The Edge Of Nothing – A short story

A couple weeks ago I entered a short story into a contest. I didn’t win, but it was a fun story to write. I had some beta readers that volunteered (from Twitter) who put in some time and effort to help polish it to perfection.

As promised here is the story that I wrote and submitted based off a provided prompt.

PROMPT USED: You are the protagonist of a novel-in-progress. Your author is experiencing intense writer’s block. You decide to have a word with the author to shake them out of it.

The edge

The Edge Of Nothing

By S.L. Mumby
Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved

My life is on the edge of nothing. I am actually kneeling on it. This is what I mean. Here is the last paragraph that was written by my creator.

—Aymara’s knees bore her weight, the hard edges of the broken rock bit into her skin and cut through. Her precious blood colored the cold stone a dark red. Gripping the edge of the ruined floor, she leaned forward. The meager light from above failed her eyes, below her there was nothing—

See? Nothing and that is where I have been kneeling and bleeding for the past two fricking months. Oh yeah, my creator made me a modest, but tough-as-heck good girl. I cannot even gosh-darn-it swear.

Please understand that I am grateful. However, the fate of my people is on hold, and it is frustrating. My journey to get to this nothing moment has been a heck-ride of danger, violence, and passion unanswered-but promised. I am supposed to be saving my one true love at the end, I do not want to, and that might be the problem. Hey! Creator! Are you listening?

After a cliché sigh, my creator answers. “Yeah, I’m listening. You’re supposed to love Rayvon, the chemistry is there isn’t it?

“It is lust and nothing more! Loveless desire is horrible, and I hate it. I want love, real love.”

Pursed lips are the response my creator gives me. Every day my creator’s fingers touch the keyboard, every day there is a glint of promise that I will be released from this agonizing point and carry on with my harrowing tale. So I yell some more. “Let us go over it again shall we?”

“Go over what? I’ve been through the pages umpteen times, and I can’t see how to make you and Rayvon work through this. You’re too stubborn, and I think you blame him.”

I want up from this devil-inspired position. I need to think. I know what I want, I believe my creator does too and cannot see it yet. I grip the edge of nothing harder. “What if you look at it from my perspective?”

My creator’s eyes close. It is permission for me to go back and take a momentary reprieve from this frozen moment.

Fine, show me your perspective.”

Giddy to be on the move again, I dart back to the moments that brought my journey to a standstill before I even got there.

⁎—⸙—⁎

“Aymara, hold on!” Rayvon said as his arm stretched as far as he could.

She wanted to yell at him to shut up, to stop suggesting the obvious and find a solution. Aymara’s grip failed her, and she slid another inch. She screamed. There was real fear in Rayvon’s near-black eyes. His anguish and pain are evident on his face. Aymara knew he loved her in his own way, but she couldn’t shake the notion that his emotions were selfless…

⁎—⸙—⁎

Woah, wait a second.” My creator interjected. “I never wrote that you had doubts.

“You should have. I mean come on, you want me to believe the magnificent, glorious Rayvon happens to fall for the plain “softer” woman with no fighting skills? The one that just happens to be able to sense the way to Evton-moor, and the only one who can find the stupid Faevitreus? He is too beautiful for words, you said so yourself. It was tacky and predictable. He has eyes for Tamora, and despite my love for him there is a grain of mistrust amidst us.”

“Just because Tamora is unconscious right at this moment does not make her any less what every woman wishes she could be. She is perfect, tough, sexy as sin and strong in every way possible. I am flawed, with an absurdly dark backstory. Why is she not the protagonist?”

My creator and I have had this conversation before. “Rayvon is a worldly man and men look at pretty things. He will choose you in the end.

“Blech, he will choose me reluctantly. I do not want a man to choose me after considering others. I want a man who will jump over the edge of the wall on a rope to save me. Let me finish my point.”

Fine. Go on then.

⁎—⸙—⁎

Aymara’s hand burned as the broken wood she clung to shifted beneath her fingers. The floor of the old tower had cracked and fallen away beneath her feet. The others on the edge of and outside the tall tower room were still on solid ground. This tower hid the last key-fairy, trapped in a glass ball, called a Faevitreus. She huddled with her delicate iridescent wings wrapped about her body. She was one of six cursed fairies, and Aymara held her safe in her free hand. If the glass breaks, the curse will whisk away the fairy to hide her again in another prison of glass. The only way to free them is to smash them simultaneously on the altar of Evton-moor, the gate to the lands called Perish. Tracking down a reformed Faevitreus might take days, maybe weeks and they didn’t have the time to spare. The calling had begun, and those of age are making their journey to the portal to the Perish lands. Only those of age may enter Perish, and they die in the process.

