Sometimes it’s nice to empty your brain and go back to basics. It can be rejuvenating to switch your creative energy from the same plot, characters and settings to blast something out that’s completely unrelated to your current work in progress.
This is where I like to use writing prompts, I pick one in the morning and then spend my lunch hour writing the first things that pop into my head. In this way, the creative process is twice as cathartic as I also get to switch my work head off for a while too.
I write by hand, in a notebook. I find the story flows better than when it’s typed, if I didn’t dread cramp I would probably write my entire novel like this! I start at the beginning and keep writing longhand until I reach the ending – or until I run out of lunch hour – whichever comes first.
I thought I would share today’s result with you, my chosen prompt was:
‘Write about a funeral from the perspective of the deceased’
This is what I came up with – remember, it is raw and unedited even though I have typed it up for you. Rubbishy prose is to be expected.
“Charles, just look at Margo.” I said to my husband who always did a pointed job of ignoring me when he felt that the occasion called for silence. “Look! She’s rolled out that LBD again. She wore that for her husband’s funeral twenty years ago, and for every event since. You’d have thought she could’ve made an effort today of all days.” I continued, undeterred.
Margo walked into the small crematorium on the arm of Bob, her second husband. Her middle aged spread was starting to ooze from the areas unrestrained by the aged, black fabric. She gave Charles a tight smile and nodded in our direction before sitting down on one of the benches. They were followed in by a steady stream of friends and neighbours, all looking solemn and suitably mournful.
“This music is awful Charles, I think the organist might be having a stroke. Do you think we should check on him?” I asked, moving away from the swatting motion he aimed at a persistent fly. The music really was unrecognisable, but nobody else seems to be concerned.
Our children, Tilda and Thomas were in the pew across the aisle with their spouses, too far away for me to speak to them or get their attention. Luckily Tilda and Marcus haven’t brought their spoilt, out-of-control children with them today. They must be with the nanny, best place for the wilful little brats, they’d only cause a commotion. We never did get any grandchildren from Thomas but since his husband, Giles, hasn’t got a womb we weren’t ever really expecting any. I hope they’ve brought tissues with them, they always get overly emotional at funerals.
“Oh no, Marian has brought little Bobby with her.” I lean in to whisper loudly to Charles. “I hope he’s been properly medicated, he can’t be trusted at these sort of gatherings. What on Earth was she thinking bringing him along?”
Charles turned to see Bobby breaking away from his mother’s grip and running towards him at the front of the room.
“Hi Mr Cheese.” He said, aiming a huge grin at Charles. His mother caught up with him a second later on her unaccustomed heels and reclaimed his hand.
“It’s Mr Stilton, Bobby.” She said, the blush of mortification creeping up her neck and spilling over her chin to her cheeks. “I’m sorry.” She mouthed to Charles.
“She’s in a funny dress.” Bobby said, pointing at me. I looked around to see who he was referring to and turned back to Bobby. “It’s made of curtains.” He said giggling.
His mother looked in my direction for a second before putting her hand on Charles’ shoulder. “I’m sorry for your loss.” She said, and then turning to Bobby. “Come on, let’s go and sit down.”
Well isn’t that just fantastic, the boy can see me. Not only can he see me but he can see that I’m in my wedding dress, my most hideous possession. He’s right, it does look like it’s made of curtains, Charles’ mother insisted on making it for me as her contribution to our wedding. I think she must have borrowed every one of her housewifey friends’ spare net curtains to make this blancmange catastrophe. Charles knew I hated it, I can’t think what possessed him to lay me to rest in it. My one reprieve is that he didn’t add the barbed wire tiara she insisted on fashioning too. I could almost be convinced that the woman didn’t like me if I thought about it for long enough.
I’ll concede that the wedding dress is a step up from what I’d been wearing when I died. I’d packed almost every item of underwear I owned that week for our holiday, apart from those drawer-lurking, overstretched grey/blue ones that you save for the time of the month – and I hadn’t had one of those in nearly twenty years so they were well past their peak. To make it even more hideously embarrassing, I was on the toilet with the offending pants around my ankles when my chest felt like it crushed in on itself and I fell off onto the bathmat, and just like that I was dead. I’d had to waddle around the mortuary for four days with those pants around my ankles until the amused funeral assistant had changed my body into this dress.
The minister arrived at the front and stood next to my coffin, bowed towards it and started his service.
“Charles Geoffrey Stilton! You know I don’t believe in God, why the hell have you got a bloody Catholic priest in to do my service? I don’t believe this. Of all the things to get wrong.” I flung at him. “I’m surprised the children didn’t put you right.” I said aiming a stare at them across the aisle.
He groaned on for a while about my parents, family and life before the organist murdered the first few bars of All Things Bright and Beautiful and he encouraged the congregation to half heartedly joined in.
“I hate this hymn Charles, you know I do.” The kick I aimed at his shin passed straight through but I did it again anyway in case there was any way he might feel it.
There don’t seem to be many tears in the room, I would have liked a bit more emotion. What’s wrong with them? They’re probably thinking of the happy times we spent together rather than mourning, but they could do that on their own time surely? I notice a downturned head shuddering a few rows back, that’s more like it. I stand up to get a better view and see it’s my sister, Deirdra. Of course she would be upset, we were very close when we were young, I practically brought her up, this is bound to affect her. I go to sit next to her, to offer my presence in comfort and realise that she’s not crying, she’s stifling a laugh.
“Deirdra! This is completely inappropriate of you, as usual. What the hell is so funny?”
She can’t hear me of course and I hear Bobby laughing. He’s watching me again, his mother is trying to quell his giggles by cuddling him in close, perhaps to disguise the laughter as sobs. He holds up the order of service for me to look at and I see what Deirdra’s laughter had been about. The order of service has a photo of me, or to be more exact, a photo of my legs sticking up in the air after I fell backwards down the bomb shelter-sized hole the children had dug on Skegness beach when they were young. I was not remotely amused at the time and had removed this photo from the album years ago to stop people looking at it and Charles had put it front and centre on my order of service, the one memorial that should be considered with dignity and respect. A lasting epitaph.
I stalked back down to the front of the room and aimed an open palm at Charles’ face. It didn’t connect of course but I felt better all the same. I stood with my hands on my hips at the front of the aisle and marched purposely towards the doors at the back of the room. I am not going to stand for this, humiliated at my own funeral. I almost reached the heavy wooden doors before I snapped to a stop and remembered that I couldn’t move more than twenty meters from my corpse, I had forgotten this a lot in the last two weeks. How was a woman supposed to make a grand exit now?
The priest seemed to have stopped talking and was waving some smokey balls in chains at my coffin, chanting as the creaky organist started to play again. Everybody rose to their feet as the cheap casket started to travel backwards through the curtains. At the same time, I jerked backwards, travelling at the same speed. I grab at the wooden benches to slow myself but my hands slide through them and I realise I am powerless to stop my journey.
“Bye Mrs. Cheese!” Shouts Bobby, cheerfully waving at me, his mother trying to restrain his arms to absolutely no disapproving looks.
“Charles! Charles!” I yell hysterically. He must be able to sense my presence, we’ve been together for almost fifty years. “Charles, help me! Be useful for once in your life!”
A small smile appears on Charles’ lips and he blows the vanishing casket a kiss. My heart melts at this small, personal gesture from my husband.
“Goodbye you miserable old cow.”
Do you use writing prompts to keep your brain in order or do you use another method of resetting?
I’d love to hear about them.