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Creative Production => Competitions & Activities => Topic started by: Mandle on 10 Mar 2021, 05:10

Title: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 10 Mar 2021, 05:10
My Stage-fright Story

A few years back I was at the Newcastle Writer's Convention in Newcastle, NSW, Australia, by total coincidence.

Well, not "total", but my friend had mentioned she would be there and I had no idea where it was but I was driving by and something seemed to be going on in a plaza with a big tent so I parked the car and my wife and I went over to see what it was, as you did back in the "Before Days"...

My friend came running out and she said "OMG you made it! I'm gonna read my piece in like an hour on stage! I'm just booking it now!"

And I was like "Yup! We're here! Cool!"

And she asked me "Do you wanna read anything? I'm just about to talk to the guy?" and I was like "Ummmm, sure why not?!" and wondering to myself why I had said that.

We met the booking guy and he took down our names and we went to sit in the front row of a tent pavilion that held about 200 people.

I realized what I had gotten myself into at this point and thought "WTF am I gonna "read" with zero prep?!" and then I got on my phone, went to the AGS forums and searched for this: "thine cuntish" (https://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/forums/index.php?topic=54953.msg636564815#msg636564815) which was the only thing I remembered from my story that would specifically find it in search.

My story "The Last Deal" came up, which you can link to from the clickable above, and I read it through and just decided to read it out as my turn at the mic was quickly approaching.

I considered asking if foul language was allowed but decided not to. It was an adult gathering, and so I just went up to the mic, in front of over 100 people, and brought my chair with me and sat down on it and lowered the mic down because, at this point I knew I couldn't hold my phone and also read from it with shaking hands, and also I had like 7% battery life left on it etc.

I started to read the story and, when the first "funny" line hit a bunch of the audience actually laughed, so I got into it a bit more and really ate up the scenery with the "Devil" voice and the "GOD" voice and a lot more laughs kept coming.

Inside, though, my whole being was trembling and I was glad that I was sitting down with the phone braced against my knee to hide it.

My wife told me that, when I spoke the final punchline of the story, the cameraman filming the event pumped his fist and said "YES!!!" in response.

I got a massive round of applause from the audience and got down from the stage in a state of euphoric shock.

I'm so glad that I overcame my stage-fright and just got up there and did it.

So yeah, that's MY entry into this FWC so far and best of luck to everyo...

Oh wait, shit, I'm the host?! ... Now I have ACTUAL stage-fright... so here's a photo of how someone might feel when they step up onto a stage to speak and now write away all:

(https://i.imgur.com/m6DWG2R.png)

And now I dash off the stage and cower behind the stairs in shame.

Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 16 Mar 2021, 02:37
Anyone working on anything or have any ideas? Is the theme not good?
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 16 Mar 2021, 02:51
I'm working on something. But I do think the theme is a bit narrrow - or I'm thinking about it in a too narrow way.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 16 Mar 2021, 13:20
I'm working on something. But I do think the theme is a bit narrrow - or I'm thinking about it in a too narrow way.

I guess it could just be a story about someone doing something while someone else is watching them and they are not sure if they are up to the task. It doesn't have to be a literal stage.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 17 Mar 2021, 16:06
Molly stood by the thick, red, curtain twiddling a stray lock of auburn hair.  She knew her part well, exactly what she had to say, but she was understandably nervous.
There was still time to kill , before she would be required to deliver her lines, so she made her way through the assembled patrons, to the solace of her room. Pouring a
glass of whiskey, Molly snuggled into a comfy armchair by an open window. Sipping the golden liquid, she began to reflect on the circumstances that had led to her present
situation.

Back East life was boring for a fun loving eighteen year old girl, who longed for adventure. Dressing in satin and lace, attending tea parties, and pretending to be interested
in the advances of potential suitors, filled her with loathing. The part she played, however, just to keep the peace, was that of an obedient daughter, willing to comply with
her parents wishes. Therefore, it came as no surprise when her Mother announced, rather matter of factly, over breakfast one morning, that she would be betrothed to John
Gresham, the son of a prominent banker. He was twenty years older than Molly and had the charisma of a wet fish, so this unexpected news did not fill her with enthusiasm.
An engagement party was duly arranged. Local gentry arrived in droves to partake in the merriment and bear witness to this special occasion. The only person not celebrating
was Molly.

In the amount of time it had taken for John's pudgy, sweaty hand, to force the ill fitting diamond ring on her finger, she had packed her case and swiftly departed for pastures
anew. To be precise the wild west. She travelled with a kindly family, by wagon train. The hazardous journey took six months, red indian attacks were frequent, but when she
arrived at her destination she knew it had all been worthwhile. The dirt streets, the overwhelming smell of manure, and a cacophany of sounds, totally alien to a pampered
big city dweller, appealed to her senses. This was what she had always dreamed of.

The next few months were a whirl as Molly cast off the shackles of her previous existance. She rented a room at the Silver dollar Saloon, found employment and swapped
velvet and lace in favour of denim and leather.  The ring was dumped unceremoniously into a trinket tray on her dresser.

