Story Starter: On The Beach

Beach with rolling waves

A beach full of sun loungers, mostly empty. Waves sweeping ashore to catch unwary toes. Hesitant holidaymakers staring out at it, thinking, “Will we….?”

In the depths of winter with frosty mornings nipping at our fingers, it’s a fine distraction to look ahead to summer.

That’s one of the odd things about this job, and for you writers, too: that you’re not in the moment but three to six months ahead. Sometimes longer. I reel in horror now I’ve started to put through payments for stories that I’ve already assigned to the People’s Friend Annual 2019. No, no mistype. 2019! We do have an extraordinarily long production schedule on that one.

But in terms of the more normal three-six-month lag, is it a good thing or a bad thing?

In some ways it’s bad. It feels like life is hurtling by at an accelerated speed. You’re just enjoying Christmas and already scheduling for St Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day’s hot on its heels, then Easter – and we’re in to the summer holidays before we’ve even rolled an egg! Each year seems to last only nine months when you’re always out of step by three.

With our Christmas Special coming out each November, it means we’re reading stories to buy for it in mid-summer. And by the time we’ve read stories for both it and the December weeklies, and then proofread the designed pages – well, we’ve had multiple Christmasses before the real one ever gets here.

The good side of it all, though, is that when the mornings are still dark, and you have to scrape the ice off the windscreen before you can get going… When you’re tired of being bundled up in gloves and scarves and hats… Of howling gales blowing your brolly inside out….Of splashes from passing traffic ruining your tights… Of being too hot indoors because you’ve dressed for the weather outside…

When you’re tired of all that, you have alternative scenarios right at your fingertips. Or rather, right there in your imagination.

You can take yourself off to a sunny beach, a lush green hillside, a gentle woodland walk, or enjoy a cool drink in the shade of your favourite spot in the garden. You can feel a warm breeze instead of an icy blast.

You can escape.


Shirley Blair

Fiction Ed Shirley’s been with the “Friend” since 2007 and calls it her dream job because she gets to read fiction all day every day. Hobbies? Well, that would be reading! She also enjoys writing fiction when she has time, long walks, travel, and watching Scandi thrillers on TV.