Writing short stories vs novels by Amanda Pillar

Graced Ebook High ResThis week, Amanda Pillar is my guest! Amanda’s new novel, Graced, has just been released, but she’s  written mainly short stories until now.  Today she talks about the difference between the two.

I began writing back to front. Rather than tackle the shorter and more attainable short story, I started with a novel. I spent hours tapping away at my 386 computer, painstakingly crafting a derivative and unimaginative first person fantasy that thankfully never saw the light of day. In fact, it was several (short) novels later that I wrote my first short story.

Looking back, I’ve been writing short stories for longer than I initially realised. Whenever we had creative writing at high school, I’d use my 500 word essay to write about vampires or witches or something magical, much to the annoyance of my year 10 teacher, who wanted me to write something else. But I persisted. In fact, one of my high school essays became one of the first short stories I ever had published.

It was at this point that I realised I needed to put the novels aside and work on my short fiction. I’d gone about getting published the wrong way; at least that’s what I thought at the time. I’d shopped my second novel around to publishers (agents, what were they?) and had received good feedback, but I was missing something. What, they couldn’t say, and I didn’t know. So I decided to refine my craft.

Writing short stories taught me that they were hard. In a novel, the reader is a bit more forgiving if you take a few pages to flesh out the character; in a short story, you have a couple of paragraphs. And yet, my novel writing had taught me how to develop a character, how to learn all their ins and outs. So this helped. I approached short stories with fully formed characters.

Short stories also taught me that the first sentence is paramount; the hook really is vital. Just as important as the following paragraphs. Every word in a short story has to count. Superfluous words are the enemy; there’s more lenience in novels for that kind of thing. That’s where your adverbs and ‘filter’ words really hurt.

And then I tried to write flash fiction. If anything, that is even more difficult. 1,000 words or less to make a reader 1) care about your character, 2) develop a plot and 3) have a conclusion. 1,000 may sound like a lot, but when you start out writing novels, 1,000 words is nothing. It’s often less than most opening chapters!

I then began editing as well. This helped my writing more than some might realise. It’s easy to pick out the errors in other people’s work, but it also made me realise some of the very common issues I kept noting I was guilty of, too. And so I began to look at each short story of my own more critically.

Then I went back to writing novels.

The hardest transition between the two is for me is pacing. And yet writing short stories means that every chapter I write in novel hopefully begins in a punchy way and ends with a conclusion of some sort, whether it be cliff-hanger or resolution. Every word in my novels now counts in a way it didn’t previously.

So for me, I think my roundabout way of going from novel writing to short stories and back again has taught me more about character development, plotting and word use than I may have achieved going from short stories to novels, but then, I’ll never really know. I just know that I love writing both.

About Graced:

City Guard Elle Brown has one goal in life: to protect her kid sister, Emmie. Falling in love – and with a werewolf at that – was never part of the deal.

Life, however, doesn’t always go to plan, and when Elle meets Clay, everything she thought about her world is thrown into turmoil. Everything, that is, but protecting Emmie, who is Graced with teal-colored eyes and an unknown power that could change their very existence. But being different is dangerous in their home city of Pinton, and it’s Elle’s very own differences that capture the attention of the Honorable Dante Kipling, a vampire with a bone-deep fascination for a special type of human.

Dante is convinced that humans with eye colors other than brown are unique, but he has no proof. The answers may exist in the enigmatic hazel eyes of Elle Brown, and he’s determined to uncover their secrets no matter the cost…or the lives lost.

Buy Graced:

About Amanda:

Amanda_small-1Amanda Pillar is an award-winning editor and author who lives in Victoria, Australia, with her husband and two cats, Saxon and Lilith. Amanda has had numerous short stories published and is working on her eighth fiction anthology. Graced is her first novel. By day, she works as an archaeologist travelling around Australia.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Adulting like a pro

Blog adultingI know I go on a bit about the correct use of language, but I’m not a complete stick-in-the-mud. Language evolves, I know. New words come in, archaic ones get shown the door and you only need to know them when you’re reading Austen or Conan Doyle or Shakespeare.

For all that, I’m very fond of the dynamic way language is thrown about and sometimes stretched into weird shapes in contemporary language – particularly in online communities. As long as the use (or misuse) communicates the intended message, turning an adjective into a noun or vice versa can add a robust energy to an observation or exchange. I like language to be fun and full of energy. I like it to surprise and delight me.

