So I know, I know… every other Saturday (Yep, every other Saturday. I made an executive decision and decided to make it like that because I’m mad busy at the moment!) I’ve been posting an On Writing post exploring the ins and outs of writing YA stories.
This post is a little different…
My aim for On Writing is all about, well, writing and encouraging people to pick up a pen or open a Word document and finding inspiration wherever they can.
So I’ve roped in Anna from Anna Scott Jots to help me out with this post.
You must’ve read the other To Be Written (Or, as the cool kids call it… TBW) post that Anna and I did. The rules are pretty much the same: Anna picks something for me to write about and I pick something for her to write about.
I believe you can find inspiration anywhere, whether it’s from photos, illustrations, landscapes, songs, poems… whatever! It’s just about finding it. This time we’re talking music videos. No, not songs… the actual videos.
So we’ve each picked two videos and challenge t’other one to write the beginning of a YA story inspired by it.
[Please note: This post is going to be looooong but when you read Anna’s stories you’ll know why I couldn’t bear to cut them down.]
Let’s see how we go, shall we?
Where Starlings Pose.
I don’t know what it is that made me look behind the lifeboat hut.
The feel of the wind whipping at my coat, the sound of the distant waves beating against the pebbles, the sound of cars up on the carpark, fighting for the spaces left.
I don’t know what it was, but something made me look.
Placing my hand on the wind-beaten wall, the sharp sting of splinters in the tips of my fingers, I bent down. There was a flash of something blue, buried deep in the sand. I kicked at it with the toe of my knackered trainer, unearthing a bit more.
When I saw what it was, I stood up quickly, closing my eyes.
It couldn’t be. There was no way.
I turned away, scanning the beach, half expecting to see someone running away after playing a trick on me. The cruellest trick there ever was.
But the beach was empty, the tide completely out. I could just about see the streak of golden water where the sun’s last rays touched the beginning of the ocean. The metal statues, staring off into the horizon, stood in between fallen sandcastles, like detached giants that had just destroyed a village.
They looked even more eerie in the orange glow. Out of this world. Another Place.
There’s something in the air, I could feel it coursing through my veins, aching in my bones. It felt like I wasn’t alone. I scanned the beach again, just to make sure.
It was still empty, but it felt like he was there.
I turned back, looking at the doll that’s half buried in the grains of murky sand. I remembered when he first got it. They’d gone to visit Santa on the canal on a particularly snowy weekend.
About ten years ago, I think it was. Maybe more.
You can lose track, time goes so by so quickly now. I would’ve gone too but I was ill, so it was just him and Mum. He came back, face flushed and snow settled in his auburn hair, grinning and showing me what Santa had brought him.
It was this creepy doll; bright blue with white goggly eyes. I wasn’t sure what it was made of, plastic or rubber, some kind of synthetic. It looked like Morph… if he’d fallen into a fire.
He never left the house without it. I hadn’t seen it for eight years, but it still looked the same. The rubber was a bit scuffed and the vivid blue had faded slightly after being buried for so long. He was missing an eye; the white paint flaked off, leaving only a black chasm.
My phone buzzed and, when I pulled it from my pocket, I stared at the screen for a moment, the words registering. And when I saw who the text was from, the usual horrible feeling doused me, spreading from the tips of my ears to my toes.
Found anything yet?
I looked at the doll in my hand and an ice cold shiver creept across my neck. That was the thing with Will. He was always one step ahead of you, of everyone. He’d always been that way, ever since we’d been young.
I hadn’t even known I was looking for something until then. But it seemed Will did.
They say twins have a sixth sense. I have no idea who said that but someone did. You see it all the time, in books, in films, in the newspapers. There’s always show interviews with twins who say stuff like “Oh yeah, we have the same mind. We finish each other’s sentences. We always know what the other’s thinking” and then they look at each other with a mysterious smile that excludes everyone else.
Everyone believes it, but I don’t. I don’t believe it because Will and I never, ever finished each other’s sentence. We never shared anything, definitely not a secret smile. We were never a club of two. We never had private jokes. And I hoped to God we didn’t share the same mind.
He existed as a completely separate entity to me and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I turn the doll over in my hands and see the initials that my mum scratched into its back ten years ago.
His name snags at the lump in my throat, and a whimper escapes before it’s carried away on the wind.
There had never been a connection between Will and me. I know this. I know it for a fact. Because if there was then I’d know what happened that night. That night, eight years ago, when Liam went missing.
He was just a kid, my little brother, the biggest annoyance of my life.
If there had been a connection between me and my twin, I’d know why Liam and Will went out that night, but only one of them came back.
I still devote at least two minutes each day, thinking about how I ended up here. Even after all these months. I don’t mean how I ended up here. I mean how I ended up here. Because I was never first to be picked for the football team at school. I was never House Captain, I never got As in everything, in anything even. People never turned around when I walked into a room. I swear at least half my teachers wouldn’t even remember my first name. If they were still here that is.
