Using a prompt from a writing group I’m a member of on DeviantArt, I created a short story. As usual, I don’t know where this came from, but there you have it. I should probably add a content warning, as well. It might be triggering on these topics: self-harm and suicide. You can find it here: Seven Devils.
It must be said that I have a pretty extensive library of books, and I’ve begun to add literary magazines to the shelves now, as well. A good part of this library includes books on writing, on editing, on reading like a writer, and those full of writing exercises that keep me from falling prey to the boredom-born monster who goes by the name of Writer’s Block.
This exercise is just from a day when I was on my way home from class one day, and I just noticed what I noticed. Here’s the exercise:
It was the day the sun beat down on everything, making me squint my eyes from the pain of its bright reflection off of the pavement. It was the same day that a very pretty guy walking past me stared at me as though he thought I too was pretty, though I know better. It was the afternoon the bus was late, and the platform was overfilled with the students and the elderly, all of us waiting for the means to get where we needed to be. The occasional cold breeze made it impossible to decide if I needed my sweater on or not, the air current making it immediately too cold with it and too hot without it.
Turning my back on the rest of the platform, I leaned over the railing, letting the sun press into the back of my head as I opened Hamlet, and began to finger through the pages. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. The bus would be arriving any moment, and I didn’t have time to get attached to reading it. Besides, I would never be able to focus between the chatter of the people on the platform, and the honking and growling sounds of cars passing on the street that surrounding me. So I let my eyes scan across the words, taking in the shape of the stanzas and a line here and there, and glancing up every now and again to notice cars or people that passed nearby.
It was the man leaning down to pick up a fallen matchbook who got my attention that afternoon. Taking his time, he slowly bent over, hands resting on his knees and shoulders hunching from the effort, to scoop it up with his right hand. His skin was pale and wrinkled, and he couldn’t quite straighten the curve in his back as he pulled himself upright once again.
He began to walk away before he even looked at the V of folded white cardboard, and his thin body rocked from side to side like a pendulum as he walked onward. A few steps off, his head tilted gently to look at his right hand, which offered the matchbook in an upwardly curled palm. With his other hand, he opened it, turned it over, and then released it, his head jerking to the left and down as he continued on. Closing the matchbook in his right fist, he passed it behind his back to his left hand, walked a few more steps to the nearest lamppost, and tossed the folded cardboard back on the ground. He did not look back as he continued his swaying struggle along the pavement.
Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!
Years after I started menstruating that my mother found out about it: 2
Number of brothers I have: 2
Number of ethnicities that make up my background: 5
Number of ethnicities society thinks I’m allowed to mention: 1
Number of immediate family members I have: 5
Number of immediate family members who have at some point been in imprisoned: 3
Number of immediate family members who call themselves Christian: 5
Number of living grandparents: 2
Number of living grandparents who have attempted to keep in touch with me throughout my life: 1
Number of years since I left the land of my birth: 4
Number of years since I left it all behind me: 1
Okay, I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand this exercise at all. Uh, but there it is. Also, no, I did not write anything for NaNoWriMo yesterday, and my schedule today makes it highly unlikely that I’ll write anything today, either. Yay for life swallowing my ability to write… again.
Thanks for stopping by, and have a lovely day!
I don’t think I could define this exercise or the next without typing out the entire chapter that preceded them. Let me just recommend Method and Madness: The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante again, and move on with today’s exercise. ((Also, yes, I did skip posting a few up here, partly because I wrote them in my notebook on the train, and I didn’t want or have time to type them up so I didn’t.))
What you need to know is self-explanatory. For anyone willing to critique this, I’m too close to it – so if you could just point to the points that are too vague or don’t elicit any kind of feeling for you as the reader at all, that would be great.
Things My Father Taught Me:
1) How not to cry in front of anyone else – ever – because even though he’d hold you on your worst night when the world had fallen apart and you didn’t think you could hold yourself together without aid, he would bring it up later to use against you just when you had started to feel stronger – just in time to break apart the scabs that were developing and send you back down the hole again.
2) How to stand alone, be that rock that everyone expects you to be, and not call anyone – at all – until it’s gotten so awkward that you’re not even sure you can call them now, or what you would say if you did. How it’s okay to say, “You’ve been busy,” and leave it at that even though no one else understands being the kind of busy that you can’t or don’t have time to call anyone or even write them letters. How to be that kind of busy.
