Paul’s short story Baby Blue Eyes won first prize in a national competition. You can read the story here. Below, Paul gives some insight into how the story came about – and how he learned of its success on an eventful day.
Baby Blue Eyes was the first piece of fiction I had ever entered into a competition, so the fact it won in the Writing Magazine 1,000 word short story contest was a pleasant surprise.
It was not something I set out to write originally and only actually came about due to combination of two factors.
The first was that I was not happy with the opening chapter to a full-length novel I am working on. The start I had did an adequate job of setting the scene, but I needed something more dramatic to kick things off.
The second factor was something in the back of my mind that many parents can relate to. That moment, when putting down a baby in his or her cot, when your child’s eyes suddenly focus, but you realise it is not on you. Have you ever wondered what it is they are looking at? They can’t tell you, so you can only speculate.
That was my premise, one which I soon realised did not fit into the narrative of the novel, but I liked it.
Initially, I thought I might keep it for something longer in the future, but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of using it in a short story, where it is legitimate to leave more to imagination and speculation than a reader would expect of a longer work would rightly expect.
I then tried to contrast the contented ordinariness of a mother putting her child to bed with the growing suggestion of a threat thought passed.
Hopefully, I leave enough for the reader to put their own spin on the conclusion, but the aim was to write something that everyone could relate to: the need to feel safe in your home.
With a bit of luck you liked it.
As an aside, news of the story’s success came on what turned out to be a rollercoaster of a day. The elation of the letter – and, let’s be honest, the prize-winning cheque that came with it – did not last long, as later that afternoon, I learned that one of my main retainers in my other guise as a freelance PR writer was set to end.
That down was followed by another up when the dishwasher that had refused to work for the best part of a week inexplicably deigned to return to form.
But that domestic triumph was soon overshadowed after I came face to face with what can only be described as a gargantuan spider which had taken up residence in a pile of towels that I had the misfortune to pick up.
That certainly damaged my sense of feeling safe in the home…
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