When I shared a bedroom with Martin, there was never any question that I would get the top bunk. I didn’t even bother asking. And now, not only do I have the top bunk, but I have my own caravan. The whole thing to myself. Rogan moved out two weeks ago. He said it wouldn’t look right anymore, me sharing with someone. It wouldn’t be the ‘done thing’. I laughed at him and told him to stop talking out of his arse. He just kicked his heels and started rolling up his sleeping bag.
I bury my face in my hands and rub my fingertips against the scratchy stubble at the thought of Karina and Hayley turning up like they always do in the mornings. God knows what they’ve found to moan about today. I look at my hands and see where the thin layer of dirt has transferred onto my fingertips, making them look even grubbier than they were before. I’m scared that if something doesn’t happen soon, I’m going to forget what hot water feels like. All those long showers I took for granted. And then Martin or Mum would bang on the door and tell me to get a bloody move on.
There’s no use pretending I’m not here. Everyone knows where everyone else is. Not really that surprising when there’s nowhere else to go.
Karina’s the one person who doesn’t bother knocking. I don’t whether it’s because she hates me or because she’s always been a rude cow. A bit of both probably.
“I thought you’d be up by now. Making sure all the supplies and the log tally? Isn’t that what Tuesday mornings are for now? Or am I the only person who cares about these things?”
She doesn’t do talking. Only barking. “I can be up in ten seconds if I want to be.”
It’s best to be prepared. I could get dragged out of bed at any hours these days. Every outside noise, every scream, every shudder needs investigating. It’s just makes it so much easier, going to bed fully-clothed. Ok, so it means I don’t smell too pleasant most of the time but neither does anyone else.
She stands there with her arms crossed, tapping her foot so it makes a hollow sound on the thin flooring.
“Me and Hayley want to talk to you. About Rogan.”
I sit upright quickly, aware I look slightly less in control of the conversation if I’m still flat on my back. Of course, I whack the top of my head on the caravan roof. I am 6”2. This was never going to be an ideal living arrangement.
Her face is pulled back into a subtle smirk. Trying to ignore the gaff, I leap down from the bunk, still wearing the grey sweatshirt and combats from yesterday. “I told you. Rogan’s harmless. Being shy doesn’t mean he’s some sort of predator. And have you ever thought that he doesn’t talk to you because he doesn’t actually like you very much?”
“He stares. We don’t like staring.”
Sometimes I think she uses ‘we’ like the Queen would. Like the Queen used to. Mind you, you’ve got to cut people some slack in a situation like this one. I mean, she lost everything, we all did. You’ve got to let people be angry, take it out on someone else for a bit, let of some steam. It just pisses me off that I seem to be the only person to get it in the neck every single day.
Ok, so I don’t really know that much about Rogan. Only what he’s told me, which is very little and not all of it true, I reckon. Apparently both his parents were in the SAS and his Dad took a bullet for the Prime Minister once. Whatever. But I know a loner when I see one. He’s the sort of kid I would have been relieved to have in class because he’s even more of a loser than me.
I push past Karina and exit the van, taking in a much needed gulp of fresh air after another stuffy night. The ground still hasn’t properly dried after the few weeks of heavy downpours at the end of February. There’s not one person here who has a pair of jeans that aren’t caked in mud. We’ve only got two pairs of boots between the lot of us so whoever is on patrol gets first dibs and then whoever needs to get to the toilet block on a bad day.
This was the first place that popped into my brain when it happened because staying in the city really wasn’t an option. We had to get away from all the bodies. We had to get out in the open. There’s been loads of theories about why we weren’t affected by the gas. Not one of us is over twenty-one, so I guess that’s got something to with it, and someone else said it might have something to do with something that was done to us by someone when we were born. We never past get ‘somethings’ or ‘someones’ though.
I waited and waited for Mum and Mart to come back from work but they never showed. This group made their way down our street, knocking on every door, said I had to make a decision, had to get out. I’d been skiving off college, having a lie in. Saved by being a lazy bastard, maybe. I don’t even want to think about what I night have seen if I’d decided to go in that day. So I went with them. I still don’t know if I made the right decision or not.
And it was then that I thought about here, where Nan lived until she went into a home. And how me and Martin played an extreme game of hide and seek when I was about eleven that took me straight out of her front gate and around a few unfamiliar corners. Every street look liked the next. All neat green lawns and bungalows. All silence. There was none of the TV noise or laughing or screaming of our street. I eventually reached the endless stretch of beach, picking my way through a silent caravan park and the only person I saw was a girl on her bike, her hair stuck to her face by the strong wind.
