Sunday, 6 December 2015

When austerity hits authors ..... by Fran Hill

Times are hard and the word ‘austerity’ is everywhere. I wonder what would happen if writers from the past had been subject to a similar economy drive and had to cut down on characters.

Here are some potential results …

The Three Bears – a tragic tale of loss and regret in which bears argue over porridge and muse on their boring family life. Baby Bear says, ‘If only a blonde girl would come and steal our breakfast, break one of our chairs and test out our beds, that would at least liven things up.’ Mummy Bear, narked because once again people are moaning about her cooking, says, ‘Well, THAT’S not going to happen.’ She’s right. It doesn’t. And they find themselves, the day after that and the day after that, arguing about porridge all over again and thinking how like depressing modernist literature their lives are.

Romeo – An Italian youth is infatuated with a girl, Rosaline. His friend says, ‘Look, mate. You’re obsessed. Come and gatecrash this party with me tonight and I promise you’ll meet someone so stunning that you’ll never think about Rosaline again.’ So Romeo gives in, goes to the party, and spends the whole evening looking out for that certain someone … ‘Someone,’ he sighs, ‘for whom I would gladly suffer a cricked neck while she talks to me from a high balcony … someone I could even stare at through a fishtank in the film version.’ However, it is not to be, so he marries Rosaline and lives a dull life, devoid of people who pretend to be dead and interfering friars who can’t get a letter delivered with any efficiency.

Of Mice – A family of Californian mice live fairly tedious lives until one says, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if a massive guy with special educational needs picked us up, put us in his pocket, and petted us as he walked along?’ The others agree, and send one of the more alert mice to act as lookout just in case such a guy should pass. The mouse dies on the job, however, because the others are too busy reading a book called ‘The Rodent’s Life and How to Inject Excitement Into It’ to notice his rapid decline. The mice bury their friend with bowed heads, although one or two sneak hopeful looks towards the dusty road to Salinas, just in case. 

Progress – A vivid description of a number of locations including the City of Destruction, the Slough of Despond, the Valley of Humiliation, Doubting Castle and Celestial City, all of which sound extremely interesting. Into these locations wander minor characters such as Worldly Wiseman, a monster called Apollyon, a giant named Despair, a pilgrim called Talkative and an Evangelist, all looking for a main protagonist who might help them all towards a coherent plot, but ending up disappointed. The giant named Despair says he'd be happy to take on the role of main protagonist, although this would take effort and perhaps some Valium, but the others all agree that this would put a spin on the story that might not be what the writer hoped. They wander away. The title ends up being ironic. 

Scrooge was not happy. Marley had told him three spirits would visit and he'd lain awake all night, waiting.
This was going to be a very short an even shorter book.

Fran Hill is a humour writer and English teacher living in the Midlands. Her novella 'Being Miss' is available on Kindle here and, in paperback, from her website here. It's about one roller-coaster day in a teacher's life and will make you feel much better about yourself. Fran blogs regularly here.


  1. Perhaps this is where I'm going wrong in my novel! Such a great way to start the day with a Fran Hill giggle-post :) Brilliant...

    1. Hah - it hadn't even occurred to me that this is exactly what I've just done with MY novel!! Bye, bye, one character plus whole sub-plot. It was nice knowing you. Sigh. Perhaps I should stick to giggle-posts as a genre.

    2. Oh, Fran, I do love your humour. Brightens up a dull rainy day no end :)

    3. Thanks, Mel! The sun's trying to come out here in Warwickshire after lots and lots of grey dullness, and I almost didn't recognise it.

  2. A welcome distraction from all the doom and gloom. Sue

  3. I used to do this with film titles. The best one I came up with was 'The Magnificent One and a Half'.