A few weeks ago, I spotted a competition run by Flash500 who run a quarterly flash fiction competition But they were asking for stories up to 3,000 words for their Annual short story competition. The rules said that they accepted adult stories and also stories for children. As I have had my Writing for Children module assessed and returned, I decided to enter the story I had written for Assignment 4 where I had to show a power switch between two characters. My story was called Hidden Treasure, and I was absolutely delighted when it was longlisted, HERE and although it didn’t make the shortlist which you can also see on this link now (only contained the longlist when I got the email.) I was delighted to have got this far.

The whole experience has given me the confidence to believe in myself, and I shall certainly be entering more competitions from now on. In fact, I have entered the Bristol Short Story Prize and sent off a couple of stories to The Writing Magazine.



Relatively Speaking

Rob stood outside the Dog and Duck and stared at the door. The paint was chipped and he could see the dirty brown colour underneath the current grey. He’d never looked at it before, always eager to get in and greet his friends. He’d never looked at his father before either. Not that he remembered anyway. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to see him now but he deserved to know why he’d walked out on him when he was a baby, didn’t he? Why he’d never been in touch for all his twenty-five years? Rob lifted his chin up and steeled himself. Clenching his fists by his side he pushed the door open with his shoulder and marched into the familiar bar. The man was sitting by the window. His future, older face smiled back at him. It shocked him. Took the wind out of his sails. He turned his back and faced the bar.

‘A pint please Jack.’ His voice was high.

‘Sure, Rob. You ok?’ Jack spoke to Rob but looked at the man by the window.

‘Fine.  I’ll be fine.’ Rob replied. His mouth was suddenly dry.

Rob drank deeply from the pint glass before turning to face his father. He strode purposefully towards him and sat down. His father looked nervous. So he should be.

‘Hello son.’ He held his hand out. Rob ignored it. ‘It’s good to finally meet you. I’ve been waiting a long time for this.’

‘Surprised you could spare the time.’ snarled Rob. What did he expect? Open arms? Tears?

‘I don’t blame you. I’ve a lot of explaining to do if you’ll let me?’

‘You’ve got ten minutes, and then I’m gone.’ Rob couldn’t wait for it to be over. There was nothing this man could say to change things.

Writing Fantasy

Just doing the Fantasy Assignment for Writing for Children module with the OCA and it’s so nice to revisit fairytales and myths etc. I have found it quite hard to write a story of my own invention in this genre but fascinating all the same. Trying to think of appropriate character names, places. What my fantasy creatures look like. What sort of a world they live in.

It came to me while looking at different stories that, I absolutely loved ‘The Ugly Duckling’ story by Hans Christian Anderson as a child. I think everyone can relate to that. I think we all feel like the Ugly Duckling at some point in our lives.

Getting ready to meet someone you really fancy for the first time.

Comparing yourself to your best friend when going out for a night on the town or a party.

I realised quite a long time ago, after years of worrying about it, that the ‘swan’ is not what people see on the outside of a person but what they see inside.

I’m still looking for the swan in me which may be a bit of a wild goose chase now that I am in my sixties but I am definitely enjoying the journey.

back to my research for fantasy writing. I found a list of unusual place names in Britain that had me howling out loud with laughter at times. Have a look and see what you think.


Writing a Film Script

Here is a film script I wrote when studying with the OU. Although it may not be perfect it got me my highest mark. I hope it can be of help to anyone attempting something similar. Some of the layout may have been affected when I copied and pasted it on to here so don’t take it as gospel. I have used montage to convey flashbacks and they will be in black and white and without sound to highlight and add drama.

Carole Richardson (2014)

Laura Connor: A forty year old nurse with career ambitions.

Jack Connor: Self employed engineer. Family orientated.

Molly Connor: Five year old daughter of Laura and Jack. Daddy’s little princess.

Rufus Downs: Retired accountant and father who left Laura when she was only five.

Gracie Downs: Rufus’s daughter from second marriage.

Sally: Staff nurse and friend of Laura.

Mr Hobson: Patient

Jenny: Care Assistant.