Unfortunately, for Molly, things were about to change. The Pinkerton Detective Agency had been hired by the Gresham family to track her down. This they had done. A telegraph
was received informing her that John would be coming to take her home.

That time was now. The sound of galloping hooves, alerted Molly. Rising from her chair she descended the stairs, walked through the saloon and out into the street,  as a team of
horses skidded to a halt. A slightly crumpled John alighted from the transport, looking her up and down disapprovingly. Clearing his dust filled throat, he stated his case, demanding
that his wife to be, accompanied him on the return journey. Molly stood her ground. Word perfect she delivered her well rehearsed lines, telling him in no uncertain terms that there
was no chance of his hopes being realised. She was happy in her new life and had no intention of leaving. The final insult was to return the ring. Realising that his beseeches were
in vain, John climbed back into the coach, instructing the driver to turn around.

Quite a crowd had gathered, obviously enjoying proceedings. They clapped appreciatively on the outcome. Molly bowed. Composing herself, she heaved a sigh of relief.
"Now that really was stage fright," she quipped. Then she burst into fits of laughter. 
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 19 Mar 2021, 11:35
Nice story! And the final punchline is well(s and fargo) disguised.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 20 Mar 2021, 09:43

Thank you, Mandle.

I do hope there will be more entries, or it won't be much of a competition  :)
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Baron on 22 Mar 2021, 03:03
Aaarrgh.  I'm already having deadline problems, and the deadline isn't for another three days!  Does deadline fright count as stage fright?  (wtf)
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 22 Mar 2021, 05:53
Feeling the same way! I'm about 2/3 done, though. I should be able to finish it in time (famous last words...  ;)).
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 24 Mar 2021, 06:26
To see and not to see


As the ramshackle waggon drove through the village, it collected children and adults alike. Lured in by the colourful paint on the rough wooden planks and the letters in white on the red and blue surface proclaiming this the cart of Mistress Latima – Magician and Illusionist, they followed it through the narrow alleys of the old town, over dirt paths and – closer to the town centre – cobblestone to the market place, where other showmen were already preparing for the feast. There, some townsmen erected a stage next to the fountain for the musicians and lay boards on the ground to level it for dancing later in the evening. Other people were busy hanging ropes between flagpoles and lanterns, decorated with colourful pennons and long ribbons that nearly reached the heads of the people below. Some of the shops around the market place had already opened their windows, the tavern had already put tables and chairs out for people to sit and drink and beer was already poured generously. In one corner of the market place a juggler threw balls and rings into the air and collected some coin before the main part of the festival started, while in another a fiddler played some slow tunes that would not do for the dancing later.

Mistress Latima was not the first to arrive, nor was she the last. Mikaela, her assistant, drove the cart through the crowd that just started to form for the evening, carefully steering the donkey past excited children and stressed craftsmen. Her face was hidden by a red veil that fit her oriental looking clothes that had nothing to do with her real heritage. But the orient felt mysterious and the right clothes added to the secrets of her craft. She parked the cart at the outskirts of the market place and jumped down light-footed.

Warding off excited and eager children with a few words and a coin appearing out of thin air, she got to work on setting up their performance. Normally, Mikaela would take care of the donkey and Mistress Latima would look after the little stage they could create by swinging open one side of the waggon and distracting the children, but today the young woman had to do this by herself. Latima hadn’t felt too well the last couple of days and had laid down inside for a while and so Mikaela had to do the work of two people.

For now, she kept her tricks simple – a coin appearing here, a card guessed there – and spoke little. Showmanship was meant for the great performance, not for the daily slight of hand of her craft. But when children asked nice enough, she knelt down in front of them and showed them the trick again. And she showed it again slower until they saw the other kind of magic, the magic that did not consist of mystery and confusion but of recognition, of realisation, of understanding. No true magician would ever do this for their larger tricks, for their deeper secrets, but these little sleights of hand existed to lure more people in for their real performance. It made people think they were clever, and it made them want to see later if they could see through all parts of her art.

Magic always sat somewhere in this strange mixture of pretending it was real and acknowledging that it was not, somewhere on this scale between illusion and lie. And for the audience it was always between allowing the mystery, allowing the exciting deceit, and finding the truth, always between secret and exposure, between knowing what was true and pretending to believe the lie. This was the art of the magician, to keep the illusion but also to keep the truth, to keep the balance in this stress field of secret knowledge, of mystery and truth, that was not quite as secret, not quite as mysterious.

And this was an art Mikaela had studied nearly to perfection. She still wasn’t as good as Mistress Latima, letting a word too much slip here or showing a trick one time too often there. Unlike Latima, she had not yet learned twenty methods for every trick to keep up the illusion this one minute longer, had not yet quite figured out when one repetition was one too many, when one smile gave away too much. But she felt comfortable enough in this pre-show performance, in this promising more without showing too little. And children and adults alike ate it up, asking her for more and more, asking when the spectacle would start.

