Making The Numbers Add Up: 1


Just wanted to share some thoughts, as I have done before, about what the thought process was behind the short stories I’ve recently put out. ‘Unlucky Numbers’ contains thirteen tales, some previously published in smaller volumes. I reordered them slightly for the complete collection, to try and create what I thought would be a successful reading order. Here I will explore the origins if the first four in order of the contents. Be mindful that there might be spoilers; DON’T READ if you haven’t already read the stories!

A CURIOSITY OF KITTENS: For all of the stories in this collection I wanted numbers to play a part so that I had a frame to hang them all on. It meant I brainstormed a range of situations where numbers played a part. One of these was page numbers in children’s books, and how sometimes they count up or count down characters or objects as the tale progresses. I then remembered how mind-numbing and repetitive reading these books can be for a parent. On more than one occasion I had skipped pages when reading to my own kids, hoping they weren’t that invested in the narrative! I didn’t go so far as pulling pages out, but not far off! This made me think of a situation where the book might fight back. Once I had that in mind, the rest fell into place. I was just mindful that I didn’t want it to be too similar to ‘The Babadook’; hopefully it didn’t come across this way. Final note: at first they were puppies… I can’t remember when they switched to cats. I guess once I’d decided to bring curiosity into it…

ROMANIAN ROULETTE: Some of these stories kill two birds with one stone, by being written to prompts from writing forums that I sometimes use to inspire and drive me. This particular prompt was a vial of blood. I then thought of that in relation to number, and mulled over how I could create a story that incorporated half a dozen or so vials… that’s when I thought about Russian Roulette and the one in six chance of coming to a sticky end. If it was blood, not bullets, then it seemed obvious that I was dealing with vampires. It was then just about creating a scenario where vampires found themselves in this perilous situation…

TAGGED: Also written to a writing group prompt. The last sentence of the killer’s verse was the line that needed to be used – the last person I killed was the last person I wanted to kill. It then made me think about who the other victims might be and what line the killer might say – or in this case, spray-paint – about each of them. Once I’d solved that particular puzzle it was then all about how I got that across to the reader. I liked the idea of the pieces being delivered in flashback rather than in true linear fashion, I suppose because they came to me in that way. It meant I could try a slightly different way of unfolding a narrative…

FAR FROM THE TREE: Another one from the brainstorming session about numbers, I noted down the idea of all the generations of a family tree. What could be the story? What would we be counting? My own family – or at least one half of it – is very large. I wish somebody would do me a very helpful family tree! What I could then count very easily, would be the frequency of certain names: John and James in particular. Here the story was born – a name that occurred, just once, in every generation. Of course, it couldn’t be accidental… why was the name important? And what happened when you reached a certain number? I enjoyed writing this one, specifically in preparation, as I designed the full Crenny family tree, complete with relatives and ancestors that didn’t make the cut, all the way back to Harry the Head. It’s nice to get lost in the world of a story once in a while…

SO, that’s the first four. I’ll throw the next batch up here in a couple of days; give more of you good folk a chance to read ahead!

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