Isobel: Laura’s mother

Katie: Nurse

A light and airy, galley style kitchen with units down one side and a breakfast bar running down the opposite wall. Off screen distant sound of a lawnmower, birdsong and the sound of a man and a child laughing and talking can be heard through an open window. We see Laura, side view, leaning over the sink and gazing out of the window. She is wearing a pale blue nurse’s uniform. CU to Laura’s face then camera pans round to show view through window of well tended back garden. Jack is kneeling down beside a pergola. He is mending a trellis that is supporting a large pink Clematis. Molly is by his side trying to help. Laura taps on the glass of the window.
I’m off now.

Pass me another tack please, Molly.
(combs fingers through his hair)

(bends down and picks up flower head)
Careful with my flowers Daddy. They die when they’re


(stroking her face)
Sorry princess. I’ll try to be gentle.


(taps glass again and speaks louder)
I should be home early enough to give Molly breakfast and take her to school.

(continuing to fix trellis)
Let’s hope there won’t be any emergencies then.

(frowns and mutters)
I’ll just tell all the patients not to be ill and come home just when I fancy, shall I?

(waves and smiles at Laura)
Bye Mummy.
(blows kiss and turns back to Jack)
Bye Molly.

(CU Jack and Molly. Off screen, we hear the sound of car keys being picked up, followed by door slamming. Jack glances back towards window and frowns before smiling at Molly and continuing his repairs.)


Laura is standing at the nurse’s workstation with Sally. The workstation has a desk and two chairs. Behind this is a small staff room with a couple of chairs, a small table, sink unit, kettle, cups etc. Sally is doing the handover for the night shift. The ward has a main section with eight beds down each side. There is a side ward just off the main ward. The lighting is low and the blinds have been drawn so that patients can sleep. Katie is attending to a patient at the far end of the ward.
Mr Hobson’s eaten well today. Obs are fine and he’ll
be going home tomorrow. Moving in with his son…poor thing…won’t be able to sneeze without an inquisition.

I know. He’s a right old woman. Still, better than not being wanted at all.

Too right. We can’t trace any relatives for Mr Freeman. He’s had another stroke today. Meds have been altered and he’s responding positively. Katie’s with him now.
(nods in general direction of Katie)

That’s a shame. Nice man. Never complains.

There’s a new patient in the side ward. Rufus Downs, seventy, not expected to last the night… Cancer…



Shot in black and white with no sound. Isobel is arguing with Rufus. There is no sound. The room is poorly furnished with a small dining table in one corner. The tiled mantelpiece has an open grate and there is a clock and ornaments on top. He is holding a briefcase and keeps looking at his watch. In front of them, a five year old Laura is sitting on the sofa. She is holding her hands over her ears and crying.



Laura? Laura? Are you OK? Come and sit down. (manoeuvres Laura into a chair)
Are you Ill?

No…sorry Sal. Just a bit of a turn. I’m fine…what were you saying?

Are you sure? You don’t look fine? Shall I get you some water?

No. Honestly, I’m OK. Carry on.

Well… I was saying that his daughter is sitting with him.

LAURA                                                SALLY
Daughter?                                           She’s a bit distraught

Calling us in every few minutes. We’ve put him on a syringe driver for the pain. He’s refusing food but he’s on a drip for fluids. Everyone else no change from last night.
(takes hold of Laura’s hand)
Are you sure you’re OK?
(stands up)
I’m perfectly alright. Stop fussing.
Is it Jack? Still giving you a hard time? He knows how important this job is…
He hates me being on nights. Thinks I don’t spend enough time with Molly. You know what he’s like.
A flaming dinosaur, that’s what. Don’t take any notice. He’ll come round. Look, I’ve got to rush off. It’s Doc Martin tonight. Can’t miss that.
(hurries away along the corridor as she talks)
We’ll catch up in the morning.

Jenny races past Sally towards staff room and removes her coat.

Sorry I’m late. Bloody dog wouldn’t have a poo. Can’t leave him in the house alone ‘til he’s done it. Anythin’ I need to know? – Laura?
(Laura stares at door to side ward)


Laura is by Mr Hobson’s bed in the main ward. The blood pressure monitor is attached to his finger and she is holding his thin wrist, her fingers on his pulse. She looks at her watch to check the rate.
It’ll be nice to live with your son, won’t it, Fred?
I’d rather live with you Laura. (he winks and chuckles) I’d die a happy man if I had you to look at every day.

