A Short Story by Giuseppe Gillespie
The Writer’s Hook
What is it that makes a writer great? Is it his mastery of language, or his clever use of technique to covertly direct a reader throughout his work, instilling an independent sense of accomplishment and discovery along the way? Is it his exceptional process of creating memorable plots and characters that imprint themselves upon the soul, breathing life into his pages and creating a wishful sense of realism in the mind of the reader? Or maybe it is imparting some worthwhile knowledge, giving some food for thought after the reading is concluded, a nourishing gem of inspiration that stays with the reader long after the last page is leafed over.
Mastery of any one of these literary ambitions could be considered the key to a great writer, or perhaps even a combination of each, utilizing them in the right place at the right time of course and not being overly reliant on one over the other. Perhaps the ability to identify the moments these skills are best used or developed within a story is a trait of a great writer in and of itself.
But there is an external factor here to consider. A certain something that is inconsequential to a writer’s skill within his art, something that requires the astute development of his imagination rather than his prowess in literary articulation. For it is only in the deepest regions of his mind that he can bring forth the suitable perspectives required to truly live out the lives he hopes to portray, to really create a sense of weight and emotion in the stories he creates through written word alone. All of this is born from an idea, a spark of unknown brilliance brought about from an act of self-indulgence on a particular event or topic, which, provided he has some self-restraint, can be coherently developed with the aim of releasing his creation to the world of his peers to take on a life of its own.
Every memorable story incites the reader with a hook, a certain ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ that causes a second glance or an inquisitive interest concerning its contents. Perhaps it speaks to the person behind the reader, reminding them of the memorable moments of their lives they seek to reconnect with, perhaps it awakens a dormant desire of knowing within their hearts, something they’ve just got to find out for themselves. It is the role and skill of the writer to further keep the audience engaged after the initial spark of interest generated by the hook. It is here that the real test of his skill begins.
Two world-renowned bestselling authors have agreed to take part in a competition organised by the highly esteemed literary magazine ‘COLLABATUR’, I’m sure the name is familiar among literary snobs the world over.
The prize offered by the magazine is a substantial monetary reward, as well as a lengthy contract for exclusivity in their ‘monthly feature’ section, the penultimate in publishing and a premium most writers would gladly sacrifice their life savings for.
The unofficial prize, however, is a definitive answer as to the question of whom is the more skillful writer between the two, the participants have long since been considered as rivals and often playfully criticize each other’s work, a healthy dose of competition at work to keep each writer in top shape.
As for the nature of the competition itself: both writers must produce a series of short stories pertaining to a specified topic, supplied by the editors of the magazine. These stories will be published in monthly issues of the magazine whereby readers can vote upon which story is best. The proprietors of the magazine have systems in place to verify that all votes counted are legitimate.
The story with the highest number of votes at the end of the month is the victor. The writer with the most winning stories at the end of the competition wins the coveted prize.
Three topics will be selected at random; the first will be published in the magazine itself and the rest disclosed in the same format as the previous topic’s stories and voting results are published.
The running tally of score will be updated in the magazine each month, upon a winning story an author is awarded a point. Since the competition is essentially a ‘best-out-of-three’ contest, the first author to reach two points is the victor. If an author produces two winning stories before the competition ends, e.g. ‘two in a row’, this will forfeit the other author’s chances of winning as there will not be enough story topics remaining for them to make a comeback through points.
Each writer is allotted a month to complete each story (this conveniently corresponds with the magazine’s publishing schedule) and an interview on their thoughts will be held on the results of each story.
Both of our authors are ready and rearing to go, the excitement being more so playful than serious. Each author is assured of their own ability to outperform the other and have no doubts concerning their pertinent handling of any story topic that may arise.
Ophelia Goldenlime is the true essence of a classical writer. Meticulously dedicated to her craft with a refined background in literature of all types from Philosophy to Children’s Fiction. She has covered a wide range of genres over the years with a noticeable affinity for romance, fantasy, and historical fiction. Highly respected among readers and critics alike, she has never been out of print since her debut novel, ‘Through the eyes of an angel’ (an overnight success), where a fallen angel is tasked with chronicling the events of humanity throughout the ages, told in an interesting stoic style where tales of good and evil aren’t always easily discerned from each other.
Recently, Goldenlime is mostly known for her award-winning ongoing romance series ‘Lustre’, told as a thrilling epistolary (in letters/correspondence) between two adulterine lovers from different backgrounds: he a poor beetroot farmer, she an affluent member of parliament. Hailed as a beautifully woven tragedy in the making, it has had a certain swooning effect on elderly and young adult readers alike.
