‘Write an outline for a novel’
Following a most interesting and enjoyable visit by author Harry Dunn, to our writing group in February 2016, we prevailed upon him to judge a writing competition to write an outline for a novel.
The idea for this came out of his talk in which one of the points he made was that to write an outline for a novel really is a valuable starting point.
Harry very kindly agreed and chose two winners from the entries submitted.
His remarks included:
‘Finding a winner was extremely difficult and all these stories have a real chance of finding a much wider audience. Everyone who submitted should feel very pleased with themselves because they all display the most important characteristic a writer can possess – IMAGINATION!
I have been unable to separate two entries therefore I would like to nominate ‘Quest for Power’ and ‘The Devil’s Only Friend’ as joint winners.
The writer of Quest For Power has submitted a very solid and well thought out synopsis and outline with an excellent cast and strong storyline.
The writer of The Devil’s Only Friend has thought up a powerful psychological thriller which promises to be an absolute chiller.’
The Quest For Power (working title)
SUMMARY – Aubrey Jago is in the race to the top of her profession and about to achieve her dream. When someone kidnaps and threatens to slaughter her beloved thoroughbred stallion, Power, her world implodes for he is the only thing in her life as important as her ambition. Aubrey must discover which of her enemies is holding her future to ransom before it is too late.
Aubrey Jago – Chief Finance officer at Prestige Bank plc. Divorced, devious and dangerously driven, she has clawed her way here, ruthlessly using and abusing colleagues, friends and family members along the way. She craves the Chief Executive slot and will stop at nothing to get it. Besides her career, her only interest in life is her equine companion and alter ego, Power.
Daniel Jago – Aubrey’s seventeen year old only child – emotionally stunted and starved of the attention he craves from a disinterested mother he is beginning to despise.
Eamonn Jago – Aubrey’s ex-husband – tries to give Daniel some stability. So far he has kept his job, in the bank’s IT Department, despite Aubrey’s many attempts to get rid of him.
Garry Bartholemew – the Bank’s Chief Operating Officer. Enigmatic and respected, he is the only person in the organisation’s hierarchy standing between Aubrey and her goal
Katy Fairbrother-a bank subordinate who is being emotionally blackmailed by Aubrey to manipulate a relationship with Garry Bartholemew, in order to get some ‘dirt’ on him and get him dismissed.
Martin Gallagher – Chief information Officer at the bank – suspended under investigation of alleged misconduct. He has been sniffing out Aubrey’s machinations so she is closing in to move him out.
DCI Ben Harrison – officer in charge of investigation Power’s kidnap. He is, co-incidentally the father of Daniel Jago’s girlfriend.
Ed Lewin – Power’s STABLE MANAGER – seduced and dumped by Aubrey, he is passionate about both animal and owner.
THE PLOT –
The book opens with Power’s shocking disappearance. His presence is, however, felt throughout its pages as a metaphor for Aubrey’s status and ambition which is about to unravel.
The action follows DCI Harrison’s investigations to establish who has kidnapped Power and sent a note, devoid of conditions or demands but threatening to slaughter him on the day the CEO retires, one month hence.
It’s a race against time, during which Harrison establishes and reveals the motives which some of the novel’s other characters have for wreaking vengeance on Aubrey. This aside, there is an unfortunate dearth of hard evidence and Harrison is in no position, when the deadline arrives, to conclude who may be holding Power. Aubrey is now unrecognisable, her health and spirit broken by the ordeal of contemplating Power’s fate; her reputation ruined by organisational revelations/accusations.
The day of the CEO’s retirement dawns. Aubrey picks up a phone call – it’s her private stables – they have some quite remarkable news. Power is back, hale and hearty and raring to go out for a gallop. There is no note of explanation; nothing to show he’s ever been away; everything is fine; everything is wonderful, except Aubrey. Aubrey will never be the same. And someone, somewhere is very, very pleased with themselves.