“You’re the lightest, you must go.” Rayvon had insisted.

Aymara isn’t lightest of the group, Tamora is, but she’s out cold from a Dumas bite. Sometimes bravery hides stupidity. Aymara said to leave it be, it wouldn’t bother with the group if given a wide berth. No, Tamora couldn’t let a wee critter alter her course. Not even when Aymara said. “They live in fists.”

“Fists?” Tamora asked.

“As in groups of five bonded strongly. That one, the sentry,” Aymara had pointed at the cobalt blue snake, “is not alone.”

“Going around will take us an hour off our path. No, the path through these ruins leads directly to the Cliffside path up to the tower.” Tamora stuck her nose up and unsheathed her twin blades.

She had faced the snake and killed it. The other four dropped down from the archway above and one bit her. Tamora knows this area better than the entire group. She lived five years in the town near the tower of the damned. The tower is a place where the locals sent delinquent youth to spend the night and scare them straight. It is a place to fear and respect. Tamora was to lead the group through the ruins and up to the tower. Aymara’s anger at Tamora’s ego faltered under her fear. Many stories designed to keep children from misbehaving contain that tower. The bite of the snake is not fatal, but Tamora could be unconscious for up to three days. They can’t stay in the ruins while she wakes. The local inhabitants won’t be as kind as the Dumas snakes were. Dezan had been the one to hoist Tamora over his shoulder and carry her.

Dezan is the personification of the strong and silent type. He hails from a city far to the east where they grow tall, robust men with dark, handsome faces, pale green eyes, and soft white hair. When he speaks, it has meaning, and his voice is heavy with emotion…

⁎—⸙—⁎

You’re not in love with Dezan.” My creator interrupts. “Don’t describe him as if you are. He is a statue of emotion. Devoid of love and out to find the master of Perish to help Rayvon kill him. He’s on a revenge quest for the loss of the one true love of his life. He vowed never to love again.”

“Right and that is why he is so kind to me, why he is always there when I need him? He held me and wiped my tears when my sister was burned at the stake. Dezan made me eat when I was too sad to breathe. Dezan showed me how to use a knife, a sword, how to get free of bindings. Dezan is the one who checks on me every night to see that I wake before Rayvon, so I am not chastised for being lazy. Dezan is the one who sits with me and looks at the moon and puts fragrant Starflowers in my hair.”

Oh shit.” My creator sat up wide-eyed.

“Let me finish.” I insisted, and my creator nodded.

⁎—⸙—⁎

Four stories below Aymara, the floor creaked and moaned like living things. Aymara called out for Dezan. He was not far, he might hear. Rayvon reached again, inches shy of her hand.

“Hold on.” Rayvon pleaded. “I don’t know what to do.”

“I cannot.” Aymara cried out. “I need both my hands to hold on.”

Rayvon’s eyes darted from Aymara’s left hand to her right and back again. “I love you, Aymara. I will fight for you, and for what you believe in, but to do so, I need the keys. Throw me the Faevitreus!”

He had never before said the affectionate words that soared straight to her heart. If she died, they would need to find another who could sense the wee trapped fairies. That could take weeks or months even. Finding Evton-moor without her would be more straightforward than tracking the new Faevitreus, although difficult without Aymara’s ability to sense magic. Perish needed to be brought down, if her people were ever to be free. The thought of the monster men who resided in Perish dining on her mother and father stirred her anger and resolve. Rayvon was destined to destroy the power the lord of Perish holds over her world, their world, and she would do anything to see it come to light.

“Catch!” She hefted the ball into the air, and Rayvon caught it.

Rayvon leaned back on his heels and kissed the smooth surface. The fairy within grimaced at the audacity of his intimacy with her cage.

Unable to pull her body to grip with both hands, Aymara cried out in desperation.

“Git out o’ta way ya gibbit,” Dezan yelled at Rayvon.

Startled by Dezan’s sudden appearance, Rayvon dropped the Faevitreus. It rolled toward the edge and he lept for it. Dezan jumped over the side, ignoring the plummeting Faevitreus. His hand closed on Aymara’s arm as her bleeding splinter-filled fingers gave way and she fell. He pulled her into his arms and they dangled by a rope around his chest.

“I got ya ma swee, yer safe,” Dezan said, followed by a whispered promise, “I’ll na let ya go fer no-thin, no-ever.”

