Writers Work out

One of the writing groups that I am part of on facebook is called the writers Workout. The are doing what they call a Prompt Series. It is a series of 30 random prompts that are put together to create a story.  I thought I could share here and the story could unfold as we go.

the First Prompt is

Introduce a character with a massive secret who is currently away from home. This will be one of three main characters (A) for the story.

Main Character one:

Introduce a character with a massive secret who is currently away from home. This will be one of three main characters (A) for the story.

 

Alexander (zander) Byrd is a forty-six-year-old man who thirty years ago faked his death and disappeared. His name was originally James Colby.

During his junior year at school (homecoming) James got his girlfriend Bethany pregnant. Being a staunchly religious town the kids were forced to marry and have the baby. Her family pushing the family life and his family being outsiders and having the local grocery store going along with it not wanting to make waves. Two months later both James and Bethany wanted to break up but they couldn’t. It wasn’t if they were really in love with each other. They had only been a couple more than two weeks before Homecoming. They were married. Her life was over, college was over, dreams were over. Her family was fine with that because they believed that the best job in the world for a woman was home and family. The two of them were living in her old bedroom eating at her mother and father’s dinner table. Most nights he didn’t get home until 10:00 and then did homework. He wasn’t ready to settle down and neither of them were coping well with her being pregnant. The unhappier he got the more silent and withdrawn he was.

One night when he came home from work at his father’s grocery store the two of them got in a fight. She had been hinting for the last two months that she wanted to go to their jr prom. She could go with anyone else being married to him. Not that anyone else would want to go with and elephant like her. Being 7 months pregnant nothing fit (dresses). He was in no mood to go to the prom Working to save money for them a house. He didn’t want to waste the hard earned money he had on a Prom which he thought was a waste of time and money. He wasn’t being comforting. They argued but finally the more she railed at him the quieter he got. Until he just stood there and stared at her. When she couldn’t take his silence and the dead eyes any more she beat on his chest trying to get a reaction. He removed her hands as impassively as possible. When she started hitting on him again he pinned her hands together in one of his. Her two brothers came into the house and seen this and assume he was beating their sister.

They were already angry at him for knocking up their sister and this just gave them an excuse to take out the hostility on him. They started beating one him. Their sister realizing what was going to be the outcome tried to get the two of them to stop but they wouldn’t. He was unconscious when the accident happened. Trying to get them to stop one of her brothers pried her off the other one. She went to her husband on the floor and her brother picked her up and pulled her away. Since the fight took place outside her bedroom at the top of the stairs their tussle and her unbalance cause her to fall down the stairs and she lost the baby. The brothers were not willing to take the blame and blamed it on her husband. When the ambulance got there he was just coming too. They took both of them to the hospital.

They kept them both for observation. In the middle of the night when both of their families had gone home James snuck out of his hospital room and into hers. He apologized to Bethany. She told him it wasn’t his fault. Bethany told him about feeling guilty and that she was a horrible person. When her parents first told her that the baby didn’t make it she felt relief. James admitted relief and sadness too and told her that it was just an initial reaction it didn’t make her a bad person. He shared what his sister Catey had said to him when she told him that the baby was gone.  “God knew we weren’t ready for the responsibility of a baby and he took our little girl home to be with him.” They both cried a little after that.  Bethany asked if he was okay that her brothers were just being mean. Anyone could tell that James wasn’t beating on her. James couldn’t hide the broken shoulder or busted cheek but he didn’t tell about the ribs, bruised kidneys, and the concussion.  They both decided that he should go back home to live. She had told the sheriff who was her cousin what had happened so he wouldn’t be in trouble.

