Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Short Story: Ball-Joints

'Ball-Joints' is a short story I wrote for my Introduction to Fiction module at university. I enjoyed writing it and still rather like it now, so I thought I would share it here as a glimpse at what I've been doing this past year. 

Ambrotypes - Photo by Ellie Morris

"The money’s in the teapot."
Of course it is. Only an idiot like Anne could think of such a thing. Girl said it like I was the fool. We could be twins, but that doesn’t mean I’m qualified in mindreading.
Imbécile,” I told her. I was grinning, but she couldn’t hear the grind of my gritted, pearly teeth.
“Just grab it,” said Anne. “My hands are full.”
Her arms were piled with fabric. Jacquard skirts, lacy underpinnings. She really did look the part of the fool, swimming in a sea of silk, though I was the one dressed as a Pierrot, white face and a tear drop on my cheek. I pushed her through the window where she hissed at me, her skirts riding up as she scrabbled for balance. The sound of china scraping against brick was muffled only by the abundance of fabric pooled about her knees.
There was a swimming pool below, flooded with lights, and shadows like devils dancing on the tiles. A party, brooding and deadly. People swigging whiskey in the foyer  ̶  they had long given up their nonchalant taste for champagne. Watching, waiting. Looking for any signs of movement. Music played in another room, but it was distant, dreamy, like the sickly pale moon above. Somebody sobbed by the pool: “I haven’t slept in days!”
Anne swayed, murmuring her fears. We had to get out, even if she shattered into shards on the concrete. In any case, her frock would act as a parachute. So I pushed and pulled her, up against the ledge. Her legs ground in their joints.
“Get off me! Down, Adelbert!” She tried to keep quiet. Her foot swung at my chest.
I grabbed the teapot, stuffed notes into my pants. Taking the silver gilded thing along with us was something I debated, but most of the damage had already been done. Fripperies would only delay us.
“Hurry, get out!”
“I’m trying. I’m stuck.”
Anne climbed onto the sill and balanced on the outside ledge. Creeping on her knees, fabric tied like a baby’s nappy around her rump. She wavered. Her gloved hands shook, and on the slab of stone she froze. Gasped. Rattled.
“What are you waiting for?”
“Can’t. Go. Adelbert, it’s like sandpaper on here!”
“You can, you can. And you better.”
“At least you’re wearing pants,” she griped.
We were fashioned from the finest materials available in a village atelier by the Black Forest; but poor Anne, her legs were moulded two inches shorter than my own, and the meringue-like attire she was given only hindered her further. While our brothers and sisters were jesters and country maidens, held up with strings and wires, we were strung together with elastic and porcelain ball-joints.
The pair of us were gifted to some spoilt little Biarritz girl. She took us home, and what a gift we turned out to be! Suzette’s face, when auntie’s coral earrings were found buried in the bottom of her bonbon dish, could’ve been painted by a master. The girl’s ears were boxed, and Anne was confiscated as an exercise in discipline.
“See how you like it, when something precious is taken from you!” said Suzette’s mother.
Anne being moved to another room was no heartbreak for Suzette  ̶  the girl had plenty of toys. Rather, it was a punishment for me. I’d sooner fling myself from the shelf than spend another day without my sister. And how Anne wailed, rattled, and sobbed in the night! They soon saw enough sense to keep us together, and reunited, our games turned to malice.
Earrings, silver, banknotes, signet rings, lockets… Filching small trinkets in the night was a decent enough way to pass the time. Anne had a penchant for the love letters passed between house guests; a cheating wife soon found her billets-doux in the hands of her husband. A couple of nights later, the wedding ring disappeared from her finger, although Anne never told me where she managed to hide it.
I liked heirlooms with sentimental value, and sapphires the shade of my sister’s eyes. But mostly, I liked the uproar that came from our adventures, the threats and booming, bellowing voices that echoed through old walls. If only I could stay! To hear the furious cries of Suzette’s family, when they find themselves bereft of a small fortune, would almost be worth the risk of separation.
 “I can’t see anybody down there, Adelbert,” said Anne. She teetered over the edge, spurred on by my hand on her back. “They’ve gone.”
“Then now’s our chance. Go!”
Anne’s stumpy legs wrapped around the drainpipe.
“Quick, quick!” she cried.
I clung to her back and we slid down together. Banknotes flowed through the air like confetti from my waistband, settling like lotus flowers on the surface of the pool. Anne grabbed my hand. We looked to one another. We ran. Through the trellis, our freedom appeared in vague nocturnal brushstrokes.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Forget-Me-Nottle: Why Write?