And so in the chaos a few years later, I remembered the silence by that shore and I spoke up. Most of the kids we met on the way didn’t want to come, but I picked up Rogan when we were heading back out of the city. Sitting on a kerb, trying to throw pieces of glass into the bin on the other side of the road. As we headed north, we came across some other groups and I guess that’s when we soon realised if we wanted to survive, we had to be a unit. It’s not like anyone was threatening back then, but there was always this tension when we were face to face with others, wondering if they had the same plan as us. But I guess you need to find your territory first before you become territorial. That’s where I came in and I ended up leading the way. I always assumed there would be someone more dominant than me who would eventually take charge but instead I found myself filling in gaps in the awkward silences when decisions had to be made. The boy who wouldn’t even put his hand up in class, even when he knew the answer to a question.
When we made it, finally, the skies were just as grey as I’d remembered, the whole town just as silent, the caravan park just as empty. We only had to bury a couple of bodies. Not that many people want to come to Formby on their holidays in the middle of November. We made a pledge to sort out the rest of the streets eventually. Do it methodically. But over time, burning houses became the only answer. Clear it of supplies then torch it. It’s amazing what your mind let’s your body do when it knows you need food.
Rumours came in of another group on the other side of town. They’d taken over a cul-de-sac. We thought we’d do patrols, just to be on the safe side. God knows what we would have done if anyone tried anything back then. All we had were our fists. Going out for a search for weapons was inevitable in the end, especially once the explosions started.
I follow Karina to the edge of the park, towards the old site office where Hayley is sorting out the dry stores, but we don’t even make it that far. I hear the screams and the shouts first and leg it in the direction from where they’re coming from. It’s Declan, yelling something about a fire and the pub and then there’s a massive explosion coming from a few streets behind. I shout for everyone to get to the dunes as fast as they can and then me and Karina don’t even have to say anything. We dash in opposite directions, checking all the caravans, dragging anyone out who’s still in bed and shoving them towards the beach. Whatever they use for the bombs, the waves bounce off the buildings and you can’t keep you footing no matter how hard you try. I duck my head into as many vans as I can but I’m having problems staying upright. I can hear Karina shouting my name as she moves further away from the park, but as I turn to run, it’s too late. The force hits me in the chest and I’m thrown back. Thank Christ I’m not standing in front of anything too hard. I crash into the old green recycling bins and lay in a heap on the floor, winded and unable to gather the strength to move. I can feel it surging through my palms, the currents underneath the ground. The urge to stay lying there is almost too much, to see how long it will take before it eats me up. But I lift myself, every muscle screaming in agony and I stumble towards the shore, towards my unit, to wait for god knows what to happen.
“Why are they here?” Laura asked, leaning forward on her knees and staring out of the window to the street below. It was bright outside, the trees that lined the pavement were still only saplings and not yet able to provide shade or shadows. It was hot, too. Sitting in the stuffy attic, Laura was extremely aware that the patches under her arms were getting bigger. She crossed her arms, hoping no one would notice. Leaning forward again, she pressed her forehead against the double glazing, the sticker from the manufacturers still in the corner.
There were six girls sitting on the pavement. They were still in their school uniforms, the white blouses, the pinstriped skirts hitched up around their thighs. One of them was sitting on her hands, two were wearing tights and three were sitting on their navy blazers, shielding their bare flesh against the heat of the scalding tarmac.
Laura didn’t recognise any of them but that made it worse. The Haycroft Girls had their leader and everyone knew who she was. Jess was the one who took charge of things, she was the one who made the decisions and she was the one who ventured into enemy territory.
These girls weren’t Jess, but here they were on their turf. And they weren’t even nervous. They were just sitting there, eating Soleros and ice pops, talking about their day, tanning their legs in the sun.
If had been the other way round, if Laura had been sitting on the abandoned playground near the flats well… actually, there would be no way that Laura would venture into Haycroft territory. Just the thought made her feel sick. She’d heard the stories about what they did to Livingstone Girls if they dared cross the boundary.
Laura didn’t fancy finding out if the stories were true.
“What are they doing here?” Laura asked again.
“How am I supposed to know?” snapped Meg, shooting her a poisonous look. Laura opened her mouth to say something but thought better of it. Laura knew that being stuck with someone like her was the short straw but there was nothing she could do about it. She was a Livingstone Girl whether they liked it or not. And, Laura thought, whether she liked it or not.
Meg shifted next to her, the smell of her Impulse spray sickly in the stifling heat. She was in the same form as Laura but that was all they had in common. Meg was the star of the netball team, popular and knew how to apply bronzer. Laura knew that a protractor could be used for other things than scraping the initials of which boy you fancied into the science benches.
Laura drew her breath, her eyes widening as she watched the girls outside suddenly stand up. Meg pressed her nose against the glass. The six girls, still laughing and joking with each other as they brushed stray tendrils of their hair out of their faces and brushed at the pebbles that were stuck to their blazers.