Not every new word is a delight, of course. I was recently introduced to ‘upweighting’ – which essentially means to put more investment into the promotion of a particular product or service to improve the item’s public profile or success. I don’t like the term because it’s vague. It didn’t communicate its meaning clearly to me. I had to have it explained because I had no idea what it meant, even contextually.

Actually, when I first heard it, I thought the term was ‘upwaiting’ and assumed it meant to handball a task to someone else up the chain to procrastinate on doing anything with it. I liked *that* version of the word. It was playful and descriptive, I thought. But alas, no, the truth was dull in comparison.

But I have adopted a new word: a delightful language twist I keep seeing on Tumblr.

I first found it in a post that said something like:

“I’m surrounded by all these teens doing stupid things and
I thought there should be an adult here to keep them in line.
Then I realised. OMG. That’s me. I’m the adult here.
BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO ADULT!”

I think it’s a perfectly glorious thing, to have turned ‘adult’ from a noun into a verb. In the context in which I see it, ‘adulting’ has a new and particular meaning that infers that behaving like an adult is a strange and difficult thing, an arcane skill to be learned. It implies that most so-called adults you see are still children inside, and that they have either magically grown into the skills of being a grown-up or else are faking it like mad. They are adulting like pros, even though they are still basically 12 and constantly scared of botching all their responsibilities.

Some people take to adulting like a duck to water. Some seem to be steeped in the behaviour from the time they’re seven years old. Some people get to grand old age, not only never knowing how to adult, but never knowing that they should learn. They are still, essentially, bawling, selfish five year olds refusing to share their toys and having tantrums any time they don’t get their way.

But most of us I think learn how to adult to lesser and greater degrees. Some days it comes easier than others, and our success depends on the circumstances and experience.

Mostly, I adult like a pro. I earn a living and pay the bills and take responsibility for my life and my choices.

But frankly, I still feel many days as though I’m faking it. Inside, I’m still just a kid looking for adventure and running through the world like it’s a playground. I talk too loud and too fast, I eat sometimes foods like it’s going out of style and I take a giddy delight in the things I’m passionate about, incautious in my enthusiasm. I often don’t really know what I’m doing, except that I’m doing it optimistically.

Never mind. When occasion demands, I can adult with the best of ’em, and no-one can tell that there’s the occasional panicked voice in my head wailing “BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO ADULT!’

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Never say never (almost)

13186868_sA long time ago now, I spotted a post on Twitter from a bookseller who had overheard a male customer saying “I would never read a book by a woman”. It struck us as an odd thing to say. Why cut yourself off from half the books in the world, regardless of quailty or subject, because of the (apparent) gender of the writer?

Another contributor to the discussion added the amusing story of a man who said who never read fantasy by women but only by men – men like Robin Hobbs.

Oh, how we laughed and laughed.

The discussion moved on, however, to declarations of the books we ourselves might never read, and some fairly blanket terms came up, culminating in: “I’d never read a book by a footballer!”

I thought about this. I’m not very interested in sport, and might have declared I’d never read a book about football – but I had enjoyed Angela Pippos’s Goddess Advantage – One Year in the Life of a Football Worshipper. It was funny, clever, insightful and, yes, about football, but much more about family and community and one person’s life. But it also made me quite like football, through her eyes.

Would I refuse ever to read a book by a footballer, I wondered? I couldn’t imagine what they might have to say that would interest me, but that was just about being selective about what I read in my limited reading time.

I had decided a while back that I wouldn’t read books by certain authors because I found aspects of their very vocal opinions (one a rampant homophobe, another a convicted violent criminal) so repugnant that I was reluctant to contribute to even the price of a cup of coffee for them from my purchase. But there are maybe three writers on that list.

But that’s not a blanket ban on a type of person or on any particular subject. There’s always the chance that a good writer, or a good story, can come from anywhere.

So… as an experiment, I tried to find a book written by a footballer that I might like to read. My call for assistance ended in a friend lending me a copy of Jason McCartney’s After Bali (co-written by Ben Collins, who is credited in the fly-leaf, though not with his specific role in the creation of the book).

That was maybe two years ago. I’ve been putting off reading it in favour of books I was much more committed to reading, in my relatively limited reading hours.

This weekend, I finally opened it and gave it a whirl.

The book is written interview-style, with Jason McCartney’s story of being caught up in the bomb blasts in Bali in October 2002, his injuries and recovery, interspersed with quotes from family, friends, medical staff and others.

I tried and tried and tried to like it.

Half way through, I gave up. I just don’t have the time to keep reading books I’m not enjoying.