“Later!” Mikaela laughed them away, no sign of an exotic accent in her voice. She was not Latima, the mysterious lady from the east, who spoke like a sailors wife when they were alone and like an ethereal fairy when she stood in front of her audience. “Tonight. After sunset. Just ten pennies for tonight! A taler for a private show in your own home if you want. Magic and illusion, wizardry and mystery, only here, only tonight! Just ten pennies! More if you like. The best magician from the east…” Without hesitation, Mikaela went from performing to advertising, calling over the heads of the people in the busy street all their assets and delights. With every word she promoted their show. She had done that a million times, she slipped easily in the role of a market crier and her voice carried far and loud.

She had not done this before, though. Taking a moment away from her audience to breathe, she had entered the waggon and sat down next to Mistress Latima. The older woman still lay on one of the narrow beds they usually only popped out at night because it took away too much of the narrow space in the cart. They could still open the stage and perform with one of the beds out, but not exactly move in their home. Latima’s wrinkled smile, that was so reassuring normally, did little to keep her heartbeat steady now. Suddenly, it had started to beat just this little bit faster, this little bit too fast.

Alone? she thought, willing the word to reach Mistress Latima without her actually having spoken it. When the older woman said nothing else now though, she croaked the word out: “Alone?”

Latima looked her up and down. The younger woman had removed the veil that was only ever important for the mystery and exoticism, playing into the cards of the current fashion of styling everything oriental. Her long blond hair fell freely onto her shoulders and the ever present smile on her lips trembled in a for her completely unusual way.

“What’s t’e matter, Mika?” the older woman asked in her clipped speech and patted Mikaela’s hand with her sinewy fingers. “You know all t’e tricks by heart. You’ve assisted me for years. You’d done ‘em a t’ousand times!” It was supposed to be reassuring, and it was nice, but it did not have the intended effect.

“Practised, Letty, I practised them a thousand times!”

“Exactly! You’ll do fine, deary.”

“I…” She did not know what to say. Latima was right. The older woman was pale and feverish. Her eyes were glazed and red, sweat had formed on her forehead and from time to time a chill ran through her whole body. A mild cough had started in the afternoon and again and again snivels interrupted her words. There was no way she could perform tonight, but they needed the money. With Latima sick, they needed it even more.

“Just fine!” And with that, the decision was made.

The costume of an assistant, though fine and elegant, was not flashy enough for the main attraction. Mikaela’s hands were shaking as she took the elaborately decorated pants and blouse from the wardrobe, the only piece of clothing they actually bothered to hang up in the small space. Over a red layer hung veils of sheer blue fabric that were embroidered with glass beads and shimmering sequins. The dress fit, but she still felt like an imposter slipping into the wrong person’s body and the fabric stuck to her already mildly sweaty skin. It was a hot day and the inside of the cart was humid and stuffy.

Latima was right: Mikaela knew the whole performance by heart, knew every trick and every movement of her hands, her body, every smile and every deception. She knew when something was to be passed to the assistant and she knew the alternative when no assistant was available: the table to put the hat on, the tricks that could use a helper from the audience, the different ways to set up a trick when one method was sure to fail. She knew all this. She knew it.

Then why didn’t she remember any of it now? Why didn’t she remember what the slit in the sleeve was for or why it was important to take the wand in the left hand at the start of the performance and not the right? Why couldn’t she remember why it helped the show to move first right and then left when she made the golden egg disappear? How exactly did you make it disappear again?

The thoughts rushed through her mind as she put on the clothes and smoothed them. As she practised the opening speech to her performance one last time and the sun set slowly behind the tower of the church she chafed her tongue over her teeth, a nervous habit she had never managed to get rid of, no matter how often Letty told her that suppressing the tick alone would make performing easier. As she positioned the last props behind the curtain of their makeshift stage, she felt sweat built on her forehead and her hands started to shake. Shaking hands! The worst obstacle for an illusionist who had to rely on her dexterity!

And knowing that they shook, looking at the little tremors just made it worse. Everything made it worse – every thought, every minute of waiting. If the show could just start, then the training would kick in, she was sure. She could start it, people had gathered, enough of an audience was there, but she stood there, stiff like a statue and stared at all the people, so many people. And they would all watch her fail.

But no, she knew what to do, the words were there, the training was there, the knowledge, and if she just made the first steps, the others would follow, she tried to convince herself.

“Get a move on, Mika! It’s time.”

The call did not help. But her shaking hands followed the order. She pulled on the string of the curtain and – like magic – it revealed the stunning form of the illusionist. Mistress Latima, for now she was Latima, stood like a vision in front of her audience. And with the magic of years of training, the words flowed from her lips with the same ethereal voice she had heard Letty use so often.

Words and thoughts did not match. While she introduced her audience to the wonders of magic and illusion with the long practised speech, her thoughts just revolved around her inadequacy – real or imagined.

I don’t know. I can’t do this. I don’t remember. I..., again and again the same words sprang into her thoughts, again and again they wanted to jump to her lips.

Some said magic was nothing but charlatanry and fraud. That an illusionist was just as bad as the mediums that used the same slights of hand Mikaela and Latima used, not to entertain and amuse, not to create wonder, but to pretend wonders existed, to fake the existence of ghosts and spirits. And now, for a moment, Mikaela felt like these kinds of frauds, pretending to be something she was not.

