King of the Hill 1

23 May

After yesterday’s assignment to write (on) a story every day, I wrote this little flash fiction. It isn’t high literature, but I think it is somewhat entertaining. There’s a hero, a sidekick and a villain. So to speak, of course, because Jim, Hank and Peter are best friends.

Here it is. Afterwards I tell some more about the process.

The three boys stared at the top of a small hill. “Let’s play King of the Hill here,” said Jim. “Are you sure it’s safe,” stammered Hank. “We’ll do fine. Nothing to fear,” said Peter trying to calm Hank down. “You sissy,” Jim said, “Let’s just see who reaches the top first!” Peter suggested they use the ball he took with him. “How are we going to use your ball,” Hank asked. “Simple,” answered Peter, “if you have the ball you stay put and pass the ball to someone else.” “Whatever,” said Jim impatiently, “Let’s play ball!” “But how do we start,” asked Hank. “Good question,” said Peter, “I suppose we throw it in the air and let fate decide.”

And so they did. Jim leaped high up in the air and snatched the ball. “Not fair,” cried Hank. “Don’t be such a crybaby. Start walking,” Jim shouted. Hank ran straight to the top, but Peter was smarter and stayed at the bottom. And indeed, Jim passed the ball to him. While Hank came running down in disappointment, he almost dropped the ball after it was thrown in his direction.

“Clever, clever,” said Jim, “you’re trying to confuse us.” Peter just ignored him. While Hank wasn’t sure what to do next, he heard the others shout in excitement: “Give it to me, give it to me!” Since Peter had been so nice to him, Hank threw the ball to Peter, who immediately passed it to Jim. “Finally,” Jim shouted in relief, “Don’t think I’ll give to you, silly doofus!” Jim launched the ball behind him, where Peter received it with a big smile.

He stood on top of the hill.

I based this story largely on conversations I can’t help but overhearing between playing children near the flat where I live. Kids are loud when they play together.

I decided to do the setup through conversation, since I had just listened to an episode of the “Writing Excuses” podcast, Writing Excuses 5.38: Dialog with John Scalzi and to Mur Lafferty’s excellent podcast “I Should Be Writing,” episode 202 – Being Smart/Howard Andrew Jones Interview. John Scalzi offered some solid insight on how to approach dialogue and Andrew offered some good writing tips, which he had learned through bitter experience. One of those tips was that before you write a scene, decide what each character is supposed to do (to accomplish) before you start writing. This way you know where to go, even if you get bogged down by storytelling tangents. And boy, if you’re creative, you go on quite some tangents.

Enough about that. I had some problems too.

The problem to tackle first was how to keep it entertaining. I decided to approach it as a sporting match, a game, which makes sense, since king of the hill is a game to begin with. There had to be cunning, but also logic and clarity, and it shouldn’t be too involved, because I wanted to use only a short time to do the writing.

I decided to use psychology as the strategy for the game. Jim wants to win by force and doesn’t think highly of Hank. Peter takes advantage of that and the situation, to get on Jim’s nerves. Effectively, Peter makes use of mistakes made by the other two.

The second problem to deal with was a language barrier. I imagine myself speaking English pretty well, but in reality I have little incentive to improve my English, not surrounded by English speakers and having to use English daily. Sometimes I only know a word in my native language (Dutch). Google Translate for iPhone and iPod Touch to the rescue. The iPhone app (2x on the iPad) even offers alternatives to the translation given. It also has a speech interface, which doesn’t always work.

It meant I had to work around my limitations by keeping the language more simple than a native speaker or even English-as-a-second-language (ESL) speaker probably would do. The reason I do my writing in English is because it’s the language of the Internet. I guess I should use what little vocabulary I have to the best of my ability. I’m sure I’ll get better at it over the years.

The text was written and edited in iA Writer on the iPad, which uses Dropbox syncing to store text documents. Since my iMac has Dropbox as well, I could easily drop the text into this blog post.

Thanks for reading and until next time. If you have any tips, tricks or other advice, feel free to add it as a comment. You can also tell me how awesome you think I am. Nothing wrong with stroking my ego and give it a boost. Hahaha!

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