Our next author, Max Dangerfield, is a master storyteller and playboy extraordinaire; his personal life is almost as interesting as his spectacularly crafted fiction. Depending on who you ask, opinions concerning his work and the man himself are varied, some critics say he is a clever genius with a masterful technique in crafting subjective experiences, arguing that the latent meaning behind his works will never be fully understood by contemporary audiences, others say he cunningly strings together loosely woven plots that instantly fall apart upon careful scrutiny. Whichever point of view is taken regarding Dangerfield there is no doubt as to his popularity whether in life or print and his uniqueness in style as an author.
With best selling novels such as: ‘Stomach Foot’ – a critically acclaimed horror masterpiece about killer snails, notoriously banned from schools and churches alike – and ‘Green Greed Grove’ – an action-thriller epic in which a group of cunning garden gnomes hatch a plan to conduct a dangerous money heist against the government – Dangerfield is a seasoned author who has carved out his writing niche with a career only a year shorter than Goldenlime’s.
The competition has been announced and the fans are hungrily awaiting the first round of stories. The authors are awaiting the latest issue of the COLLABATUR magazine in the mail.
The Goldenlime Estate
Heavy high-heeled footsteps burst into the foyer, Goldenlime’s assistant enters with the foil-wrapped issue of this month’s COLLABATUR.
Pant, pant, “Monsieur Wilshire!” A well-dressed elderly gentleman dusting off some award trophies sitting on a bespoke cabinet twirls around startled. Waving the wrapped magazine in the air the assistant asks, “Monsieur Wilshire! Have you seen Ophelia? The magazine has just arrived. She said to deliver it right away! Right away she said!”
“Last I saw her was in the garden, she was walki-” before he could finish, the assistant darts past him out into the garden walkway waving back thanks. The elderly man, with raised eyebrow shakes his head in disbelief and resumes his duties of dusting.
The garden of the Goldenlime Estate is huge and carefully maintained. With looming squared hedges and a cascading rainbow of colourful flowers arranged into intricate linings, it can be easy to get lost in this veritable maze of flora, but luckily for Goldenlime’s assistant she knows this place like the back of her hand and finds Ophelia sitting under a gazebo enjoying her morning tea before long.
Running up some patio steps, the assistant, thrusting out the magazine to Ophelia, breathlessly blurts out, “Magazine… Post… Just arrived!”
Taking the magazine from her assistant with a slight nod Ophelia responds, “Thank you dear, come sit awhile, you must be parched.”
After a few minutes of browsing, Ophelia’s eyes brighten up and her mouth erupts into a gleeful smile, she flips the magazine around to her assistant, pointing out a section marked in bold, “You’ll never guess what the first topic is for the competition!” Both her and the assistant exchange a brief chuckle upon the revelation.
Ring ring, ring ring… A drowsy and hungover Dangerfield rolls over in bed grasping for his phone. Answering it, he grumpily asks, “What?”
“Max, please tell me you aren’t still sleeping on such an important day?” On the other end of the phone is Alice, his agent of ten years, “Get your ass up and check the post, the latest issue of COLLABATUR should be there, you’ll find the first topic on page eight. Don’t take too long, the public is expecting your initial response, Goldenlime has already put out a statement, but err, best not to look it up for fear of stage fright.”
“Wait, what? What do you mean?” Dangerfield replies, yawning, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
“Err, let’s just say it’s one of your more ‘under-developed’ genres, I won’t spoil the big surprise for you, but get back to me with a statement ASAP, this is a contest where the majority decides the outcome and as such, we need to engage with them.”
“Yes, yes, I know, thank you Alice, I’ll be in touch.” Dangerfield takes a stretch before jumping from his bed and scouring for some fresh clothes to wear.
In his kitchen, brewing some coffee, he takes up the magazine retrieved from the post and crudely tears away the foil packaging, causing ash from his lit cigarette to fall to the table. Carelessly listing through the first few pages of the magazine, the coffee pot emitting a low rumble, Dangerfield combs through updates and articles searching for the opening topic of the competition. He lets out a deep sigh when his eyes meet page eight’s header, upon which the word ‘Romance’ is highlighted in bold. He is accosted by a slight headache as the coffee pot’s rumble ascends to an annoyingly high-pitched whistle…
Copyright © 2021 Giuseppe Gillespie All rights reserved
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