Bella’s Scribblings – Why is a One Liner so Hard?

Bella Osborne

Bella Osborne

I can write a novel, I have proved it by doing it twice. Neither are published yet but that’s not the point. The point is I can write circa 100,000 words relatively easily but when I have to write something in a card my mind goes blank. The worst scenario is when you are under pressure. When someone sidles up to your desk, plonks a card down and says ‘Freda is leaving, write something funny’. I actually think one of my brain cells dies and it is most definitely one devoted to writing funny things.

I generally manage the situation by panicking and asking for more time, which results in lots of huffing and eye rolling until they eventually slope off, leaving me to sweat over the card. So then I start to read what everyone else has put – this does not help. All this does is waste more time, highlight that most of the office are just like you and have nothing funny to say, not that this has stopped them penning it in the card.

However, there is even more pressure if you have to go first, always try to avoid this scenario. There will be the odd one or two who have put in something slightly humorous and right there is the spark that I needed. I now have a challenge and I have a target to beat (not that I am in anyway competitive, you understand). At this point I find it works well to pretend you have a meeting and head off carrying papers or laptop, supporting a purposeful stride. Find an empty meeting room and get to work.

I will start by having a one woman brainstorm – What is Freda known for? Are there any funny stories already that I just need to recall? Is there an opportunity to play on words here? What did she get up to at the last office party? After much head scratching an idea will alight. I write it out in draft and see if it needs editing to make it punchy. Once I am happy with it I need to find a space in the card. (Why do the people who say the dullest things have the biggest writing?) Eventually I reach the point where my mission is accomplished and I return the card with a smug look to the card co-ordinator.

I have no idea why I do this. Because all that happens when Freda has her leaving speech is that her boss will recount a couple of mildly witty anecdotes he has got his PA to procure, usually something as stunning as the time she broke her chair and the time she sent out the wrong papers for a meeting – yawn. He’ll then wish her all the best and hand over the card and gift. Freda will say a few words, thank the assembled crowd, possibly cry and then everyone buggers off back to their desks.

Freda may read the card or she may not, she certainly won’t be reading it right now. She’s far too busy what with packing up her desk and heading off to her leaving do with her mind fully occupied by the possibility of a goodbye snog with Gary from Accounts (why do they always work in Accounts?)

So this leaves me to ponder why I bother. My conclusion is because even if it is just a couple of lines in a card, it’s still writing and I still want it to be the best I can produce, whether Freda appreciates it or not.


Bella has just finished her first novel, Acting on Impulse, which earned her a runner-up place for the New Talent Award at the 2013 Festival of Romance. Every fortnight, Bella will be sharing her experiences and advice as a new author. She also has her own blog –


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Bella Osborne
Bella’s first novel, It Started at Sunset Cottage was released by Harper Impulse. She was a runner-up for the New Talent Award at the 2013 Festival of Romance and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

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