As a child, I was fascinated by palmistry, numerology, tarot – anything that promised to reveal secrets or tell fortunes. When I was about nine, I started playing a game on the playground with some friends that involved finding three small stones, asking them questions about our lives, dropping them and ‘reading’ the answer: a triangle for ‘yes’, a line for ‘no’.
My writing often starts with a memory of an object, place or circumstance that held some meaning for me at the time, but has the potential to turn into something much bigger in fiction. I thought of the game and wondered what would happen if children took it seriously, asked the stones important questions and pinned their hopes on the outcome. Even though we played it for fun, I remember the sense of power and ‘specialness’ bestowed on the thrower, and the half-belief we all felt – at an age when we didn’t believe in magic but still wanted to – as the stones formed a shape on the ground.
Many of my short stories feature protagonists between the ages of nine and twelve. They have outgrown the childhood magic created for them in the form of Father Christmas or the tooth fairy; and they see that their parents aren’t the all-knowledgeable and infallible people they had mistaken them for. Neither young children nor teenagers, they’re in a transitional phase as their bodies and minds start to change. And during that time, the adult world can intrude in the form of their parents’ divorce or the arrival of a half-brother or sister, before they are ready to deal with it.
What makes this mix so interesting to me is that, unlike adults who make the decision to move away or separate or invite a new person into the family, children get tagged along or caught up. They have little control over the decisions that affect their lives, and when writing I like to explore what they might do – such as turn to the game in the story – to grasp some way of dealing with secrets, uncertainty and lack of power. As the keeper and thrower of the stones, the protagonist, Roxi, is viewed on the playground as a child with an adult’s power: she can reveal secrets and provide that missing control. But with that power also comes the revelation that the answers aren’t always what you want them to be.
Rebecca Lawn is a writer from York and a graduate of Cardiff University’s MA in Creative Writing programme. At 18 she moved to Paris to study French and spent several years working as a journalist in France before heading back to the UK. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published in Litro and Avis Magazine.
You can read ‘Three Small Stones’ in the new issue of The Lonely Crowd, which may be purchased here.
© Rebecca Lawn, 2016. Photograph © Jo Mazelis, 2016.