Hello everyone. Welcome to Story Chat, living proof that stories take on a life of their own when you add readers.
Come in out of the weather and make yourselves at home. Fresh pavlova topped with caramel apples is just coming out of the oven, and we have choices of drinks. Hot for those of you in Debbie’s neck of the woods, and icy for those here in the heat of summer.
What a month we’ve had reading and commenting on Debbie Harris’ BOLD story this month. Who knew that we would get entangled with history and the apple? The conversations motivated me to read a full length novel mentioned in the chats as you’ll see in a minute.
The links below will transport you to a recent article posted on the attendee’s blog. The links throughout the Chat take you to their website.
- Debbie Harris – author
- Denyse Whelan
- Gary Wilson
- Hugh Roberts
- Geoff LePard
- Cathy Cade
- Deborah Drucker
- Natalie the Explorer
Debbie shocked some of her friends, who agreed that she had written a BOLD story. Now for some you who don’t understand the significance of the word BOLD . Debbie chooses a word every year to inspire her, and this year the word is BOLD So without further ado, let’s see what all the chatter is.
Freaky, Twilight-Zone-Type Story
That is so NOT like I expect from my blogging friend Deb! But, of course, she has been spreading her writing songs and delving into that deep & mysterious field called FICTION. Well done Deb!Denyse Whelan
Wow, this story was so unexpected and creepy but SO well written and I want to read more now! Well done. I sort of want to know more about that crazy society, why couples HAVE to have babies, why the baby is taken away… and much more.Susanne
Admittedly, the story was a little freaky, and Deb thanked me for putting that on the table right away and said she liked to put a little twist in it.
This story had more than a little twist, but we won’t get ahead of ourselves.
Let’s start with the story summaries.
Are you feeling the freakiness, yet? Debbie thanked those who took time to comment on Story Chat many times. For the sake of readability, I edited out some compliments and many thanks. Let’s listen to the chatter.
You did not give your protagonist a name. This was a surprise and I did not think it detracted from the story, but I’d like to know if you did this deliberately, perhaps to save words, or were you suggesting that in this slightly-off-world she lives in, her name is not important, because if this were the case, I think it was brilliant.
Clearly, if THEY could just take the baby and get away with such a thing, then parents have certainly been diminished by the world they are enduring. But “they took her baby.”
This felt so wrong, and I bet will outrage some readers but you left us knowing that her husband was broken hearted, but was she? You did a neat thing by taking “being a mom” off of her bucket list, but still – that should have cratered her soul. Another sign of this world? Perhaps it was somehow common for babies to be taken. . . .” Ugh!Gary A Wilson
I deliberately didn’t give anyone any names, it set a scene for me and kept it secretive, and you’re right in the world she lived in maybe names weren’t that important.
I believe the mother was broken hearted but I think she was more pragmatic about the world they lived in than her husband and she didn’t want to show a weakness, but as a mother she was grieving inside.Debbie
I loved your apple paragraph. So many have great and weird stories of what pregnancy did to them that this was an endearing point of your story. What would you think of your protagonist outgrowing her aversion to apples, then having her daughter sit down to start their meeting and having her reveal somehow that she hates all things “apple?” It would tie in your wonderful point from mom’s pregnancy, and turn your story title into a subtle clue that goes unresolved until your final scene. On the other hand, you could change nothing and still have a story you should be proud of and that I really enjoyed reading.Gary A Wilson
Well that is just twisted! Nicely done, but I do agree with Gary who mentioned an alternative ending with the reveal being linked to a dislike of apples.Suzanne@PictureRetirement
Suzanne. I must admit I hadn’t thought of an alternative ending but it’s a good one! I’m quite new to this style of writing and am learning as I go.Debbie
I loved this story. It had ‘Twilight Zone’ written all over it. I felt I was taken to a parallel world where everything seemed normal but wasn’t. The inclusion of the apple in the story bought the ‘Wicked Witch’ from Snow White into my mind. Debbie, you’ve penned an amazing short story that had me hooked and kept me hooked from the first paragraph. It’s not often that happens when I read. Usually, my mind wanders if I lose interest or there are too many names that I have to keep going back to remember who is who. So, I liked the fact that you did not include any names. I was completely drawn in.Hugh W. Roberts
Hugh, your comments made me smile, especially the Twilight Zone effect. I was going for a parallel world and admit I had watched Snow White recently. I’m so glad the lack of names worked for you too, I wanted it to be about the story rather than keeping track of who everyone was and limited to 500/600 words made that quite easy to do and also gave it a grim rawness perhaps.Debbie
I like the idea of the story being set in a parallel universe where not everything is as it seems. I know others want you to continue the story and are asking questions, but sometimes I think it’s good to allow the reader to make up their own minds. I continued several of my pieces of flash fiction after being asked to but was only ever pleased with the outcome of one of them. That’s why I mention that sometimes stories are best left alone. I compared some of the flashback pieces I continued as a successful TV comedy programme being bought back and not being as good as the original. Sometimes, stories are best left alone to shine in all the glory they already have.Hugh W. Roberts
I love your boldness Deb – and admire your ability to write short stories. This one had me hooked from the start, the twist, the edge, and the way some of the language was used bluntly to illustrate the bleakness of the time after the baby was taken.Jo
I would have loved to know more about the horrible circumstances behind that poor (unnamed ) woman having her child taken from her. Was it unique to her, or did others have their newborns taken away too… and, if so, how did she not hear about it before giving birth? And, what did her aversion to apples mean? I think you’ve written a terrific story that you could flush out and make into a longer one (even a novel).Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com
If this happened to everyone, wouldn’t there be some suspicion? Why would they take them, and what happened to her all those years?Marsha
I’d love to know the answers to those questions too! My daughters wanted to know more about the circumstances too and I agree there could be far more to flush out than even I first thought!Debbie
State Sponsored Rape?
