Switching narratives 

Developing the skills to utilise and be comfortable with several narrative styles, POV and tense, has been a focus for my development since I began writing three years ago. 

Initially, third-person, past tense had been my favoured narrative style, but after a deliberate effort to broaden my skillset during writing my last three projects, I’ve become comfortable switching at will between third and first person – present and past tense. 

Practice does make perfect. Hundreds of hours of screwing up and writing something new, has taught me to use these styles effectively as the scene, chapter or novel permits. 

Having said that, I’ve still got a lot to learn, so I set myself three tasks with my current project, titled ‘Wake Up and Smell The Coffin’. 

First, I’m writing in 2nd person/present tense. Wholly unfamiliar (to me at least) and seldom seen, it’s a narrative style that can utterly throw the reader (in a bad way) or completely immerse them if done well and in the right scenes. So far it’s been fun and I’ve left a Wee except below. 

Second, I’m employing every narrative style I’ve learned in the book, including the ‘unreliable narrator’. So far it’s working well and giving the different characters and settings very distinct voices. 

Thirdly, I’ve set the book in ‘real time’ with each segment containing a word count that reflects the time that’s passed in the main character’s present. 

Here’s the unedited, 2nd person narrative excerpt from ‘Wake Up and Smell The Coffin’:

 

The Garage, Glasgow
2015 

The venue is entirely familiar to you. Its floor area, filled to capacity tonight, stretches out wide and long. The brick walls hug the crowd. Purple lights sweep the faces. Your eyes scan the faces beneath the stage. Each of them looks to you excitedly…expectantly. 

It’s not uncommon during a gig, this feeling of connecting with audience members, but something feels…different tonight. More personal. You work your fingers quickly along the fat end of the fret, sending a ripple of excitement as the opening notes hit the air, charging the muggy air as surely as it does the hearts of the people assembled. They point their fingers at you in time and hit the opening line in synch with you.

“Drinkiiiing with my frieeends.”

Something, primal and wholly ancient stirs in your sub-consciousness. Carried on a surge of adrenaline, catalysed by the thrill of your own words being sung at you, you almost knock the microphone from its stand.

You throw the crowd an appreciative grin. “Tonight…Toniiiight!”

Stepping back from the mike, you let the crowd sing.

“We’re gonnaaa beee the ones, yeah!”

Fuck, you feel great. This is where you belong, always has been.

A young woman up in the balcony locks her eyes on yours. Her name comes to you suddenly.

Fiona.  

The crowd disappears. The lights come up. You’re on stage alone and empty-handed, looking up at her. Her eyes are kind and sad and forgiving. The silence and her familiarity make your skin prickle. You stand with your arms palms-up at your sides, craning your neck to look at her, then say her name say before falling to the stage.

End of Excerpt

Mark is the author of ten works of fiction and one non-fiction. 

He also writes Thrillers under the pseudonym CP Wilson. 

Including the medical thriller, The Girl Who Sold Her Son and the psychological thriller Ice Cold Alice, which is due for release by Bloodhound Books on April 20th. 

You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon.

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Little Fella

My current project is a (sort-of) follow-on to last year’s On The Seventh Day.

Titled ‘The Gig’, the book weaves together a series of short-stories based on experiences and moments sent to me by friends. The following excerpt is uncharacteristic of the rest of the book in terms of tone and themes, but was a very important story for me to write.

Huge thank you to the family who inspired the story for the trust they placed in me.

Trigger Warning:

if you have been affected by mental health issues or the loss of a young child, you may wish to reconsider reading on.

The following (un-edited) excerpt, titled ‘Little Fella’ comes from Mark Wilson’s forthcoming publication, ‘The Gig’. Due for release in spring 2016:

Little Fella

 You feel light…you feel just… free. It’s the only way I can describe the change. Free.

Free from all that stuff you cared about before. Free from anything that hurt or worried you. Free from wanting things. Here, it just feels like everything you ever needed has been given to you somehow, even though you ain’t been given a thing. Being here feels like you’ve just been fed, or hugged and won’t ever need anything ever again.

The room I’m in is empty apart form a few things. It has some magazines and toys and a big comfy couch in front of a telly. I ain’t watched anything. Haven’t felt the need. I think I’ve been here for an hour, but there’s no clocks and I weren’t ever no good with telling time anyway. Not on a clock and not in my head.

A girl called Meg met me when I got here. ‘Splained how I got here and what would happen next. Only eight, years old, She’d said. Straight up to Level One.

S’good. I’d thought that even babies have sin in them they have to pay for. Meg said, No. Not anymore. Just need a signature and up you’ll go, she said.

Suits me fine, and I ain’t really that surprised. Never liked the idea that kids were bad just because they were there. Must be one of the changes the new guy brought in up there.

The door slides open and a girl comes into the room. I mind me manners and stand. She smiles at me. I like her straight away. Some people ya just do, don’t’cha.