Still, she got through the first few tricks just fine. The gasps as the flower danced in its vase for a moment, controlled by a foot pedal the audience could not see, spoke volumes, as did the cry of surprise as first two rings, then three that were perfectly closed – confirmed by one of the spectators – suddenly hung into each other. And how they all beamed when she conjured a black spot onto the palm of a volunteer, and how satisfying was this tiny moment of understanding, this flick of recognition when he understood how she had done it, how she had pressed his hand just this bit more firmly then normal when she welcomed him.

It all went so smoothly. Then why didn’t the fear go away? Why didn’t her heart-rate slow down, and why didn’t the cooler air of the night dry the sweat on her forehead? When it became difficult to breathe, Mikaela knew she must have caught the same bug as Mistress Latima.

For a while, everything still went fine, even as the sweat started to make her hands sticky and slippery at the same time. The movements were there in her hands, in her feet. Her body remember even as her thoughts did not and they were always this one step faster then her mind, so that she never managed to catch up to her own fear.

Until she waited this one moment too long for the audience to appreciate the trick.

A woman floated on thin air, though she of course felt the cold metal under her back. Higher and higher Mikaela let her drift, pumping the hidden pedal. Next came the ring, large and shiny, to drag the attention to it. She moved it around the body of the woman, she hesitated in the middle and now she was supposed to step to the other side, move the ring in a circle, the back forward, the front back, around and around the thin blanket that hid the mechanism.

But she hesitated a moment too long and she thought when she should rather act. She thought how the movement should go – and she couldn’t remember. She couldn’t remember how to move the ring, how to avoid the supporting pole in the middle, how to…

The ring clanged against the pole, resounding over the tense silence of excitement. She felt it vibrate in her hands, felt it shake. A quick word, a laugh and a joke and it wouldn’t matter, but she remembered none of the words she had learned to cover a mistake. For a second, she stood there frozen in confusion. Where was she, what was she doing? How was she supposed to react?

Before, her confused thoughts allowed her hands to act on instinct, now they made it impossible to move. She wanted to disappear. Never was another thought stronger in her mind.

She didn’t move. For a second, ten seconds, a minute. Part of her told her it was not so bad, the rational part that noticed that the audience reacted more to her reaction than to the slight mistake, but this part of her was too weak. Her heart beat faster and faster, her breath came shorter and shorter and the sweat on her forehead soak the thin veil over her face. Her hands didn’t move. They were frozen as they were, holding the ring around the lying body of the volunteer. In quick and nervous fear, Mikaela’s tongue scampered over her teeth again, the only part of her not unable to move.

Slowly, the woman on the equipment sat up as she noticed that something was wrong. As too much time elapsed and no applause came. And the audience waited for the next part of the magic to happen.

Vanish, disappear, vanish, her thoughts screamed at Mikaela, suppressing all other thoughts.

And then confusion turned into wonder. The audience gasped as one.

Why? Mikaela looked around and saw nothing but astonishment in the faces of her audience. Suddenly, applause and cheers filled the silence.

It woke Mikaela from her stupor. She looked around, she looked up, looked down on herself. And she saw nothing out of the ordinary, no reason why nothing should lead to such enthusiasm.

They are just nice, the rational part of her mind told her, keep going. Remember the words!

It was the end of the show. She could do it. Even as her eyes fell onto her hands as she lowered the volunteer back to the ground and she glimpsed the reason for the sudden excitement, she somehow managed to press the final words out of her mouth.

But she did not walk through the audience to collect some more money. How could she, when every time her satin shoes peered out from under her pants, she noticed that the skin between shoes and seam was gone? Just gone. As a matter of fact, not just the skin was gone. She didn’t see bones or blood either. There was just nothing. She swallowed, wondering if her chest was still there.

A fever, obviously, a fever. I’m hallucinating...

It was better to avoid people. Better for her sanity, because they did see what she saw, didn’t they? Did she imagine their amazement? Did they see what she saw, still saw?

She stumbled into the cart as soon as possible and dragged the stage doors shut without any ceremony and elegance. Just away, get away from the street, from the people, from prying eyes. Away, vanish, disappear, part of her mind still chanted, like a constant chorus.

Mikaela pulled the veil from her face, took a mirror from a drawer. Her face, gone as well, just gone. Her body was completely invisible. Fever or insanity, whatever it was, it made her legs weak and she sank to the ground.

“Wonderful!” Latima’s voice let her head whip around. “Finally!”

“What?”

“I knew it!” The sweat was gone from Latima’s skin, her voice did not sound weak and shaken by her illness. Instead, it sounded jubilant. “What fear can do! Just a bit of fear. Now, stop your worrying and calm down. T’at’s normal, Mika. Let’s start your real training!”

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

References to the “orient” and its “exotic” and “mysterious” nature are there to roughly date when the story takes place, referencing the Orientalism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orientalism) of the 18th and 19th century in Europe, and should be taken as such and only as such. This is also the time when magic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_(illusion)) changed from being seen as witchcraft and real to being recognised as tricks and illusion and a certain fascination with how it is done came to be.