There was no time to cry, and no time to rejoice in his strong arms. The sound of glass breaking below and Rayvon’s rage-filled cry snapped Aymara from her moment of safety.

“Up ya go ma swee.” Dezan gripped the rope in one arm and lifted Aymara with the other. “Grab her!” Dezan yelled, and his voice shook from the strain. As Rayvon hoisted Aymara over the edge, the rope that held Dezan snapped and frayed.

“Help him!” Aymara shouted as she dropped to her knees.

Rayvon knelt at the edge and reached down. The rope snapped, and Dezan called out, “Aymaraaaa.”

He hit the floor below in a loud, thick crash. The wood gave way, and as Aymara made way to the edge, Dezan fell far below, into the depths of the tower and beyond.

Rayvon stood abruptly and turned his back to the hole. “We lost the Faevitreus.”

Aymara blinked and wiped tears. He was gone, her gentle friend and confidant. “No.” She pushed to her feet. “No.”

“We did. That blundering idiot made me drop it. We don’t have time for a delay like this.”

Aymara frowned at the man she had loved. His tender kisses seemed a distant, cold memory, too far to warm the chill in her heart from his cruel words. There wasn’t a rope burn on his hand. He didn’t reach for Dezan. He had plenty of time to grab the rope. If he had tried, the marks would mar his perfect hands.

“No.” Aymara gagged with grief and ran to the spiral stairs that circled the tower. With fleet feet, she made it to the ground and blinded by tears she pulled the door open. She could feel the Faevitreus below, it didn’t reform far, but it was there. The heavy rust-burdened door gave way to her frantic efforts, and she entered the room. The stone floor ring beneath her feet held a dark secret in its center.

“Oh by the stars.” Aymara hesitated. She could sense more than the poor imprisoned fairy below. “The stories are true.”

Aymara’s ability to sense and track magic is why she was chosen to help Rayvon. The magic below is dark and formidable. There was no mistaking that this was the secret door to Perish’s underbelly, the most terrifying place in existence. Stories and fables soaked the world of its horrors and the creatures that kept our world from the lands of Perish. Aymara rubbed her arms and gathered her courage. If the stories held true it was a way in and the magic she felt now would let nothing back out. She chose to ignore the fables of a sword called Satrebil made from dragon fire that could pierce the magic barrier.

Her hands shook as she inched toward the edge. Blood and a shred of Dezan’s shirt clung to the shards of wood still clinging to the rotted floor support. The force of his muscular body must have cracked some of the stone where the beams sat. Broken bits of stone littered the ground.

“No, Dezan, no,” she whispered as she lowered to the hard floor.

Aymara’s knees bore her weight, the hard edges of the broken rock bit into her skin and cut through. Her precious blood colored the cold stone a dark red. Gripping the edge of the ruined floor, she leaned forward. The meager light from above failed her eyes, below her there was nothing…

⁎—⸙—⁎

I am once again stuck on my bloody knees. At the point where my creator gave up on my story. My creator made a noise as if to clear a throat. “That is not how I wrote it. Rayvon declared his love for you, and you chose to give up your life for him, for the fight. Dezan died to save you so you could get Rayvon to the altar and get into Perish.”

“The tower was a trap, a gateway to the underbelly of Perish and it was meant to stop us from getting the last Faevitreus. Few survive the perilous place.” I said with defiance.

That is not how I wrote it, and Dezan never whispered sweet words to you. His last words were noble, begging you to honor his oath and revenge on his wife.”

“You should have written it that way, and he did whisper that to me. That is what revisions are for right? I hear you complain about that process enough. Go back and add it all in. I do not love Rayvon, I thought I did, but I cannot love someone who is using me and probably bedding Tamora. I love Dezan, you need to make him realize he loves me too.”

But he died, only three may enter.”

“He should not have died. His love was true, and pure and… real. Kill someone else, someone that needs the sacrificial redemption to clear their soul.”

My creator sat back and resumed the familiar pose of finger tapping on the chin. “Underbelly you say. Underbelly…hmm.

I was so close to getting out of this blasted position, I could sense it. “The Perish lord is expecting us to go to the altar to open the gates and we can if you carry on with the surface plan. All sorts of things can get in our way, but what if…”

What if that’s what Perish Lord wants… what if he’s waiting to be freed?”

“Yes! Dezan said that.”

No, he didn’t say anything like it.”

“Then go back and make him say it. He only says important things. Have Rayvon or Tamora brush him off or discredit him. What if we do not knock on his front door where he awaits us?”

