Category Archives: Challenges and prompts


Pamela Lewis was born in Cambridge, England. She enjoys rowing which is a sport rarely associated with women even though it is a big deal in college towns like Cambridge. Pamela would have loved to have gone to Cambridge University but quite frankly she is just not that smart. This is not a poor reflection on her as most of us are just not that smart either. But if you have ever seen a pub in Cambridge empty of it’s student clientele on a Friday night at closing, being smart is relative and not in a physics sense.

Pamela is passionate about her rowing and enjoys hours on the river at off times, and in silence. She likes the fight with her body and the quiet of the water; but mostly she enjoys that she can get away from people – which is Pamela’s secret – she is basically an antisocial woman. It is obvious if you get to know her, but she makes sure that people don’t get to know her. She likes her privacy and is frustrated with the way that modern society seems to want to share everything.

Pamela grew up in a large family, sharing everything including private space, so she is thrilled to have a rented room that she doesn’t have to share with anyone. Nobody is invited to visit her at home, including her family and her landlady is very happy to have such a quiet and retiring girl for a lodger. She cooks for herself and keeps her space immaculate, pristine. When the police arrive to look for clues as to why she died, they find it hard to believe that anyone lived in the room. It resembles a showroom in a magazine.

Her parents disapproved of her moving out. They were overjoyed to have six kids and thought Pamela and her two sisters were close because they shared a room. They could not understand the need for privacy.

Pamela first worked for a car sales company in the accounts office and was meticulous with the paperwork but the salesmen were flabbergasted that she didn’t respond to their flirting and innuendos – ever. They decided, in their arrogance, that she must be a lesbian. It was easier for them to believe that than consider that Pamela had not found them attractive. In truth, Pamela had set her sights on something better. She had decided that if her A level results had fallen short of the requirements for Cambridge, she would find a man who’s results had been enough. She had found him. Unfortunately someone had married him first, but it had not mattered to Pamela and it certainly hadn’t mattered to him. He was a bit of a geek and had married Sandra because she had become pregnant after a three-month relationship, and it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The stress of unwanted motherhood and managing on part time income had proved stressful for Sandra and she had basically become a royal bitch. So Stuart had been flattered and relieved to find an attractive and no-nonsense girl like Pamela was interested in him.

Pamela had only stayed in accounts for six months. She had been bored after about six days but leaving would have looked bad on her CV, so she stuck it out until the library job came up. She had been thrilled to work in the college library although the students were a snobby lot who treated her like a servant. She loved the old architecture and the old books and manuscripts which she hoped one day to be allowed to touch. Mrs Beamish, her supervisor was strict but appreciated Pamela’s sense of orderliness and had taken her under her wing to show her things she might otherwise had been excluded from.
It was at the library that she had met Stuart.

She had not been brought up with pets. The house was full of children and there simply was not room. So Pamela grew up with a fear of dogs. She could cope with cats up to a point, but not the ones that sensed her discomfort and insisted on curling their way onto her lap for a knead. But dogs made her shake.

Her body was found on the tow path by the Cam and her camel jacket was covered in dog hair, determined to be from a Golden Retriever or similar dog.

Pamela was not dramatic enough to have made enemies but she was disliked by a boy at the library who had been passed over by Mrs. Beamish.

Her sister, Alice, was jealous of Pamela’s independence and resented that she still had to chip in with household chores. The chores had come to include keeping an eye on Dad’s mum – Granny Perkins, who had recently been fitted into the house.
Granny Perkins was a bit batty. Everyone knew it but nobody mentioned it because it made Dad uncomfortable. And if Dad got embarrassed he got drunk and if Dad got drunk – they didn’t talk about that. But Gran was a welcome addition to the household. She had been married twice and when the second husband died she had sold up and brought the not inconsiderable wealth to her son’s life. She allowed him to manage her monies which she would not have done had she been in top mental condition but her battiness was really a godsend and most of the family were pleased to reap the benefits.

