Swings & Windows | The Open College of the Arts
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Swings & Windows

The following is extracted from Writing 3 student Carlie Morgan’s short story completed at the end of her Level 2 Writing Short Fiction unit.
Freda dangles her arm into the cot. She strokes the cotton-thin hair of her new-born and watches its effect in her window. With each stroke, her own face, milk white and blurred is shown on the screen.
“I’m going downstairs now. I’ll check on you later,” she says. She switches on the musical mobile and the images in the baby’s screen dance with colour.
Downstairs Jude lies on the settee with his feet on the table. He’s reading another book. As Freda sits beside him, she sees the words in his window. They flash up and dissolve as he thinks them.
“Ella’s seeing my face more clearly. She’s even worked out the colour of my eyes,” she says. Jude rests the book on his stomach so that he doesn’t cover his window. It would be illegal, even in his own living room, if he were to intentionally cover it.
“I haven’t seen my face yet,” he says, looking at his wife’s window. He sees his feet on the table and the colour of the background is red. Red is bad. Red is anger. He takes his feet from the table and the image dissipates.
“Don’t worry, it’s just because I’m here with her all day. You should spend more time with her. She’ll soon pick up your face.”
Jude nods and takes to his book so that the words will camouflage his irritation.
“I’ll do you some lunch for work. Beef okay?” says Freda. She doesn’t wait for an answer.
Jude only puts his book down when it’s time to leave. He slips it onto the shelf and thinks about putting his jacket on. Freda watches as he folds up his sleeves and brushes down his trousers. The images in his window echo each movement. Brush. Tuck. Fold. Anything other than think what he really thinks. Freda knows he is an expert at masking. To anyone else, Jude would be a boring man. Thinking only of his books and his work. But Freda knows the truth. Or at least she would, if he’d let his thoughts slip. But that only happened once. The black-haired girl with the creamy face and the big lips…
To read Carlie’s full story please click Swings and Windows
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Posted by author: Joanne
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13 thoughts on “Swings & Windows

  • I’ve re-read the story as I was thinking about it. I was pleased to see the original work of a fellow student posted, as I think it gives us an opportunity to think more critically about the actual writing, which must be useful to all of us in this learning environment.
    I asked if “other thoughts” would be welcome, and see there is no response. Not sure what that means, as there isn’t a “no thanks”.
    So, I am writing some neutral remarks, just to see if anyone else wants to join the discussion.
    I am unsettled by the idea of everyone’s thoughts being publically available – that is the point of the story, and it’s powerful. (Must be as I’ve thought about it after reading).
    Then I started to think about how to avoid too much confusion over the “point of view” question. Tricky! The story is written from the omniscient third person position, but with a closer relationship to Freda. But because everyone’s thoughts can be read, there is a point when we see what Jude is seeing in Freda’s thoughts (that is we see the story briefly from his viewpoint). I was confused by this, but maybe that’s the point too.
    As I thought more, I became a little disappointed that we were given an ending of sorts. I would have liked to be left with thigs hanging at the point where Freda and Jude find they have privacy. That would have me, as the reader open to all sorts of fantasy of my own.
    These are my personal and hopefully acceptable comments. If I’ve caused any problem by writing them, please let me know. I would like to learn more about how to comment, and whether it is acceptable to do so at all.

    • Hi Alison, of course it is acceptable to comment and give your views.
      I thought you make some interesting points, though some (for example, the kind of ending you would have liked better) were your opinion rather than advice. I’m glad that as you were commenting you seem to come to the realisation that Carlie was deliberately playing with point of view. Of course, all your observations are acceptable but I would ask students to consider that it’s quite a brave step for a student to put her work ‘out there’ and Carlie is one of the first to do so. Carlie must also bear in mind that you are (I’m presuming) a peer, not a tutor, and so she can decide how much weight to give your comments or whether you would have personally preferred a different ending or not. I’ve recommended that Carlie sends this piece out to short story competitions, where I am sure it will fare well. Best wishes, Barbara

  • Well done Carlie, twice over. First for allowing us to read your short story. Second, because this is a good short story. It follows the guidelines that the 2nd level course suggests, by keeping the story within a shortish space of time and the character list down to three or so. It has a good balance of tension and empathy for the 3rd person narrator. It holds itself within the language used; the writing feels confident, which is so important. You left the story open but resolved; we can continue to think about ourselves. And you take the step that all good writers of futeristic stories take; you don’t explain this world ahead of the story, you just allow the story itself to do that explaining.
    Like Barbara, I think this could be submitted to short story competitions.
    I do hope others will now feel able to display their work on weareOCA.

    • Hi Barbara, Hi Nina,
      Thanks for continuing with this useful (to me as a student), discussion. It would be good to know what other students think.
      I fully understand the position of a fellow student and the choices they have with regard to the comments of others, so what I will do in future, is make it clear that I am a student., and not a tutor. Perhaps tutors could do likewise?
      I do now remember that one of the things I was told in a local creative writing course, was that opinion is not considered to be useful feedback. A bit of a conundrum arises, as saying “I like it “, is, after all, giving an opinion, but I have the distinct impression that many students do not want to hear anything else from fellow students.
      I think, that in light of my boldness, I should put my neck on the block,and be prepared to take constructive criticism on the chin (whoops, two cliches in one sentence) but I do not know how the process of submitting work to weareOCA functions.
      Can you advise me as to where I can get the information I require?

      • Hi Alison, thanks for this very considered response. At the moment, tutors are being asked to suggest work that they think deserves to be showcased – but that came about because for the most part, student writers were a little shy and reluctant to put their work forward. So if you have anything you would like to put up for showcasing (and comment!) how about sending it to Joanne Mulvihill in the office? Best wishes and good luck! Barbara

  • I went on to read the rest of the story and I love it. The writing, the main character, the whole idea of the storyline. It made me very curious and I would love to read more! Well done

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