Two hands lifted from a lap and set lightly upon the keys that tell my story and create my life. A small smile eased into place on my creator’s face. My heart soared with hope, a hope that had been lost when Dezan fell and opened what I think is the real way we that need to go. I had hope that I can finally save my people, save the world from a monster who controls us from his very own prison.

⁎—⸙—⁎

“Aymara, ma swee?”

The words were faint, far away, and so unbelievably real; Aymara called back, “I’m here.”

“He lived?” Rayvon asked incredulously as he helped Tamora walk. Aymara wasn’t surprised to see the warrior regaining consciousness now after disaster struck. “We need to leave and find the Faevitreus.”

“It is down there.” Aymara pointed.

“It broke,” Rayvon said.

“It has reformed down there. I have an idea, and you are not going to like it.” Aymara said as she opened the carefully packed bag containing the other five Faevitreus spheres…

⁎—⸙—⁎

Fingers flew across the keyboard, breathing life back into me, into my story. I had a chance to get to Dezan and continue our journey. It would be dangerous, it would be unexpected, and if my creator understood me, Rayvon is not the savior of our world.

I am.

⁎—⸙—⁎  The End ⁎—⸙—⁎ 

Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved

This is the first time I’ve posted more than a sample of my writing for blog post examples. I hope you enjoyed it.

Let me know if you want to see more short stories or not.

Cheers.
-Sheryl

https://onedailyprompt.wordpress.com/2018/07/31/your-daily-word-prompt-confidant-july-31st-2018/

Don’t plague me

I adore reading. I read a lot and enjoy various formats. There is one thing I don’t enjoy reading no matter what or who writes it. Plague. Widespread illness out of control unfurling upon the masses to bring about misery and death. This is totally a personal thing, maybe it’s my inner hypochondriac coming out to play or whatever. I just don’t enjoy reading about pustules, open oozing sores, swollen lymph nodes, the last gabbled breath of the many, over and over… yuck.

I was reading a super awesome book series and they went plague quite a few books in. I haven’t finished it and haven’t moved on in the series either. That was about two years ago. I probably won’t. Everybody has that something, that taboo subject they won’t read or write about. For me, its sex implied or explicit. Some it’s disease, illness or plagues. For others, it’s racial repression. For others, it’s violence against women or children, especially sexual.  It could be how graphically someone writes about the tattered pungent rotting green hued skin, falling off the corpse in chunks as it lands in thick wet plops on the cold hard ground. Like I said, everyone has the one thing they won’t write or read. That’s totally okay, I can’t please everyone. I should, however, be pleasing someone. Boring writing is right up there with plagues for me. If the story is going nowhere for too long I get bored. I don’t want to read a chapter describing the grass in detail either.

I find it’s a fine balance. Toss in a little of everything and keep it interesting. All good recipes require an assortment of ingredients. The more you put in the better it tastes, right? In moderation. If a plague must happen for story development or it is part of that era then fine, but less is more IMO.  I read a book that had the black plague happen smack dab in the middle. Sure the author described the misery and filth, but he did something far more amazing. He showed the good, the silver-lining and what the survivors with vigor were doing to help. He focused on the emotional and surrounding and fascinating factoids that let me get through a subject I’m uncomfortable with. That stuck with me. If it has to be there, and it must be horrifying. Why not temper it with the bright side too?

I don’t have an example of this because I don’t want to. I can be super gross, and write violence and gore. I just don’t like plagues or uncontrollable diseases.

I cannot take credit for the following since I’m not a great joke teller. *Sources unknown.

Two bacteria walk into a bar and the bartender says, “Leave! We don’t serve any bacteria in this bar.”
The two bacteria reply, “Hey, but we work here. We’re staph.”

Why did all the bacteria fail the math test?
They thought division is the same as multiplication.

A parasite walks into Jim’s party. Jim says, “Get out! No parasite are welcome at my party.”
The parasite says, “Well, you’re not a very good host.”

I need to go wash my hands a few times now.

My advice about Plagues.
When you write about something uncomfortable, there will be some who love it, and those that hate it. How you write it will make all the difference.

-Sheryl

Other gross posts

That is disgusting

Blood

Spit it out!

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Vigor
Unfurl

The ups and downs of writing

I talk a lot about redundant words or filter words. Words that are in general, useless and take up valuable writing space.

Up and down are two such words. Sometimes they are necessary and most often not. When I took a good look at these two I had
460 Up’s brought down to 274 after revision
250 Down’s brought down to 126 after revision.
The remainders were necessary.