Hello everyone,

I thought I'd post here that I've recently started a new blog, specifically for my university creative writing. I'll also be posting reviews there, so that this space can be used for my personal writing and reflections, rather than becoming crowded with posts.

Books I collect - Photo by Ellie Morris

Please go to my new blog Forget-Me-Nottle to see my latest post; a reflection on why I write and a manifesto of my writing goals!

P.S. If anybody is curious about the name of my new blog, it's a play on a character's name from the Jeeves books by P.G. Wodehouse. Gussie Fink-Nottle's name amuses me when I read it, so I thought I'd give my blog a name that can make me smile, along with fitting in with the theme of nostalgia (forget me not flowers) and history that I like to incorporate in my work.


Sunday, 7 October 2018

What is Your Favourite Type of Character?

I was tagged by a friend on Instagram recently, and asked to take part in a sharing a photo with the hashtag 'favourite female characters'. Coincidentally, one of my lectures that week was also about characters, their development, and what kind of characters readers like to spend time reading about... So I thought this post would be perfect to sum up my thoughts!

The Pool of Tears, Alice in Wonderland - photo by Ellie Morris

Answers in class were mixed, but for the most part people seemed to appreciate 'nice' characters. The genuinely kind, helpful, goodhearted sort (Bertie Wooster as written by P.G. Wodehouse is the first example that springs to my mind when I think of those qualities!). Characters that are witty were also generally well-received, according to my group discussion. Admittedly, there are only about twenty of us in that workshop, but I think there's some truth about the sweeter, more wholesome characters being popular.
When I think about who my favourite characters are, they also seem to fit with those traits for the most part, being characters easily sympathised with - and in Bertie Wooster's case, easy to laugh at and with, too!

Here are some of my favourite female characters, from the tag I responded to on Instagram:

Alice (Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll) ✧

Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz series, by Frank L. Baum) ✧

Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett) ✧

Claudia (The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice) ✧

Manuela von Meinhardis (Mädchen in Uniform, or The Child Manuela, by Christa Winsloe) ✧

As a whole, I tend to like the whimsical characters that daydream a lot and go on adventures, those that are brave, curious, and aren't afraid to show their emotions - Alice, Dorothy and Mary fit those descriptions well. I also like the passionate but tragic characters, such as Manuela and Claudia. 

This weekend was dedicated mostly to developing a new character of my own. It's such an exciting feeling, putting together a new person with their own thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, and interests... I can't say too much because I'm planning on using her for some university work, but I came up with her in the Scriptwriting workshop and really enjoyed creating the image of her in my mind (though I 'made' her in scriptwriting I think she may fit with the short story module a lot better). 

I will say that I used a new-to-me software to plan things out, and it made the whole compiling of information from different sources a lot easier! If you ever want to try a more visual way of fact-gathering, with images, text, links and videos all in one place, OneNote is a wonderful software. It's basically like a notebook, with different tabs for whatever subjects or projects you want, and you can add 'pages' to them. 
Okay, so I might be late to the party as always, but I know I'll be using OneNote a lot more often now that I've tried it out! 

Aside from building on my character and doing homework (can you hear me crying? I'm sat in a lake of coursebooks and notes right now) I visited some antique bookstores, and I may have gone a bit wild... I came home with six books, only two of which are related to my course. 
"The Power" by Naomi Alderman was purchased for a lecture, and "The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories" by Angela Carter was *kind of* to do with my course, in that I came across her works through some tangent while doing homework and I really wanted to read more. 
Then I bought a 1970's book on dollhouses and making art dolls in an antique bookshop, and three other books in another antique store. 
A couple of months ago I posted about a book I found by an author called L.T. Meade - well, I wanted to find more of her works since I enjoyed that one so much. Part of the attraction is the collectable aspect of her books, being made in the 1890's-early 1900's and having spines like elaborate, lacy rainbows held in glass cases. If I'd been brave enough to take a photo, you would have seen what I meant as that room filled with antique children's books was just a dream come true, but I managed to find two more of her books - "Marigold" and "Water Gipsies" - and another one by Louisa May Alcott, called "A Garland for Girls". 
I absolutely can't wait to read them, but I have so much other reading that I need to do before I even touch them! 