Ugh! This story is too long, meandering and in serious need of a complete re-write (at least, the second half). I'm only posting so that we have a bit of a competition. I can do better, usually.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Baron on 25 Mar 2021, 02:42
Counsel of Despair

Telford paced the hallway nervously, looking at his watch.  It was not too late to back out of his appointment.  He briefly paused in front of the solid wooden door to read the brass plate for the umpteenth time: Dr. Archibald S. Higgins, LMHC.  And then he resumed the pacing ritual.  At last he had convinced himself that this whole expedition was not worth the bother when the solid door swung open and a nice receptionist lady said that Dr. Higgins was ready to see him now.  Telford swallowed awkwardly, and his armpits pissed themselves with fright.  He went beet red and stuttered something three furlongs past nonsense.  He then proceeded to rock on his toes as if hitting an invisible barrier every time he tried to move forward.

“Mr. Telford?” the receptionist repeated, a concerned look on her face.  “It's all right, Mr. Telford.  The doctor is here to help.”

Telford must have muttered something semi-coherent in response, because the receptionist looked relieved at having discovered in part the issue behind his bizarre behaviour.  “Not at all, Mr. Telford,” she told him reassuringly.  “What happens in Dr. Higgins' office stays in Dr. Higgins' office.  We have a duty of confidentiality towards our patients, Mr. Telford.”

Somehow Telford doubted that was actually true.  He appreciated the lady's soothing tone, but he knew enough about human nature to understand that some truths could simply not be contained.  There was always an opt-out clause that allowed people to wiggle out of their solemn duty, no matter how vigorously they promised otherwise.  In fact, now that he had stopped to think about it, the more vigorous the promise the more likely it was to be broken.  Telford searched the receptionist's face for a sign of falseness, but all he could detect was a seemingly genuine feeling of concern.

“Mr. Telford, we are here to help,” she repeated.  Simplicity was always the best option.  Short and sweet.  In and out like the bat of an eye.  Less room for error, or miscommunication.

“OK,” he agreed, somewhat surprised that his feet seemed now to obey his will once more.  “OK, let's do this.”

The receptionist lady led Telford through the doorway and closed the solid wooden door behind him.  She then escorted him through a second solid wooden door and into the doctor's study, where he was invited to make himself comfortable on a very posh looking sofa.

“Hello, Mr. Telford,” Dr. Higgins greeted him from a chair near the sofa as the receptionist left the room.  The doctor was older than Telford had imagined, not that that had any bearing on the business at hand.  “I am Dr. Higgins, registered member of the College of Psychiatric Professionals and licensed mental health counsellor.  My specialty, as I'm sure you've heard, is performance anxiety.  Now, tell me about your problem.”  And now the doctor sat, raptly attentive, so still that a bird might come and sit on him at any moment, mistaking him for a rather hoary old bush.

Telford stared into his sweaty palms, willing himself to get it out.  His head spun from something akin to vertigo, and he suddenly felt as if he might be physically ill.  Breathing deeply to centre himself, Telford began in a rambling, disjointed manner.  “Yeah, so I've got this, er.... Um, I mean.... this, uh, friend!  Yeah.  And this friend has, uh, this job where he works with, you know, lots of people.  I mean, lots and lots of people!  But, uh, my friend has this problem when it comes to working with a certain type of person, you know?  It's like he, uh, can't.... you know, make it happen with them.”
   
Dr. Higgins nodded, scribbling something on his notepad.  “I see,” he said gravely, fixing Telford with an inquisitive stare.  “And how do you think your friend came by this... unfortunate association?”

It was Telford's turn to stare, flexing his fingers against each other to stop from clutching at his pant legs like they were a comforting teddy bear.  “Uh....  I guess my friend gets all fixated on how great these, uh, kind of people are.  And he doesn't like the idea of, uh.... bringing them down.”

“Hmmmm,” Dr. Higgins said, scribbling with even greater intensity.  “Probably some combination of an inferiority complex and a pedestal complex,” he speculated.  “In either case, it would help if your friend could see these special people as just normal, fallible humans, just like himself.”

Telford twitched involuntarily.  For the first time he peered into the doctor's earnest brown eyes, nested in a pair of spectacles too small for a man with such a large head.  “How can you tell the difference between special people and fallible people?” he croaked.
   
“Oh, we're all fallible,” Dr. Higgins reassured him.  “The only infallible people are the ones you don't know well!”

Telford turned this over in his mind.  It kind of made sense.  Kind of.  “What about intentions?” he asked.

The doctor looked at him quizzically.  “Intentions?”

Telford nodded, stumbling for the words.  “Like, special people mean well, don't they.  They make mistakes, but they mean well.  That is more than just a shade better than the rest of us cunts and bastards.  So I – er, my friend, that is – he thinks very highly of people who mean well.  He feels he'd be making the world worse off by, er... doing his thing with them.”

Dr. Higgins stared pensively for a long moment.  “The problem with you friend,” he began at length, “is that he lacks a healthy self-esteem.  He needs to see that there is value in himself, and thereby in others as well, so as not to be the constant slave of negativity.  I want you to repeat something for me, Mr. Telford, so that you can teach it to your friend.  Are you ready?”
   
Telford stared blankly, although one eyebrow did twitch in an upward direction.

