When economising on characters isn't successful - by Fran Hill

It's tempting sometimes to cut down on characters. The results aren't always successful ....

The Two Bears - a tragic tale of loss and regret in which a family of bears argues over porridge and muse on their boring lives. 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, who is 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 over porridge all over again and thinking how like depressing modernist literature their lives are.

Romeo - An Italian youth is infatuated with a girl called Rosaline. His friend says to him, '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 and goes to the party where he spends the whole evening looking out for that certain someone ... 'Someone,' he sighs, 'with whom I could talk about pilgrims in sonnet form and maybe even stare at through a fishtank in the film version'. However, it is not to be, and he marries Rosaline and lives a dull life, void of people who pretend to be dead and interfering friars who can't get a letter to a person with any efficiency.

Of Mice - A family of Californian mice live fairly tedious lives until one says, one day, '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 be on the lookout just in case such a guy should pass. He dies while on the lookout, however, because the other mice are too busy reading a book called, 'The Rodent's Life and How to Liven it Up'. The mice bury their friend with bowed heads, although one or two still 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 called Despair, a pilgrim called Talkative and an Evangelist, all looking for something to do or someone to talk to, and ending up disappointed. They wander off again. The title ends up ironic.


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