Planning a Short Story

Yesterday I described a planning tool and the next day listed the elements of the story which this had generated.

Here is the story which came out of the exercise.


Melissa lounged against her car. It was a warm and sunny day and she had arranged to meet her friends from college. They’d all passed their exams. They all wanted to celebrate.

After the celebrations she would have to make up her mind whether to go to university or accept the job at the bank.

She watched as an elderly man moved up and down the line of cars, picking up the rubbish with a stick and depositing it in a large plastic bag. He did not work swiftly, did not seem to relish his job, but he was methodical.

At that moment a young woman strolled past, shopping in her arms. Melissa watched her, admiring her elegance, envious of her well-cut skirt and top, her designer ear-rings. She was beautiful, with high cheek-bones, a flame of red hair curling upon her shoulders like a mane and gorgeous alabaster skin tone. She was only a few years older than Melissa but she seemed a universe away.

The young woman headed towards the line of cars and Melissa tried to guess which one belonged to her. The Mini, she decided.

She was surprised to see that the woman headed for a brand new red Porsche. It had darkened windows so that nobody could see inside and open top so that everybody could.

She must be a young executive, Melissa thought, a lawyer or a businesswoman. I’d love a car like that. I wonder whether she went to University or straight into work.

The car was only two or three spaces from where the man was collecting rubbish. He ignored it, why shouldn’t he, for cars were part and parcel of his daily life. He kept on slowly but surely retrieving rubbish and placing it in the bag.

The hood of the Porsche opened wide, yawing like the mouth of a hippopotamus.

The young woman looked wonderful in her car, the picture of sophistication.

She put on a pair of designer sun-glances, glanced around the car-park and bent down. Then she started to fling piles of rubbish out of the car and onto the car-park.
Melissa was astonished to see this.

The cleaner was incensed.

‘Hey,’ he cried. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’

‘Getting rid of this rubbish,’ said the girl with a shrug.

‘You can’t just throw it on the ground like that,’ the man said.

‘Why not?’

‘Because I’ve got to pick it up.’

‘But that’s your job.’ The young woman shook her head as if pitying his lack of understanding.

The man did not reply for a moment, could not reply.

‘It’s not my job to clear up after you,’ he began. Then he paused. He took a step towards her.

‘Don’t I know you?’

The young woman peered more closely at him.

‘Oh yes. Didn’t you used to be Mr Taylor?’

‘I still am.’

‘I mean Mr Taylor, my science teacher.’

The cleaner nodded. ‘That’s me.’

The young woman looked him up and down and her hand played with her hair. She gave a sympathetic pout.

She looks pained, Melissa thought, but was not sure how genuine this was.

‘But why are you doing this, Mr Taylor?’ the young woman asked. ‘Why are you clearing up rubbish?’

‘I was made redundant.’

The woman frowned. ‘I’m sorry about that,’ she said.

‘Not as sorry as I am.’ He passed his hand over his eyes. Why me, he thought for
the hundredth time since the day it happened.

He turned to the young woman. ‘Now about this rubbish?’

‘Well, don’t complain Mr Taylor,’ she replied. ‘I really am helping you out. If it wasn’t for me throwing rubbish out like this then you might be made redundant from this job as well.’

She bent down and flung another handful out before driving off.

Melissa bit her lip. University or bank? Bank or university?


About Martin Lake

Martin Lake lives in the French Riviera with his wife. After studying at the University of East Anglia he worked as a teacher, trainer and company director. A serious accident shattered his arm and meant that he had to rein back his work. He decided to concentrate on writing and is now writing full-time. He writes a wide range of fiction. His main interests are historical fiction, short stories and fiction for young adults. Martin has a series of novels 'The Lost King' which are set in the years following the Norman Invasion of England. They concern Edgar Atheling, last representative of the ancient English royal dynasty and his fight to regain the throne from William the Conqueror. Martin has also published 'Artful' the further adventures of the Dodger and 'Outcasts' a novel about fall of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. His latest novel, 'A Love Most Dangerous' is about a maid of honour who becomes the lover of Henry VIII. Martin’s work has been broadcast on radio. He won first prize in the Kenneth Grahame Society competition to write a story based on 'The Wind in the Willows.' You can get the collection, 'The Wind in the Willows Short Stories' from Amazon.
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