Well that was a fascinating insight into the workings of the NSW government… what? It’s fiction? Oh sorry. Right we’ll then, that was disturbingly dystopian. Forced pregnancies, state sanctioned child kidnap. Felt a bit like Kazuo Ishiguro or JG Ballard with a familiar world with a sinister and grim twist.
Then there’s the supernatural element around her reaction to the apples and her sense of darkness and foreboding and my mind is spiralling off in the direction of the Omen and a female Damien. Indeed the ending with an apparently healthy possibly glamorous and maybe successful woman appearing as the lost daughter adds to the idea she – mother and daughter – are both ‘other’ even in this weirdest of society.TanGental
Geoff, are you also referring to the series, “Lost,” too. Not being a super sci-fi fan, I was not familiar with Ishiguro so I read Never Let Me Go about children in an orphanage trying to figure out who they are. It was excellent but definitely freaky! I just ordered Millennium People by J. C. Ballard.
relating to or denoting an imagined state or society where there is great suffering or injustice.
a person who imagines or foresees a state or society where there is great suffering or injustice.
I hear Gary’s outrage and questioning of the mother’s reaction to her child being stolen and how the father couldn’t cope with the loss. But surely in such a society where one assumes such cruelties are commonplace – let’s face it state sponsored rape after five years to force pregnancies isn’t exactly normal – resilience of the human condition takes over. Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984 would have been one of many suicides if his world wasn’t ‘normal’ for him and the urge to survive whatever is happening subsumes all other emotions?TanGental
Does ‘after 5 years of marriage a baby must have been initiated by the couple, otherwise medical intervention would be implemented’ mean the same as state sponsored rape? What if one member of the couple is infertile? What do they mean by medical intervention? Rape isn’t on a medical intervention list I know!Marsha
The ending. Now I’m hardly one to baulk at an open ending, am I? That said, I would love something that hinted at the impact of those pesky apples, as per Gary. Debbie want to try Bold 2.0 and give us a follow up on your blog? All in all a great little read. Well done.TanGental
I think I had in mind some sort of IVF type intervention but I’m loving all the suggestions and new ideas your readers have thought of.Debbie
Gary, and Geoff, I don’t have any thoughts about the apples. I found a post about “Paradise Lost” and found out that the Latin words for evil and apple are the same: malus. “As an adjective, malus means bad or evil. As a noun it seems to mean an apple.” I didn’t catch “harbinger of darkness” as the reference to the creation story and Eve and the “forbidden fruit.”Marsha
“But the apple began to dominate Fall artworks in Europe after the German artist Albrecht Dürer’s famous 1504 engraving depicted the First Couple counterpoised beside an apple tree.” This is a great post about the way the apple got it’s reputation for being a “harbinger of darkness.” https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/04/30/526069512/paradise-lost-how-the-apple-became-the-forbidden-fruit
The state sponsored rape was me being deliberately provocative! But a state demanding children of couples/women who don’t want to conceive is forcing if not intercourse then insemination in another way… so maybe it is apt. Or maybe I misunderstood the reference. It was nicely ambiguous.TanGental
And isn’t that interesting about the apple and it’s Latin tag.
That makes sense, but the idea of cloning makes sense as an intervention. That would eliminate the problems of people that could not have children no matter how hard they tried.Marsha
Oh Geoff you never fail to make me smile! I just love your thoughts and honestly didn’t realise so much could be, or would be, read into my simple story of 601 words!!!!! I have to admit I love a good dystopian story so this may have been why I wrote it in this style. I didn’t think through the whole apple thing apart from using it as a ‘theme of sorts’ and only because it was one of the words or phrases that had to be included, as per the Furious Fiction challenge for May. I really appreciate your kind words and suggestions and also linking other high powered authors in a comment about my story – how bold am I feeling now??I can’t stop smiling – honestly.Debbie
Mid-Century Taboos – Unwed Mothers and their Lost Children
I could relate to this character’s ambivalence about motherhood. I shared it myself before going on to produce four children. (Well, they do keep each other occupied without the level of adult input my grandchildren seem to require.) We suffered seven years of “When am I going to be a grandmother?” after we married before I had the first. It was only when the story mentioned the state’s expectations and “the rules” that I realised we were in a different reality.