Now, Fred. You behave yourself. You’ll have my Jack after you.
(mumbles to herself)
Probably not actually. Not anymore.
(stares at side ward)

Hey! You alright love?

(She pats Fred’s arm and smiles)

I’m absolutely fine. Now you settle down. Need to be fresh and raring to go in the morning.

Laura tucks him in and walks down the ward stopping at each bed and checking patients. She stops in her tracks as a voice calls from behind her.



The room is sparse with a small cabinet for clothes and personal belongings. There is a single bed and one chair. A drip is set up at the side of the bed opposite the chair. Rufus is lying in bed breathing heavily and spasmodically. He has little hair and his face is lined and grey. Gracie is sitting in the chair, hunched up and holding Rufus’s hand. She looks up as Laura enters the room. They both have similar coloured hair. Laura stares at Gracie before turning her attention to the drip.

Everything see… (coughs) seems fine.

Gracie? Is that you?
(peers at Laura)

No, Dad. It’s the nurse. She’s come to make you comfortable.

That’s right. I’m the nurse Mr Downs. Laura. My name’s Laura.

Laura? (he stares up at her) Laura?

Don’t stare Dad. It’s rude. (smiles at Laura) I’m sorry
Laura, he gets a bit confused.

(she lifts his hand to her lips and starts crying again)

(whispers) It’s OK Gracie. It’s OK.

I…I need to go… (rushes from room)


Laura is leaning over desk with papers in her hands. She is distressed and has difficulty concentrating. The light is on in the staff room where Katie and Jenny are having a break and chatting.

Nurse…err Laura?


(wipes away tears and looks up)

Can I help?


I’m sorry to keep bothering you…it’s just…it’s Dad. He … He keeps saying your name…
(looks in direction of staff room)

I know you’re busy…

I’ll be along in just a minute.



Shot in black and white with no sound. Scruffy stair carpet and tiled floor. Telephone stand on side wall. Childs bicycle leans on wall next to tel stand. Isobel sits on stairs, crying. Rufus stands by door with suitcase in hand. Five year old Laura clings to his legs as he strokes her hair. Rufus bends down to hug her before holding her by the arms and mouthing the words ‘I love you’. He walks out of the door. Laura runs to Isobel.



(brusquely) What’s the matter Mr Downs? Do you need the dosage upping?
(slips hand under pillow and checks syringe driver)

No…I need to tell you…


(plumps pillow)

No need to tell me anything. Your family is more important.

Have you still got parents Laura?

(glares at Rufus) No. No I haven’t Gracie. My mum died last year and my father…well he…he left home when I was five.

Oh, I’m so sorry. That’s awful. I’ve been so lucky. He’s been a wonderful father. Haven’t you Dad? The best ever.


(snatches up Rufus’s wrist and checks pulse)

I’m sure he has. Wish I’d had a father like that.
(Tears are running down Rufus’s face)

I wish he hadn’t left Mum crying herself to sleep every night. I wish he hadn’t left me wondering what I’d done wrong.
(puts his hand down roughly)

(barely a whisper) Laura, I’m so sorry…I

Typical of Dad. Can’t bear to see anyone hurt or upset. It’s OK Dad. Laura’s fine. You just rest now.

Don’t you worry about me. You just concentrate on Gracie. She’s the one who needs you. My Dad means nothing to me. Absolutely nothing.
(goes to end of the bed and writes up chart)

Would it be alright if I go and get a coffee while you’re here?

You go ahead. No problem

(Gracie leaves the room)

She doesn’t know.

Obviously. Perhaps it’s time she did.

I came back… your mum…she wouldn’t…

(snapping) Don’t you dare blame my mother. You left us.

Please Laura. Don’t tell her. It would/

What? Show her what you’re really like? What you’re capable of?
I’ve no right to ask…

No right at all. Why? Why did you leave? For her?

No… I met June… her mum, after I left. There wasn’t /

(voice softer) Then why? I thought you loved me.

(breathing heavily)
Because… I thought… my job… more important… I drove your mum away…
(coughs violently)

(Lifts him to a sitting position)

You’d better rest…

(Gracie enters holding a paper drinks carton)

Dad…Are you OK?

