Discussion Thread - 300-word Writing Challenge #52 (January 2024)

First of all, congratulations, @Christine Wheelwright, for your well-deserved big win in a close race against @The Judge and I.

Thanks for the nice commentaries on my story from @Victoria Silverwolf, @Parson, @AltLifeAStory, @Peter V, @AnRoinnUltra, @The Judge, and @Cat's Cradle.

Also thanks for the honorable mentions from @Stable, @THX1138, @Yozh, @Starbeast, @Elckerlyc, and @emrosenagel.

And finally a sincere and grateful thanks goes out to all those who voted for me: @Victoria Silverwolf, @Rafellin, @AltLifeAStory, @Peter V, @Swank, @elvet, @AnRoinnUltra, @mosaix, @Cat's Cradle, @Luiglin, and @The Judge. I believe this is the best I ever did in the 300 Word Challenge.

Thanks to all!
Oooh the absence of decorum around this particular Brat … i forgot to thank my votees and mentions!

Thanks so much to

I appreciate your votes! Really glad you enjoyed my tale.

Whilst the dancing-with-a-marionette/possibly sexual deviant therapist stuff is dug from the realms of my horrid imagination, the other stuff is informed by my own experience as a PTSD-er.

Recent struggles led me to write this and was surprised to get five votes — but happy :)
I just realised that you voted for my poem @Luiglin - I very much appreciated this.

Congratulations to those few people that accumulated double figure votes. A truly incredible feat!

The winning story was reminiscent of those creepy Roald Dahl short stories The Landlady and Lamb to the Slaughter. Was it Tales of the Unexpected that used to have short stories like this? I forget in my old age.
My entry was an even more last-minute, seat-of-the-pants effort than usual (even taking into account that most of my entries have only to be 75 words long), the difference in length being as big, if not a bigger, problem when it comes to counting the number of words in a 300-worder than when writing those words.

Anyway, I had, from the start, the (somewhat blindingly obvious) idea that the story would involve some type of tableau, but then nothing. Nothing. At. All.

Thus it was that, on the evening of January the 31st, I found myself sitting in a concert hall, completely story-free, having just finished listening to the (somewhat strange) Violin Concerto No.1 "Distant Light" by Péteris Vasks. As it was, by then, the interval, I thought I'd read the programme notes on the piece, whose second paragraph began, "Scored for strings, the work is cast in a single span lasting some thirty minutes and unfolds as a series of episodes, by turns contemplative and energetic...."

For some reason, both the idea of a partitioned story and (though less clear to me at that instant) the idea of different speeds somehow being involved stuck. I didn't really have much more than that with which to work. It didn't help that the concert (in a series of them that usually end at 21:30) only finished just before 22:00 (with the final piece, Shostakovich's 15th Symphony, not being one during which it's easy to invoke one's "literary" muse, if one has one at all). And then I had to drive home.

Thankfully, the mid-1980s memory of being led, as part of a tour, through a palace in Vienna** popped into my head, providing me with the apparent "geography" of the location.

One thing I did do that I've never done before was to dictate the story rather than type it. My typing is both poor and slow, and it adds far too much time to the process, even with the spellchecking switched on (although this can, at times, be more of a hindrance than a help). I did this in desperation, but dictating had the unexpected benefit that when just the right word popped into my head (and my mouth), my computer recorded it, so there was not the usual problem of trying to remember it for long enough that it was still*** there when I came to type it. All I had to do, for the first draft, was type in the punctuation as I went along. Of course, the editing had to be done by hand.

The second even more unexpected benefit (one I don't expect to appear that often) was that the story just kept popping into my head as I said it, with only very short breaks between the phrases I spoke. I'm thinking of using this process in the future with other things I write to see if this is a one-off or not.

Finally, one major point of the story, i.e that its events were to remain unexplained (so no punchline, pun or clever twist could be used), benefitted me in two ways: I didn't have to come up with a punchline, pun or twist (clever or not) to match the story (in most cases, my punchline or pun comes before writing the story) and this freed me to include a series of quite different "episodes", ones that didn't (and shouldn't) have to have much to anything to do with each other.

** - We were supposed to visit the Schönbrunn Palace, but we had a late change of hotel, and thus itinerary, and based on the plans I've seen of the place, the interior doesn't match my recollections of the palace I visited... in particularly the parallel corridor which allowed servants to, for example, add fuel to the huge ceramic(?) stoves that were placed in the corner of each of the rooms without having to enter those rooms.

*** - My typing really is that slow and, more pertinently, my short-term memory really is, and always has been, that bad... but on the other hand, the latter "superpower" does give me the "excuse" to blurt out puns when they first pop into my head. (I mean, who would want me to forget these puns before I could release them into the world...?)
Hi folks and congrats @Christine Wheelwright.

Thanks for the votes Culhwch, The Judge, cyprus7, Peter V, Provincial, emrosenagel and Yozh, plus the mentions :)

For the votes...
  • @johnnyjet - a change from every bad apocalyptic AI story at the moment, a house computer with a heart
  • @Lacedaemonian - story time with a rhyme and a rhythm
  • @M. Robert Gibson - time-travelling, cheese collecting mice, oh yes
As to my tale, a stupid amount has been going on over the last 6 months. I wrote this at quite a down point in a cathartic attempt to help dump stuff out of my head.

My wife loves going though charity, second-hand and antique shops. Like the tale, she has an eclectic style and while not overtly religious, she is a firm believer that something happens when we die. I don't, my logical brain beats out the imaginative one - I've been cooking up tales of gods and monsters for too long.

My cousin died the day after I wrote the story. The previous months had been slowly watching him go. I'm not sure if folks know, but there are a set number of things that happen to a person during the last 48 hours. All his life he broke rules, lived it exactly how he wanted. The last 48 hours he ticked off each thing, one after the other.

I was told by the Marie Curie nurse (they are superb by the way) that hearing is the last thing to go, and even if they don't acknowledge you, they can still hear. Whether this is true or not, didn't matter at the time.

The final part is that those about to pass away often see visions of people. My cousin did just that. Tip, if you're ever in that situation, go along with them, talk about it. Now some believe this is loved ones coming to welcome them on, others say it is just the brain playing tricks.

I don't care what the source.

All I'm glad of, if that person sees someone at the end that comforts them, surely that can only be good.

Since then, my Mom-in-law's twin also died, again another long drawn out episode.

At least they can now have peace.
Congratulations @Christine Wheelwright

Silver Medal @The Judge
Bronze Medal @johnnyjet

Star Wars Medals for everyone else!

My Story: I thought to myself, "What if the mice could become alive when their shadow box is opened. And if they were a carnival attraction." Later I came up with the idea about two kids sneaking into a Freak Show after it closes and befriended by a clown. My tale mutated into what I submitted.

Screenshot 2024-02-17 2.41.31 PM.png
I am very late, but congrats, @Christine Wheelwright!

Thank you so much for the votes, @Lacedaemonian, @nixie and @sule, and thanks as well to those who listed or mentioned my story. I'm not entirely sure where it came from, but for some reason when I saw the picture, I thought, those mice are in the middle of their own version of the Great War. because of course. And apparently I'm not the only one who thought about mouse wars! Anyway, it all evolved from there.

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