Struggling to keep it together


I’ve been working on character profiles for my WIP about a school teacher which I’ve been sharing with you. So while I’ve been doing that I haven’t been writing.

So I’m sharing with you something different today. It’s from a story I was working on some years ago, but never finished. It’s a highly personal tale – you could say it’s semi autobiographical. I would like to finish it one day and maybe publish it.

It’s about a girl of about 15 who’s struggling at school.  She has few friends and is very unhappy.  Then a new girl joins the school and she’s kind to my MC.  They become friends.  But unfortunately for my MC it doesn’t last.

I’m sharing with you 23 lines for the 23rd July:

I withdrew into myself, trying to talk to as few people as possible.  If Mum and Dad asked how I was, I put on a brave front, smiling and saying I was fine.  No one guessed how I was feeling.  At school, I tried to stay by myself as much as possible, not wanting to be seen.  At lunchtimes, I didn’t go out, I just stayed in the library, trying to absorb myself in a book, hoping that somehow a good story would make the pain go away.  Christine had been the only friend I had had in as long as I could remember, and now she was dead.  I couldn’t bear it.

   I stopped sleeping.  My nights were ones of restless tossing and turning, throwing the bed covers away from me, and then in turns gathering them towards me.  I was always very quiet, not wanting to wake my parents or Bryony.  Even so, Mum started to notice a change in me.  Whereas before I had answered her questions, be it monosyllabically, now I didn’t say anything.  When I went down to breakfast a couple of days after the announcement of Christine’s death, she was sitting at the breakfast table reading a newspaper.  Looking up at me with a serious expression on her face, she said,

   ‘There was something in the news this morning about a girl from your school who was killed in an accident.  It was Christine, wasn’t it?’

   I didn’t answer.  Mum sighed.

   ‘Kate, why didn’t you tell us?  Your dad and I wondered what was wrong with you.  Lately you haven’t been yourself.  We had no idea of what you were going through,’ she said, coming over to me and laying a hand on my shoulder.  ‘We want to help you in anyway we can,’ she added.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this so please comment. 🙂  And if you would like to take part in WIPpet Wednesday, all you have to do is post some of your writing (old or new) on your blog.  It should (ideally!) relate to the date.  Once you’ve posted it, add your details to this linky.

Thank you K. L. Schwengel for hosting.

42 thoughts on “Struggling to keep it together

  1. Wow. Semi-autobiographical! That makes it powerful.
    Oh I hope your character’s parents will be supportive during this time. It’s so hard to go through depression. I went through that as a teen.


  2. I felt a lot of sympathy for the character, Elaine. You describe her distress with economy and sensitivity, never going over the top. I like the way you did not disclose what happened straight away. The bits I think need work: ‘and then in turns…’ Don’t know why but that doesn’t work for me. Also the sentence ‘Lately you haven’t been yourself.’ doesn’t ring as true as the other parts of the dialogue (maybe it’s the word lately at the beginning.) Apart from this I think it is a powerfully understated piece. I’d love to read more.


    1. Well thank you very much Martin! Hopefully you will get to read more some day soon. Thanks for the tips BTW. I hope I’ve improved a little in my writing style since then! 😉


  3. Ah…heartbreaking. To keep that in, to not let her parents know until they read it in the paper…and it hits a little close for me. My brother lost his best friend in grade school. It was hard for all of us, but more for him, though I was younger so probably not as attentive to the tragedy as I should have been.


    1. So sorry to hear about your brother’s friend Kathi. Even though years may have passed, a loss like that stays with us, doesn’t it? I hope you and your family were able to help him through it. Glad you appreciated this piece.


  4. The character’s hurt comes across very clearly. I think it could be a little more tightly written, eg: ‘talking to as few people as possible’ rather than ‘trying to talk to as few people as possible’. This is something I’m always working on with my writing! And as you mention in another comment, your writing style has changed since then. A powerful little excerpt that makes me want to know more!


    1. Thank you for the tips Karen, that’s helpful. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how as writers our writing style evolves over time and (hopefully) improves.

      Glad you enjoyed the excerpt though. 🙂


  5. Oh, gosh. Very emotional. What’s so good about it is that even though the MC is going through a very specific thing, it’s easy to relate to it in so many ways. I find that often, the things that are most personal also have the broadest reach.