(she helps Laura to sit him up)

So sorry…so sorry…

(stops coughing and closes his eyes)

I need to get on.

(Laura leaves the room quickly.)


Jenny stands by Mr Hobson’s bed. She waves at Laura sitting at her desk to get her attention. Laura goes over to them.

Everything OK?

Mr Hobson’s a bit worried about going to his son’s tomorrow.

I’ll have a word. Thanks Jenny.
(Jenny continues up the ward checking patients)
What is it Fred?

I don’t think it’ll work. With Tom, I mean.

What won’t work?

Living with him. We haven’t exactly got a good track record.

Stop worrying. Everyone has ups and downs. It’ll be fine. You’ll see.

I wish it were as simple as that. We had a massive fallout when he was eighteen. He left home it was that bad.

You’re OK now though, aren’t you?

Well yes…he came back just before his mother died last year. More to make peace with her than me, I think. We’re trying…it’s difficult.

This is your chance to make it right. Tell him how you feel. He’ll understand. You’re still his dad.

Not much of a dad, Laura. Too busy with my own life
back then. I wish it could have been different.

We can all wish that. Wish we’d acted differently.
(looks over to her desk)

Make it right with him. Before it’s too late…I’ve just got to do something. I’ll be back …

Laura walks briskly over to workstation and picks up her mobile. She keys in a text message to Jack. CU of mobile.
‘Can you get morning off? We need to sit down and talk about things. I miss you. Laura xxx’

Gracie comes out of side ward. She stands and stares at Laura. Laura hurries over and puts her arms around Gracie before leading her back into the side ward.

I think he’s gone.


Laura sits Gracie down and goes over to her father. She lifts his wrist and checks for a pulse.

Not quite Gracie, but he’s very weak. It won’t be long.

Leaning over, she puts her fingers to her own lips before touching them to his forehead.
She strokes his face gently.

(speaking almost imperceptibly)
Goodbye Dad. I love you.

A tear slips from her eyes and drops on to his cheek. His eyes flicker open. The tiniest of smiles forms and his eyes are wet. His hand reaches out and she takes hold of it. She watches his chest rise and fall and she strokes his hand before turning back to Gracie.

He’s not in pain Gracie. He needs you to be strong for him now. Come closer and hold his hand.


(stands and leans over Rufus)
Thank you Laura. You’ve been so kind. I think we’ll be alright now.

Laura touches Gracie’s shoulder and leaves the room.



Shot in full colour. Rufus is chasing a four year old Laura around a lawned garden with colourful borders. They are both laughing as he catches her and twirls her around. They collapse on the grass in each other’s arms. They are very happy



Laura sits at workstation, head in arms. Mobile vibrates. Laura lifts her head and picks it up. CU on message.
‘I miss you too. Will breakfast in bed suit after we both take Molly to school? Jack xx’

Laura wipes her eyes and smiles. She types out her response.


Childhood Poems – Sweet and sour

Sweet and Sour

Mam made a cone

from newspaper and put sugar in it.

Then she’d give each of us a stick

of rhubarb, to dip.

I loved the green-apple tartness

of the rhubarb against the sweet

sugar granules. Tongues curling

and saliva swirling, like a tap

turned on. Lips pursed

and tongues licking, again and again

‘til it was gone. Mouth and hands

stuck up to glory. Faces beaming

with the aftermath of it,

as we pick the strings

from pink stained teeth. Good

as a bag of sweets any day.

Childhood Poems-The Old School

The Old School

I hear the clang of the bell and I see myself

running on cold concrete across the school playground,

knees gashed and grazed, naked elbows protruding

from a worn out cardigan.


Tucking dress into my knickers I tipple up

the sooty black wall, feet firmly planted against its solid face.

Blood rushes and reddens already rosy cheeks while

grit grabs the fleshy palms of my hands.


The skipping rope flies high, in time to

‘Polly’s in the kitchen’ and I get a stitch doing the skipping.

I run away screaming as someone shouts ‘Kiss-catch’, NO-ONE

misses snotty nosed kisses from bullying boys with tide marks.


A small tin of Tics, tucked in my pocket

Rattles and tinkles and brings all friends running.