And then they turned around, all six of them staring up at Laura and Meg’s hiding place. One of them grinned up at the two of them, too afraid to move, and waved.
“We’re going now! You can come out if you want,” she called. And then they disappeared.
“Shit,” said Meg, already standing up and heading down the attic stairs, her fingers moving quickly over the keys of her phone.
Laura stayed where she was, watching the girls disappear. How did they know they were here? The show homes were the Livingstone Girls’ new hiding place. Every day they’d walked past the not-yet-opened estate, full of rows and rows of houses that all looked the same, but it was only after what happened in the woods that they started to notice their potential.
Shelter. Comfort. Security. No parents.
Far better than the damp woods that were full of hikers and dog walkers.
And the police tape that still cordoned off the cave.
Laura shuddered at the memory and, with one last look at the girls’ retreating backs, picked up her school bag and walked home.
“You’re home late.”
Laura looked up from her bag, her keys hooked on her finger, and saw Luke, her next door neighbour leaning against his back door. His face was sunburnt and his lips were cracked. She blushed when she realised she was still looking at his mouth and looked away.
Laura looked up, noticing that there was a smudge on the lens of his glasses.
“I just went for a walk,” she lied. Luke nodded and she knew that he believed her. “What are you doing out here?”
“Mum’s working late and she’s lost her keys so I told her I’d leave the back door open for her,” he said, shaking his keys at her. Laura nodded but didn’t say anything. “They’re having this massive meeting about the changing of going home times. I’m guessing you’ve heard?”
“The buses were pretty empty today,” she replied, trying to keep the shock off her face. The changing of the Haycroft Girls’ going home times changed everything. They finished earlier now, meaning they had a head start.
This was bad news, but Laura couldn’t help but feel excited. This was the reason why she was allowed to be part of the Livingstone Girls. Luke’s mum was a teacher at Haycroft Grammar and the information Luke unwittingly gave Laura was vital. She couldn’t wait to tell Hannah, to see her face, and to be the one that provided the information.
“Anyway, why are we talking about that? Boring,” Luke said, rubbing his hand over his pink arm. Laura grinned at him, taking her phone out and checking she didn’t have any messages from her dad, telling her to get home. There was a message but she didn’t open it, wanting to stay outside for just a little bit longer.
Laura smiled and sat down on her doorstep. Luke smiled and sat down on his. They looked at each other for a minute and then Luke took a sip from the glass of his Ribena. He tilted it towards Laura and she accepted. She wiped her mouth hurriedly and handed it back.
If Laura stretched her leg out, she could touch his foot with his.
“Want to hear something hilarious?” Luke asked, looking up through the gap in their houses.
“Always,” she said.
“You know the two witches?” Laura laughed and nodded. Ever since they had been little, Luke had been infatuated by an old ramshackled house on the corner of their street. It was falling apart, but two elderly women had always lived there. As they had gotten older, Laura had realised that they were just two women in anoraks. But Luke was adamant that they were witches. “Well, I saw one of them with this massive crate of bottles with all these coloured liquid in.”
“I swear,” he said quickly. “I swear, she was carrying potions. Into her house. I saw it.”
“No you didn’t,” she said, grinning. He took his glasses off, rubbing them on his shirt. When he put them back on, he nodded again.
Her phone buzzed again, cutting their laughter short. A flush spread across Luke’s sunburnt cheeks and he pretended to look at something interesting on the wheelie bins. Laura sighed, looking at her phone again. The message she received earlier flashed up on her screen.
She stood up suddenly, her school bag tumbling off her knee, an avalanche of textbooks spilling out onto the floor. Luke scrambled to pick them up, laughing until he saw her face, ashen and still staring at the screen.
“Laura, you OK?” he asked, worriedly. “What’s happening?”
“What? Nothing,” she replied quickly, turning off her phone and shoving it into her pocket. Luke held out a pencil sharpener that had fallen out of her pencil case. “I… need to go. My dad…”
“Alright, wait… Laura,” Luke said, taking hold of her elbow. “You know where I am if you need me, right?”
She managed a weak smile, leaning against the door and listening to it click shut behind her. Listening to the ticking of the kitchen clock, Laura reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone. She pressed the button and watched as the screen turned on.
Laura’s phone vibrated.
And there it was. The text from Jess, the leader of the Haycroft Girls.
We want to meet.
DUH DUH DUUUHHHHH.
Sorry, I felt I had to add that.
ANYWAY! So what do you think? Let’s give it up for Anna because… HELLO! How amazing are those stories? I think Operation M is my favourite only because I’m hideously jealous that she can write a short story like that!
What are your favourite ways of being inspired? Are there any music videos you’d love to write a story about? Any of these stories that you think we should drop everything we’re doing and write the rest of the story?
Please, leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts! Or, well, give your eyes a bit of a rest but then come back and leave a comment!