Given the involvement of the state, I wasn’t unduly surprised by the bald statement, “She never saw her baby girl again”, and her seeming acceptance of that. Especially after her pica had been called a possible “throwback to earlier times and … the harbinger of some darkness”. Clearly this was the kind of thing expected of the state.
“She was anticipating some good news.” We’re not told what kind of news. Given the topic of the story, we can guess it’s about her daughter. Presumably, the nature of the undergound network she’s in contact with gives her a clue, but – like her – I was expecting news of her daughter, not the daughter herself.
A satisfying ending, although fifty years is quite a gap for a mother-daughter reunion. Maybe people are living longer and ageing more slowly in this alternate reality, although this isn’t suggested by the demise of her husband, who seems to have been more invested in parenthood than she.
We still have no explanation for the baby’s disappearance… That’s fair enough – fodder for another story, perhaps?. (Come on, Story-chatters!) I agree with a previous comment that a further reference to the apple aversion at the end would round things off nicely (although I have no idea what this might be). The late John Yeoman used to advocate the “rule of three” in his teaching, based on the principle that things repeated three times are inherently more satisfying, or more memorable (see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_of_three).Cathy Cade
Cathy, we can always depend on your thorough analysis of the story situation. My big question is why take her child only? Did they take all the babies. If so, there must have been an awfully lot of wailing in the hospital. This mother took losing her baby rather nonchalantly, I think. Even in the US, when things were kept quiet about children who were adopted, it sometimes still takes until adulthood to find people.Marsha
Indeed. I never met my birth mother, although I was able to apply for my original birth certificate in the 1960s when adoption law changed in the UK. I didn’t take it further, not wanting to turn up on the doorstep of someone who had very effectively hidden my existence. (Apparently she was a twin whose sister covered for her while she was having me.) Also my adoptive parents were giving each other grief so I didn’t want to be saddled with another needy parent.Cathy Cade
Re the story, I suspect there may be a hint there in the ‘throwback’ reference which kind of justifies mention of the apple antipathy
Thanks so much Cathy for your thorough analysis of my story. You raise some excellent points and I must admit to not having many answers! I just wrote it and liked the way it fell into place, not thinking too much about the consequences or possible feedback. This experience has been good for me as a fledgling writer, to see how others read a story and break it down and raise questions I hadn’t even considered!Debbie
Was Cloning Involved?
Interesting story. There is a mystery around why the mother-to-be couldn’t tolerate apples, why the government separated them, and whether the daughter a clone. I’m glad they reunited in the end.Deborah Drucker
Your comment is very interesting Deborah, many thanks for joining in. I like the idea of a clone – something I’d not even considered before now!Debbie
I really enjoyed reading this Deb. I’d love to read more of the story, like why her baby was taken? It reminds me slightly of Handmaid’s Tale which I love. Well done.midlifestylist
YES! I too was reminded of the original Handmaid’s story. I don’t normally enjoy hard dystopian stories. They’re often too dark for my taste, but in Deb’s story, could we not imagine how things would slowly change in our society where what Deb’s character experienced was not quiet new anymore, but it was disturbing and she had no real recourse or remedy and was expected to accept and move on.
We could make a long list of things in our (US) culture that have crept in and today we find ourselves forced to accept what we never would have years ago if they arrived all of a sudden. I now find myself hoping that among her other talents, Deb is not a harbinger of such a society.Gary A Wilson
Debbie, Well done with your short story! It’s a new mother’s nightmare to have her beautiful newborn taken away. I’m glad the two met at the end.Natalie
What Happened After the Mother-Daughter Meeting?
I want to know what happened after that meeting. But that’s the beauty of short stories, you draw questions and creativity.Julie
Thanks for your thoughts Julie and I’m glad you also want to know what happens after the meeting. It was fun writing the story but I haven’t any idea of what happens next – as you say, that’s the beauty of writing a short story.Debbie
I greatly admire you, Deb, for putting yourself out there. You have always been a writer, yet the challenge is being “Bold” and ready for constructive feedback. I agree with your word in a comment “…pragmatic….grieving inside.”Erica/Erika
I’ve been so surprised at the amount of chatter Erica and Marsha but I’m thrilled at the same time!Debbie
I really enjoyed that and I also really want a piece of pavlova. I might need to try and make some.Kirstin
Thank you all for making Story Chat possible. Next month we greet Gary Wilson as our July author of Story Chat.