Friday, 24 June 2011


artifice (plural artifices)
  1. a crafty but underhanded deception
  2. a trick played out as an ingenious, but artful, ruse
  3. a strategic maneuver that uses some clever means to avoid detection or capture
  4. a tactical move to gain advantage

Monday's short story writing course was based around the idea of the artifice story.  I'm no expert on genre writing, and I will admit to losing interest in a novel or story pretty quickly when something I feel is implausible occurs. I say implausible because I think it’s more fitting that saying unrealistic – for example all stories about robots ruling the world might be pretty unrealistic, but Terminator 2, just as an example, is a plausible story about robots ruling the world because the makers lay out a back-story to explain their rise to power.  Still what I can tolerate in a film I often can’t tolerate in a book or story, maybe I want a book to have real relevance to me?  Or perhaps I just shy away from the idea of genre and the culture of rules and obsessive devotees.  Nonetheless our homework for the following month is to write an artifice story.  That is to say a story grounded in the plausible, (even the realistic,) but with one extraordinary or strange element about the setting or characters.

A good example would be Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis – where the protagonist awakes to find he has transformed into a bug during the night.  Adam Marek is also a writer of this kind of short story. 

So I was away in North Wales for most of this week and I sat in a rainy caravan on Tuesday night and pondered.  My stories are always about the real, whether relationships, events, difficult situations – not everything I write has happened to me, but I guess, it could have.  However I really enjoyed the task, and spent about four hours writing a story based in the not so distant future where the NHS is so overstretched and pensions and overcrowding have become such a bind that the government decided to euthanize over-seventies once their health has begun to dip.  A bit controversial I know I don’t know where the idea came from, but it allowed me to mention this bizarre state of affairs, and then explore an ordinary situation – a daughter nursing her sick mother.  While her mother is over seventy the daughter, as a precaution, fills out the relevant forms for an exemption for her mother.  This involves, in my little fantasy, getting proof she is still working, volunteering, has savings and is generally a merit to society.  Essentially though the story is concerned with the bedside conversations and the difficult experiences. 

I don’t know what adding a fantasy/futuristic element to a story does, how does it make it more interesting?  Perhaps it is just escapism to set a story in a time of place which doesn’t exist.  Or is it that we’re running out of straight fiction in the twenty-first century and have to start speculating about other worlds?  All I know is I felt more in control of my little invented dystopia (or utopia, depending on how endearing you find the over seventies?) because I could take it wherever I wanted.

Meanwhile, another story published on Monday (yey), my MA results came in for second semester (yey) 72% (booo) I thought I’d improved loads but I’m obviously still a work in progress, it’s only 1% rise on last semester.  Oh and the Purple Hibiscus book club met, drank, discussed and succeeded in not only finding a consensus on the novel but also getting matching gecko tattoos.  Overall an interesting week.  The panorama’s were taken on my travels in North Wales and Anglesey.

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