Radio-inspired story exercise

The brief we had was:

Turn on the radio and take note of the first thing that is mentioned. Use it as the basis for a story of no more than 500 words. Imagine a character, someone who is central to what the story is about. Try to use clear, vivid language so that your reader can see the character.

I can see already the value of paying really close attention to the brief – I wasn’t focussing enough on character when I wrote this, more on the scene and story. This is only the very first draft – I can see already I’d like to go back and bring out the character of the boy so much more…

The thing I heard on the radio was the quote “What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare” from the W.H. Davies poem. Out of curiosity I looked him up – what a life! Amazing character. My story is shamelessly lifted from the following:

Davies recounts the time when, at the age of 14, he was left with orders to sit with his dying grandfather. He missed the final moments of his grandfather’s death as he was too engrossed in reading “a very interesting book of wild adventure”

(From Wikipedia)

So here’s my imagining of this:


“Stay with your grandfather! Trust him to be dying on a Sunday. I’m not missing Chapel.”

The door slammed making the jug rattle on the dresser. Footsteps faded down the lane. A beam of sunlight came through the dirty pane. He watched the dust motes dancing and followed one, then another, as it whirled out into the darkness. The silence was broken by another cough – black and retching – followed by a low moan. He looked up at the ceiling. The silence lengthened and he held his breath.


The voice was faint but unmistakable. He took a deep breath and picked up the teapot, tucking his book under his arm as an afterthought. The stairs creaked as he crept up, sloshing shadows of wetness in the dirt. The room was dark and reeking. His grandfather lay on his side, a filthy cloth clamped to his mouth, his eyes closed.

“Gran’s gone to Chapel.” He edged round the bed, trying not to notice the half-full chamber pot, refusing to breathe.

“Abandoned me has she?”

“She’s praying.”

“I don’t need prayers. I need whiskey. Fetch me some! There’s a good boy…”

“Have some tea.” He tumbled lukewarm tea into the cup, the book clamped under his arm a hindrance.

He left the teapot on the table. There was a chair propped beside the bed, underneath the window, but he couldn’t. Instead he sat down on the top stair, shifting away from the mouse droppings. If he lent back he could still see his grandfather. He watched him wipe his beard and slump back, muttering, a leathery hand over his face.

He hunched forwards and opened his book. The light was bad but he could read. He glanced back at the inside cover. Islands and seas and a compass to get there. How he wanted to go! Davey Evans had signed up a year ago and never been seen again. He pictured him at the prow of a windjammer, riding the waves, sighting new land, trade winds tousling that shock of jet hair that had made Lettie Jones go silly for a while. She was with Ioan now, not that Davey would care. He found his place. They were about to attack.

Twelve men were dead and the treasure taken before he straightened up with a crick in his back. Less than twenty pages left – he never wanted it to end! Glancing behind him he saw his grandfather was still stretched back on his pillow, the hand on his face. He waited for a movement or sound. Nothing. He was aware of the soft thud of blood in his ears. Replacing his bookmark with care, he scrambled to his feet.


No reply. He left the book on the stair as he edged towards the room. As he approached, he could see that his grandfather’s mouth was open beneath his hand, like a silent wail. He reached out and touched his shoulder. He jumped as the hand fell away from the face and slithered down the side of the bed, knuckles rapping the floorboards.


Comments, critiques and ideas very welcome on how to improve!


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