Tag Archives: creative writing

The Teaser

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First paragraphs from three stories:

1

“Sue Lin Anandaran liked to clean kitchens and bathrooms. She liked to pick up the mess, scrub the surface, and leave the room smelling of lemon or lavender. She also liked listening when people talked on their cell phones in bathroom stalls. More than anything, Sue Lin liked to please other people.

From the beginning, Sue Lin’s parents had a clear idea about the kind of a woman she would become. Her mother, Joan, was a neurologist who wished she were a schoolteacher and her father, Norman, was a physicist who wished he were a master chef. Joan liked to play Scrabble, but she liked to lose more than she liked to win. Norman liked to walk in the wind with an umbrella so that it turned inside out. ”

2

When Leonard first arrived, he imagined he saw a white cat running along the overgrown railroad tracks. People were always complaining about black cats, but he, like everyone in his family, knew that real trouble wore white.

His sister was ill and soon after he arrived, she died, and there was Leonard left with a devil child to bring up. The girl may not have appeared especially devilish to most people, but Leonard could hardly manage all her running and question asking. She was quite literally full of energy. He knew this was far from a good sign, that it might even be a mark of the devil – which is why he sometimes thought of her as a devil child. But he also acknowledged that whatever beset her came from without, and he knew better than to condemn what lay within. At least, not right away. She ate like a horse, too, which was a real shame because Leonard himself preferred light meals. The girl was called Lily and she had just turned 8 years old.

3

“When I was young, I slipped into houses late at night, or on hazy afternoons, occasionally pilfering beads or a magnet, maybe a Buddha figurine. But I was never a common thief.

It was during high school, when people in my life were unreliable and everything was a blur of distraction and a failure – or an inability – to focus. Inside other people’s houses, I felt liberated. The first steps inside were the best part. To be there suddenly, to become a secret witness to mysterious lives. I narrated those lives as I walked through the house, inventing wild trysts and ugly divorces, child geniuses, or the odd addled uncle who locked himself in rooms or wandered listlessly. I imagined the lovemaking and violence of the everyday, but the unusual intrigued me. Once there was a stained glass window in the middle of an upstairs room with no furniture. Another time scissors were stabbed into the wall along a staircase. Sometimes I took things. It was an opportunity, I felt, to be fascinated, to choose trinkets no one would miss or treasures that surely prompted fierce searches.”

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To write long or short?

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Facing another writing dilemma.

I have some stories to work on. They’re short — the right number of words for your average modern-day short story.

And then there’s this novel that has decided to creep up on me and out of me. Sure, that’s what writers say, right? That stories just sort of show up and determine their own arc and line, etc. Unfortunately, I think I might be one of those writers. I just don’t always know what’s going to come out of my hands when I start. And then you can misplace ideas just when you need them, or I can — if I talk out an idea for too long it goes and hides under the metaphorical couch and waits until I move all the furniture to surface again. The problem being that now I am writing but it may or may not be useful and I need it to be useful because I have to write my dissertation.

Short stories? Novel that has no end in sight? This is not really the sort of dilemma I like to have.

For Drums to Beat

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Facing into the trees, she breathed a long rattling breath. Home. The leaves seemed to respond, to reflect her brightness back, and the open landscape behind sent up shivering lines of heat, still threatening, even as a terrain conquered.

She crossed the threshold in dawn’s fingered light with fierce grace, her fingers trailing along trunks, her glance flashing into shadows, innately attuned to the forest. Her lithe step was in no way diminished by her large size. In fact, it may have been her size that so much reinforced the fairy sense of her, someone regal and finely made. She walked in step with her heartbeat and she focused her mind; she listened for – something.

Dried blood stained the ripped belly of her shirt. It hung open enough to reveal a swathe of bandages. She wore heavy leggings, also torn and bloodied. Closer examination might tell of the slightest limp, just the smallest unnatural movement in her forward flow over the green and brown earth. Yet she did not cease to move nor did her body fail her will.

The forest bent and moved with her. There was silence and there was presence.

The limp became more obvious and sunlight poured through the leaves and the day passed with small rushes of air glancing off trees like flat stones skipping over a glassy lake. The once imperceptible injury produced a stagger as night seeped down and new blood surfaced, restaining the cloth near her skin.