She tells me her name is Beth. You are a very special boy, she tells me.

The old me would be thinking, what’s she after? But that boy is gone. Thank you, I tell her without asking why.

Beth puts a hand on each of my shoulders.

“You’re the first soul I’ve helped through this place,” she says. “That means two things.”

I like her. She’s cool. I like that she’s new here too.

“Firstly,” she says. “As you’re my first soul, I’ll never forget, you. Ever.”

She taps the side of her head like a mini-me is already in there, making himself at home. Despite feeling like I don’t need anything, something swells inside me, pleased at meaning something to her. Forever means something here in this place. I haven’t been here long, but I ain’t stupid. I know what eternity means.

“Secondly,” she says. “I have an offer for you, Craig.”

It takes a second for me to remember that my name was Craig, when I was alive. I smile back at her. Thirty seconds after meeting Beth, I’d do anything for her. She catches something in my eyes, they all do that in this place, like they know what you’re thinking. P’raps they do.

“Don’t rush to agree. You’re not beholden. You have your place on Level One, but I want you to consider helping me out around here.”

I nod. If I had a tail it’d be wagging. She smiles warmly at me. Patient, like.

“Craig, come with me and I’ll show you what you’re needed for before you decide.

I follow Beth out of my little room, out onto a large office complex full of little pods. Me mam worked in a place like this, probably still does, I dunno. I loved running around and between pods, using her workplace as a maze, imaginary snipers round every corner.

Beth closes her hand around mine, pulling me gently along. She leads me into another room off of the main office space.

There’s a baby’s crib in the centre. One of them Moses baskets, like me little brother has…had. It’s got blue sheets and a little soft toy, a gorilla, sitting inside, but no baby. Beth gives my hand a squeeze.

“Wait,” she whispers.

A light fills the basket. The same light I felt when I came here, to Sheol. From where I’m standing, I catch sight of a little foot jabbing into the air, then a hand. A happy gurgle follows. Beth lets go of my hand and walks towards the basket. She places a hand into it and beckons me with the other.

Inside there’s a little boy, tiniest baby I ever seen. He looks fresh out the station, like me brother Harvey did when he were new, but much smaller and very red. He’s a little bruised and bashed, like they all are at birth, but no gunge. He ain’t crying. I suppose he’s feeling satisfied, happy and content, like I did when I got here.

As soon as I think it, I feel a tear run along my cheek. Beth, tickling the kid’s chins, puts an arm around me.

“It’s hard. Isn’t it?” She asks. I don’t know what to say, I don’t even know why I’m crying, so I just nod. I don’t feel any less content than I did before, but there’s something; a skelf of need jabbing me.

“Where’s his mum”, I ask. “Or his dad. Ain’t they here yet?”

Beth shakes her head. The kid in the basket coos at her as she runs a finger along his chubby cheeks. The bruising and denting, all the signs of his delivery, are fading. He looks fuller, more healthy. Beefy, me Gran would call him.

“They won’t be here for a while…Earth time,” Beth says kindly.

I move towards his cot and run my finger along between his eyes and down his nose. His eyelids droop. I do it again a second time and watch the little fella fall asleep. Beth grins at me.

“You’re good with him, Craig.”

I shrug.

“Worked on me brother,” I say. I nod at the little fella. “Why’s he here?”

Beth’s smile disappears for the first time. “He’s the reason I need you, Craig. Him and so many other babies.”

I reach into the basket and pull his blankets around him, careful to not wake him.

“He doesn’t have anyone here?” I ask.

“No,” Beth says. “All of those who would know him are still on Earth. He needs a friend, someone to take him up to Level One, get him settled in until his family arrives.”

“When will that be?”

Beth smiles again.

“Won’t be long. Almost by the time you arrive upstairs,” she points a finger up, “His people will have passed over.”

I must look a bit puzzled, cos she puts a hand on my arm and lowers herself to my height.

“Time moves different up here, Craig. A few minutes passing here can be many, many years on Earth.”

I nod. “So you want me to take him, to his new digs. Why me, anyone can do that. You could do it.”

Beth laughs at my cheek. “Yes, I could, Craig, but I have many roles to fulfil here. This isn’t one of them. This job, takes a special kind of person. We only use kids for it.” Beth looks a little sad as she stares at me.

“They…the babies, they only trust other kids, and only kids have the mental strength to do this job properly.”

I must have the face on again, cos she grins again before continuing.

“It’s not a delivery job I’m offering you, kid. You have to bond with this baby before you can take him where he needs to go. You have to witness his life, his thoughts, his pain, and then take him to his new, eternal home.”

Beth places a hand on my cheek.

“It’s…difficult, Craig. Not everyone can do it. It takes a special kind of child; a caring child. One who knows empathy but is resilient enough to take part in the bonding and not be destroyed by it.