For example:

He tied up his shoelaces. – He tied his shoelaces.
He set the mug down on the table. – He set the mug on the table.
She stood up. – She stood.
He sat down hard. – He sat hard.
The balloon rose up in the air. – The balloon rose in the air

Sometimes it’s necessary so don’t use the auto search and replace feature.
For example:

He let her down.
She cheered up.
The arrow pointed down.
You’re going down!
I’ll never give up.

Chances are if I’m using up and down I’m tossing all kinds of other unnecessary words in for giggles. When I find them I take care to check out their neighbouring words and see if anyone else needs to get an eviction notice.

Sasha set down the two layouts on her desk, stood up from her chair and walked over to the window. Looking down to the sidewalk down below she sighed. He was down there waiting for her. He wouldn’t give up. “Persistent jerk.” She pulled down the shade to block the view. Returning to her desk, she sat down, picked up the layouts and started going over what was wrong with them. (71)

Oh dear, I’m a wordy writer. Snip, snip… Time for a trim.

Sasha set the two layouts on her desk, stood and went to the window. Looking at the sidewalk below, she sighed. He was waiting for her. “Persistent jerk.” She pulled the shade blocking the view, returned to her desk, and continued to revise the layouts. (45)

I’m pretty sure her comment about him being persistent can stand in place of “He wouldn’t give up.” I am not perfect and even revising and editing my material, I’m certain I miss things like this. That is why I make a list of words such as up and down and use the search(search only not search and replace) feature and check up on each and every occurrence. Tedious? Yup you bet, but when you trim the excess and end up with something smooth and shiny it’s rewarding. 

My advice about up and downs.
It’s a common sense thing. You can use them if you want to, but redundancy can cost you professionalism points in the eyes of agents, publishers and readers. Consider the value of the words you use and improve on them if you can.

-Sheryl

Related posts

Getting a little touchy feely

More is less, and vice versa.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Value

It’s a love hate sort of thing

I spend a lot of time talking about feelings. How to show them instead of just tell them. That’s because the books I’ve loved the most suck me in and make me feel. However, there are times when showing an emotion can get lost if the context is missing. If I forget to set up or keep up the scenario it can be misread or taken, well a whole other way. Ideally, this would be part of a bigger picture, but what if it’s not?

 Balor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter.
“You need to leave.” She squeezed her eyes shut. She barely knew him, this can’t be .
His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Balor’s deep voice made her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”
“I didn’t mean to.” Sasha had barely looked at this man.
She spent most of the night trying to ditch Valery and Anne. She gasped for air as Balor gripped her Stylish“>stylish pink shirt in his left hand and brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her reaching for the counter.

The door flew open and Balor let her go.
“What’s going on here!” Cal advanced on Balor fists clenched, he swung hard and fast at Balor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made her flinch as Balor hit the floor.
“Did you follow me too?” Sasha’s legs wobbled.
“Dammed right I did. I saw this scum follow you out of the bar.” 

That’s not much to go on, so what did you take from it? What emotion was being shown through Sasha? I put in all the correct emotional responses in, I didn’t cheat. Yet it wasn’t clearly showing what I wanted. Still even in that scrap, the reader should know what’s going on.

What was really happening.

Balor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter.
Screaming was pointless nobody would hear.
“You need to leave.” She squeezed her eyes shut, she barely knew him.

His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Balor’s deep voice making her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”
“I didn’t mean to.” She had barely looked at this man, she spent most of the night trying to ditch Valery.
Cal was the one that made her laugh; he made her feel alive again.
She gasped for air as Balor gripped her stylish pink shirt in his left hand and  brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her reaching for the counter as he raised his fist to strike her. If she could reach the knives, she might survive this.

The door flew open and Balor let her go.
“What’s going on here!” Cal advanced on Balor fists clenched, he swung fast and hard at Balor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made her flinch as Balor hit the floor.
“Did you follow me too?” Sasha’s legs wobbled.
“Dammed right I did. I saw this scum follow you out of the bar.” Cal pulled out a badge and a pair of handcuffs. “Detective Cal Thorne.”

Taken out of context or not shown properly you might think that the first attempt was a romantic interlude and a jealous lover. However, her emotional responses belonged to Terror. The reason I brought this up was that I was reading a book this summer and set it down. I didn’t get back to it for a while and when I picked it up, what I read didn’t make sense. It was a large block of a chapter missing specific content. Sure, it was there but not right away. I had to go back a couple of pages to get the right feel and read it again.