Weeks passed and in a small town rumors fly. His mother couldn’t take another shunning and withdrew into herself and finally his father had to get professional help. His sister’s business and the grocery store was losing business. Towns people weren’t going to shop at a baby murders family business. It didn’t matter that Bethany tried to set the record straight or that she wouldn’t talk to her brothers. The gossip just got worse. He did nothing to defend himself from the whispers and name calling. He asked Bethany for a divorce but her family refused to give it … it was against god’s law. The only time he stood up for himself was in their kitchen where he told them what he thought of fake Christians who let the town believe he killed his baby when it was her brothers. Her father slugged him… and missed. Told him to get out.  Two hours later the sheriff came and told James that he was harassing his wife. James told him he had asked for a divorce. He was 16 and it wasn’t even legal for them to be married. The sheriff didn’t care they were married in the eyes of God and no man could set that aside. He asked the sheriff then how was he harassing his wife. The sheriff told him not to make trouble. He said he could leave. The sheriff told him that if he abandoned Bethany he would hunt him down. When the two kids grew up a little, things would sort themselves out and they could be a happy family. James didn’t know how but he had to get away.

Six months later he has the whole thing planned. He is going to drown in the undertow of the river. There is normally one drowning per year so it will be perfectly plausible. He spent the summer working two jobs and saving all of the money. Which he stored in the bottom of a tool box in a back of the mechanic’s shop did tires for (He kept this job a secret so no one would know). He worked out a deal with the mechanic to trade his car for a motorcycle which he hides ten miles down the river from his drowning point. At the beginning of October he goes fishing with a few of the guys from the football team and fakes drowning in the rivers undertow. He had been practicing swimming and was a strong swimmer.    He still almost didn’t make it.  He’d left a note with his boss that the bike was going to be at the truck stop two towns over. He then hitchhiked with a truck driver going north.  Once he got to Maine he set about finding someone who could get him papers to go into Canada. What he got was a cop who made him tell him the whole story. The cop who had been on the force many years decided to help him out. If the kid went to school and went in the military.  The cop didn’t have any children of his own and he would break the line of family serving unless James would take his place. James agreed realizing how easily he had gotten caught. Thirty years later he has a good position in a security company after retiring out of the Army. Right now he is in Germany putting the finishing touches on the contract for a new client.

So what do you think. At first I was going to have him be a serial polygamist and that would be awesome in the conflicts both external and internal. But that would mean the juggling of multiple families as well as other main characters. Usually it is the female who gets trapped and has to fake her death or practically die before getting away.

How many times have you gotten caught up in the back story of one of your characters and could almost write a story based on his/her backstory.

 

 

 

 

Prey

Here is another offering for the deities of storytelling.  It was written from a prompt I receive a couple years ago.   “Make your Protagonist a monster and have him/her meet a bigger monster.”

Writing this story was kind of fun. It could be dark without being morbid. And while many people aren’t crazy about first person narratives I don’t think it would have worked as well any other way.  It was just suggested that I left it hanging. Let me know what you think.

This is to be submitted for the WD Short Short  Story Contest.   Here is  PREY

I sat in one of those high armed overstuffed chairs. You know the kind if you actually used the armrest your shoulders would hit your ears. It didn’t matter how tall you were you looked like a dwarf sitting in giant’s chair. If it hadn’t been upholstered in bright green and blue paisley print on microfiber I would almost describe it as a throne. I couldn’t fathom a way to be comfortable sitting in it so I was confused on why this coffee chain installed ten as reading chairs. Besides they were too isolated for what I wanted.

Across the room the door opened, and a group of twenty somethings pushed and shoved their way through the door. The group of four, completely oblivious to the looks of disdain from other customers witnessing their horseplay. Their noise and antics diminished as they divided and went their separate ways. The girl, tall and willowy with a shock of daffodil hair surrounded by two different shades of purple, didn’t interest me. Women are taught from a young age, to be wary of strangers. Besides if I played my cards right I would have all four.

She walked over and flopped down in the overstuffed chair with her legs draped over the side of one arm and back resting against the other. She was so engrossed with whatever was on the tablet screen her companion had to smack her upside the head with drink he was holding out to her. The tattoos and body modification jewelry told me he didn’t care what society thought of him. And if all that hadn’t convinced me of his attitude the home silkscreened shirt with the middle finger displayed compacting his roly-poly stomach ended all arguments. The other two finally joined them probably coming from the bathroom first. They were the relatively normal by society’s standard with a smattering of leather, chains and gauge jewelry. They even sported monotone colored hair. Green and blue respectively but minor compared to their friends.