Copyright © Sandie Johnson. February 2016
The Devil’s Only Friend
Fire. Such a lovely word. Such a lovely thing. No, not lovely. That wasn’t the right word but he couldn’t think what was. It wasn’t lovely exactly, though he loved it; loved the power of fire to create, to change, to destroy, to cleanse. And the language of fire could be so vivid; flame, ardent, blaze, inferno… so many words that testified to its energy, its magic, its beauty. Yes. Beauty. Fire and the language of fire were beautiful. Lovely was far too weak a word for fire. “Fire”. He relished saying it aloud even there as he sat at his workbench in the dim cellar in the basement of his silent empty home. Only the central room-light was lit. The lights above the bench he had not switched on. He was not there to work but to think through the whole terrible, appalling chain of events.
His eyes turned to the three urns that stood on their own on a shelf above the bench and to his right. He had wanted them near as he worked. He reached out and touched one. This was the other face of fire; the grim aspect with its own ugly vocabulary… incinerate, holocaust, ash, calcine, cremation. He caught his breath and brought his hand back down to the cigarette lighter near the vice.
He flicked the wheel and stared into the heart of the flame. He ran his palm over it as slowly as he could bear just as he had done as a young boy with matches stolen from the kitchen. The blistering pain and pleasure of fire were a strange comfort to him.
Kevin, 37 is a silversmith/artisan. He lives and works in an old Victorian house. The urns contain the remains of his wife and two children, a girl 15 and a boy 12, killed when a tanker driver (petrol) fell asleep at the wheel and piled their family car into the wall of a country property, turning it on its side and trapping them to be burnt to death. Kevin was advised not to identify the charred remains (which was done from jewellery in the case of his wife and daughter and dental records for his son.)
He is haunted by guilt for surviving and by mental pictures of the road accident, and their imagined remains. He is driven to the point of madness by finding the mental pictures both appalling and transfixing and compelling. He has to work daily with gas flame as part of his professional equipment. He is also tortured by the fact that in his shock he followed what he thought was his wife’s wish, once half expressed, to be cremated not buried and had his children’s remains cremated at the same time. He felt it had been her wish but he could not be sure so he has been driven insane by what he perceives as the obscenity of their being burned twice over.
Madness ensues. The driver has also died but Kevin goes to his empty home and sets fire to it. He watches it burn with a sinister exhilaration.
Kevin’s children have only ever known the family home and all of his wife’s childhood homes (3) have been demolished. His previous homes (also 3) are still standing and occupied. His madness tells him to erase by fire places in which he has known happiness. He burns them all in turn, with no regard for the present occupants, killing seven people in all (an elderly couple, a nurse who ironically worked at the hospital to which his wife’s and children’s remains were taken to be placed in the mortuary and a family pretty much like his own but with two daughters).
In each case he stares at the blaze from a distance in a crowd. He does not know when it will stop – soon he suspects. The police have unexpectedly called upon him twice in the last few weeks, unaccountably renewing their offers (declined initially by Kevin) of a liaison officer and bereavement counselling. They have made passing reference to the incidents of arson in neighbouring towns but clearly have not realised these were Kevin’s former homes. But the day will not be long in coming.
Kevin put down the lighter. He heard two cars pulling up together followed by the bell ringing and a sustained knocking at the front door above his workshop.
“Mr Jackson. It’s the police. We’d like a word.” The message, shouted through the letter-box, carried through the whole house.
Kevin stood up and reached down the three urns. This would be their final immolation. All of them, together this time. He sat down again and kissed each of the urns in turn. He reached under the bench and brought out the can of petrol, opening it and pouring the contents over his chest and back. He picked up the lighter and flicked it once again. For a split second he saw the searing beauty of flame before he closed his eyes and gave himself up to the cauterizing power of fire.
Copyright © Jim Collins February 2016
Congratulations to the winners. who have each received a signed copy of Harry Dunn’s latest novel, ‘Forever Evil’.
Further examples of entries will be available in future posts.
Category: Members’ Work, Miscellaneous. Tags: Creative Writing, Starting Points, Imagination, Story Telling