“Here it is,” Dr. Higgins continued.  “I am a good person.  What I do is valued.  People will like me for who I am.”

“Uh....” Telford stuttered, not liking at all the turn this session had taken.  “Uh, I'm not saying that.”

“You need to want to help your friend,” the doctor continued.  “Otherwise we're just wasting our time here.”

“Uh...” Telford began again, trying to find the words.  “I think there's been a bit of miscommunication along the line somewhere, actually.  My friend is not really concerned about being liked.  It's just something he needs to do, but he's got problems with some people....”

“Yes, yes, we all have physical needs.  Quite healthy,” the doctor soothed.

“Uh, what?”  Telford felt his pulse racing.  He looked up at the doctor's diploma on the wall, but instead his eyes chanced across a small picture of what must have been his grandchild on the shelf.  Telford quickly looked away.  How could he make the doctor understand?!?  “We're talking about the Big One, here," he said, in desperation.  "With most people it's not an issue, but with the nice ones my friend just can't seem to... get the job done.”

“I understand what you are saying, Mr. Telford,” Dr. Higgins assured him.  “Your friend has an emotional disorder whereby he is afraid to love.  This has resulted in a state of temporary impotence that is most distressing.  What we need to do is to get at the root of your friend's self-loathing, allowing him to be vulnerable again; allowing him to actually love and be loved.  Isn't that right, Mr. Telford?”

“Uh...” Telford began again, putting his hands nervously into his jacket pockets, looking for something to grasp for reassurance.  “Truthfully?”

“Yes Mr. Telford.  Only the truth will help us here.  I want to help you, Mr. Telford, but for that to happen you need to help yourself.”  Dr. Higgins spoke with an air of finality, putting the ball firmly into Telford's court.

“Okay,”  Telford said, releasing a breath that he had not realized he had been holding.  He closed his eyes, willing the truth to be out at last.  “The thing is, Doc,” he began, courage welling up within him.  This was going to happen!  He was going to say the things that had always stayed unsaid!   “The thing is,” he repeated, “I'm not actually here for my friend, but I suppose you guessed that.”

The old doctor nodded, but continued to listen raptly.

“So...  the performance anxiety thing.  The truth is, I'm actually just a hit-man who hates offing doctors.”

Neither man moved for a very long moment.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 26 Mar 2021, 13:31
Sorry, been away for a few days. I will close the contest and start the voting tomorrow, or at least over the weekend.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 26 Mar 2021, 17:46
And here I though you were afraid to get up on stage and declare this contest over...  ;)
Take your time.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 27 Mar 2021, 15:32
Here are the voting categories:

Best Fifteenth Word Of The Story:

Please choose between:

"She" for BarbWire.
"Lured" for Sinitrena.
"to" for Baron.

Spoiler: ShowHide
Naw, just kidding. I'll put up a better voting system tomorrow.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 29 Mar 2021, 12:05

Like the idea of the fifteenth word, Mandle. It's a good a way as any  :)
Having to judge entries, for a competition, must be very difficult. I wouldn't like the responsibility.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 30 Mar 2021, 16:26
"She"
So much mystery, so much intruigue. Who is she? Where is she? Why? What a story of identity and self-discovery, of gender, self-worth and expression. Oh, what a character, oh what a show!

"Lured"
Oh, the secrets in this simple word. A story of a trap, people lured to their doom, magic and spells, hidden treasures and snares. Lured into a world so strange, so full of dangers and despair!

"to"
Where, oh where does it lead? Or is it the purpose we're talking about? Or a reason? Where does it lead, what is the sense? A story on the very nature of existence, deep and thought provoking!


Should any of the descriptions above actually have anything to do with the stories, this is completely accidental. I've not read them yet.

But could we get the real, official signal - with categories and deadlines - to vote anytime soon, maybe?  ;)
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 03 Apr 2021, 16:30
Okay, well, Mandle hasn't been online in a few days, but I think we need to get this competition moving again.

BarbWire: Nice use of the theme. Overall, the story reads more like a concept or a summery, except from a few lines that go more into detail. Despite this, we learn quite a bit about Molly, which is pretty well done. She certainly shows character and one can see why she needs to rehears her lines and might feel a bit aprehensive about confronting her (not so) beloved. A good concept of a story about a woman fighting for her independence.

Baron: You had me guessing till the end. I mean, it was pretty clear waht kind of doctor Higgins is, but I did not see this problem of Telford's coming. And this line He went beet red and stuttered something three furlongs past nonsense. is great. Overall, a very good story with a surprinsing ending. My complements.


As we don't have categories, I guess I'll just give just one vote, for Baron, as I really enjoyed his story, and hope that some more people come over and vote, so that we can get back on track here. (And if Mandle does show up anytime soon and gives us categories or a different voting system for this round, I'll amend my vote then.)
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 04 Apr 2021, 15:15

Thanks for stepping up, Sinitrena. I do hope Mandle is okay and will grace us with his presence, soon.

I see your point about my entry being more concept or summary, but this was the first time I had entered the competition, so wasn't
sure if readers would have the staying power for anything too lengthy.

