Flash Fiction Challenge

Sally prepared her razor again, she could feel that it was time. She washed it, though she’d washed it before she even put it in it’s case the last time, and gave it a quick polish. She called Kitty into the room, had her pluck a hair from her head, and hold it stretched between two hands. Sally flicked the knife and the hair was cut in two. Kitty hadn’t even been holding it taut.

Sally arranged the razor, brush, and foam on her bedside table, basin and towel at the ready.

Jack came through town whenever he chose but he always opted for a shave at her establishment. Just a shave. It was hard to deny the allure of a straight-razor shave but the other girls usually had to provide services after. Of course, Jack didn’t pay but it was worth the quiet company. Besides, she never had to sharpen the blade after, it was like he’d never been there, the razor was that good.

It was a bit like dancing. He always knew which way to turn his head with just the barest touch of her fingertips to his chin. He knew not to swallow while the razor glided over his Adam’s apple. The same swipes every time, they moved together automatically and quickly. It was all over in the space of a few minutes. He stayed the full hour he’d been given and Sally would take a nap while he sat in the rocking chair, moving it back and forth with his foot on the bed.

Kitty came to wake her once the hour was up. “Hey, can I use your shave kit? I’ve a client I think might like it and I’m in search of some extra tips this month.”

“Alright,” Sally said, still a bit sleepy. She went to her dresser to get one.

“Could I use the other one? It’s a keen razor isn’t it?”

“Sorry love. I’d rather not.”

“I’ll be real careful.”

“All the same. It was my fiance’s.”

“Why isn’t it with him?”

“He died. I had to sell the rest of his effects to cover some of the debt. This is all I kept behind.”

“Strange choice. You could have got a pretty penny for a magic razor.”

“Is it magic?” Sally handed Kitty the other kit and hoped that was the end of it.

Kitty had a meeting with a top landlord who was coming through town. Good shave and he could have an excuse to his wife for the money gone from his account. It’d have to be a very good shave for the kind of money Kitty needed. She took Sally’s kit before she woke up in the morning and returned it that night, wiped clean. Sally never noticed until she opened it up for cleaning again. This time Kitty’s hair only split on the second try.

“Did you take it?”

“Well I….”

“Get out.”

Sally sharpened it and cleaned it again, and then once more, and again until there was the gentle knock and her door opened. Jack stood over her, watching. She held the razor up in supplication. He gave her a curious look and placed his hat on the peg, sitting down in his chair like always. The tension in her shoulders smoothed away and she bustled around, getting everything ready for him, closing her door firmly. Then they danced.

This time he got into bed behind her and held her while they napped. He woke her before he left.  He gave her a kiss on the cheek to let her know he was not angry someone else had used the razor and that he would be back. She showed him to the front door and he hesitated. She insisted and watched as he walked down the street a few paces and shimmered into thin air.

For the Terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge.

Writing Sucks

Why can't you just read my mind?

Good for jamming into eyeballs

The act of writing sucks.

Not coming up with ideas. Or doing research, fleshing out characters, thinking up outlines, developing themes. That’s the best part.

But transcribing all the fun stuff in your head and making it come out right on the page? Actually sitting down and scribbling/pounding away on the keyboard? The feeling that it’s not quite living up to the vision in your head?

Effin sucks.

(In other news, I’ve been doing this more, which we’ll just say is the reason for my radio silence on the blog, m’kay?)

Good Writing Will Out

Who's wonderful? YOU are.

Where I get all my character ideas

At home over Thanksgiving break I made fun of my mom’s new Nicholas Sparks book one time too many and she finally snapped. Doesn’t he write about love and relationships, the same things everyone writes about? How is he different from the stuff you read, how is that better?

My answer: the writing. He’s just a horrible writer.

(Have you actually read anything of his? she countered. Yes mom, a whole page. It was all I could stand.)