Unfortunately, Alice had got on the wrong side of her parents and was considered the black sheep. She had a tatty reputation in the community due to an incident with one of the neighbours sons and she had trouble finding work. She didn’t really want to work so that wasn’t a problem for Alice except that she couldn’t leave home. It was bearable when she had both her sisters there because she could bully Pamela and Rachel into doing most of the chores, but once Pamela had gone she was the oldest girl. Their mother was a bit of a hippy but she had retained a traditional outlook on women’s roles in the family; so Alice had been put in charge of Gran. That freed up Mum to get on with… Well, not much, but it did free her up a lot. With the extra cash, she could always shop if she got bored. And she had developed a taste for pina coladas which was keeping her in good spirits.

Reading Characters

.    He hates it if people call him “Stu”. It makes him flinch inside for some reason that he can’t really explain.
Stuart is clever, a bit too clever perhaps. At 22 he can’t figure out how to make it an asset. He is attracted to clever girls but they don’t seem to notice a thing about him. He takes pride in his well-cut suits and neatly ironed shirts, and is very particular about hygiene – his own and that of anyone else he comes into contact with. Most Saturdays, his schedule begins with the barbers. Leaving, he smiles to himself with smug satisfaction and adjusts his jacket lapels by the reflection in the nearest shop window.
.    The sharpness of the wind that had seemed to blow up the High Street all winter was almost gone. “Time to get out the summer wardrobe.” He nods to himself and then glances around to see that nobody had noticed. They had not. A little heat and colour rise in his round cheeks, and his head drops down a little onto his shoulders as they sag. Time to go home and have a restorative cup of tea with Mother.

Start Writing Fiction – Open University (FutureLearn)

Fact and Fiction

.     Snow fell and drifted into April. It would have been pretty except for the dark stain that appeared when I bent to turn the last shovelful from the path. My back muscles whined. The floral shirtsleeve uncovered was pink, and so was the snow that had hidden it overnight.
.     I had not raked the grass before bad weather had arrived. I didn’t miss the shriveled evidence of my laziness. It was Winter and my house appeared as well-tended as all of my neighbours. I was unready to stand out from the crowd again, so I recovered the stain and dragged my shovel back where I belonged.

(Paragraph 1: 3 facts, 1 fiction. Paragraph 2: 1 fact, 3 fiction  50-100 words each)

Writing Challenge ~ 2

Tell about a character who lost something important to him/her.

 “I really need the children’s paperwork back!” She was distraught on the phone and tried to be calm, knowing it wouldn’t happen. “He took everything. All their records are in those files, and all the mementos I have kept.”

“What sort of things are we talking about here?”

Her attorney sounded patient and unconcerned. That was the most infuriating part of this all of a sudden. She needed at least to sound rational. “Well, some birthday cards and photos… and some things they made in school. The school reports are in there and their official certificates.”

“I see. I know it is inconvenient, but all the certificates and reports can be replaced very easily… So, it’s the cards and photos really.”

She felt the panic and frustration drain away and tears threatening to replace them. At least he couldn’t see her crying. “You know. Forget it. I am just overreacting… It’s fine. I can get new copies, like you said… We will just have to make new memories.”


Writing Challenge ~ 1

Select a book at random in the room. Find a novel or short story, copy down the last sentence and use this line as the first line of your new story.

As long as there are dogs and as long as there are people fit to walk with them, they will remember you.*
I am not sure how I ended up with this job. I seem to remember that I had hoped to amount to more than fame for being a really good walker of dogs. But as we left the lane and the village behind us, I glanced down. The look in Sonny’s soft brown eyes was of pure love. Perhaps my life was not so bad. He trotted effortlessly on a slack leash, sniffing the air. His leathery black nose was a-quiver, and he was holding his feathered tail high, as though we were stepping into show ring instead of a muddy field. I flipped up the flap and reached into my jacket pocket. I felt the contagion of his excitement. The tennis ball was ready, and so was Sonny. I knew I was ready too. He looked up to my face briefly and I swear he smiled as his gaze dropped to rest on the bulge of my hand in my pocket, and the familiar shape of the ball.

* Watchers by Dean Koontz