Immediately I knew my next victim was the quiet one. He wasn’t much to look at. Skinny, lean almost to a point of being gaunt. And while I could only see about three inches of skin between the tube socks and sagging shorts I could tell he walked on white toothpicks called legs. He was slow to laugh at the others jokes and while he wasn’t the butt of their escapades he definitely wasn’t in the center of the dynamic. This small group was a perfect catch.

I stood brushed an imaginary piece of lint off my jeans, shuffled my props into a neat pile with the spiral on top and crossed the room. I stood there just a moment watching them and waiting for them to acknowledge me. Patience when hunting your victim was a virtue. I didn’t have long to wait and to my surprise it was the quiet one with green hair who spoke first. “yes.”

“I’m Ashley. I’m doing a college paper and I need volunteers… I mean I need to collect data from volunteers.” The back track would make me seem hesitant and unsure. I knew from the pencil stuck in my messy bun to the sloppy sweater right down to the water stained Uggs on my feet I would present as non-threatening.

The fat one who tried to convince the world he was a dragon if he could just get enough surgeries was the first to respond. With the most dazzling fanged smile I had seen in quite a while he asked, “What kind of data do you need?”

This was so much easier than I though. Most people, even when I made myself as nonthreatening as possible were hesitant. My thought ‘sucker’ got stuck in my throat as I locked gazes with the quiet one. Immediately my sense of preservation started screaming at me to get out of there. But my feet were cemented in place.

I had only seconds to debate. Did I continue and pray that I was wrong, or did I get the hell out of there even if I caused suspicions? I had just started this hunt it wasn’t as if I needed a fix right now. But for some reason I couldn’t budge. And I found myself giving the spiel I’d perfected over eight years of killing.

I wasn’t quite sure where in my story about Hollywood and choosing between the red and blue pill I sat down beside the girl in the oversized chair. Or when blue hair had started petting me. Gathering my wits about me I pulled my head away from blue hair and his multicolored fingernails. I swallowed and took a deep breath trying to calm the panic rapidly rising. I needed to pull myself together, I was a hunter for Christ sake.

When the girl laughed it wasn’t pretty like little bells tinkling but more like breaking glass. Her arm snaked around my waist trapping me with a strength she didn’t look like she had. “A hunter? Is that what you call yourself?”

They had taken up the cardinal positions in chairs surrounding me. Blue slouched with his arms thrown over the back of the straight back chair and his black combat boots crisscrossed on the seat. Dragon boy lounged on the loveseat taking up both cushions. The quiet one sat on the front edge of the straight chair directly across from me leaning forward on his elbows. His voice was low, I had to strain to hear it.

“She calls herself a hunter because it makes the kill more satisfying. I call her a parasite. Serial killers think they’re king shit. They haven’t met the real monsters, yet.”

Dragon boy chuckles at my blanch and says, “by the way I’m not a dragon. I’m a snake. I do the tongue thing. He says laughing at his Mushu reference and for effect scents the air with a perfectly forked tongue.

There is no doubt about it I am panicking now. The room seems like a sauna. The air escapes from my lungs in rattled huffs. I try to stand but the arm around my waist is like a vice and I’m almost positive it was getting tighter. Her nose is nuzzling my hair and I swear a very raspy tongue just tasted my ear.

I am about to scream; someone has got to have noticed something wrong over here. And then my heart plummets. How many times have my victims thought the same exact thing while I sit there gloating? Still I open my mouth, I have to do something get someone’s attention. I open my mouth and snap it closed as the quiet one shakes me. His act is so violent my head dances around like a bobblehead doll. The whiplash stops immediately as my forehead collides with his. We are nose to nose and he pressing hard enough to flatten mine. His voice is low with almost a growl to it. “Karma said you deserved death. And I was tempted to teach you what a true hunter is when I heard your thoughts. And then decided a parasite couldn’t be much sport.”

“I’m not a …” I managed to choke out.