This is relevant to me because I had an idea for a story that I really like but I’m holding back on because it seems so self-insert, so self-aggrandizing, so Mary-Sue. I feel embarrassed to write it because it’ll be so obvious that I’m writing about myself and who do you think you are anyway, etc. Stephenie Meyer, that’s who. And that should be avoided at all costs.

Original Name: Mefanie Seyer

Original Name: Mefanie Seyer

But it IS a good idea, and I DO want to write it and you know what, who cares if it’s all about me? How many beat authors write about how cool they are snorting ether and shooting up meth (I don’t know a lot about drugs) and skimming over the waking up in a puddle of what I hope is my own waste part of the experience? It’s hardly a new practice to write about a thinly-veiled self and make that person sound really awesome. The difference is in the writing. It forgives a lot of sins.

Fourth Person

Scenes from my moleskine

That’s the end of my first and probably last real attempt to write in first person. I gave it an honest go but my narrator just didn’t know enough and everyone else knows too much. Also, I didn’t like my narrator very much. So fuck him, he’s gone. And so is all the work I’d done so far. Time to start all over again.

Phew.

My Grandpa’s Farmhouse

The story I’m working on now features a family farmhouse and I’m using the one my grandpa currently lives in as an example. I was doing some writing the other night and ran into a little problem.

(Isn’t this blog supposed to be about my inability to write? Dammit creative juices, you are ruining my blog!)

The layout of the second story has four bedrooms of varying sizes. The family in my story has a mother and father, two daughters, a son, and a visitor. But where to put them all? I don’t want the visitor to stay in the cramped bedroom right next to the master bedroom, he might Hear Things, but I don’t want any of the kids there either, they might Hear Other Things. What to do, what to do?

Pictured by Me

Grandpa's Farmhouse

And my brain paused for a minute and then said, make it up dummy! No one is going to fact-check your novel or care that it contains a square inch by square inch recreation of the farmhouse you’ve been to. The farmhouse is a model, a starting point, that I can bend to my will.

Really, it doesn’t matter at all. I didn’t waste any time rearranging the layout of the top floor to fit everyone I wanted, the house is not a main character. I’m sure there are plenty of stories where the house is very important. The Haunting comes to mind. But what I’m working on isn’t one of them. I put the minutiae behind and Moved. On.

Inspiration is my Godot

I was planning on doing a post a week and then went on vacation and shot that all to hell. But, neglected blog withstanding, it was pretty successful creatively. I took over 500 pictures. I got some reading done. I worked on my goddamn novel. Words were written, whole pages of them. My poor empty notebook is slightly less empty.

I was in Maine, where my novel is set so it was a bit of a research trip for me, as much as taking pictures of lobster traps is research. (It is relevant to Things.) But being in the place where I’m making my characters act and dance was helpful. I was on top of Pigeon Hill where I could see a thick fog rolling over the islands out in the ocean. It looked so cool that I had to write about it, just for a taste of the local flavor, so that I don’t get taken to task by people who actually live and work there. I’m not a tourist, I swear!

It took me a couple days to actually force myself to sit down and write because… it’s fog. What’s there to write about? Well, many notebook pages and a few plot points later, turns out there’s a lot.

Can't get there from here

The Mist: makes a lot of sense now actually

That’s usually what happens to me but I still hold myself back, waiting for something concrete to write about, which never comes. Or, even more pathetic, I have the scenes in my head but they’re tent-pole pieces and just too daunting to start now. But sometimes I get the right sentence in my head, just the perfect turn of phrase and I have to write it down because it’s going to be gone in seconds. And then I just keep going.

Intellectually, I know that I just need to start and the words will come but the hardest part is just picking up that pen.

Now I just need to get over feeling like a douche every time I say “my novel.”

The Form

One of the things I struggle with is deciding how to write a story and I don’t mean what pen to use. (Actually, I do give that a lot of thought too.) Often times I start working on a screenplay and think, “maybe I should be writing this as a novel.” Or vice versa. Or a play. Because with the technology we have now, anything’s possible on stage.