To fit with the topic of this post, what is your favourite kind of character, dear reader? Let me know in the comments!


Sunday, 30 September 2018

Poem: Beloved Grave

I thought I'd try something different. I haven't written a poem for a while, but I've had an idea about making "cut-up word" poems with discarded film photographs and vintage books, and it wouldn't leave me alone all week - so I had to make it.

Beloved Grave - Ellie Morris

This particular poem was inspired by the hours I spent falling down a Royal family rabbit-hole on Wikipedia. I came across an article on Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, who sadly died in 1903 at the age of eight; her death was caused by contracting typhoid fever at a family gathering with her cousins, and the details about her funeral and her father's devotion to her inspired me to write this.

I scribbled down my thoughts in my writing journal, then set to work finding the relevant words in an old torn book. Some letters had to be cobbled together as it was just taking far too long to find what I wanted, but I like the effect it gives!


Tuesday, 28 August 2018

People (and sculpture) Watching

As writers we must look for inspiration all around. It's always important to read lots and lots, but taking influence from the real world, what we see and hear in our daily lives and environments is even more so. Overheard conversations can spark ideas, and the influence for your next main character could be just around the corner - literally!
Here I'm going to write about some of the curious people and things I have seen this summer, and the environments which I found them in, since I like to keep a record; the things I write are a mismatch of small aspects from everyday life, imagery and experiences found in dreams, and things I like in books and films - and I often like to write about young people, since it encompasses my own experiences, thoughts and feelings over the almost two decades I've been alive.

Football Match

I'm not usually a football fan, but since my younger brother is really passionate about it I decided to go see his match one sunny day in July. It's kind of interesting to see how kids interact with each other, especially in a competitive sport, which usually doesn't bring out the best in people... My brother's a good team player and I was pleased to see that everyone on both teams were pleasant too.

The surrounding area was quite unusual. Being a heatwave, the green fields were blazing hot and bleached by the sun, crunching underfoot. Behind me, where I sat watching, reading, writing and smiling, was the animal shelter where I volunteered since the beginning of the year, and an abandoned convent which was once the learning place of, shall I say "troubled kids" (I want to be nice about it because it's just one of those sad things, but working next door to that building I'd seen some kind of scary and unusual things!). The large metal crosses high up on the roofs would probably have burnt you if you were to touch them. Ants crawled over my arms and legs, over the picnic blanket and on top of my hat, trying to get near the apple which I did not want to share with six-legged friends.

The young footballers were red-faced and determined, sometimes getting accidentally tangled up with each other's legs on the pitch, being over-eager and clumsy. Babies murmured peacefully and spectators laughed, but what caught my attention was the repetitive, chime-like giggling of a group of siblings in the near distance.

Three girls and a small boy were playing with a flattened magpie, tossing it up into the air and laughing. Obviously it was dead - dead as a dodo, *coughs* - and they just didn't care or seem to mind. They threw it to one another and held it by its stiff, wide-spread wings as easily as a cardboard cut-out. The children were so innocent; death and bacteria did not bother them or send them scurrying away, but the latter notion scared me for sure. I wondered if I should get up and tell them to leave it alone, for it might've contained nasty germs and nobody else seemed to know of their game, but a parent beat me to it.
"Bye, dead bird," the children said softly as they went to go play hide and seek elsewhere.


My parents have told me that I seem to attract strange interactions with other people. Maybe it's true. I don't like speaking with people I don't know, especially if something seems off about them, but as a timid-looking girl I guess it can be hard to avoid them in public spaces... Liverpool is a busy place - not as bad as London, but there are certainly lots of people, and it takes all sorts to make the world.