When Mandle suggested the title of STAGE FRIGHT and said it need not be a stage in the literal sense, it gave me an idea. What about a
Stage Coach in the starring role?  What I then wrote just fell into place. The fight for independence, the relocating, the learning of lines etc.
is designed to give a false impression, as I am sure you are aware. The Stage Coach arriving in town, carrying John Gresham, is the real
reason for her STAGE FRIGHT.

I enjoyed your story which was very well written. It really captured my imagination.

I read the story, written by Baron , to my son, and he guessed the ending. Personally, I had no idea. Clever concept, though.

I can't decide between these entries so can I cop out and give one point each  :)
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 05 Apr 2021, 13:28
Sorry, yes, please continue with one vote for best story only. I'm still alive.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 05 Apr 2021, 14:38
Glad you are still with us, Mandle. So, I have to make a decision. Ugh!

Having read the entries, again, I have finally decided that Baron's story, being an amusing take on a  psychiatric couch situation, ending in what could be dire consequences, is my preference.

Therefore: Baron = 1 vote

 


Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 05 Apr 2021, 15:47
Glad you're still around, Mandle!

I see your point about my entry being more concept or summary, but this was the first time I had entered the competition, so wasn't
sure if readers would have the staying power for anything too lengthy.

Well, I don't mind longer entries, actually, I prefer them. But let's just say we had discussions about story length before.  (roll)
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Baron on 06 Apr 2021, 01:28
Sorry for my absence - life's been very busy lately.  I, for one, appreciated Mandle's stalling of the voting process.   ;-D

I liked both the stories of my fellow competitors.  BarbWire does a good job of bringing the reader into the moment with little details of 19th century life (the dirty streets, the cacophony of sounds).  She had me convinced Molly was rehearsing lines for a stage play behind that red curtain.  The twist at the end brought a welcome change in perspective, with the young woman confirming ownership of her own destiny.  My only real criticism is that the story feels a bit short.  Perhaps a bit more build-up for the final encounter?

Sinitrena's story also had an impressive twist at the end (I wonder at the fact that all three stories about stage fright relied on twist endings - what are the chances?).  I liked her philosophical musings about the tension between belief in the mystery of magic and the belief in a rational explanation.  The simile of putting on another person's dress being like an impostor slipping into the wrong person's body was powerful.  I think a bit more editing would make the last third of the story stronger, but the story concept and the reader's emotional attachment to Mikaela's success easily outweigh any short-comings.

With just one vote, it's hard to decide between two meritorious stories.  I think I have to give a slight edge to Sinitrena for building more emotional attachment to Mikaela than BarbWire did for Molly, but it was a very close contest.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 06 Apr 2021, 10:13
Sorry for my absence - life's been very busy lately.  I, for one, appreciated Mandle's stalling of the voting process.   ;-D

I feel you on the topic of life being busy. If you don't take the time to look around now and then you might miss it.

So, enough Ferris Bueller nonsense/wisdom...

But, because of that possible wisdom, I have started writing the book that I have been putting off for way too long.

I probably won't be around AGS with much productive stuff like games and stories and shit but I'll still be chilling here. After the three-year-long haul working on Chronicle Of Innsmouth: Mountains Of Madness, and seeing just how difficult it is to get a game of that quality out there and looking at what so many different people had to sacrifice and risk to get it launched, I've decided to just write a good ye olde book. Just me and myself tapping away on my keyboard without worrying about if the next graphic or audio asset was good enough.

Just started on Chapter Three and don't worry, it's not a "serious" or "important" book... God, I hate most of those... It is batshit insanity, aimed at the YA audience and is titled "The Missing Person's Club".

So, if you ever see a book titled that over the next few years then please buy it and message me in here that you did so and I promise you will get something delivered to your house. You can always refuse delivery if the box looks too weirdly proportioned or drippy...

Cheers guys. I love you crazy bunch.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 07 Apr 2021, 14:29
So...as Mandle rides off into the sunset to establish himself as a writer of best sellers, I am wondering where that leaves the competition.

Is it all over?  A bit of an anti climax I must say.

I would like to thank Sinitrena and Baron for their kind remarks about my short but sweet entry.

It was a difficult decision to choose between Sinitrina and Baron and I would have liked to give one vote each, but I was over ruled.

Anyway, I think the Fortnightly Writing Competition is on it's last legs and, if not, might it be kinder to put it out of its misery  :-\
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Baron on 08 Apr 2021, 02:31
Wait, if the competition is really over, I think Sinitrena should get to ride off into the sunset first.  She's been working this competition longer than I have, and I've been doing it regularly for... nine years?!?  :shocked:

Somebody get me my dentures and my typewriter....
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 08 Apr 2021, 07:37
Why are we discussing letting this competition die? All Mandle said is that he'll not be around as much as before.  :confused:

Anyway, all he has to do now is declare a winner, so that the next round can be started - a job of about 5 seconds.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: heltenjon on 08 Apr 2021, 11:26
Why are we discussing letting this competition die? All Mandle said is that he'll not be around as much as before.  :confused:

*Trying to unconfuse* I assume that BarbWire just assumed that Mandle was the regular host for the competition, like the system is in MAGS and many other competitions.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 08 Apr 2021, 14:43
Thank you, heltenjon, you are quite right. I did, wrongly, assume that Mandle was the regular host for the competition.

