write something where each new sentence began with a subsequent letter of the alphabet. So, the following is a bit of fun, and lest my little juggling friend becomes too upset at his relegation from my book’s front cover, I thought I’d let him have another outing:From Here to Eternity in Twenty-Six Moments

Adam pulled himself half clear of the swimming pool.
Barbara!’ he yelled,  the water dragging at his legs.
Cries came from the house, but no one appeared in the doorway. Dots of red darted across his eyes, making him blink. Early morning mist, hovering over the grass, fogged his vision still further. Feeling the pain building in his chest, he managed to roll onto his side and pull his legs free. Gulps of air swelled his lungs, but every breath ripped his chest apart. He turned his head to the house, certain he saw a movement at the kitchen window.
I‘m going to die,’ he muttered, ‘and she doesn’t care.’
July, the promise of another hot day, an azure sky – not a day to die. Kath – he should have stayed with his first love. Love. Moments of joy.
Nietzche had it right – nihilism. Oh, no point to life. Prayer offered a moment’s comfort. Questions of God’s existence no longer mattered.
Reveal yourself, God,’ Adam whispered.
Talk to me, God. Under all that religious mumbo jumbo, there must be something.’
Verses of hymns rolled across his thoughts. Words of carols from school. Xavier’s High School for Boys. Years of torment.
Zoomed to a tiny white light.

Okay, I must admit to some minor tweaking – K was Kinder eggs in the original! – and some syntactical ambivalence, but I’m interested that it’s possible to get a character, a suggestion of plot, and a sense of narrative, given the bizarre method by which it was achieved!

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  1. Caroline says:

    It’s a great exercise isn’t it. I enjoyed reading yours and see you got round the X rather neatly. Here’s mine from a few years ago now.

    The poetry is in the pity

    Abandoning the dug-out after the heavy rain, the men retreated. Behind the lines they huddled in sullen groups.
    ‘Could one create poetry out of this?’ pondered the captain. Doubtless somebody would.
    Even he despaired but had to rouse himself. France had been a beautiful country once. Granted there was little left of that now. How, he wondered, had they come to be in such a sorry state. It was all supposed to be over by Christmas. Just that thought alone depressed him. Killing and being killed. Life had been reduced to a scrumage for survival. Maybe it would improve when the summer came. Nineteen Sixteen would have to be a better year than the previous two. Officers had a duty to uphold morale after all. Pitying his bedraggled men, he gave orders to fall back to base camp.

    ‘Quick march!’ Reluctantly the men fell into line and moved off.

    Something made him check the dug-out for a final time. The red edge of a half buried notebook caught his attention. Unthinking he slipped it into the breast pocket of his tunic. Very soon night would be falling. Winter had already shortened the days and made the nights bitter. Xmas would be muted if it was celebrated at all. Yet he still remembered the peace that had descended that first Christmas of the war. Zigzaging to avoid the worst of the mud, he made his way out of the trench to rejoin his men.

  2. Lindsay says:

    Yes, it’s a simple but surprisingly challeging and effective exercise. I love your story, Caroline! Your story line holds up rather better than mine! Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Polly says:

    Clever – not an exercise that I’ve tried (or been subjected to) at workshops, but can see how it would be real fun to take part in.

    Good to see your little juggling friend again 🙂

  4. Lindsay says:

    It is fun, Polly. Have a go!

  5. Christine says:

    I love both stories- I see Caroline managed to avoid Xavier for the X which, if I recall, every one of our writing group used so well done for that. It was a fun exercise but I don’t think my effort is worthy of this blog-it was very contrived and not in a good way. It is surprising what you can produce in a limited time with all sorts of weird and wonderful prompts.

  6. Lindsay says:

    I’m sure it is worthy, Christine! Contrivance is inevitable to some extent, but Caroline’s is great. I remembered x-ray as the favourite word in ours – but perhaps that’s because I used it in my blogging challenge.

  7. Diane says:

    I was one of the people who did this exercise at the same time as Lindsay and I enjoyed it very much and found it challenging.

    Another frustrating day stretched ahead. Belinda looked out of the kitchen window and sighed. Couldn’t he have just cut the grass at the weekend? David loathed gardening and would do anything to avoid it. Everything was about sport for him. Football on Saturday morning which entailed making sure his kit was ready. Golf was his other abiding passion so he didn’t have time on Sundays either to do anything. His handicap was improving he said so he needed so keep playing as often as he could. It was any excuse Belinda thought. Just to avoid doing the garden and the chores. Keep playing sport and then he wouldn’t be around to be nagged.
    Lifting up the basket of washing she let herself out of the back door. More washing was in the machine so she needed to get this lot on the line. Never marry a man keen on sport she thought to herself as she pegged the washing out. Over the years David had played most sports but age had reduced it to football and golf. Perhaps she could take up golf? Quietly she dismissed the idea. Rivalry between spouses was probably the cause of many divorces. Sheila, her best friend, had found that out. Tennis has been their undoing when Sheila had won the County Cup and Dennis, her husband, had been dropped from the team. Usurping one’s spouse was not a good ingredient for a successful relationship. Variety was the spice of life Belinda decided. We’ll just have to find something was can do together. Xavier, her counsellor, might be able to come up with some good ideas. Yoga might be good and would at least relax them both. Zooming around in David’s sports car visiting historic houses could be another.

  8. Lindsay says:

    This is great, Diane. Thanks for posting it!

  9. julian says:

    Same group. Same alphabet. Total difference.
    At last. Bob had his answer. Cats. Damned feral cats. Every night the same. First a plaintiff mew. Heard from some distance. Impossible to pinpoint for later extermination. Jagged. Keeping pillow over head was enough to shut it out. Largely nothing to worry about before the accompaniament. Musical it wasn’t. Nerve jangling it was. Oh if only he’d taken up the offer of the air rifle from Mr.Griffiths at no.ten. Purgatory; continuous;expanding. Quixotic toms from all directions. Rasping. Screeching. Tearing up the possibility of sleep. Under the pillow again. why won’t that the she devil submit and end this? Xylophone from hades. Yell of the anti-cherrub. Zone of insanity

  10. Lindsay says:

    Brilliant, Julian! Just one question – V?!

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