I feel bad about it. McCartney endured much, suffered much, achieved much, and it’s a rude of me to want the account of his experiences to be more articulate or more insightful or more… something. But the truth is, I found the writing awkward, repetetive and ultimately a bit dull. I wish him and his well, I do, and I feel awful that I was not sufficiently ‘engaged’. But I wasn’t.

What do I conclude from this experiment?

It isn’t that I will never read a book by a footballer. It isn’t that I will never read a book about personal suffering and endurance, or one about football, or any of those things.

I conclude mainly that not every writer or every subject or every writing style is my cup of tea, and that’s okay. I may choose not to continue a book, or not to read particular authors because I don’t particularly enjoy their work (or their personal politics) or because there are just so many other books that engage me much more at the time.

Never say never, or at least almost never, is what I conclude. I don’t want to close myself off from books and ideas that may be unexpected and brilliant, or at least educational.

But I’ll continue to be discerning in my choices, because I only have so much time, and there is ever so much in the world to read!

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

[Image by ponsuwan at 123RF.com)

Where there’s a Will… there’s not a Reading

29819633_sMany years ago (many many many years ago) I worked for a government department in Western Australia that managed deceased estates. The Public Trust Office also wrote up Wills for people. I learned a lot about the technical side of such things, and even more about human nature.

People can behave quite strangely and unpredictably in grief, and also when they are not in the slightest bit griefstricken, sometimes for very good reason. As a human being, it was often sad, distressing or even distasteful. As a writer, of course, it was fascinating fodder.

One of the oddest things that happened, though, was the number of people who thought they would have to come in to the office for the Reading of the Will. So many believed it was an official and even legal part of the proceedings.

It isn’t.

Television, theatre and cinema are of course partially to blame for this misunderstanding. (I lay rather a lot of it at the feet of Agatha Christie and other crime writers.) When you see this event dramatised, it’s a theatrical device so you can see the shocked/smug looks on everyone faces when they are cut off without a penny/inherit all grandpapa’s wealth.

However, as with most things fictional, the idea has its antecedants in fact.

These days the beneficiaries of an estate will generally just get a photocopy of the Will in the post to inform them of their upcoming legacy. In the past, though, it wasn’t so easy to get a copy of the Will to the beneficiaries – handwritten copies would have to be sent out, and those done by hand might potentially contain errors.

It might also have been the case, in the past, that the beneficiaries were not very literate. They might need to have the terms of the Will explained in greater detail. It’s likely that some beneficiaries couldn’t read at all. In that case, everyone gathering at the solicitor’s office or in Grand Uncle Bulgaria’s musty library for a reading made a lot of sense.

Will readings were very much a practical matter, then, addressing problems of literacy and accurately conveying the contents of a Last Will and Testament, rather than any kind of legal requirement.

Nobody has a family gathering for the Reading of the Will anymore. Well, unless they have an overdeveloped sense of the pointlessly dramatic and the time to spare for such theatrics.

It’s almost a shame, really. Who doesn’t want to see the look on Cousin Dorothy’s face when she discovers Grandpappy Hubert has left everything to a Cats’ Home with a small legacy for a one-legged seaman who was once kind to him at the train station, or to see blustery Uncle Cedrick, with his bulbous red-veined nose, leaping from his chair with a hoarse cry and a tirade at mousey family outsider Marigold becoming an unexpected millionairess followed by the ominous phrase: “You haven’t heard the last of this, you little tramp!” (and maybe later, either Marigold or Cedric turning up dead at the Mechanics Institute reading room, with a dagger of oriental design plunged into the side of their neck)?

But let’s face it, loss and its aftermath are often dramatic enough, and sad enough, and human enough, without that kind of broo-ha-ha.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

[Image by Brian Jackson at 123RF.com]

Support your local writer

12840582_sSo. A friend of yours – maybe a close friend, maybe just an acquaintance you quite admire, maybe an actual relative – has just had a book published. Perhaps their first. Perhaps their latest.

It’s entirely possible that you love this book. It’s entirely possible that you will buy it, hard cover, hot off the stands, read it and tell everyone you love it, etc etc etc.

It’s also entirely possible that you won’t like it much. That it’s not really your genre, not your cup of tea, not what you love in a book.

But you love that person, or like that person, and you want to be supportive somehow.

Here are some tips on how to support the writers you love, and the books they write (which you may also love).

Buy the book

mgapcoverThis is one of the first, best things you can do. Support your writing friend by putting your money where your mouth is. Buy the paperback, or buy the ebook (or buy both). And if it’s not really your thing? Psst. You don’t really have to read it.