I decided to visit an art gallery which I've been to a few times before, since it contains a rather striking room filled with Grecian and Romanesque marble figures, bathed in whites and cream and black, which I figured would be interesting to photograph on my new/old camera.
Well, my favourite statue in the entire room could be spotted at once. I do admire little Puck, the mischievous sprite from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". His grumpy face and devilish wings contrast greatly with his chubby-cheeked cherubic-ness, and despite the fact that he could not move or speak or do a single interesting thing, he was probably the best thing I encountered that day. I would have sketched him if I had time, but there was an 18th Century fashion exhibit in the next room!

One thing that soured the trip a little was the walk to and from the gallery. It was much longer than I remembered, especially since I'm battling some pretty bad fatigue at the moment, and with road works I had to walk a slightly different path. A man in an orange luminous vest was laid out across the narrow walkway, and so I had to step over him as there was nowhere else to go. Fair enough, I suppose he was tired too.
But walking that way, I caught the attention of a man on the other side of the road, who trudged through the traffic to approach me. He was drunk, and I was a little scared, though now I think back on it I find it a bit funny. When he spoke I couldn't understand him well, but I caught this:
"What colour are you?" I had no idea what he meant, since I'm obviously as white as a sheet and splotched red from embarrassment and exercise. "You can be any colour in the rainbow! Or all of them."
I ignored him since the only colour I could think of was 'leave-me-alone lavender,' but he continued to follow and pester me.
"Use your imagination. I'm sure you have one, don't you!" I ignored him more... then finally lost him at the crossing where he called me a "vampire" and then latched onto somebody else.

Well, that's people for you. When will any of this work its way into my writing? Probably not any time soon, but it was fun to write about my experiences!


Friday, 3 August 2018

Creative Writing Pick-Me-Ups

All artists go through a period of creative block every once in a while, whether it is paintings they produce, or prose. What can be more frustrating than having a goal or deadline to meet, only to find yourself slipping into a routine of getting nothing done? Inspiration is a fickle thing, and so you have to grab it when it comes and then wrangle with it to stay, like some kind of wild, frenzied animal that wants feeding at the strangest of hours and then takes off the minute the front door is left ajar.
Left stunned from the inspiration beast’s great escape, what you need is a restorative, or a writing pick-me-up! Here are some of the things that help me when I’ve been left feeling beaten down after a battle with the beast. Perhaps you can also give them a go when creativity has gone out the window.

New Books - Ellie Morris

Take a break
This may seem like it defeats the purpose of trying to get back into a creative writing flow, but sometimes you just need to let go for a while. There’s no use in trying to force things, as it will only frustrate you further. Don’t feel bad about it, but pick up some of your other hobbies instead. It should be something relatively easy and enjoyable. I recently got back into photography and drawing, for example.

Find something new
Shuffle through some different playlists on Spotify and find a new song that you like, go through random articles on Wikipedia until you discover something worth perusal, start a new hobby which has been on your mind for a while now, take a trip out of town and go sightseeing, buy a new book, watch a film in a different genre… You might just find something that can join the missing links between plot point A and character B, or an idea for a new story. It’s unlikely that you can gather enough information for new ideas or motivation when you’re sitting still, watching the cursor blink on the screen, and doing the same old things every time.

Read lots
Lots and lots and lots, whenever or wherever you can. Unwind with old favourites which you have found interesting and inspiring before and explore new genres. If you’re finding fantasy or historical fiction old hat, dig up a classic novel to check out at the library or buy something from a relatively new author whose work you haven’t seen yet. Take a chance, for a balance of new and old can get you on an even keel again. Just keep reading, keep learning, keep persevering.

Read about writing, too
I’m sure you’ll always find new hints and tips! Search for creative writing blogs to follow and drop by the bookstore to look through novels written on the subject. Everybody has at least some room for improvement, and it’s important to recognise that and take steps to see how other people keep up their motivation and reach success. As a side note, I’m re-reading Stephen King’s “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, and even in this guide he lists lots of further references, meaning that I’ll be drowning in new improvement books to buy (my bank account doesn’t like it, but yay, I guess).
In the case of blogs, other people’s passion for writing can get you excited and ready to write again, too. Bouncing ideas back and forth with a writer friend will make the whole novel-writing journey easier!

