I hope you’re all having a good week! I know I promised a DIY post, but I’m running a little late on that so, in the mean time, I thought I’d share one my own short stories with you guys. As some of you may know already (or have guessed from my rambling blog posts 😉 ), I’m an aspiring writer. The dream is to one day write a full length novel, but let’s just say I have attempted this task several times and I have rarely been successful in making it past Chapter 1. That being said, I have managed to write a few short stories, which seem to work better with my attention span of a five year old. Short stories are so interesting because you don’t have time to delve into character description or an elaborate plot line, it’s really about capturing a snippet of time that you find important.
Anyways, I hope you guys enjoy Traffic Lights, and let me know what you think of it in the comments below :).
I rested my head against the dusty glass, the soft hum of the engine making the window pane vibrate ever so slightly. The car seemed to drift lazily along the road, the speedometer’s needle wavering indecisively between 40 and 50 kmph. Some 90s one hit wonder was playing on the radio. The sound was fuzzy and I couldn’t make out the words. Still, it added a hint of atmosphere.
I gazed out at the less than picturesque scenery as we drove past. The dull grey of decade-old cement walls mimicked an overcast sky; the well-known backdrop to every suburban neighbourhood. Cracked pavements, bent bus-stop posts and graffiti-sprayed road signs all floated past. Here one moment, gone the next. The road was roughly patched up with a mishmash of monochrome tarmac. In the distance I saw a crane, towering over the city outskirts like a bizarre sort of monument.
I glanced out the window again and saw a plump woman with too much eye makeup walking with her son. On the way to school I supposed. The little boy was proudly carrying a spiderman backpack that was twice his size, excited to show it off to his best friend, Tim. His mother held his hand and scolded him. Probably telling him off for missing the school bus yet again. Now she was going to be late for work, second time this week. Her forehead creased in anger and I saw her lips move, but her voice was drowned out by sounds of distant traffic. Pity she wasn’t sitting where I was. Then she would have realised that her lecture was being completely ignored. Spider man was much more important than school buses, after all.
I turned left to look out the other window. A young man with short sandy blond hair and a half-zipped up jacket stood casually at the side of the road, holding out his thumb. I watched as car after car zoomed past, ignoring him. He pulled out his phone and pressed a few buttons. He frowned for a moment, then shrugged and put it back in his pocket. Dead battery no doubt, though this didn’t seem to bother him. An old guitar case, covered with faded stickers and lyrics written in Tippex, hung from his shoulder with a worn strap. Despite the evident lack of success in his hitchhiking endeavours, he seemed quite content and untroubled. Maybe he didn’t really have to go anywhere. Maybe he was just going for the hell of it. So he just stood there, relaxed, confident with an easy smile playing on his lips.
As we approached a crossroad, I saw a teenage girl, maybe sixteen or seventeen, with purple headphones waiting to cross the road. Her head was down in an attempt to remain unrecognisable. There really was nothing wrong with her grey and maroon uniform, but she’d never been a confident girl. I saw her occasionally mutter a few words under her breath… the lyrics of an Eminem song she was listening to on replay. Funny, she didn’t seem like the rap type. She subconsciously twirled what looked like a key ring, attached to the bottom of her schoolbag. A good luck charm, I guessed. A stupid superstition, but she had a lot on her mind.
Across the road from her was an elderly woman attempting to stop her three chiwawas from eating the cigarette butts that littered the sidewalk. She kept whacking the dogs with her umbrella and yelling at them. I half smiled. I couldn’t hear her, but I was willing to bet anything that she was warning them against the dangers of smoking. I suppose her children are all grown up now though, and they live in the city. Who else was left lecture?
The hum of the engine dimmed as the car came to a stop in front of a red traffic light. As we waited for the lights to change, I spied the mother and son I’d watched earlier turning a corner. The woman had given up on her lecture and was now listening with hidden amusement as her boy told her about the many exciting things one could do with a superhero backpack.
I smiled and turned, just in time to see a van pull up next to the guitar hitchhiker. The man looked around one last time before climbing into the passenger seat. The first step towards his new life.
As a green man flashed and bleeped, I saw the teenage girl wearing headphones cross the road, passing the old lady and her dogs. As their paths crossed ways, their eyes met for just a second and they shared a small smile. Maybe that smile changed each of their lives just a little bit.
Then, the traffic lights changed. The car started to move again, the radio continued to buzz and, just like that, all those people were gone. That’s it, I’d never hear of them again. I’d probably forget this ever happened. They would too. Yet we’d shared just one small moment of our lives, together, all because of a red light.
But perhaps that’s what life is; crossroads and traffic lights.
‘Traffic Lights’ is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Okay, this was really great with very simple clear adjectives and details . The only way I would redo it is to have the nouns be present tense because it feels like we are with you and it’s happening right now , does that make sense? I used to be a professional writer . And this is so immediate , like watching something on film it doesn’t feel like it’s something that has happened , it feels like it’s something that is happening . Anyway it’s just a suggestion , a lot of stories don’t work with present tense verbs because it adds an immediacy but this feels like it has that “in the moment” clarity.
Playing with the verb tense can be really fun . If you’ve ever heard of the Welsh book of medieval stories that later were used for the French creation of King Arthur and the holy Grail , the Mabinogi, all of the action parts were written in present tense . Especially when describing horses and heroes riding up. Or when there is a battle for when people are doing that folklore motif where the giant gives a task to do and the hero says the same apply each time like ” not so very hard ” . Because these stories would have been oral , they are older than the time they were written, and most people were illiterate , the storytellers must have mastered this art form of knowing when to be active present tense and when the story can be telling something that “already happened” . It might seem really geeky but for me I think really visually and for some reason changes like that with the verbs actually does change how I see it . And I just saw all of this as it was happening in your story so I changed the verb tense and it felt more like we were traveling .
Also I think the present verb tense adds to the suspense because we don’t know what the ending will be because it’s all happening and unfolding right in front of us , so there is more suspense and there is already a suspense kind of vibe . I’m being really geeky . This isn’t criticism like you are a bad writer, this is an idea because the writing is good . If it wasn’t I wouldn’t really have anything to say about it.
And as far as not having a long attention span goes , you keep showing up at the blog , and that’s all it takes for writing . You just have to keep showing up . Waiting for inspiration passively doesn’t happen that much for most people , I think you have to write and that actually gets inspirations attention . And nothing has to be for marathon stretches , doing something every day for a short period of time is a better habit than binging once a month . Also a lot of people find it helps to have other projects going in a different artform so they have a break creatively that nourishes them .
I always find the ending the hardest part because in real life things don’t end ! Trying to wrap up something that is realistic with different characters , I think because I am character driven it’s confusing because not all the characters stop at the same time , so I still haven’t learned how to be story driven . You already have the ability to create realistic characters quickly! As a reader I could see all of this happening . I could see the characters although I couldn’t see where they were but what’s funny is I didn’t really notice that until I thought about it , I think because all three of the people (the mother with her son counts kind of as one person story) are so familiar that it could be in Santa Monica or it could be in Québec or it could be in a small town in Hawaii . That was pretty interesting that we didn’t really need the scenery and maybe that’s why the ending works so well is because it’s a pretty universal event . It doesn’t really have to be set anywhere in particular .
Thanks for the feedback 🙂
Very promising. Keep improving.
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You do a good job of adding small details, like the vibration of the car window. Interesting view of a curious mind at work.
Enjoyed your story , well done
This is so wonderfully beautiful! 🙂
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Great story. Love how you ended it! In my attempts at story writing, I like to go into detail and explain the history of everyone and everything, just to explain why things happen the way they do, Lord of the Rings style. I like the simplicity of this though. 🙂
Thank you! 🙂
You remind me of my teen daughter, and I mean that kindly! Best wishes with your novel dreams!
Wow this is a greats story. Simple but effective. I’ve always tried writing my own stories but never end up finishing them! 🙂
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