Flash fiction: Chip of Ice

copyright-adam-ickes

Even as Robert packs up his wife’s papers he is aware of it. He glances at his crying daughter while they stuff her mother’s clothes into bin-liners and knows he isn’t looking just from sympathy. His son is silent as together they lift the ram’s head into the back of the car and Robert makes a mental note.

Driving away the car-load of a life brings tears of his own, blurring the road, and still something apart and yet inside him records the emotion.

When the children are asleep, Robert goes to his room and writes it all down.

*

Graham Greene famously said that every writer should have a chip of ice in their heart. I think he might have been refering to keeping control during the writing process, rather than when research gathering, but perhaps the same idea applies.

For those who don’t know how Friday Fictioneers works, this picture, this time from Adam Ickes, is our inspiration for our weekly online writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Each story is only about 100 words long, so why not read a few others: click here to read some more or to join in.

And please comment below with any suggestions on mine, or just to show you’ve visited.

43 thoughts on “Flash fiction: Chip of Ice

  1. Graham Greene famously said that every writer should have a chip of ice in their heart. I think he might have been refering to keeping control during the writing process, rather than when research gathering, but perhaps the same idea applies.

    This made a good story really thought provoking – read it twice more from a totally different perspective.

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  2. Loved this, Claire – both the style and the substance.

    I’ve always viewed this tendency in myself with a bit of trepidation (had not heard the Graham Greene quotation before) and wondered whether everyone “suffers” with the same inability to give themselves over to the moment 100%. Maybe, though, it’s not “suffering” – it could be self-preservation – and so maybe it’s an ability not an inability. Maybe. Maybe…… Louise.

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    • It pulls me both ways. It’s a good thing if you’re a writer – it’s certainly what I draw on, but not so good in other ways – as a mother for example. But it’s not something I can turn off, and probably you neither, so we just have to accept it.
      Claire

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  3. Catharsis/release/outlet but still allowing the writer to be in control and aware whilst manipulating readers’ emotions. The side that tells you to avoid turning the drama and emotion into melodrama. A thought provoking story indeed.

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  4. Dear Claire,

    A Chip of Ice was a brilliant piece of imagination. I don’t think writer’s need apologize. Without them, we’d be denied these moments, for not everyone can capture and then translate them for the rest of us to see.

    A good story on many levels.

    Aloha,

    Doug

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    • Thanks Doug. And I think, us writers, can hide this ability in the heat of the moment if necessary, and just store it up for later, so no one really knows that we’re storing it all away.
      Claire

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  5. Sensitive writing here, Claire. The only tiny bit which jarred slightly was the word “stuff” i.e. “stuff her mother’s clothes”. To me stuff sounds a bit brutal/uncaring. Just the picture of them packing the presumably dead mum’s clothes would have done for me. Stuff took a bit of the softness out of it.

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    • That’s a really good point – the word ‘stuff’ isn’t right. I’m so tempted to go and change it, but somehow that feels like cheating, so I shall leave it there for all the world (or perhaps half a dozen writerly-types if I’m lucky) to read it.
      Thanks,
      Claire

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  6. Hi Claire!

    You captured it perfectly — record the emotions for later. If I’ve written something horribly depressing, people often think I’ve been crying over the page or something, but the fact of the matter is, by the time I write it, those emotions are long gone, cataloged for reference purposes, when I can look at them with a clearer eye and thereby craft the tale, using my intellect as well as my emotion, and end up with something more than just wet soggy pages.

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  7. I’ve never heard about the chip of ice in the heart- a very interesting concept I feel that I’ll be contemplating on for a while. Your writing is always so full of emotion, and though it flows so well, it seems to play out in sort-of a dramatic slow motion.

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  8. Good advice from Graham Greene. I often find that my best work requires some distance between myself and the topic. Nice way to introduce a key element of writing.

    All my best,
    Marie Gail

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  9. the car-load of a life – wish I’d come up with that line – now I’ll have to copy it – kidding. Nicely done, Claire. Perhaps the chip of ice refers to being able to write hear wrenching scenes although the author hasn’t really experienced the exact scenario.

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  10. I tried few times, but I still can’t form exactly what I’d like to convey here. I too believe in some kind of emotional detachment from the story you write, because although it is an oxymoron, you must observe your characters objectively for the story to work.
    You did that so good here, and I actually like the word “stuff”. I had to deal with few loses in my life and I can relate to that feeling of wanting things to be done quickly, because there is so much to be done. For me, that word doesn’t sound harsh, it frames their pain and lose more.

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    • I’m glad you liked it. I think if I were writing a longer scene, I’d have space to think about whether they’ve putting the clothes in quickly or slowly, and more of Robert’s emotion, and all that might affect the word stuff. So much to think about in writing!
      Claire

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  11. You’ve touched on something universal with this story, Claire. There’s always a little part of us that seems to watch our lives objectively, and it can make us worry we’re unfeeling. Unless we know this quality is an inbuilt thing we don’t like to admit it. Brave writing and a great story.

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  12. Like others, I re-read this story several times and it got better each time, with the interpretation firming up. For me, first time round, the possibility that mum had simply left was still open. Stuff? It didn’t bother me until someone pointed it out (and I have been there more than once), then I wondered, but I think it belongs. Re the chip of ice, I think it cuts both ways; I am always trying to throw it out when I want to empathise with a character, yet I remember being grateful for the detachment in an emergency clinic when doctors were dealing with our small daughter’s eye injury. I was fascinated by their activity, their methods, their skills, as I talked non-stop to our four-year-old.

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    • Yes, I think both things can be going on at once, the detachment and ‘recording’ and the true emotion. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
      Thanks Hilary.
      Claire
      ps – I hope your daughter was ok in the end!

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  13. Claire, I write in a journal so my feelings are put down to be used later. I just wish I’d started a journal much earlier. This story, like the others you’ve written, was well done and had the touch of reality about it. 🙂 —Susan

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  14. I liked your story, Claire. I think it was the second paragraph that did it for me. And thank you for the Graham Greene comment

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  15. I always fight with unknown phrases, words, Idioms when I read the ff stories, because I´m German. So I am forced to re-read stories more then twice to get it. Your story is sad, and I could feel how the father paced his emotions.( I like the idea of “recording it for later”.) He seems just to “function”.Then he writes all down. The more I read it the more I could feel all the sadness and lonelyness between the lines. And all that in just 100 words. Thanks for sharing, I loved it very much. And Graham Green is right. Distance or “the chip of ice” is really important.
    Liebe Grüße
    Carmen

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  16. The emotional detachment here is so sad, but made me wonder whether I’m guilty of the same thing. I’d like to think that I’m in the moment when it’s happening and maybe I’d analyse it later. But I’m not sure. You’ve got me doubting myself. An absolutely fascinating story.

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  17. For as simple as this story is, it is strong and deeply moving.

    I really enjoyed that you offered your point of inspiration or ideas (the GG quote) as a suggestion for further thought or understanding.

    As someone else said, it means revisiting and considering things from different points of view, even in our readings and interpretations.

    Great post 🙂

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