Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Story A Week: The Tiffin Box

On Sunday I realized I hadn't started a story for this week. Even worse, I didn't even have an idea for a story. I decided to give myself grace, maybe do a free writing exercise in place of a story, and simply accept my physical and creative limitations.

But then, that same day, an idea walloped me. Not just any idea, but an idea I'm absolutely in love with. I did something I haven't done since I started my story-a-week challenge: I wrote nearly three thousand words in one day. That meant staying up until two in the morning on Sunday night, but hey, I was on fire!

Here's the pitch for my short story THE TIFFIN BOX:

Sylvie is vacationing on the small island of Cheung Chau off the coast of Hong Kong when she and her daughter discover an abandoned holiday bungalow overgrown by jungle. Picking their way through the dilapidated rooms, they stumble upon what they think must have been the servant's quarters. There they unearth an old fashioned tiffin box -- an enamelware set of dishes that stack together and lock in place with a clasp. Their find is intriguing on its own, but when they open the box, a fifty-year-old letter falls out. Sylvie tells herself it's most likely a laundry list -- nothing important. But when they meet an elderly gentleman on the ferry home who offers to translate it for them, Sylvie finds out a secret kept by a long-dead servant girl is a secret that could taint her own world as well.

Confession time: I'm not quite finished. I have a little over three thousand words, but I haven't felt well the last couple days (probably as a result of my into-the-wee-hours writing binge). I also needed to figure out how to end the story. I had a few different ideas and needed to figure out which one was best before I plowed through.

Still, I'm excited. I love Sylvie's character. She's an upscale expatriate British woman living in Hong Kong and it was fun to write in her voice, even though the story is written in third-person. Oh, and if you're wondering, that's part of Cheung Chau Island in the picture above.

I do have a favor to ask. Would any of my blog readers be willing to critique this for me when I'm done? I would appreciate the feedback. Maybe I could critique the first few chapters of a novel in exchange? Let me know in the comments or email me (a2sonnichsen (at) gmail (dot) com) if you're interested.

Hope you're all having fabulous Tuesdays (or Wednesdays for those not in America)!


  1. I'd love to read it. What if I trade short stories with you?

  2. Okay, Blogger ate my response to your comment on my blog, and now it's eaten my earlier comment here. Hmm.

    I don't think your toddler would be bored by the movie, but toddlers are very individualistic souls. Have you watched the trailer? I'd say let your toddler watch the trailer.

  3. Oh, it sounds exciting! I think the setting really pulls me in, too--so very exotic for me. How amazing it would be to have lived in a place like that and know it well enough to use it as setting.

    How is it to be back after so many years in China?

  4. Hi Carolina, Thanks for dropping by and for the comment. :) Cheung Chau is one of my favorite places in the world. I just hope I can do it justice writing about it!

    There are a lot of great things about being back in the US, but there are challenges, too. I think I'm still adjusting, after nearly a year here! And, of course, there are things I miss -- like being able to travel and eat out all the time. Not to mention the excitement of living in a place where you never know what's going to happen next (though that can be stressful,too!). But life is good here, too. It's just so different. :) Thanks so much for asking!

  5. Hi Myrna, Yes, blogger is acting weird! It didn't pull up your comment until just now. Strange. I'm excited to swap stories with you. Thanks so much!

    And thanks for the movie tip. :)

  6. Would read it for you in a heart beat. Happens to be one of my favorite places in the world as well. btw, you probably already know this but when we were there we read that there is suppose to be a pirate treasure on the island somewhere. But, there is a law against any digging to find such a thing....just some thoughts I had as I was reading your description and wondered if you were heading in that direction or not. =)

  7. Okay, MaDonna! I just finished it. (It's 2a.m. again - darn!) I'd love you to read it, especially since you know (and love) Cheung Chau. I won't send it to you quite yet, though, because I know it still needs some ironing out. But I'll definitely be in touch. And I'd love to read something of yours too!

    P.S. I love going through the pirate cave. Last time we were there, Aaron was too afraid to go in. :) hee hee.

  8. Amy, I just read this...sorry...send it whenever you want.
    I have a story I'd like to send you, so I'll be doing that later today or tomorrow.

  9. Hi (again!!!) Amy.
    Got your comment, thanks for dropping by.
    Connie lived in HK from about 1989 to 1995, so same time as you but she's a good bit older than you - 53 now.
    I think I was on this island when I visited HK- is there a Buddist monastery there? My memory is of a glorious day, sunshine and tranquility.