3) That only lazy people can’t sleep at night. Only people who don’t work hard enough find it difficult to lose consciousness when the hour gets late enough; only people who don’t want to work hard find it difficult to wake up in the morning. Unless they’ve got a bug…which doesn’t happen all that often.
4) Shame is for the weak, and for those who aren’t on the side of good and right. That it’s okay to think that people are ashamed of you, but it’s not okay to care that they do – or might be. (I was never ashamed of his weight, never embarrassed for him to drop me off at school in the morning. I always wanted him to come to my skating competitions and shows, and if I was ever ashamed about anything it was that I couldn’t perform better on the days he did come.) How to ignore something inside of yourself for so long that you could blame it on others when the time when you were forced to acknowledge its existence came.
5) How to tell everyone to fuck off when what they were doing or saying wasn’t helping your situation at all, but how to eat yourself up inside anyway – as though you’d absorbed all those words already.
6) How to be the kind of strong that you can take anything – anything at all – from outside opponents, not let it change your path, and never care or even think about them once they’ve gone. How to do what he said, and not what he had done or did do. How to hold pain inside so long that it only surfaces with too much alcohol, and you have to support him in any way you can because you didn’t know how much he beat himself up inside over things that were never his fault.
Things My Father Didn’t Teach Me:
1) How to cope with the nameless, voiceless monsters in your head when they start making indefinable, wordless noise at night. What to do on the mornings the sun doesn’t force them back into your subconscious.
2) How to know when it’s okay to accept help, or what to do when your ex breaks your lease, leaving you with an apartment you could barely afford when it was split between two people. How to run crying into the arms of new friends because you have no one else to turn to, and she took your closest remaining friend to the pound while you were at work one day but not before shutting off the internet and phone that you had paid for until the end of the month – when there were still 28 days left in said month. How to cope with the fact that you’ve allowed her to separate you from all of your closest friends and family members because you had to be ‘strong’ for her and because – that’s just who and how you were. How to recognize that this was a patter with all of your exes, and what to do about that.
3) What form that ‘I’ve been busy’ might take when occasionally you can’t call people because the idea of picking up the phone for anyone – anyone – made you want to throw yourself at a wall repeatedly until you couldn’t physically do anything – let alone answer or pick up a phone.
4) What it was like to feel trapped inside of your own mind, unable to move your body or do anything at all except breathe. How one can torture one’s self within one’s own mind more effectively than any outsider ever could. The kinds of things you can tell yourself in the shower when there’s no one else to see you curl in on yourself and collapse to the floor, and there’s no barriers left between your body and that horribly cold wall that you have to press into for support against all of the things you attack yourself with.
5) How to find a job when you’ve lost the only one you could find a few months ago, and the creditors start calling…
6) How to handle all of that being alone he taught you how to do.
Thank you for reading, and have a lovely day.
Well, I’ve been world-building like mad for the three novels I’m still considering working on for NaNoWriMo. No, I haven’t decided which of the three I’ll be working on yet, and that is why I’m world-building all of them. I have, however, decided on something else to do in the meantime.
It really is quite difficult to start working on aspects of any novel idea, telling yourself the whole time, ‘No, you cannot start writing this yet.’ So to keep myself writing while putting off the stories I must wait to start telling, I have picked up a creative writing book full of excellent writing advice and exercises. The book is called Method and Madness: The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante. It came to me highly recommended by people in my life as well as strangers online via reviews. So I picked it up on Ebay (the book is being used as a textbook by a number of universities, and is quite expensive if you buy it new).
I intend to do a writing exercise a day until the end of the month. I wish I’d found/received this book earlier for it would have been nice to finish the book and every exercise it offers before beginning my novel, whichever one I finally choose to write. However many I end up doing though, I think it will be good preparation for the challenges NaNoWriMo is about to bring.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I am going to share some of the results of these exercises with you. Not because I think they’re particularly spectacular (I’m always developing my craft and growing as a writer), but because I don’t often get feedback on my writing. My pieces are not out there for many people to see, yet. (Still no word on the literary magazine front, though I’m quite hopeful.) So this seems like a good place to post some exercises, if ever there was one.
These stories/exercises will be about events that have happened in my own life: my own observations and my own experiences. I don’t intend to post every single one of them publicly, but as I would like some feedback I am willing to give out the password for those I decide to protect. So if you would be interested in critiquing my exercises, please message me and/or leave me an email addy so that I can give you the password. I should really just create a writing group, but that’s hard to do both on and offline. This will have to do for now.
Anyway, thanks for reading my NaNoWriMo Prep thoughts, and have a lovely Friday! ^-^