“Silence,” he growled. “You do not get to speak. You will make yourself useful. You will put your talents to use on your own kind, the dregs of society. If you lure or kill another innocent, you will know pain. You will beg for death and even that won’t be a release. Do you understand?”

I can’t speak I can only nod. Where his hands are grabbing the back of my arms is getting very hot. I cry out from the pain but find I have no voice. The pain becomes more intense. My arms are on fire and then I blissfully pass out.

He unceremoniously drops my unconscious form back in the chair as the girl uncurls from around me. All four stand to leave. When the guy with blue hair ask, “Are we really going to let her go?”

The quiet one scratches behind his ear thoughtfully. “No. I marked her. I thought we might teach her what being hunted and toyed with is really like. Anyone for a game of hide and seek. I figured a way she may offer us some sport. You can’t kill her until you’ve caught and marked her five times.”

Blue hair grinned. “That’s going to take a while. She is going to be a nervous wreck by the time we’re done.”

The quiet one pulled back his lips in a slight snarl, looked at my prone body lying in the chair and said,” Karma’s a bitch.”

The four laughed ignoring the startled glances from other customers as they left the coffee shop.

 

 

 

Writing 101

Tomorrow starts my writing exercise called writing 101. It is thirty days of writing prompts with twists and a community who is supposed to read and make comments on what you write.  I love working with prompts because we all get the same idea but the results from different writers are so different. And when you read them you tend to go… oh why didn’t I think of taking it that way.

Although we were given a pre-assignment so to speak and I have already failed. How you ask? When some one tells me to free write my brain goes numb and everything I put down is jumble piece of sentences that don’t make sense in any fashion. I wind up spending my time staring at the blank screen.  If I have something in mind when I sit down to write I am fine  but that is not what the exercise is about.

Translation of visual storytelling to novel writing

As part of my degree I was required to take a screenwriting class which of course I approached with mixed feelings. To start with I prefer books to movies. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate a good show but a movie made from a book usually has me running the other direction. For example I absolutely refuse to watch the Hunger Games because I am afraid of how they will screw it up.

Someone close recently reminded or I should say explained to me that it is that they screw up the book but that is how the director interpreted the book.  My argument here is the movies tend to change the motivations of the characters and therefore the circumstances behind the actions. And in a book it is those motivations that draw you to the character. Its in that vein that if I know before hand that I want to see the show I will wait to read the book afterwards. You’re not left feeling as if you have been ripped off.

Even though I was skeptical about a writer who is never (at least not until I get a director like Ron D. Moore) going to sell the rights for a movie taking a screenwriting class. But now I am glad I did. I am still certain about books to movies but there were several good points I was able to take away.

I tend to write very character heavy stories even when I try my hand at action. When writing for the screen it is visual storytelling or as the instructor said .. the craft of using images to tell a compelling story. In other words all the backstory should be summed up in two paragraphs that the actors can spit out sometime during the movie.

In some of the upcoming posts I would like to share a few of the things I think can be translated from screenwriting to novel writing. Today I thought of starting with the ‘rule of three.’  On the global scale it is beginning, middle, end.  But it can be as subtle as characters, the hero, the side kick/interest, and the villain. The text book called them the protagonist, the helper, and the antagonist. Truth is you are probably already familiar with it since it includes writing, editing, and  rewriting.

These are good places to use them as one cycle and if you need to break it down even more opens up to more detail.

  • the story– the status quo, the conflict, the resolution  –

The story is full of the rule of three as there are many conflicts, resolutions, character arch, and obstacles and this places that planning coupled with the rule of three will flush out the piece. 

  • a scene- setting the scene, the issue, and reaction to the scene
  • character arch – existing personality, catalyst, change  

  this is another one where each level is going to have its own cycle of three. Especially the catalyst… one thing never changes a person unless the were only two dimension to start with.

  • Obstacles- finding the obstacle, trying to get around it, either conquering it or failing   which of course leads to another cycle of three.

On a side note the early bird deadline for the short, short story from Writer’s Digest is the 15th of this month. I am working on the rewrite now. The story is called “Sailing to the Stars.” The original draft was 1535 words I am hoping with the edits I can cut it back to the 1500 word limit.