‘Share or you’re dead.’ claim a clamour of voices

And a handful of hands are grabbing and jabbing.


The bell clangs again and Miss Ellie takes charge

‘Line up in order and don’t make a noise.

Boys on the left and Girls on the right.’

She marches us back through the great gothic doors.



Moving on to part 3-Plotting and Structure

A new year, a new assignment. The course is getting so interesting but more involved and is quite a challenge. Assignment 2 went reasonably well and I got excellent constructive feedback from my tutor. No-one had talked about paragraph structure with me before when I have written a short story but once I started to rework my piece it made perfect sense and now my I’m moving forward with a bit more confidence.

Anyway, a bit less digressing and on with part 3.  This is all about Plot and Structure and my first exercise  was to plot out ‘Cinderella’ using some of the other characters and telling it from their point of view. This was a great exercise and it was easy to see how using a different point of view changes the structure of a plot significantly. With obvious character traits it was easy to imagine the Fairy Godmother concentrating on her ability to provide solutions  for problems using her magic skills. Her dilemma could be not being as good at magic spells as she thought, leaving with a fear of letting Cinderella down. The Stepmother’s story would be based on jealosy and greed and her need to be the centre of attention, learning the lesson and reforming by the end. The King’s story would concentrate his need to continue the family line with some fairly comic scenes of him trying to match make the prince with every princess in the land until Cinderella comes along.

Plotting out the stories has made me want to try wherever possible to plan and plot out future stories. In the past, I have always tended to do ‘clustering’ with words/phrases inspired by a single word or theme I have been given or have got from a newspaper, magazine etc. A picture tends to form in my head and then I start to freewrite longhand using several different ideas that have formed until one grabs me and I find that the writing starts to flow. Normally I would  then write 3 or 4 pages and then transfer to computer, editing as I type it up. This time I decided to try plotting the story at that point instead of leaping in and seeing where it took me.

Looking at the structure in a couple of the books I had read helped me to understand some of the reasons authors use structuring to , not only widen their audience, but to allow them better access to viewpoint. Viepoint plays a key role in storytelling and can sometimes be quite prohibitive when told from a single point of view. It makes me realise that multiple points of view can make what is happening take on  a more 3D and rounded picture which will draw the reader in, allowing them to live the story alongside the characters. It also helps with pace as a sudden change of viewpoint can slow things down and keep the reader in suspense about what is happening with the other character and allows the author to delay exposition. I’m not too sure how easy that will be to carry off without losing the interest of your reader.


Assignment 2 – Thoughts

It has been a bit of a struggle to get going with this assignment. What to do? One story or two?  Asking the question on the forum gave me the answer that should have been so obvious. I was so busy wondering what sort of story would fit 1500 words and which age groups to choose that I almost missed it. Choose an age category and write a story. As simple as that. As Barbara Henderson pointed out. Some stories will naturally be around 1500 words whereas others will be longer.

So I set about clustering on ‘hiding places’ bringing up lots of ideas and paths to follow. I researched hiding places on the internet but that was either Ways to hide your valuables by making secret drawers, cupboards etc or Lots of photographs of young children in silly hiding places where they are totally visible. I went back to my childhood and remembered building dens and playing hide and seek.  I tried free-writing and managed an opening page for a few different stories before choosing what I thought was the best idea.

So I started and everything was fine…apart from plot. I knew who was in my story, the setting but what was the dilemma? That was proving to be quite difficult. Looking back to the notes in my WFC assignment book and reading the advice about ‘looking through the child’s eyes’ I decided to get input from my favourite audience – my grandchildren.

I pick them up from school on Wednesdays and look after them until Mum or dad gets home from work. Elliot is 9 and Holly is 7 so they were perfect for the7+ category I had chosen. I asked Holly to read my opening out loud to check for suitability of words and layout. She seemed very comfortable with it and Elliot was very quiet and engaged. So far so good.

Afterwards, we had a long discussion about what the dilemma could be and how was my main character Lucy going to resolve it. The ideas were wide and varied , stimulating me to add even more. They wrote notes on all these ideas and were excited to be part f the process.

I shall take it again next week for more feedback as I progress. What a satisfying way to develop a story.