Make mood boards
Gather pretty pictures and slam them down on a page. Write around those pictures. Just scribble, scrawl, doodle, draw, and fling paint around like you’re some kind of modern artist in an awful funk. If mum asks about the acid green paint on the ceiling, just say that it’s all for a good cause. But what does the green paint mean? Something about the colour green is calling you, and it must mean something. Write it down. Write anything down. And get messy with the glue. Afterwards, take a step back and try to figure out the bigger picture. How do those colours and things relate to your current piece? How are any of them connected to the current scene? Do they string together at all? Is it an environment, a person or an emotion? Can it lead to new things? Or is your room just in good need of a tidy right now?

Set a goal
Try for 500 words, even if you know they will turn out to be nonsense. Just get something down on the blank page. Don’t mull it over too much, but let it be a stream of consciousness uninterrupted by doubts or extravagant goals. Make a cup of tea or coffee before starting, get comfy, and then reward yourself with a small sweet treat afterwards. Next time, make the goal slightly bigger, until you’re back into your usual routine.

Change of scene
Take your laptop to a local café and camp out for the day. Make sure to take headphones and plenty of money for caffeinated drinks, and find a quiet corner to spread out notebooks, documents, and battle plans. If you don’t fancy spending any money, bring a notebook along to a park or garden and sit with nature, taking notes on what you see. Think about your story without actually having it there to intimidate you; this can offer a new perspective, as more often than not the finer, minute details are forgotten and the story is back to its original outlines, which is what drew you in to write the story in the first place. Just sitting somewhere other than at your desk (or wherever else you spend day after day for the task) can make things more interesting.

I hope somebody will find at least one point in this list helpful. Please let me know in the comments if you have any more ideas!


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Books on my Nightstand: The Children of Wilton Chase, L.T. Meade

On my older blog I used to do a lot of book reviews. I didn't like that they were smashed between my dressmaking diaries and fashion/lifestyle posts like a strange, thematically unappealing cocktail, so I neglected them in the end, along with my original blog (but I do have plans to revive Miss Morris, so stay tuned...). This blog is more focused around my original writing posts, plus illustrations, personal logs, and photography, but since it's a record of everything I find interesting, it would be nice to bring back my thoughts on the books I read!

There is a charity-run bookstore in my town, which is coincidentally a branch of the animal shelter I work in. I used to go there a lot years ago, but kind of forgot about it until just recently. As soon as you walk inside the door, you are faced with a huge bookcase filled with old, musty, and quite pretty-looking books labelled as "collectables". How I forgot about that shop, I don't know.
The first thing I spot is absinthe green with a glimmer of gold, and I am immediately intrigued. Picking up the book, I realise that it has a Victorian girl on the spine, printed in faded coppery tones. The cover is equally as beautiful, promising adventure and sweet, easy-going tales with affluent, well-dressed Victorian children.
Well, there wasn't much else needed to convince me to buy it after that point, even without a synopsis or any other indication of the plot. The cover alone was irresistible.
I knew I would love it, and I was right. Sometimes taking a chance does pay off, especially if the book is cheap - I only paid £2.99 and I'm pretty sure that I'll treasure it in my collection for many years to come!

I didn't really know what to expect when I opened up the front cover. A small boy that once lived locally had lovingly written his name and address on one of the front pages, and a small note from the seller indicated that the volume was published in 1891. The back pages contained an extensive catalogue of the other books and series that the publisher offered, and they seemed to have a common theme as being "suitable gifts for school prize givings" (I actually managed to pick up another book from the same publisher in the shop - score!).
This book was obviously intended for children and pre-teens to enjoy, so I found it to be a light-hearted, fun read, riddled with messages of morality and good values, just as you would expect from a children's author in the Victorian era.