In the grand picture the creepiness of Balor following her is clear as is his initial and violent contact when she gets home. But what if you had set the book down and couldn’t get back to it for a while and tried to pick up at that point?

My advice about showing feeling without context.
Put it in even if it’s subtle and just a little. For example, love and hate can be similar in select action tags.  You don’t want someone’s intense fevered stare of hate to be read as an intense fevered stare of love just before a fist fight, that might be awkward.

-Sheryl

Related posts:

Unidentified Fervent Outburst!

That is disgusting

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Stylish
Survive

She’s a person not a cake

One thing that I learned that makes all the difference, is to make my characters real through details instead of the long dry head to toe description. People are going to imagine them their own way anyway so describing every single aspect is tedious and unnecessary. A girl who twirls her hair or a man who cracks his knuckles will be more memorable.

Cal is an attractive successful man, he sees two women at a bar, both pretty, one flirtatious and the other awkward. I want to show that Cal knows about style and quality. At this point Cal has already been introduced so there is no need to mention his appearance. BTW he is well dressed, tall and handsome. Typical for this type of interlude.

For example:

Cal watched the two attractive fit women at the bar. They were young pretty and an odd couple. The brunette had a bob cut and dark blue eyes. She wore too much dark eye makeup and ruby-red lipstick. She had a firm athletic body. Her long legs below her hiked up black Saint Laurent miniskirt, exposed her red lace underwear when she moved.

The other, the Blonde, wore sensible Dolce & Gabbana outfit and applied minimal makeup. Her tight pink shirt and casual black flair skirt fit her like a glove and she tugged at them awkwardly. She had pretty brown eyes and a small nose. Slim long legs and soft features. By far prettier than the brunette friend. She was dragged out tonight, the awkward smart friend too work driven to have fun.

The friend isn’t the only awkward thing there. Everyone knows what a woman looks like and if he’s interested there is a good chance they are attractive. Let me try that again.

Cal leaned casually on the wall as he watched the odd couple at the bar. The brunette looked over at him with dark blue eyes. The corner of her ruby-red lips curled as she tongued the straw in her drink and brushed the bottom of her short bob cut with her fingers. Too easy, with her black Saint Laurent miniskirt hiked up, proving her lace panties matched the over-applied lipstick. She was on the hunt.

Her modest friend however, the long-haired blonde in Dolce & Gabbana, would be worth the challenge. Again, she tugged on her tight pink shirt then adjusted her flared black skirt drawing attention to her strong legs. She frowned at her friend, following her gaze over to Cal. Her pretty brown eyes met his briefly before dropping to the drink in her hand. She was dragged out tonight, the overworked over achievers were bound to have something interesting to say and Cal was tired of boring easy women.

That may not be perfect, but it’s a lot better than the list of features before it. Believe it or not I recently read a book that did just that. The story stopped dead in its tracks for a paragraph checklist description of someone’s appearance. I try to avoid doing that.

My advice about describing physical features.
Try to work it into the scene instead of brow beating the reader with a dried up awkward list of ingredients. She’s a person not a cake.

 -Sheryl

Similar Posts

Mirror, mirror on the wall…

A Hairy Subject

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Hike
Minimal

The Ole Switcheroo

I enjoy looking at things from multiple angles. The words “what if” always on the tip of my tongue. One simple word switcheroo can inspire radical change in a scenario.

Joe stared at the screen. Sasha would be devastated to see this truth. Her father had met her mother’s best friend first.

Why would she be devastated? What secret is there between them?

Joe stared at the screen. Sasha would be devastated to see this truth. Her father had loved her mother’s best friend first.

What happened? Why did he end up with her mother?

Joe stared at the screen. Sasha would be devastated to see this truth. Her father had saved her mother’s best friend first.

Why would he save her first? What is going on between them?

Joe stared at the screen. Sasha would be devastated to see this truth. Her father had betrayed her mother’s best friend first.

He betrayed her first meaning he betrayed the mother second, why? What on earth is he up to?

Joe stared at the screen. Sasha would be devastated to see this truth. Her father had killed her mother’s best friend first.

Why did he kill her first? Why at all? That means he killed others? Her mother? Is he coming for Sasha? Or is he protecting her?

This is a fun way to shake it up, change the direction of the story or introduce a plot twist. The opportunity to shift and change the history of a character to become more interesting is something I love to do. The “what if” factor always has me on the edge of my seat as I write. What if instead of kissing her mother’s best friend first he hit her first? What if instead of dating her mother’s best friend first he stole from her first? The possibilities are endless. When I do this, I’ll sit and play out the past and future of each scenario, which one is more tantalizing? Which one can bring more mystery and intrigue? Which one will change the story radically for the better? What if instead of murder, he faked their deaths to protect them? From what? From whom?  Will Joe be delivering good news or bad?