I mean, yes, of course, read it. Books are written to be read, and the writer in your life hopes you’ll read it, and hopes you’ll love it, or like it, or at least not hate it. But if it’s really not your thing, you’re at least helping to boost the signal. It’s still worth something.

I can’t afford to buy the book; and it’s not my kind of book; and isn’t buying it and not reading it a bit shifty?

Well, yes, there are reasons both financial and personal that can bar you from buying your friend’s book. But there’s a really cool standby technique for this:

Get your library to buy the book!

thedaytheymetIf you lack funds, or bookshelf space, there’s a cool thing you can do that will support that writer with sales (and therefore income) and still give you a chance to read the book (or not read it, as the case may be).

GO TO YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY AND REQUEST IT.

In fact, I’ve just done that with The Day They Met. (Despite the fact I already have the e-book and have the paperback coming!)

I went to my local library, found out how to request books, then I logged in and I asked for that book! I used all the necessary details I could find on Amazon (Full title, publisher, publication date, ISBN etc) and put that in the system and said HIT ME UP WITH THIS AWESOME SHERLOCK HOLMES BOOK, IT’S WHAT MY TAXES PAY FOR BABY, GIMME GIMME GIMME. Only in more formal language.

NilByMouthYou can even do this if you already own the book, because it’s a great way to help people who do not know and love your friend to be exposed to their work. This can be especially important if their book is not your cup of tea – people who really love that lapsang souchong stuff are out there this minute, scouring libraries for their delicious beverage of choice!! HELP THEM FIND IT!!

Hell, if you can, go to your siblings’ libraries, your parents’ library, your school or uni, GO TO ALL THE LIBRARIES AND ASK THEM TO GET IT IN FOR YOU.

This sells books for publishers and authors. This exposes books you love to wider audiences who may not hear of it otherwise but might see it on the shelf or in a search.

Feedback Do’s and Don’ts

Of course your writer friend would love to know that you loved the book but… yeah, sometimes you don’t. What to do?

Well, don’t lie. Dishonesty isn’t a great thing, and it’s a downhill road for a friendship. (Especially when you might feel you’re expected to support your gushing with quote from favourite bits.

(And here’s a word of advice for writers – don’t ask people what they thought of the book. If they love you but they don’t love your book, it puts both of you in an awkward position. Here is the only occasion on which Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell is an acceptable policy.)

However, you can say how proud you are of your friend, or comment on how great they must feel. Comment on the effort if not the words in question.

And for goodness’s sake, if you spot an error in the text, a typo or a factual error in the final published work, DON’T SAY ANYTHING.

There will be plenty of people who have no emotional investment in the personal relationship who won’t hesitate to bring those things up. The thing to remember is that you are supporting a friend here, and errors that have slipped through the editing and proofreading and all those things to be in the final product are there for keeps now. The book has been published. It’s too late to fix them. You can’t recall the entire print run to fix a bloody typo! Leave it to those whose job it is to review and critique to do that. Chances are your writer has already seen that goddamned typo on page 47 and is praying like billy-o that no-one else has noticed. Don’t be the one to burst their hapless bubble.

Reviews!

If, on the other hand, you really really loved the book, and you have honest to god things to say about it – by all means, give some  encouraging feedback or, better yet – write a review. On Amazon, Goodreads, on your blog, whatever site is selling the book. Reviews help people who are, once more, looking for their particular literary beverage, find that book and decide whether or not to buy it. You don’t have to write a long analysis, though if you feel it’s in you, go for it.

(I should add here that there are many books I’ve loved but not reviewed because my time is finite, so lack of feedback on my part is not necessarily lack of literary love. Just lack of literal time.)

Support means you get new work by writers you love!

f2m The Boy WithinAnd whether or not you know the writer, if you love a book, support it. Spruik it and review it and share the love, because the noise-to-signal ratio out there is high, and every little boost helps. Very few of the thousands of writers out there make a living out of writing fiction. Help a few of them at least make enough to buy a celebratory cupcake.

More importantly, good reviews and good sales will encourage them to write another book, and encourage publishers to publish it as well, so you can enjoy a new book by the writer you love! EVERYBODY WINS!

In short – support every writer whose books you love. Especially new writers, those out there for the very first time.

SPREAD THE WORD.

SPREAD THE LOVE.

Some hot recommendations

devilThese are books by people I know, and like and love – and whose books I do, in fact, love. I’ve bought said books in paperback and in ebook form (and in both when they’re available sometimes). I’ve reviewed them on Amazon and Goodreads (or this blog) and I’ve asked my local library to get copies in. And now here I am, spreading the word and spreading the love.