Wilton Chase is a huge, breathtaking stately home located somewhere in the English countryside, run by the widower Mr Wilton, who has many, many children, each one of them wild, rambunctious, and still aching from the death of their mother. Mr Wilton seemed like a very absent father to me, only setting aside one day a year to spend quality time with his children, and that is his birthday. His poor kids aren't even allowed to share the same building with him, and are confined to a separate wing... Therefore, the children are governed by a dear friend of their deceased mother, a long-suffering but ultimately kind woman named Miss Nelson. This kind of family dynamic wasn't unusual for the time period, but I still felt very bad for both the children and the nanny, since it seemed to me that the lack of parents/warmth contributed to a lot of the rebellion and bad decisions made by the children in this story.
Whilst the author did not condone any of their actions, she wrote of them fondly, with a great sense of understanding and sympathy, which I really liked. The children and nanny all got the happy ending I was rooting for, and there was none of the "little Johnny fell down a well and died because very bad things will happen to naughty children who steal" kind of spiel that I anticipated from this sort of story.
Most of the story is from fourteen year-old Ermengarde's point of view, and whilst she seems like a very rotten, selfish girl at first, I became rather attached to her and her plight. She has a great love for her elder brother, Basil, him being her closest friend, confidant, and the only one she seems to feel affectionate towards. It is the love for her brother, and her ardent dislike of her nanny, which sets her up for a disastrous chain of events when she was forbidden to ride in the carriage to pick Basil up from his boarding school. Seething over her punishment, she disobeys Miss Nelson and joins her father on the journey anyway, and one small lie became another, and another, and another, until she became completely tangled in them, risking further punishments and losing the high esteem that Basil had for her... Ermengarde was not a perfect character by any means, but my heart broke for her when she was so sure that her brother would not love her anymore due to a petty crime that was not her fault.
The class distinctions in Wilton Chase were a very notable theme, Ermengarde being forbidden by her father to associate with twelve year-old Susan, a farm girl that lived on their estate. Locked up in Miss Nelson's parlour while the rest of her siblings were enjoying a picnic in the fields, the poor girl was lonelier than ever, and when she spotted Susan gathering eggs beneath her window, she found her boredom relieved by Suzy climbing through the window and joining her in the locked parlour. They share a dinner and Ermie feels comforted by the girl's sympathetic words.
Miss Nelson evidently felt bad for leaving Ermie out of the picnic when her brothers were home for the summer, and came back for her. In a panic, Ermengarde forced Susan into a cupboard and locked it so that the nanny would not see her unbidden guest, then heading down to meet her siblings. Despite having what she wanted, she could not relax for the thought of her friend suffocating and screaming inside the cupboard, so she made an excuse to go back to the room and rescue Susan. In her haste to get back to the picnic, she leaves the girl alone in Miss Nelson's parlour, who, tempted by the resemblance to herself she saw in a miniature hanging on the nanny's wall, pocketed it and ran home, justifying it by the thought that she was too poor to afford a photograph or miniature of herself, so the portrait could be a memento of her beauty.
The miniature had a lot of sentimental value to Miss Nelson, and she was rightly devastated to find it missing from her wall. Everyone seemed to expect that Ermengarde had something to do with its disappearance, but it was only when Susan fell and broke her leg, ending up extremely miserable, feverish, and near death, that the culprit confessed her sin to Ermengarde.
Not wanting to get her friend or herself in trouble, Ermie has to jump through a lot of hoops and disobey her nanny and father even more, in order to return the memento to its rightful owner... It was only with the help of her kind-hearted, good and honest younger sister, Marjorie (who, although taking a kind of background role throughout the story, was actually a very sweet character and the key to resolving all those issues), that everybody ended up reconciling, Susan heals, and Miss Nelson gets back her beloved miniature.

The plot was relatively straightforward and I got through the book within a couple of days; I enjoyed it so much that I ended up thinking about it during my daily routines, and I couldn't wait until nine o'clock to get back into bed and spend hours reading about the characters that soon felt like friends. With a mug of hot chocolate, The Children of Wilton Chase, and a handful of cherries, the hours before sleep became like heaven! Call me childish, but I really loved it that much! There were also about six black and white illustrations throughout, all very delicate and beautiful. I couldn't wait to see each new one as the story unfolded.

All in all, it was very wholesome and heartwarming - a very good pick-me-up after reading Lautreamont's "Maldoror"!
At the moment I'm reading Mary Shelley's Frankenstein for the first time, and I'm absolutely loving it! What are you currently reading? Let me know in the comments below!


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