“What’s empaffy?” I ask.

“It means that you’re the type of person who understands someone else’s feelings and even share them sometimes.”

I nod, thinking of Harvey.

“Living someone else’s life through their eyes can be painful, especially a baby’s. But that’s what it takes to get these little souls where they need to be. Someone has to take their pain in and process it for them.” Beth’s eyes fill with tears.

“Because they cannot do it for themselves.”

I crack my knuckles. Part of me expects my mum to tell me off for it, but like the little fella, me mam ain’t here yet.

I stand quiet for a while. Beth don’t say a word, just looks into the little fella’s basket.

“What’s his name?”

“Findlay.”

“Okay,” I tell her. “Show me.”

Beth smiles sadly at me. “Thanks Craig.”

She places my hand on Findlay’s forehead, my palm gently resting there and then I’m gone.

 

 

∞∞∞

 

 

It’s dark where I am, but warm…safe. I feel the limits of Findlay’s body, my body now. I’m floating in liquid. It’s…wonderful. I pull on something and kick my leg out in joy, moving something soft. A hand shape moves over where I kicked, pressing it’s gentle, loving reassurance to me. Happiness fills my little heart at the contact.

Findlay’s mum…my mum.

I can hear her voice. Singing as she moves around, making me giggle as I slosh around inside her. Her voice is everything good in my world. I tumble and kick and sleep and dream; her words the soundtrack to my entire existence. She speaks to her friends, to her workmates, to strangers and to me. Always to me. It gives me hiccoughs when she talks to me.

I love you, little one. I can’t wait to meet you.

I get excited and do roley-poleys.

Sometimes Dad speaks too. I like him, he makes me laugh and he makes my tummy fizz when he talks. But, mum. She’s there with me, always.

I breathe the liquid around me. I pee into it and laugh to myself. Mum rubs the walls around me.

Behave yourself in there, I’m sleeping.

She doesn’t care, not really. She’s giggling along with me. I slosh around in her belly as it moves with her laughter, making me laugh harder with the tidal surge.

 

Something…something feels…..So tired.

Mum. I’m so tired. Mum?

She’s there. I feel her but I can’t kick anymore to let her know I hear her. Something rushes into her blood making her heart race. The sound is deafening. She’s crying. She’s talking to me, but not like before. Not gentle, not happy, not calm.

I’m okay. I’m here, mum.

It’s a lie. I’m not, I’m going somewhere else, but I want to speak to her, kick her, one more time. She’s in so much pain, she needs me.

I leave her. I’m not inside her anymore. Not the real me. My body is still in there, but it’s following me out her into the room. Awareness crashes into me.

I look down on a woman pushing my body from herself. My mummy.

I’ve never seen her face, we’ve never seen each other’s faces until now, but I know her better than anyone else ever has. We have a bond. I know her well enough to know that she’ll endure. Even this.

Peace washes over me. All fear vanishes. I try to tell her. Mum, I’m up here. I’m fine. Look up. Just look up.

I watch as part of her leaves along with my limp little body.

Joy.

I scream with my immaterial voice.

Mum, don’t, don’t let that leave. Keep it. I’m here, be happy, I’m fine. You’ll be with me too soon. Don’t lose yourself.

She can’t hear me.

Like always she finds something in her. Something that pushes her pain aside only slightly, just enough to focus on my sleeping face and talks to me anyway. Not to the real me, I’m leaving, going elsewhere, but to part of me that’s left behind.

“I love you Findlay. My beautiful son. My boy.”

I love you too mummy, I smile down at her. My new form begins to tear.

It’s not painful, it’s wonderful actually. Part of me leaves my spirit and rockets towards her. It joins with her soul. It plants a seed that might become happiness for her in the weeks to come.

I take one last look and smile, satisfied that a part of me will always be joined to the soul that made mine, before taking my leave.

 

 

∞∞∞

 

I blink hard a few times, accepting that I’m me again, Craig. I’m on the floor, on all fours. Beth stands beside me, one hand on my back for reassurance, the other wrapped with its arm around her own body. She’s obviously worried about me.

She needn’t.

I take her hand and give it a little squeeze, but that’s it. I’m focused on Findlay now.

His face has changed so much already in the few seconds I was away. He’s a toddler now, maybe two years old. Blonde hair, healthy, ruddy cheeks and his mum’s smile in his sleep. I place a hand on his cheek, waking him. His blue eyes brighten in recognition when he sees me.

Sitting up, he raises his arms. “Cwaig,” he says smiling his rascal smile.

I reach into the basket, already too small for him, and lift him out, to place him standing onto the floor.

He laughs.

“Mummy?” he asks.

I take his hand and lead him to the elevator.

“She’ll be here very soon, little fella. Here with you and free. C’mon.”

End of Excerpt

  gig

You can find Mark Wilson and his books at Amazon.