When she finally collapsed, it was a dark that felt watery, as if the moon had tried to wash it away, but still there hung darkness, hovering and filling shadows with thicker layers of dark like sediment. Just as she fell, a sound became audible and she seemed almost to stir, but it was too faint, too slight a sound to revive her from that bodily night.

In the wee hours, they came. The peal of their drums resonated against leaves’ soft film and barks’ course facade long before they found her.

They circled in closely and the rhythm became overpowering. It was a beating that none but the most frightened hearts can produce, a frenzied and pulsating thing.

The people were long and grand as she was, with sharp chins and thin muscled arms, bare against the cool wet night. They sweated and beat, and they stepped in time with one another, in the way that an orchestra plays in time with one another. Circling and circling, they played a rhythm to the tune of the cosmos and the microcosmos. Three of the beings approached her body and lifted her, cradling her against themselves, and beginning forward in a movement that played a new harmony to the throbbing chorus of beat surrounding them. Her body sagged over their arms. They moved in a dance, ever encircled.

Her eyelashes flickered. Her fingers twitched. Her long legs straightened. One hand struggled to her belly and pulled the bandages free.

In a single downwards sweep, the three set her on her feet again and she began to dance a melody that wept like a tragedy recounted for the first time, through a forest where dappled light had begun again to appear, and all the while, the drums beat on.

And Light

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Chaos Mandy challenged me with “all she needed was a good beating” and I challenged Carrie with “focus on a character’s breathing within a scene.”

Sleep Horizon (99)

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The photo prompt from Madison Woods

The heat of sleep saturates me and throws my body into sweat. From dream to hallucination and back again, my fingers clutch these white surfaces, like layers of a grieving subconscious wrapping me more and more tightly. Like confusion. Like terror in waking.

I dream that everything has burned, that everything is gone, that my grandmother who never cries is crying. Heat rises on the horizon and we can only run. I dream of loss and I am afraid.

When I awake and return, the fever breaks, like so many waves.

And there is only a horizon to remember.

For more flashes prompted by this week’s photo, and to learn more about flash fiction, visit Madison Woods and explore.

Lulu the Atypical, Prototypical Overachiever

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Lulu was not especially attractive. She had a fat lower lip that gave the appearance of an underbite and a round face that did not dress up well. She wore thick round glasses to compensate for atrocious eyesight and her hair was unremarkable.

Even so, Lulu could not imagine herself any differently. She had a demure confidence that silenced rabble-rousers and endeared her to professors and peers alike. She did not mind being shorter than average and she did not mind that she constantly surprised people. In fact, Lulu was generally satisfied.

Given these details, you might be forming a picture of this young woman in your mind’s eye, and you might be imagining Lulu as stocky or even fat. To the contrary, she was actually exceedingly athletic, fast and strong, thin but not skinny.

But of course, as is often the case with people, Lulu had a secret. Although on the surface of her life she lived as the prototypical overachiever, what lay beneath was much more interesting; Lulu was a boxer.

Maybe this is hardly a revelation of great intrigue to most of you, but imagine the prototypical overachieving female. Now imagine her being short and unattractive. And lastly imagine her boxing, in secret, almost as if she were a superhero whose alter ego was a supremely talented boxer. There can be no argument: objectively, it is an interesting facet of her person. And the secrecy was indeed essential. Lulu’s parents were pacifists. They believed in the Beloved Community, and had studied the writing and rhetoric of great nonviolent thinkers from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Gandhi to Henry David Thoreau. During family arguments, they whispered and took turns expressing their viewpoints. It was and always had been clear to Lulu that violence was never even a last resort, let alone an option.

Lulu agreed that such beliefs are well and good within certain bounds, but she had been the frequent witness to bullying. Though her calm aura generally exempted her from the harassment of larger, less intelligent students, she was deeply disturbed by the pummeling of her nerdier colleagues throughout her childhood. It was after an especially frustrating assault, in which a boy named Adam pulled the hair of a girl named Tara and threw her books in an arc across the sidewalk, that Lulu made the decision to become tough.

There is no doubt that she recognized the difficulty of explaining her decision to her parents when she arrived at home and recounted the tale. Her mother frowned lightly and inclined her head, explaining that in the future, Lulu and Tara should either avoid such confrontations, or sit down quickly, putting their hands behind their necks for protection and holding their knees to their chests. Lulu was indignant, but she was the abiding type and she did not argue. Her father smiled and patter Lulu’s mother on the back, agreeing with her implicitly.