And remember my motto – I may be biased, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong!

  • The Day They Met by Wendy C Fries – 50 short stories on alternative ways Sherlock Holmes and John Watson may have met. Each and every story a gem, and many that had me laughing madly on the tram to work.
  • Mind the Gap by Tim Richards – a fantasy action-adventure with Egyptology, dreamscapes and trains. Snappy pacing, real serial-adventure with cliffhangers stuff and engaging characters.
  • Nil By Mouth by LynC – one man’s experience of an alien invasion of earth. Thoughtful, unexpected, human, compassionate, horrifying and deeply humane in turns.
  • The Devil’s Mixtape by Mary Borsellino – Part horror story, part declaration of love for non-conformists, especially those who embrace being outside the norm.
  • f2m: The Boy Within by Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy, the story of a transgendered boy learning how to be true to himself.

Take this opportunity to support the writers you love and tell me your hot recommendations!

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Review: Sherlock Holmes and John Watson – The Day They Met by Wendy C Fries

thedaytheymetBefore I begin my review of this book, a few confessions.

I adore Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. I’ve confessed this before, so it’s probably not much to admit to here, but I’m naturally predisposed to look kindly on new Holmesian stories.

Wendy Fries is also a friend of mine, and I have loved her writing since I first read it. Her style is vivacious, funny and wickedly witty, and then she goes and stabs you right in the feels before kissing it better.  I find her work exciting in a similar (though not identical) way to the work of Mary Borsellino, of whom I have also waxed lyrical.

Fifty short stories is a lot to write, so Wendy asked people to throw prompts at her. I threw, she caught, she turned the prompt into something hilarious and perfect. I’m a bit delighted with the acknowlelgement in the back pages.

Those confessions being made, I neither embellish nor lie when I tell you how very much I loved this book, The Day They Met.

Produced by well-known Holmesian publisher, MX Publishing, these 50 short stories all retell the meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson, in different ways, in different times. (Because surely, such a great friendship, which has endured and flourished in the 128 years since their adventures were first published, would always have been destined to begin, somewhere, somewhen.)

Each short story is a little delight: tightly written yet painting very clear, incisive pictures of the two men (and what’s more, the supporting characters) as they meet for the first time.

Some stories are filled with humour – I was caught giggling on the tram to work more than once – and others with a very human insight into loneliness, courage, need and pain. Holmes and Watson were, in Conan Doyle’s original stories, two lonely men in search of a companion and purpose, and Fries evokes those hidden, driving needs extremely well, in between the deliciously outré crimes and their discovered shared sense of humour.

Fries has a background in writing non-fiction – in health, high tech and personal finance – which means the hints of crime and strange cases carry a flourish of intelligence and knowledge that add weight to the airiness with which they are scattered into the tales. Adding to that anchor of plausible cases and causes for meeting, we have Fries’ undeniable love of language, which can result in something playful becoming surprisingly heartfelt, and of course the reverse.

The tales roll trippingly off the page – they are very spritely indeed – and are full of sly and clever references to canon, whether set in the 19th century or the 21st.

If I’m willing to admit to a fault to The Day They Met – and I’m reluctant to do so – it probably lies with the reader: the impulse to gobble down 50 short, sharp, rich treats at once is both glorious and a bit overwhelming. Anybody who has eaten an entire box of fancy chocolatier chocolates at a sitting will know the feeling. (Not that I have done any such thing. No. Not at all. Move along, there’s nothing to see here. Tra la laaaaaa).

Luckily, unlike wee chocolate treats, a book can be re-consumed. The Day They Met is beautifully built for this. If you have an inhuman constitution that can resist the read-at-a-sitting impulse, you’ll enjoy dipping in and out of the book as the mood fits. If you’ve bolted the boxful already, well, you’ll have the pleasure of revisiting this tome of treats at leisure, perhaps taking your time to choose the flavour of your adventure.

Shall it be this vintage piece set in 1883 where they meet arguing over who has the rights to a hansom cab; or that tale of a man with PTSD who needs a clever, understanding man to short-circuit the terrors invoked by an intrusive tannoy? This 1886 glimpse of Holmes and Watson as children, or that 2008 introduction to Watson’s propensity for terrible titles. This bittersweet morsel, or that tangy observation, or perhaps this faintly bizarre one that appears to contain a couple of nuts?