I remember reading a post by Mandle, a few months ago, asking people not to give up on the competition. I suppose I should have researched the
origins, before reaching the wrong conclusion.

If I offended anybody, I am sorry. This was not my intention.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Baron on 09 Apr 2021, 00:37
Wait, does this mean no sunsets?  For anybody?  :undecided:
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 09 Apr 2021, 09:41
Wait, does this mean no sunsets?  For anybody?  :undecided:

It may indeed mean that... but I can moon you if you like.

Someone please take over the thread from me and declare the winner. I'm much too intermittent in here to be trusted with that.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 09 Apr 2021, 15:11
Oh, for the love of - - -  (roll)


Baron reveived 2 points.

Sinitrena received 1 point.

BarbWire received 0 points, unfortunately.

That means Baron wins and should start the next round.


Now get on with it already!
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 09 Apr 2021, 15:32
Phew! Well done, Sinitrena. Thanks for taking on the responsibility. That must be the longest fortnight, ever  :)

I think that will be my first, and last, entry in the competition. You're too good for me. Now over to Baron....



Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Sinitrena on 09 Apr 2021, 15:43
No!!! We just met you, don't go away again already!  8-0
Seriously, your entry was good. For the amount of words you used, it had a whole lot of depth. I'd love to read more from you.  :-*
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 09 Apr 2021, 18:06
I can't promise, Sinitrena, but I will see what I can do.  :-\

If you would like to read a nostalgic poem I wrote for Christmas, last year, go to General Discussions, page 3. The thread is entitled 'CHRISTMAS PAST.'
You may, of course, already have seen it.  oddly enough the thread started by Mandle, about the FWC, is four down from my post and is headed
'PLEASE HELP SAVE A LONG RUNNING AGS TRADITION.'

Once again, thanks for your kind words.  :-*


 

Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 11 Apr 2021, 13:29
Yeah, sorry Sinetrena and all... I have landed in a position where I have even a lot more time on my hands over the foreseeable future than I even had up until now during the whole pandemic thingy and so I decided to go a bit hardcore on writing my book. It did make me disregard some ongoing stuff here and I'm sorry for that but the good news is that I'm pushing on into Chapter Three with a clear shot through in my mind to at least Chapter 5 or 6, where everything bottle-necks and then there's a big blank space I have to explore until something insane happens around Chapter 10 and then either the book ends with a nod towards becoming a series of shortish YA novels or just keeps going into the "magical realm of bullshit" as a much better writer than I once said.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Baron on 13 Apr 2021, 03:26
Remember Mandle, you should be aiming for at least 10 thousand words per day.  Don't worry about quality: we can get that in editing.  The important thing is to get it all down as fast as possible.  We're all rooting for you.  ;-D

Thanks everyone for voting for me!  I'll try to think up another theme and get it posted pronto.  My first impulse is to make the theme Mandle's Novel, but while I fear one of us might have an unfair advantage in such a scenario, the biggest drawback will be that I myself as competition administrator wouldn't get a chance to participate.  ;)  Maybe Mandle's Navel instead....  :P
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Mandle on 13 Apr 2021, 11:40
Remember Mandle, you should be aiming for at least 10 thousand words per day.  Don't worry about quality: we can get that in editing.  The important thing is to get it all down as fast as possible.  We're all rooting for you.  ;-D

Thanks everyone for voting for me!  I'll try to think up another theme and get it posted pronto.  My first impulse is to make the theme Mandle's Novel, but while I fear one of us might have an unfair advantage in such a scenario, the biggest drawback will be that I myself as competition administrator wouldn't get a chance to participate.  ;)  Maybe Mandle's Navel instead....  :P

A big LOL on all points in this post... Thanks for the kind words, Baron. 10,000 words a day, eh? Hmmmm... I'll just for a page a day or so a day like Yahtzee recommended I think. Then at least I get about 400 pages done in a year and can see the end of the tunnel.
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: BarbWire on 13 Apr 2021, 12:52
Alright, Baron, how about this.....

We all have belly buttons, of that there is no doubt.
Some of them are depressed, while some are sticking out.

Some have gems inserted, or other shiny stuff.
Which serves no other purpose, than keeping out the fluff.

The reason for it being there, though, surely, you will scoff.
Is down to our maker's finger, to show we were finished off.

I don't know where I heard it, but I,m sure that I've been told,
That Mandel's, novel, navel is a sight you should behold. (laugh)

Hope this is taken as just a bit of fun.

Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Baron on 13 Apr 2021, 14:40
Whoa!  BarbWire sets a new record by winning the next competition before it has even begun!  Well done!   ;-D

I'm not sure about the health implications of novel navels, but I for one am deeply intrigued by the prospect of Mandle's navel novel.   ;)

The next competition is up and running, by the by: https://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/forums/index.php?topic=59025.0
Title: Re: Fortnightly Writing Competition: THEME: Stage-fright (March 10th-24th)
Post by: Ponch on 14 Apr 2021, 01:33
My vote goes to Sinitrena  :cool: