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'Big words' writing prompt

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

This week I was seeking a little fun. So I set the following writing prompt for SSOA's writers: 'He showed two salient characteristics: catastrophising and apostrophising beyond belief.'

Here are a couple of pieces from those who rose to the challenge of turning such big words into a piece of flash fiction written in just ten minutes: Wayne Henderson, David Benn and Jim Piotrowski. Par excellence! Thanks for thinking outside the square!

He showed two salient characteristics: catastrophising and apostrophising beyond belief.

As a child, Wainwright would invent the most marvellous stories. There were times when his mother wanted to interview him and capture these creative narratives for one of her screen plays. She needed him to feed her own craving for the imaginative escapes from her life that she had lost. The mundanity of adulthood had made her hard and narrow.

When he grew up, Wainwright followed in his mothers’ footsteps and became a writer. His agent thought him a genius, but one whose mental stability was always on the verge of collapse. When the agent turned up to work, there would always be an urgent message from Wainwright that would describe some awful event, made good by the appearance of a saviour. It was as if the writer was always trying to make the imaginary real.

Then, later on, as Wainwright grew older, the agent cared for him. The writer had been unable to find a constant partner because he was so caught up in his dreams. The drama and unreality of it all was too much for anyone to bear. Eventually, when he went to a home, every now and then, the nurses would ask the old agent to help get him down from the roof to eat his tea. They said that he was always away in the clouds, talking to imaginary beasts and warning of impending doom.

‘That’s Wainwright for you,’ said the agent. ‘Always catastrophising and apostrophising.’

Wayne Henderson

He showed two salient characteristics: catastrophising and apostrophising beyond belief: Grilled Chicken Burgers

‘Dad, did you know Charcoal Charlies makes the best grilled chicken burgers in Sydney? It's all over the internet. Everyone has voted that they make the best burgers in Sydney and they do this grilled chicken burger that is seriously the BEST burger.’

I was driving Harrison and James home from their Saturday evening Taekwondo training. It was eight o’clock, I was tired, they were hungry, and I didn’t really feel like cooking the sausages sitting on the second shelf of the fridge. Harrison sat beside me, looking out the window and telling me all about grilled chicken burgers as I drove them to Charcoal Charlies to collect take away.

‘It has grilled chicken and tomato and lettuce and avocado. And the avocado isn’t hard, it’s nice and soft and it also has this chili mayo, Dad. Sometimes I like to put some shoestring fries on it as well.’

‘Really? Why don’t you tell me about the bun.’

Harrison missed the irony and told me all about the bun. James quietly laughed in the back seat.

‘Dad, I think I want a double grilled chicken burger. Do you know what that is?’

‘No, what is it?’

‘It’s just like a normal grilled chicken burger only it has double the amount of grilled chicken on it.’

‘That sounds like a lot of grilled chicken.’

‘It is, Dad. I think the grilled chicken is stacked maybe five centimeters high. It is so, so good.’

We pulled up outside Charcoal Charlies to see the doors closed, the chairs stacked, and the lights turned off. Harrison hit his head against the car window. ‘Dad! They’re closed! Why are they closed? They can’t be closed! It’s not late! It’s still early! It’s not fair! People still need to buy burgers!’

He turned and looked at me. His lip quivered and a tear broke from the corner of his eye. He quickly wiped it away.

I put my hand on his shoulder and sighed. ‘Dude, I got sausages at home. No, they’re not grilled chicken burgers and I didn’t feel like cooking them but if we have the sausages tonight then I will bring you back here for lunch tomorrow. We’ll get a table outside and you can have a double grilled chicken burger and a coke and fries and whatever.’

Broken, Harrison slumped in the seat and asked in little voice, ‘What type of sausages are they?’

‘Pork I think.’

‘I hate pork sausages. I suppose you're going to make sloppy mashed potato as well?’ he muttered quietly.

I thought for a second, ‘Yes, I suppose I will.’

He tilted his head, resting it against my hand. ‘Okay, bring on the sausages and mashed potato!’

David Benn

He showed two salient characteristics: catastrophising and apostrophising beyond belief.

'"The Collins place" has an apostrophe after the "s",' the freelance editor said quite loudly, whipping the point of his lethal red pen across the entire sentence. 'That’s the fifteenth one I’ve had to correct.'

'I never know where to put them,' I offered. But this wasn’t what he wanted to hear as he obviously felt very strongly about the use of apostrophes.

'Look mate,' he said, not looking up, his eyes still on the page. 'You’ll never get this published with an attitude like that. All the work you’ve done will go in the bin. No publisher worth their salt will even consider a work without apostrophes. You may as well give up now. Here we go! In the next paragraph, for "Michaels coming along,” the apostrophe goes before the "s”.'

He picked up his red pen and drew giant apostrophes across the page.

'You’ll become a laughing stock. No one takes a non-grammarian seriously.'

But he kept on reading, so I figured he would go through and fix the whole thing. From what I could tell his two most salient characteristics were catastrophising and apostrophising, beyond belief.

Jim Piotrowski

A note to readers from editor Christine Williams: 'I don't know of any publisher who'll take on a manuscript for publication which has consistently incorrect punctuation - or even inconsistent, but commonly occurring, incorrect punctuation. So would-be authors are advised to stop wishful thinking and attend to punctuation. I mean, think of the thankless task of copy editing. It's so dispiriting for an editor, whether she's one who catastrophises or not, to have to correct punctuation to make meaning clear. And very time-consuming, so it adds to the cost of editing for an author.'

Copyright to the above writers.

SSOA writers' blogs are made possible through the support of City of Sydney grant assistance.

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Bravo, everyone! What a great read. :-)

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