    1. Thank you very much Amy! So glad you could relate to the piece. It’s a bit of a rough draft – I hadn’t finished it and wrote it years ago – so it’s great that you could get so much from it. 🙂


  6. Writing anything autobiographical or semi-autobiographical is ridiculously hard to do. I took a memoir class and an autobiography class in college. I do like the tone in this piece; however, the first chunk of it was all telling. I didn’t see the character doing any of it; it was just a blur of facts. I don’t know if there’s stuff before this that would help put it into context or not. This, I think, is the hardest part about writing anything autobiographical. You want it to be a story and to read like a story, but the emotions surface and make it raw so it turns into telling a story rather than sharing a story (if that at all makes sense).


  7. Hugs to you, Elaine. My older brother lost his best friend, a little girl who was hit by car while playing, when they were only four years old. He still remembers her.

    It would be interesting to see how this story evolves with all you’ve learned in the interim.

    Best of luck on those character sketches, too! =)


    1. Hugs back to you Shan Jeniah! I’m sorry to hear about your brother’s friend, that’s really sad. It’s lovely that he still remembers her though.

      I hope I can go back to this story one day. I’ll keep you posted if/when I do. The character sketches are going fine. I’m gonna go back to writing it properly soon. 🙂


      1. Thank you, I was very small when she died, but I remember how upset he was for a long time after that.

        Sometimes, stories need time. When there’s a personal element, even more so.


      1. It makes a tremendous amount of sense to me. As I grow, as a person and a writer, I approach things differently, and see them in new ways. Perspective is a powerful tool.


      1. Yes – life and experience change us. If they don’t, that’s probably not at all a good thing.

        Of course, when I was a teen, and people suggested this to me, I was offended. =)


  8. I loved the excerpt. What spoke to me the most was the part about not sleeping. As an insomniac, it’s powerful when I read about characters with the same problem. It’s really a terrible thing. Your writing is beautiful! ❤


    1. Ah thank you very much. I’m sorry to hear you’re an insomniac. That must be tough. I’m so glad you could relate to this piece. And thank you for following my blog! I am now following yours. It’s interesting that you’re a Catholic – I’m a Christian too, an Anglican. 🙂


  9. Awww… Poor Kate! I hope she finds a new friend.

    Good for her mum! For a moment there, I was afraid Kate was just going to curl in on herself until it was almost too late to to do anything about it. So glad you gave her supportive parents.


    1. Kate will find a new friend… eventually. And yes, her parents are supportive. They’re also really worried about her and don’t know what’s happening to her, why she’s behaving differently.


  10. What a powerful little piece. I feel for that MC and can’t imagine going through the same thing. Whether it was written years ago or not, very good work.


  11. It’s hard to critique a piece that’s so personal… I know you’re past a lot of these years, but if you’re at all like me, you haven’t “left them behind” yet. They still burn in the background.

    Still, the language… It is very telling. A few more scenes of Kate’s life would be good. Have her retreating a a group of kids comes into the library or something. Have her want to cry and not dare as someone starts talking about the death. Bring us into her life.


    1. Hi Eden. This is literally just a short excerpt from the story. So actually Kate does retreat from other kids and as the reader you will (hopefully) get more and more inside her head and discover how she’s feeling. These things come to the fore in previous as well as later scenes. Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

      And no I haven’t fully left those years behind. In a way, though, I wouldn’t want to – they’re a part of the person I am today and they’ve enabled me to empathise with people and to see the world in a way that I never would have had I not been ill.


      1. I understand. Just commenting on the piece as we had it as guessing what you may or may not have written could lead to making even goofier comments. 😉

        And I understand about not wanting to leave it behind too. But even when we leave, we always have some of that past within us.


    2. Yes we definitely do have the past within us. There’s this great title to a book a woman wrote about her experiences in Nazi Germany which I love. It’s called ‘The Past is Myself’. I haven’t read the book, though I’d like to, but I think it’s just such a great title and so true of life.

      As for this excerpt I’ve shared, I absolutely get what you mean. I think sometimes when we’re reading something out of context, we can have all these thoughts about it, what’s good, what’s not so good, but without reading the whole, it can be hard to get a sense of what the writer is really getting at.

      But thank you very much for your thoughts. They’re much appreciated and helpful! 🙂


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