Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Starting Sparks #1 // I accidentally start planning a novel

Good evening all!

Do you remember a little thing called Starting Sparks?

I wrote an explanatory post here, but if you missed it, here's the gist: Ashley from [insert title here] and I are hosting a monthly writing link-up! You may have read our starting posts at the beginning of October and then forgotten. I don't blame you. I occasionally forget my own name.

In true Emily style, I am, of course, at the very last minute of participating in my own link-up. Oops. But better late than never, right?! If you'd like to, there is still time -- four days! -- to link up.

The October prompt is this:

Now, I should probably tell you about the novel I've accidentally started planning.

I had an idea at Easter-time -- I can remember very clearly having this idea, as I got into the car one rainy afternoon in the suburbs of Glasgow -- to write about a massive, arty family in a huge house in Surrey.

Obviously, I am writing a novel currently, and when it's done I'll be writing the sequel -- and there may be more than one sequel -- and I'm not going to start anything else until it's done. So I put the idea to bed.

But a few weeks ago, we were doing Creative Writing in English, and creating characters, and I thought back to my big family in their Surrey house, and all of a sudden, I'd written five pages on Felicity, one of the daughters.

From there I couldn't stop myself from thinking about her parents, her grandmother, her aunt, her siblings ... and when it struck me that I could write about them for Starting Sparks, I couldn't resist.

In case you don't know, the "servant bells" I discuss in the second paragraph are this type:

Surrey is a county in the south of England, and Durham is a university in the north of England.


In Rain

It was the one rainy day of the summer, and the house wept with them.

It had always been draughty, with mould growing unexplained round the cornices and ice on the windows’ insides in the winter. Teresa would walk from room to room, imagining the people who once lived there: earls, ladies, long dresses and parasols. A platoon of servants, buzzing about the hallways in response to the brass balls that hung on their panel on the old stone wall. When they were little, she and the others would play at Victorians, pulling the tasselled ropes in one room and shrieking with laughter as they heard the bell ringing downstairs. Those were the days when it was always sunny, and, in their memories, they seemed to be forever on holiday; running through the fields around the house and swimming in the lake. Later, afterwards, they spoke of all the time until that rainy July day as the time before. They remembered it in golden flashes, with smiles and the wistful voices of those longing for a freedom they will never quite recapture.

There were four of them, the Ruskin children, standing in a row in the sodden garden on that day and looking better turned-out than they’d ever been. Matthew, the eldest, off to Durham in the autumn: black-suited, standing with his arm around Aunt Rosalind. It was he who’d organised the day, side by side with his grandmother; he who’d ordered flowers and food, and made polite conversation with the guests afterward. Aunt Rosalind was ineffectual at the best of times, now overcome by ostentatious grief, and as for his father, though never the most affectionate of husbands, he’d locked himself in his room for three days and been, in Felicity’s words, “neither use nor ornament”. She was thirteen, then, Felicity, standing there in her pretty black dress with its lace sleeves, already aware of the way to smile at each person, the things to say to them, the ways to make them like her. It was a skill that, over the years, she’d practise to perfection.

But between Matthew and Felicity, always overlooked, was Teresa: big-eyed, uncomfortable in her dress, crying at intervals and almost overbalancing as she thought too hard about standing still. Something huge and deeply grey had opened inside Teresa, something that had kept her awake these past three nights; something broken, something afraid, all mixed up with some longing for she knew not what. She was very aware of the rain on her skin, the coldness of it, the trembling balance between pleasure and discomfort. She had complicated feelings about rain; it was both the outdoor running through wet grass, laughing at a wide sky and thrilled by the game of living; and it was grey sorrow, a forehead pressed to a school bus window as the drops trickled down. Teresa had complicated feelings about everything. She exhausted herself trying to work them out.

Last was Edmund – Edmund, the youngest, the one whose world had truly been shattered with an impact like the falling of the sky. He was eleven, and the rain picked him up and carried him into desolate landscapes of grief, leaving him gasping and guttering in the dark. Matthew didn’t understand, and Felicity didn’t try; as for Aunt Rosalind, she repelled him with her foggy hugs and her weeping. His father was an absence, not in his sphere, and his grandmother did not seem to notice the drowning pain that was attacking him. Only Teresa could come close to comfort, but she had her own night-time heartaches, and when Edmund talked to her, he found that their sorrows muddied each other’s and left them both drifting off into new waves of grief. Today he was too stunned to cry; he merely stood there with his siblings, holding his grandmother’s hand and watching the trees flap wetly in the grey rain. A lot of people spoke to him and he floated with glazed eyes, no longer able to fit the world into the right shape.

So they stood there, the Ruskin family, with their beautiful old house behind them; not looking at one another, but still a band against the world even as they sank in their individual miseries. How strange, the ties of blood; at once binding, and yet allowing a separation of hearts and minds that yawns wider with every passing silence.

Friends and relatives turned out to see the procession down to the church, offering what help they could. As they returned to their own lives these people would speak in lowered voices, commenting on how smart Matthew looked, how pretty Felicity had grown, what a shame that it rained this one day in July. The house needs repairs, they’d say to one another, and never know the significance that house had for the Ruskins: the memories that walked its halls, the long-ago games and conversations, the lives that had interwoven within its walls and now stood, here, in the rain that swirled and lingered around them.



  1. Great short story! I would like to participate in this link up some time, if not this month.

    Honestly, I was kind of thrown in the beginning with your use of the word "draughty"... it's spelled "drafty" in the U.S. :)

    1. Thank you! I'm just crafting my November post :)

      Hahahaha that's so funny! I spent my childhood reading American books and being thrown by "drafty". And then there's also drought, as in no rain, but also ye olde books talk about taking a draught of ale or whatever, which I used to think was pronounced "drought" not "draft" and ... well. I still struggle with this family of words!

    2. I understand the struggle. Usually you see draft as in beer or ale, but then sometimes you will see draught too...Strangely enough I never thought of drought in the same way, but it makes sense it should be pronounced the same way. So many words in English that are that way!

    3. I know, right?! It's a confusing language!

  2. This is really sad. Just all of it. I have no idea what is going on except for sadness and stunnedness. And that's not even a word. . .

    I really do like this story though! I can't wait to read more of it through these prompts. It sounds grand. :D

    "Teresa had complicated feelings about everything. She exhausted herself trying to work them out." -- Teresa, we are kindred spirits. Thank you for existing.

    Edmund makes me so sad. Can I just sit next to him? Is that okay?

    Okay, so now I am ready to read more of the Ruskins. I'm officially emotionally involved.

    1. Hmmm. I thought it was *fairly* obvious what the tragedy was ... or maybe not?!

      Thank you! I don't think it'll work for November's prompt, but I can definitely see myself returning to these characters at some point!

      I feel that. (Teresa is secretly me. Don't tell anyone.)

      Oh, Edmund :'( So this story is written four years before my initial writings on Felicity, wherein she was seventeen and the rest were twenty-one, nineteen and fifteen respectively. If I ever write the book, I feel like fifteen-year-old Edmund could be the MC, though tbh the four of them'll probably get equal page space. He's into drama and English Lit, I think. (For your interest: Matthew is a medical student; Teresa an English student; Felicity's going to go to singing school.)

  3. Aw this is sad. :( I really like your word choice such as "ostentatious." One has to love words like that. ^ ^


    1. It is, rather. I saddened myself writing it! I actually debated whether to keep "ostentatious" in there, but I'm glad you appreciate it! One of my favourites :)

  4. This is such a great idea! The prompt specific, yet broad at the same time.

    1. Thank you! I'm really excited about this link-up.


Thanks for commenting! :)