My advice about making a simple dramatic change.
Give it a shot, why not? You might just stumble into something so exciting that you can’t sit still or stop writing.

-Sheryl.

 

Related Post:

Switch it up, and swap it out.

 

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Radical

Desperately procrastinating

As I sit revising and proofing my book again, I find myself constantly distracted. Granted there is a lot going on, it’s as if my mind is like rays of sun through a crystal, leaving little rainbows scattered about.

A slight desperation zings through me to work and get the word count down to a more reasonable number. As I read carefully, I remove wordiness and missed filter words, the thump of a bird hitting the window veers my attention off the road. As my concentration crashes, I catch a glimpse of my sprinkled light.

I get back on track. Wait, I need a drink. So I go to the kitchen to slake my thirst with some fresh brewed tea, and stop to pet the cat. I see little rainbows of inspiration.

Every distraction leaps out and demands my attention. Is this a bad thing? Nope, not in the slightest. It’s the mundane everyday things that influence my creativity. Stepping on a piece of Lego hurts like nothing else, it reminds me to put pain and discomfort into my characters. Another aspect I try not to forget.

Some days the distractions come easier and I willingly submit to the wonderfully regretful world of procrastination. Even as I peruse memes and click-bait online, the scattered shards of rainbow light glitter and motivate me. Suddenly it’s back, the drive and desire to focus and work. 

My body and mind needs sleep to recuperate. I think that some days, my mind needs a mini vacation from concentrating and creating. Against my better judgement my mind desperately procrastinates, fervently hoping my guilt stays in the shadows so it can have some free time.

My advice about procrastination.
It’s not always a bad thing in my opinion, it can be a sign to take a break or change venues for a moment. If I’m distracted or find myself procrastinating too easily I know it’s time to change it up and do something else for a while. Usually something fun.

-Sheryl

Recommended related Post by a fantastic fellow blogger Sascha Check out her blog as well as this one she asked me to link : No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Zing!

Expect the unexpected… or not.

Sometimes a character or a side-stories direction can peter out. They will lose direction, interest or momentum. I like to make a side story/character impactful in some way. I generally have an idea where it will go and how it fits in and affects the main story.

What happens when it’s not meeting the mark? It’s time to recharge the story or character.

What do I do? First, I don’t let myself get discouraged. Then I take a break to come back with a fresh perspective and take a good look at the problem. Usually for me the issue is lack of action. Second, I think about what I want to accomplish and can I spice it up. This can take seconds to days or even weeks to come up with a new direction, a game changer. They can be main or subplot twists. They don’t have to be dramatic or huge, subtle works too. That can be tedious to wait for an idea from the deep recesses of my brain. I make two lists to spark inspiration. One is random things that can happen and one of random things that make no sense to the story. They can look like this.

Possible

  • Serious injury
  • car accident
  • wins money or item
  • break in
  • theft
  • finds a big clue or evidence
  • betrayal
  • falls for the wrong person
  • new adversary
  • loss of funding
  • inadvertently kills someone (maybe self-defence)
  • breaks the law
  • saves a life
  • loss of power
  • shift in management
  • new team member or co-worker
  • failed plan

Impossible

  • company suddenly shuts down
  • death of main character
  • death of support character
  • become outlaws
  • bad guys become in charge
  • asked/told/commanded to do something unethical (Great for conflict creation)
  • plans or commits murder
  • spills information or secrets to the wrong guys
  • Takes up arms against allies

I make these lists primarily to put ideas in my head. Often they will lead my mind down a path to something that makes me gasp, sit up and feel excitement. Determining what’s possible and impossible will depend on the base morals of the story and characters within. For this, I’m not worried about foreshadowing, unless it’s really big and needs a little set up. I like surprise, the random things that the reader doesn’t see coming. However I use this in moderation, if it’s a constant storm of ‘what the hell just happened!’ it can distract from the story and turn the reader off. Plot twists are great. Plot turns are fantastic, blowing it to kingdom come… probably not a great way to endear readers to you. I say this because I’ve read books where nothing was foreshadowed, big things happened all the time for no apparent reason and it was frustrating beyond reason to read.