Whether a lover of original canon or someone new to the Holmesian fold through BBC Sherlock, Fries’ range of stories has something to offer you. There’ll be adventure, laughter, courage and even the solution of bizarre and cruel crimes, in 50 bite-sized pieces.

And always and forever, there will be the Great Detective and his Boswell by the hearth at 221b Baker Street.

Buy The Day They Met

Find out more about Wendy at:

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Storyteller: Flash Fiction

Storyteller NGVI’m not much into fashion, but I do like wearable art and the ways in which clothing and outerwear can express (or conceal) aspects of personality. The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibiton at the NGV in Melbourne is all about this, in fact, and was fascinating to see.

La Trobe University, which has an education partnership with NGV (and with whom I’ve been working on some related projects, including this blog post), had the 1dentities photo booth up on Friday nights. There, you had your photo taken while you said a single word you thought encapusalted your identity. The word I immediately chose was ‘Storyteller’.

A project to work with the university using these pictures and flash fiction didn’t quite come together, but I hated to abandon the sample stories I’d written. I can’t use the photos, except for my own, but here are some little stories inspired by the labels people chose for themselves as part of The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: from the Sidewalk to the Catwalk at NGV.

Storyteller

Some labels are windows and some are doors. Some are shields and some are prisons.  Every label tells a story, though it’s not always a true story. Or maybe the label is just someone else’s truth.

I’m a storyteller. I invent truths all the time. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that my writing attempts to wrap types of truth up inside fictions, inspired by the world I see. The 1dentity stories I tell aren’t true stories about real people. But maybe they will be true stories about being human.

Then again, maybe you’ll just learn true stories about me, wrapped up in the fiction of someone else’s label.

Resourceful

Everyone wants to be McGyver-resourceful: to cobble together a rubber band, three toothpicks and a wind-up toy into a terrific device to save the world.

Okay, so maybe some people want to be Jackie-Chan-resourceful: doing fast, clever things with chairs, pool cues, even a karaoke machine, to bamboozle the bad guys. Or Bear-Gryllis-resourceful. That’ll be how to survive the zombie apocalypse!

But there’s an everyday kind of resourceful, where you look at the world with wide-open eyes, and see each thing free of labels, not only as itself, but what it was, and what it could be.

Forget what it says on the tin. Crack open your notions. Reshape and revive a thing, an idea, maybe a whole life.

Go ahead. Be resourceful.

Enough

Katie wished that people would be more accurate with their words. “It’s enough,” they said, as though that meant that it was only just enough. Merely adequate.

But enough was more than enough. Enough was full and plump and replete with potential. Enough was ample and it was abundant. It was sufficient and also to the degree required for satisfaction.

So Katie knew that she was hopelessly human, that she was flawed and had so much still to learn about life; and she also knew that her flaws and the gaps in her knowledge didn’t make her less. She had strength enough, and heart enough, and brain enough to take on the world, if she had to.

Enough meant equal to what is needed, and Katie knew she was equal to any challenge.

Curious

Benjamin was curious, in all senses of the word. He wanted to know everything about the world. He wanted to open every lid, peer into every shadowed corner, lift every rock and know every secret. He wanted the universe to be known.

Mind you, he wasn’t bothered by the fact that the universe wasn’t known. Asking the question was the important part.

As a result, Benjamin’s friends sometimes thought he was other kinds of curious. As in singular. As in unconventional and offbeat. As in The Curious Incident of the Benjamin in the Nighttime, when he’d spent a night on a rooftop with a telescope and tracked a distant comet for hours and hours and hours instead of going to the post-match booze-up.

Benjamin just wanted to know what the comet looked like, burning across space and time (time, he explained to his brother later, because by the time the light reached his eye, the comet had long passed them; it was a kind of temporal trick, the speed of light).

Benjamin is curious about everything. Why do flavours have flavour? Why are smells nostalgic? Where is the love? But it’s okay that he doesn’t have the answers yet. The joy is half in the asking, and half in seeking the answer.

Unbelievable

“I don’t believe it.”

Rae’s mouth softened in what might have been a smile, though it was a curve made of irritation and challenge too. “Believe it or don’t. No skin off my nose.”

“You’re really a mechanic?”

“I said I was a mechanic when I was a kid. I worked in my dad’s garage all through university. I suppose you could say I still am a mechanic; I still have the skills, but of course I design machines these days. Well, aircraft to be precise. I’m an engineer.”

“My god, really? I don’t believe it!”

Rae sighed. “You really need to do something about your rigid belief systems.”


Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

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