Spiderman, Spiderman.

Ok, maybe not just ANYTHING...

But freaks of nature aside, it’s a tough call. Currently, I’ve got a novel, a screenplay, and a stage play in the works. (My definition of “in the works” is, it’s in my head and I keep saying to myself “I should write that someday.”) I think it mostly boils down to how many explosions and how much sex you want. If you want a lot of sex that’s not just a rustling bedsheet and lingerings shots of tertiary sex characteristics (ooo… abs) you write a novel (or go into porn). If you want explosions, you write a screenplay. If you want neither sex or explosions (or ticket sales) you write a play. Done.

For ME, what it comes down to is what I have the energy for. I find prose more rewarding than screenplays, which can feel like transcription, but that’s only when it’s done well. The right turn of phrase just feels good, but that takes a lot of work.

And then I realize that my conception, my brilliant idea, my earth-shattering brain fart works best as a Tweet and I give up for the night.

I’m a child progeny

In the Forest of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes was published in 1999, when Amelia was 15. My mom bought it for me, a  young writer, then 14, as a way of saying, look! People just like you are publishing.

Yeah. Except I wasn’t. Oh, but Amelia had a year on me, maybe I could write something real quick and I could be a prodigy too!

It didn’t put enormous pressure on me, this is no Mama Rose situation. But I have noticed an instinct to assume that anything done after a certain age is less remarkable than if done young. Oh, you wrote a book? That would be an achievement of a lifetime but you’re (*sucks in a breath*) 40 now? I guess it’s about time, huh?

It’s dumb. Oh you climbed Everest? Big whoop, were you the first? You ran a marathon but you didn’t win?

Try something hard next time

Loserrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

It’s validation based on meaningless metrics. In the case of the publishing world, with Forest of the Night and later the Eragon books, it smacks of an attempt to democratize the industry. It’s not hard to get published! Look, we’re letting KIDS do it. (*pats them on the head, sends them away*)

And it’s a bad excuse to hide behind because even if publishing young is better than publishing old (or “old”), that is infinitely better than not publishing at all.

Machine of Death

I toyed with the idea of submitting to Machine of Death, vol. 2. Played with, as in, wanted to, realized the due date was in two days, and went to see Harry Potter instead.

It wasn’t for lack of ideas. The macabre is totally my wheelhouse.

The premise is a machine that predicts how you will die, a premise startling similar to one I had on my own many many years ago that I sometimes take out and brush off for a while.

My first instinct was to go dark. The title of each piece has to be the machine’s prediction and I thought “old age.” Not that I would allow someone a full and happy life only to die surrounded by loved ones. No no, my character (male, as I tend to favor male protagonists, for whatever reason [I’m a girl]) would toil away their life for some windmill like dream because, hey!, gonna live a long time right? Which is super, until they get paralyzed, or get some horrible disease, and then a long life is no comfort at all.

THE LORD OF LA MANCHA

I am I, Don Quixote

I actually wrote a draft. But… why should anyone care? It was a premise with no Characters.

So how about write something nice? With characters people will like or actually care about?

And my next thought was “alone.” And my character turned into a girl (interesting my subconscious, interesting) who was dying of some disease and surrounded by loved ones for real this time. The idea was, we all die alone.

Some major problems: I know next to nothing about death. Well, nobody does, but I’ve been lucky enough to not encounter much of it in my life. Same for diseases, and I felt like a poser writing about leukemia when I know nothing of the horrors of disease like that. Lastly, my version of the afterlife owed way too much to Terry Pratchett, to the point where I almost wrote Death as speaking in all caps.

I still stand by the ideas, I think they’re solid, but I just couldn’t think of why anyone would care to read them. Which, I feel, is just a little bit crucial.

Links!

  • Machine of Death, volume 1 Buy it!
  • Wondermark, the comic by one of the creators of MoD Read it!