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The King and Queen of Sweden

The King and Queen of Sweden

Young sisters meet two types of royals.

1

Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction


author-small

Marco Ocram (United Kingdom)


The King and Queen of Sweden

“Who are you?”

Betty was taking a break from cleaning the B&B when she watched Mia, her seven-year-old, confront two arriving guests with her question. Mia had been playing on a blanket with younger sister Tilly, but had run to the visitors, her doll in hand, curious about the strangers and entirely free of social inhibition. The guests- a couple in their fifties- had just returned from a walk in the Welsh hills. The man bent down towards little Mia.
“We’re the King and Queen of Sweden,” he joked. He bent closer to her face, and spoke in a quieter, more collusive voice: “But you mustn’t tell anyone, because we’re here in secret and we don’t want the newspapers finding out.”
Mia stood silently, her eyes uncertain, holding her doll in both hands now. She’d never met a king and queen, and she’d never been told such a big important secret. She turned and walked sombrely back to Tilly. Their play resumed in a much quieter way as Mia whispered the news to her little sister and they both felt the weight of responsibility for keeping it secret.
The man, Stu, winked at Betty. He and Helen were staying for their second night, starting a canal holiday tomorrow. The B&B was right on the canal, a two-minute drive to the basin where they’d be picking up a narrowboat for ten days of slow cruising. They’d had a long humid walk, and looked tired and crumpled.
“Can I get you some tea?” Betty put the question to neither of them in particular.
Stu questioned Helen with a look, not sure if she’d rather just get a shower after their tiring ramble.
“Mmmmm perfect,” nodded Helen.
“I’ll bring it to the lounge. Won’t be a min.”
Stu and Helen left their boots in the porch then sprawled in the guests’ lounge with its views across the valley to the sunny hills. Betty brought their tea.
“It is tomorrow you’re starting on the canal isn’t it?”
“Yep,” said Stu. “We pick-up the boat at half two.”
“I was thinking, you could leave your car here if you like. You can walk there in ten minutes.”
“That’s really nice, Betty, but they’ve got parking there,” said Helen, “and we’ve got a ton of stuff to get to the boat from the car.”
“Are they any good, the boats there? Have you used them before?”
“No,” said Stu, “but they seem quite fancy from the website.”
“Ours has got a hot tub,” added Helen with some drama.
“Oh wow. I’ve never heard of a boat with a hot-tub. Sounds amazing. Mia and Tilly would love that.”
“We can show them if you like,” said Helen, sipping tea. “We’ll be going past in it tomorrow.”
“Are you sure? That would be fab. They’d love it.”
“As long as you tell them it’s the King and Queen of Sweden’s special boat,” insisted Stu light-heartedly.
“Brilliant. You’ve got my number haven’t you? Give me a ring when you know you’ll be going past and I’ll bring the girls down to have a look. Amazing.”
“If you put their cozzies on they can sit in the hot-tub,” said Helen.


It was nearly five next day when Betty walked Mia and Tilly- both in their swimsuits and sandals- down the quiet lane and over the bridge to where Stu and Helen had moored the narrowboat. It was a lustrous dark-green with burnished bronze fittings- the best holiday barge on the canal, with a four-poster bed and other luxury touches, aimed at honeymooners. Stu and Helen were twenty years past their honeymoon, but they’d taken the boat as an indulgence. To greet their visitors they wore two plastic crowns from a fancy-dress shop in Abergavenny.
“This is a special boat for kings and queens,” confided King Stu as the overawed girls followed him through the strange layout of the long cabin, like all the different rooms of their house squeezed into a tube, and the brown water of the canal right outside the window.
“What do you think?” asked Helen.
“They’re too shy,” Betty answered, after a few seconds of self-conscious silence from the girls.
They came out into the bow, where the hot-tub was bubbling in the afternoon sun. It might have been the smallest plainest hot-tub in the world, but sunk into the workaday hull of the narrowboat it seemed a supremely exotic extravagance.
“D'you want to get in?” asked Helen, her toy crown askew.
Mia and Tilly looked uncertainly to their mum, whose nod of approval had them kicking off their sandals and climbing into the hot fizzing water. Helen brought them pop, and they sat like princesses while the grown-ups shared bubbly and nibbles. It was bed time when they walked back up the hill, hand-in-hand with their mum, now wearing the plastic crowns that Stu gave them in return for promises of secrecy about their royal visitors.

It was about a year later that the real royals came to the canal. The new basin and theatre-complex at Brecon was to be opened by the Queen and Prince Phillip on their return from the Royal Welsh Show. Mia and Tilly were among the excited local kids chosen to line the walkway to the basin, all holding small flowers for the Queen to see. There’d been four rehearsals where the flowers were imaginary, but today the flowers were real, creamy white with green stems, slightly drooping. The royal entourage moved slowly along the walkway towards the sisters. Across the basin Betty and their dad watched in the crowd of other mums and dads.
As the Queen reached them, Mia gave her best smile and held her flower as far forward as she could. The Queen smiled back, a small old lady, and took the flower in a gloved hand.
“We met the king and queen of Sweden,” blurted Tilly before Mia could shush her.
The Queen smiled.
“And they were nicer than you.”


Competition: Friendly feedback, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. The build-up was intriguing and I felt the tension mounting with each word.
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
  • I loved your fresh approach. Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose requires both skill and practice.
Atmosphere and description
  • Your story was a feast for the senses. The atmosphere wrapped itself around me and transported me onto the page alongside your characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Great stories, nowadays, start with a powerful opening line and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
This was a wonderful story. It was entertaining from the beginning, and I liked the sort of twist at the end. There were only a few small things that I noticed, but overall, its great. The way that you introduced the characters could have been a bit better. It is better to sort of draw it out, rather than pile them all on at once. If you want an example of someone who does this well, J.K. Rowling does a great job. And the only characters that could have better entrances are the two girls, otherwise it was fine. Another thing was grammar and word choice. Now I understand that the UK and America (where I am from) have different dialects, and that is totally fine. I really thought that your voice helped authenticate the story and setting. But at some places in the story, e.g. the very first sentence, that I think that it would be wise to clean up the language and make it as "magical" as the rest of the peice. And this last piont is more of a personal preference; I think that instead of saying "Stu and Helen" so much, I think that it would be neat if you said "the King and Queen of Sweden," just throughout the narration. But otherwise, it was wonderful.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Great stories, nowadays, start with a powerful opening line and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
This story was extremely cute. Cute premise, cute kids, cute ending. I wasn't quite sure what to take from it otherwise though. I didn't know the motivations of Stu and Helen, and Betty just seemed to be "there" without any real idea of who she was. I feel like stronger characters will really help this story. That said, I loved the ending. It was really great. Overall, good job and I think with some edits and character development you'll have a really great piece of short fiction.

Review 3:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
General comments from your fellow writer 3:
Dear writer: This short story has great potential, but for one, I think the kids could do a better job of pissing on the Queen of England. That moment has the potential for greater hilarity. Why does the queen appear unappealing to them? Perhaps that's the surprise. Might the kids learn that the nature of royalty is obscene? All the best, -Fellow writer