The Bigger Picture (Part 2)

He woke up as his head flopped down onto his chest. He rubbed his neck as he adjusted in his seat, accidentally kicking the pizza on the floor. The clock said two in the morning, and he checked his phone and multiple messages stared back at him. His phone rang.

‘Hello mate, hey congratulations and all that,’ Robert said as he answered.

‘Thanks, mate. You didn’t answer any of our messages before. You usually respond quickly. I was getting worried. You, okay?’

‘Yeah, mate. Well…’ Robert hesitated as he searched for the right words in the dark. He stood up and walked towards the lines of moonlight that stretched across his carpet before moving closer to the window and staring out through the blinds. ‘That date from Friday didn’t work out.’

‘Ah. No worries, mate. They’ll be more where that came from. What was the reason this time? You know what, who cares—her loss. You’re a good guy. Her loss.’

‘Thanks, mate. And Happy Birthday, by the way. Forgot to tell you last week,’ Robert said, standing up a little straighter.

‘Not a problem. You’ve wished me the best for other years. I don’t think much of turning thirty-five anyway. You did a few months ago, how was it?’

‘Average at best.’

‘See? Anyway, I’m off to bed. I’ve only had one drink mate but, I love you. I’ll speak to you later.’

‘You too, mate. See you later,’ Robert said, putting the phone down. He looked at the dark screen in his hand before looking back out at the moon. He glanced around his front room before throwing his phone onto the settee, closing the blinds, and going to bed. (282 Words – Part 2)

*

The next day he came downstairs and frowned at his phone on the settee. He pocketed it and went into the kitchen.

Later that day, he was working on his laptop when a ringing tone came out of it. He flinched before realising it was a video call. He answered and adjusted his laptop and the camera as he did so.

‘Hello son, how’s Sunday treating you?’

‘I’m good, Dad. Since when did you learn how to use video calling?’

‘Since your brother taught me a few weeks ago. Can you hear me, okay?’

‘I can, Dad. Coming through loud and clear.’

Robert chatted with his father, struggling to know where he should look (at my face? at his face? somewhere in between?) before his Mum joined in. Closely followed by his brother. The conversation settled into a rhythm that brought a small smile to Robert’s face.

‘We should do this every week. What do you think, Rob?’ his brother said.

Robert stuttered. ‘Why? I’m only a few miles away from you all?’

‘So? We don’t get to see you that often anymore.’

‘Sure. Weekly video calls sound good. Or even just conversations via massager would be fine. What do you think, Mum and Dad?’

‘Sounds great. I…,’ said Dad.

‘No. I can never get those things to work,’ interrupted his Mum. Thus began a long conversation about how she thought video calls work against how everyone else knew they did. At times Robert just sat back and smiled. (546 words)

The rest of Robert’s day moved along at a smooth pace. Leaving his phone in his bedroom to charge, he cleaned his flat from top to bottom and did all his washing and ironing to cover the coming week.

Later that evening, he sat down at his dinner table to eat his reheated takeaway. As he got halfway through, he remembered his phone was upstairs. After retrieving it and sitting back down at his table, it buzzed and buzzed for around ten seconds. Several messages greeted him, all referencing a night out from his friends. Robert hovered his thumb over the keyboard and began to type.

“Just us five. Not been on a night out like that in ages,” one message read. Robert hesitated and then continued typing.

“No other halves then?” He sent the message and then quickly started to type a second message, “Because I’m not that bothered if” but did not have time to send it as more messages came through.

“Just us five. Like it was in the beginning?” read another message.

“Really? Okay. Great. I’m looking forward to it. I mean, I look forward to our usual nights out with other halves included,” Robert sent. He smiled as they ignored it, and the buzzing kept on going as a plan began to form.

“Cool. Meet at seven o’clock in the pub on Friday,”

“Looking forward to it,” Robert responded. He went back to his food before his phone buzzed again, and he glanced down mid-bite. Caroline’s name flashed up. He scanned her message, which was made up of several excuses and half compliments, before deleting it and messaging another friend to see if he was free for a call. As his friend replied, he rang him and smiled as he answered. 

Possible Perfectionist

I think I’m very close to being a perfectionist. About 100% as per the graph below:

I’ve known this for a while, but I don’t always apply the 100% to everything I do. Just the essential things in my life like my fiancé, family, and friends. And my writing

Anyway, I’m currently in the middle of an Assignment as part of the Short Story Writing Course I’m completing. This was purchased via The Writing Magazine (https://www.writers-online.co.uk/writing-courses). So far, I’ve worked my way through five sections of the eight that make up the course. Those are First Principles, Shaping Your Characters, Characters and Plotting, Narration and Dialogue, and Writing Style. Each has its own assignment, and you’ve got as much time as you need to complete them. Well, not all the time, but they are pretty casual about the timescales but recommend getting into a routine while doing the course to help you gain the most from it. 

The latest section, Writing Style, has set an assignment to write in 1,000 words a story that builds a strong sense of atmosphere and/or place. When I was given this assignment, I’ll admit it seemed a bit daunting to me and a little bit scary. I had a rough idea of how I would do it, but I wasn’t sure if I’d ever done it before. But I must’ve done. Right?

I’ve finished First Drafts for Novels and Short Stories so far in my Writing Career and created the atmosphere I needed to tell my story correctly. So, why am I scared now?

Not sure, really. I think it’s because I’ve never sat down and just written a piece that only focuses on creating a sense of anything. Let alone atmosphere and/or place. I knew that I had to come up with some ideas, but what to use?

In my previous assignments, I’ve used such scenarios as manager-team member conflict (Conflicting Characters – Characters and Plotting) Friends living together (Narration and Dialogue – Three-Way Conversation). Still, I didn’t want to just revisit these as that seemed too easy.

Then, it hit me. I really enjoy writing fight and battle scenes, so why not use this? The sense of atmosphere within a battle (I imagine) is strong and can change (again, I imagine) quickly. I settled on my scenario for my assignment, now to write it.

That went quite well. I crafted a piece about a soldier fighting demons as part of an army. Looking like they are on top, only to have the demons retreat as a bigger foe, one they are even petrified of, came into the picture. This allowed me to change the atmosphere from happy and carefree (Winning the battle) to fear and dread (Probably going to lose the battle) midday through the story.

I considered rewriting the story and focusing all 1,000 words on one sense of atmosphere. But I preferred the challenge of conveying the shift in atmosphere partway through—about halfway to be exact. Then I considered changing it. I always edit my assignments, even though I’m looking for feedback, so if I didn’t, it would be fine.

But, I’m a writer. I’m not wired like that at all.

And thus, began weeks and weeks of edits that have become never-ending. Now, I’m aware this is part of my writing life, and that’s fine but, how far should I go with an edit for a Writing Course Assignment? Or should I just send it off and see what happens?

This leads me to a question.

Whilst completing a short piece of writing for submission (1,000 to 2,000 words) to be submitted, would you send the first draft of your assignment or edit it before submission?