Jeff the Iguana

By Lewis Dunmore

I came home from holiday in Tenerife and finally fell on my bed out of exhaustion.

Eventually, I opened my suitcase, grabbed my phone and without warning saw my bag fall over.I went to grab it when suddenly a scaly head popped out. It was a large pale green lizard which swiftly made a run for it under my bed. I grabbed a torch, checked my bed and saw a lizard sitting there.

To my astonishment, I identified it to be an iguana and looked at it in wonder. It had bright red spines on its back that looked liked knives or the back of a small stegosaurus. After that, I slowly pushed the door shut, grabbed a washing basket from the corner of my room and I held it above the lizard. I was thinking of how to get it out when I heard my dogs barking. Then, all of a sudden, the iguana bolted out from the bed and into the open. I slammed the basket onto the floor and trapped it. It froze on the spot! I shouted for my mum and dad and explained how the lizard had somehow got into my bag.

Then, the next day, me and my dad went to the shops and bought a lizard tank and we have kept Jeff ever since.

I think he’s happy.

Writing Backstory

Lewis wrote this story using a fairly straightforward writing method which involved reading a text for stimulus, conversation about and consideration of the scenario, guided written note-taking and planning, drafting, proof reading, editing and redrafting. 

The process was fairly intensive and Lewis got tired at the end of the last session. At the time, he was happy to leave it as it is. I think he could probably go back and edit his story a bit more, if he felt like it.

He could maybe look at avoiding repetition of some words; ‘suddenly’ stands out as one word that could do with a synonym of some kind!

He could also look at sequencing words and phrases to give a bit more emphasis on specific events and to engage the reader with the whole story.

What do you think?

Lizard in the Luggage

(A Flash Fiction Writing Session from The Safe House)

geckoThis session uses a true story that appeared in an English newspaper a few years ago.

The task is to turn it into a piece of flash fiction.

The newspaper story is quite amusing as it is, but I don’t think it’s really finished.

What do you think could have happened next?

Let your imagination chase you up the wall!


Read the newspaper story and then write your own story mixing facts from the story with ideas that come out of your head.


The stimulus is this short newspaper story:

Lizard in Luggage

Two newlyweds arrived home from their honeymoon in the Seychelles to find a gecko lizard had stowed away in their suitcase.

Tania and Tony Lugg only spotted the small reptile when their pet cat started chasing it up the wall of their home. Luckily, the lizard escaped and remained safe on the ceiling until Tania and Tony got the cat out of the way.

They have now adopted him as a pet and named the insect-eating gecko Denis – after the island in the Indian Ocean where they honeymooned. He seems to be recovering from his ordeal and is settling into his new life in the UK.

Administrator Tanis, 28, from Bournemouth, Dorset, said: “We didn’t unpack for a couple of days, so Denis must have been in our luggage for nearly four days.”


The newspaper article is just the beginning. The story you write could go anywhere. It might be realistic or it might be fantasy. I suppose it could even turn into a horror story!

You could also change some of the details in the story to fit with your ideas. You, the writer, will decide.

Think about these questions:

  • What did the lizard look like?
  • How big was it?
  • How did it react to being transported from its home?
  • What was its reaction to the cat? Why?
  • What did the cat think of the lizard?
  • What are Tania and Tony like?
  • Are they happy? Why? Why not?
  • What effect has the lizard had on their lives?
  • What happened when Tania and Tony went back to work?
  • Does the story have a ‘happy’ ending?

When you have spent a bit of time thinking about these questions, you probably need to decide whose point of view the story is from. That means, who is telling the story. Is there a narrator? Is it one of the people? Is it the lizard? Is it the cat?

This decision will affect how your story is written. Is it in first person or third person, or rather, ‘I’ or ‘he’/’she’?

You probably also need to think about whether you are going to give the lizard (or the cat) human qualities and even voices. If you do this, you will be using a creative writing technique called personification. This can be an entertaining way of telling a story about animals because it can help your readers to engage with the characters in your story.

Word count and process

The newspaper article is 133 words long. You could use some, or even all, of these words. It’s really up to you, but I think you could at least try and double the word count. That would mean you are aiming for just under 300 words. Of course, your story could easily be longer than that. It’s up to you … and your imagination!

The process should probably go something like this:

  • Read the newspaper article and then spend some time thinking about the questions in the guide section of this session. Get a good idea at this stage about what is going to happen in your story. You should try and be clear about how it will end. You could make notes to help you with this.
  • Use your notes to write the story in full sentences and paragraphs.
  • When you have done this, spend time proof-reading for any spelling, punctuation and grammar problems and check it makes sense. Make sure you would be happy for other people to read it.
  • Leave it for a while and then come back and edit it one more time. You might want to add or take out some details at this stage, but hopefully you won’t need to make any massive changes to your plot because your ideas and your notes at the beginning of the process were good.

What next?

cat on the luggage

If you feel like it, or if you want some ideas about how you can develop what you have written, you could share it by sending it to The Safe House at:

Here at The Safe House we will give you feedback to support you in what you are creating!