It’s kind of fun to look at where you want it to go, and make a list of the exact opposite and think about what would happen if…

My advice about recharging a lifeless character or plot.
There are unlimited options to stir the pot and rejuvenate a character or story, my actual lists are much longer and really random.  Make some lists and keep an open mind. It’s okay to play devil’s advocate if it saves the story from becoming a Yawn-farm.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Recharge

 

Solicited advice.

Twinkle – The word prompt of the day.

There are all kinds of things associated with the word twinkle. It’s a word that conjures the image of light and joy. Twinkle toes, the twinkle of tinsel on a Christmas tree, the moonlight twinkling on the midnight water, a child’s lullaby about stars. For me today the idea of publishing my book has put a twinkle in my eye.

I’m not a fool, I know when I’ve reached my limit and need to solicit professional advice. So I did. Yesterday I had a very motivating consultation. I was told that I am off to a good start and with a little polishing and a lot of work there is potential for my book to be published. I intend to put in whatever effort is necessary to accomplish this task.

My query.  It needs work. I was glad to hear this, because not only did I find out what was wrong, but what to do to fix it. It really was dismal and now it’s showing real promise.

My synopsis. Believe it or not, had a lot of tell, not show. Oops. Well that’s fixable. I also shied away from putting it all out there, laying the full story on the line ending and all. That will be corrected. It is harder to spill the beans when your story contains mystery that was carefully worked in. Keeping it in two pages 12pt double spaced is not an easy task.

My first 50 pages. This is what set me up on cloud nine. While not perfect, I was told my writing is clean, suspenseful and it has good flow, action and dialog. This matches up with what a few others have said, and I can’t tell you how amazing it is to know that it’s not problematic.

My overall word count is still high. I will do what I can to address that. I’m sure if I go over the manuscript carefully I can clean up some sentences.

So armed with the information I need to proceed, the path to publishing is not indirect as it used to be. I am much closer to querying agents in earnest and that is very exciting.

My advice about getting professional help.
Research the professional. What do they have to offer and how professional are they about it? Check many reviews and critiques. Take the time to make sure, if you are paying for a service, that you are getting your value from it. Don’t be afraid to seek professional advice out. If you want others to take you and your writing seriously, then do so yourself.

-Sheryl

PS I’ve been playing with new logo designs. What do you think of the one I used for this post?

Other posts related directly to this one.

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

The first 50 pages.

Query letter “creativity drought”.

The prickly process of writing a Synopsis.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Twinkle

The FAB pencil

What’s so FAB about it? It’s just a lame pencil.

Or is it? I have gone through some nifty retail sales training. You know the kind that teaches you to sell your soul to the devil to make the sale. Up-sell, up-sell, up-sell.

I no longer wonder how they do it, how they smoothly transition you from buying the watch to including the warranty, the battery replacement program, the matching belt and shiny new car. I don’t wonder, because I know.

FAB Feature Advantage Benefit. Oddly, this applies nicely to describing something in writing. The lesson is to take an ordinary item say… a super lame ordinary No.2 pencil and show the customer something they can see, touch or smell about it. Then explain the advantage of the feature and smoothly move into how it benefits the customer.

The feature: it has No.2 lead
The advantage: No.2 writes smoothly
The benefit: consistent writing

Feature: built-in eraser
Advantage: erases efficiently
Benefit: saves time having to search for an eraser

F: seamless wood design
A: easy to sharpen
B: no slivers or sharp bits

F: bright yellow paint
A: easy to see
B: hard to lose

These things seem obvious right? Maybe, but now they are clearly stuck in your head. How does this apply to describing items in a story? If you give a purpose to an item then it makes sense. If it’s horribly random then its distracting to the reader. If anything, it will help give an object depth. Even a yawn worthy pencil. I do this with items my characters interact with that are important or interesting.

Sasha plopped the yellow pencil’s end in her mouth. Scrunching her face she removed it instantly. The rubbed-rubber taste reminding her of the party she went to instead of studying. She set the flattened tip to the paper to mark her answer. Only to rub it out second-guessing herself again.

Sasha jumped when the bell rang. She stared wide-eyed at the paper, a test failed before it was marked. Less than half the questions answered. Gripping the pencil in her hands, she tightened her grip, snapping the light wood easily.

My advice about describing things.
Instead of just blurting out what it is with a standard ‘it’s blue’ description, dig deeper and see what it has to offer the user then the interaction between the object and user is more fluid. Be cautious that you don’t go overboard describing an item to the point of excess. Less is more.

-Sheryl

 

Other posts

More is less, and vice versa.

It’s funny you said that…

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

 

Obvious

Plop