And so Lulu set out to learn power. She looked into a number of options before she was able to find an instructor who understood the predicament and agreed to train her in secret. Over the years, Lulu developed skills that far exceeded the average for her age group and sex. She became an expert and when she competed, she won invariably. Unfortunately, due to the private nature of her hobby, she only exhibited her talents occasionally in matches and even less often in the street.

By the time she graduated from high school, Lulu guided herself through most of her maintenance training and only met with her instructor in the week before matches, for which she found time only every couple of months. Her boxing had become quite the secret life, but she continued to excel on the surface and hardly anyone suspected anything unusual.

You must be thinking you would have noticed, if you had known her, that such a thing could never go unseen for so long. I will only remind you that serial killers often go years unsuspected.

In any case, Lulu’s graduation meant freedom and she was suddenly allowed to box as much as she pleased. She began to compete regularly and over her first semester, she was undefeated in her amateur league, which allowed boxers to wear character masks during competition. It was obviously a promotional stunt to bring in more support from cultish communities that would become excited by characters coming up against one another in bouts, but it is also immediately obvious to us why such a feature would be attractive to Lulu. She could box freely in this league, with a literal mask. She could even reinvent herself as someone she could never be in outside world, where she could never cover her brutish face. She could become someone cute, someone adorable in her small stature and with her lower lip and unremarkable hair masked. So Lulu, in the midst of designing her costume, had a grand idea. She decided to call herself The Cuteness, seeing it as an opportunity to encompass cuteness when she entered the ring, to be all the cuteness she could not be without her mask. She mastered a bobbing curtsy and a sideways glance. And her mask was soft and fluffy, fitting over her head with holes for her eyes shaped like a kitten’s big almond eyes. She even learned to wear contacts for the matches, when before she had strapped on a massive pair of goggles.

Her transformation, made before her fame, was entire. She went from frumpy to darling in the changing room and then she brought the pain.

As her skill and anonymity became renowned within the boxing world, boxers from other leagues began to take notice. Lulu realized that larger crowds were attending her matches and she found herself challenged by boxers outside her own league, who wanted to fight the legendary Cuteness. No one believed that such an adorable little sprite could unleash a knockout, but she did it, time and time again.

Which is actually the moral to this story; Cuteness always wins by KO.

For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Brad MacDonald challenged me with “Cuteness wins by KO,” and I challenged Mahesh Kumar with “Emulate Disney.”

Describe a Photo Prompt

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In college, I dated a guy who threw great parties. He had friends who smiled at everyone and introduced themselves without hesitation. Conversations with them were hectic, always high speed and wildly creative. I remember talking about what kind of animal I would be, the kind of animals they were. It was like being on drugs, although I never was. They might have been. I remember being intimidated.

He also took great photos, so when he actually got out the camera, the parties were beautiful and well-documented. But he was focused on other things most of the time – like, fighting with me, or ignoring me, or being just affectionate enough for me to be ok with the fact that I was dating him.

After we broke up, we wanted to try to be friends. It has worked for me before, and since, but I probably should have known that it wouldn’t work then. One night – a back-to-the-future party, maybe? – I stole magnificent oversized glasses from one of his roommates. I was recently returned from a semester abroad and there was this other guy, a transfer student, who didn’t know about my history with one of our hosts. He flirted. It wasn’t terribly explicit, but my ex was pissed, felt it like citrus in a cut.

There is a picture of me then, captured to the side of another girl. You wouldn’t know, but the transfer student is standing behind me. You can see his foot on the coffee table in front of me, standing like a pioneer with one knee bent. I am skinny. I love the picture because it wasn’t of me. I was the goofy background with the magnificent glasses on my face.

We talked about it later. I said I was sorry. But it was already over.

For more posts prompted by Write on Edge, click and explore.

The Color of Fruit

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The photograph I took

with the colors and the fruit

was my favorite;

 

if only colors could always be so bright

grass so vibrant in green

sky so crisp in blue

 

that’s the word we use for skies, right?

Crisp?

 

And what is the sun

if not already bright, but

couldn’t it be more flaming

 

more burningly yellow

 

I heard that people do not always dream

in color

that dreams come in black-and-white

like an old TV screen

 

And my own dreams, I cannot picture

cannot remember if they come brilliantly

or all in dull grays and shades

 

Maybe I am thirsty for something

more vivid. Maybe

my subconscious has selected fruit

to be the color of my dreams

 

Maybe I am dreaming now