ring ring

22 03 2006

This was my first assignment for my creative writing open university course. I actually found this to be quite fun if a bit daunting. I had no idea what I was meant to produce by way of a ‘passage of fiction’ so as a result I was a bit ambitious by trying to cram a whole story into a 750 word-count passage.

1. Write a focused freewrite (approximately 200-300 words) – based on one of the following prompts:

(e) a ring

A wedding ring or engagement ring. The mark of belonging to someone. Someone belonging to you. Single solitaire, hard, everlasting. Platinum band – precious. Symbolic of everlasting precious love. Loss of ring is loss of identity. Place in society. Insecurity and nakedness. Finger marked by where ring was. Constant reminder at least until the marks wear away. Ring lost – not found. Or ring taken away. Loss of love. Or life. Widow mourns husband but wants to move on. Loss becomes change becomes new start, birth. Hope through sadness and grief. Anticipation though anxiety. So many new opportunities. Ring is almost choking finger – was bought when owner was younger, slimmer, less arthritic. Ring was a reminder of that loss of youth. Almost is not possible to remove but as soon as she starts trying to take it off, she realises she must get it off – does not want to have to think about going to get it cut off. It would be too humiliating and too brutal a way to make this important transition. Slow and painful process of removing the ring makes the task more difficult. She had wanted it to be quick so she did not have to really face what she was doing. She feels she is betraying her husband and yet knows that it is the healthy thing to do.
(Word count – 222)

2. After part 1, proceeding from where the prompt has taken you, write either a passage of fiction (750 words) or a passage of autobiography (750 words) or biography (750 words) or a poem (up to 16 lines, no less than 12 lines).

Moving On

Eloise studied the reflection in the mirror before her and tried to make sense of the shapes of her face. The length of her nose, the curve of her eyelashes. She tried to work out how well she knew this person. She shifted on her dressing table stool and leant forward, resting her chin on her hands. The lines around her mouth gave away her age but if she concentrated really hard, she could still see a twenty-one year girl in her eyes . Despite the signs of the strain she had been under, she was quite pleased with what she saw. It seemed like it had been years since she had looked at herself with anything more than a cursory glance. In fact it had been years, two years to be precise, since she had last cared about how her hair looked or what earrings to wear. Two years since she had someone to notice these things. Two years since she had Bill.
Bill had died very suddenly and far too young. It was so unexpected that it had taken months for the loss to sink in with Eloise and her children and much longer for them all to come to terms with it . Eloise knew, as a mother, her priority was to help her children cope with repairing the damage his death had caused. In doing so, though, she did what so many mothers do and she ignored her own pain and grief. So, when the children finally started to live their lives again, the loneliness hit Eloise like a hurricane. It knocked her hard to the ground. Every time she tried to pick herself up the force of her desolation flattened her until eventually she started to believe that this was how it was always going to be; that she would not be happy again which at forty-eight was a bleak thought.
This evening, though, she was feeling decidedly upbeat. She noted with pleasure that her new (and terribly expensive) hairdo suited her very well. She was glad that she had let her daughter drag her into John Lewis to have a make-over. Her own collection of make-up had certainly seen better days. She wasn’t quite sure if she would be able to re-create the same results as the girl behind the beauty counter but she felt a jolt of pleasure as she looked forward to trying.
As she looked at her reflection, however, her eyes snagged on the glint of gold and diamond on her left hand. Her confident smile faded as she spread her fingers in front of her. The diamond caught the light and sent rainbow stars shooting across the wall. Memories from twenty-five years of happy marriage exploded behind her eyes. She rubbed the rings – an instinctive habit – realising what she needed to do. She had to take them off. It was suddenly very clear to her. She had not once thought of doing it up to this moment and yet as she started to twist the engagement ring off first, a strong resolve washed over her. She dropped the engagement ring into her china dish and started on the wedding ring. In doing so, the ring caught on her finger – the ring too tight and the finger quickly swelling. She pulled frantically, desperately trying to ignore the stabbing guilt. It was as if she was doing something wrong. Like she was betraying Bill. Just as she started to doubt if this was the right thing to do, the ring gave way. Her shoulders relaxes and she traced a finger over the indents on her fingers, wondering how long she had left with them – the last visible trace of Bill and yet also a painful reminder of what she had lost. Overwhelmed, she was unable to make out each emotion in the fog. Just as tears stung the back of her eyes, she heard a car pull up outside.
At that moment, the sun broke through the fog, clearing her view. Sad thoughts seeped away and all she could see ahead was endless possibility. A freedom she had never really known was laid before her and the dance in her stomach convinced her that her anxiety was more than overshadowed by anticipation. She had no romantic notions that her dinner-date would de a life-changing experience. In fact, she had had quite enough of those for the time being. But she did relish the thought that she might start to feel something good again. She took one last look at herself and realised she had not yet worked out who the person in the mirror was but as the door bell rang, she couldn’t wait to find out.
(Word count – 786)
3. Write a brief reflection on the techniques used in developing your writing (300 words).

In the focused freewrite (about ‘a ring’), I took the idea of a wedding or engagement ring and explored what this symbolic piece of jewellery meant to the wearer. As I had just this week had to remove my wedding and engagement rings for the first time since my wedding, I started to think about what that would feel like if they had been worn for a number of years. I find the focused freewriting technique useful in developing ideas but I find it hard to freewrite in sentences . The fragmented language seems to help me make new associations and forming sentences at this stage seems to restrict my through process. In fact, I have used fragments in the passage to build tension and create accents. I did not use clustering as this seems to be a less effective technique for me.

The character that came out of my freewrite, a widow, took shape very quickly and I wanted to hear her story so the choice of form was a natural decision. I wanted the focus of the action to be on the rings, the removal of the rings and her reflection so I chose a static environment for Eloise. I wrote the piece in the third person but very much from Eloise’s point of view so that her emotional conflictions could be conveyed. I also tried to manipulate the tone of the piece so that it reflected her conflicting states of mind: positive/excited and grieving/guilty. I am not sure if this really comes across. I found it difficult to avoid clichés and I am still concerned that the figurative language that I like to write lacks originality . At the outset, I had not settled on the shape of the passage but during the redrafting process, I added a new angle which then served to be a way of linking the start with the end.
(Word count – 315)

Mark: 72% (Level 2 pass)