Survival of the fittest

Survival mode kicks in when nothing else will work. When rationalization and strength are no longer playing fair. Survival in dangerous situations can be boiled down to fight or flight. What happens when flight isn’t working out so well? When I have the character backed into a corner or hotel bathroom? It is in these moments I have to decide. Decide to let logic lead the scene or pepper a bit of panic in to make things more interesting. In time to flip the switch, Sasha didn’t go for the main door. In her flight mode, she took the easiest path. It happened to be backward and into a very unescapable room.

So what does happen when flight fails and the protagonist is trapped? Fight. Fighting is the only option. This is because giving up is not going to happen. I think if Sasha just curled up and resigned to the fate Baylor wishes to bestow, the readers would get mad at me, annoyed with Sasha and stop reading. After all, she doesn’t deserve to be read about right?  So I can honestly say I chose Sasha’s path, I made her go the wrong way. I did this because it’s interesting and it is likely what one would do when faced with mortal danger. Logic often fails in the face of fear. Sasha got to the bathroom before Baylor… barely.

Baylor’s fingers stopped the bathroom door as Sasha pushed hard to close it. Uninjured legs were her advantage and gave Sasha just enough to get the lead. Baylor howled as she pushed. He would be stronger. She needed advantage. She let up a fraction, doubled her force and pushed hard against the door. The fleshy crunch of his fingers made the bile rise in her throat as he bellowed. She let up again and he pulled his fingers out letting the door click closed. She pressed the lock button. He could open it, but not immediately. Would he shoot the door? Would the bullets come through? Every movie or show that ever had someone trapped behind a door with an armed assailant, played out in her head. Sasha didn’t know what to do and fear was taking over quickly.

“Don’t panic. Don’t panic.” She couldn’t manage more than a shaky whisper. As Baylor slammed his shoulder against the door. Glancing around, she spied the curtain rod. “Brace the door.” She yanked on it. It was screwed into the wall. Putting all her weight on it, she tried again and it gave. A few more pulls and it was free. Baylor was pounding on the door then stopped suddenly. She put the curtain rod on the floor and used her feet to wedge it against the door. Putting her back to the door, she put her feet on the front of the toilet and prepared to use her leg strength to keep him from opening the door. 

The rattle of something in the handle made her stomach clench. This was it. Either he was getting in or he wasn’t.

She readied herself glaring at the toilet. “Please be strong and hold.” The porcelain stayed silent denying her any reassurance. Taking shallow breaths, she looked around. Hairspray. There was a can of hairspray on the counter. Non-flammable but it would hurt the eyes. She took the chance to grab it. As she sat back bracing her feet against the toilet again the lock clicked and the door opened. The curtain rod held as Baylor pushed and cursed her.

Tears streamed as she tried to steady her shaking legs. “Come on Sasha.” She cried. “Don’t be the damned damsel now.” She rubbed her legs as he pushed on the door. A slight crack made her look down at the rod. It was bending. “No.” She begged. “No please don’t give out.”

The rod bent and the immediate pressure on her back made her scream in fear. Bracing her protesting legs, she heard the toilet creak. “No!” She had nothing else to brace against close enough. The nozzle of the gun poked through the increasing gap in the door. When Baylor fired, the deafening sound shut her screams and his grunting out from her mind.

This is it, he was getting in. She would die or worse, be maimed for life. She looked up at the barrel of the gun now pushed through. In movies someone brave would grab it. If she moved, he was in for sure. It was out of reach. When she looked around desperate, her breath caught. She could see his face in the reflection of the mirror. He could see her too. The raw fury was terrifying and sobering. His face was close. She could see his eyes as her ears rung. His hand was through and she pushed harder with her legs. The toilet shifted back, she expected water to start spraying everywhere. It didn’t. The door closed enough on his wrist to keep him from bending it and aiming at her directly.

“Stupid bitch!”

She could hear him again, the painful pressure on her back and legs caused whimpers to mix with her heavy breaths. “Do something, don’t give up.” Sasha glanced up at the gun. If she moved fast he might stumble into the room, maybe it would give her an advantage? Her stomach tightened as he made progress pushing the door again.

She moved slowly off the floor bracing herself against it. He moved it a fraction more. She was up enough to move, but which way. Away from the gun, might earn her a smack from the door. Towards it would be unexpected. Before she made up her mind, her body moved fast toward the gun and past it. The door crashed open and he stumbled into the room. Immediately she sprayed hairspray in his direction correcting her aim and finally hitting his eyes. Seconds, mere seconds.

The gun swung toward her and she launched her body at him shoving him with her shoulder, he hit the tiled floor yelling and rubbing his eyes and she ran. Blinded with fear and tears she ran from the bedroom out to the door.

It was as if the handle evaded her fingers, three shaky attempts finally paid off with the door opening. She fell into the hall against the opposite wall. Disoriented she ran aimlessly. Her feet pushed against the rough carpet as she skidded to a stop and pushed the bar on the fire escape door.

“Cal!” She screamed his name repeatedly while running down the stairs. With no clue what floor she was on she moved fast. “Cal!”

“Sasha!”

She heard him below her and nearly fell with desperation to get to him, to safety. “Cal!”

He rounded the stairs and she nearly collapsed. “Bayl.” She gulped. “Up. Gun.”

“I heard a shot.” He pulled out the radio the lead officer gave him and updated the other officers, as he looked her over for blood.

Baylor Crowen was in the hotel. It was surrounded by police and swat was organizing a sweep as they spoke. Cal’s concern was a terrified Sasha.

He picked her up and started down. “How many flights up?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry.” She was beyond remembering even if she had counted.

“He’s above the thirty-second floor.” Cal informed the officers and listened to the radio chatter as he made his way down the stairwell. Sasha clung and cried as he descended the stairs uttering calming reassurances. He turned and opened the emergency exit with his back. The fresh air was too cold and she started shivering as Cal rushed toward a waiting ambulance. He set her down on the back as a paramedic wrapped a blanket around her as another started assessing her.

“No significant injuries.” The paramedic said then started asking her questions. What day it is, the year, her birthday. Then she started asking Sasha about any pain or injuries. The steady stream of questions calmed her mind and her hands shook less.

“I think I’m okay he didn’t get me.” She said sounding distant as they gave her oxygen and spoke soothingly and checked her vitals.

Cal was only ten feet away talking with three other officers in various types of uniform. One looked like the kind that stormed the buildings in drug raids. Sasha looked around at the chaos. Cop cars, ambulance, fire trucks and people everywhere. Hotel guests, staff, bystanders, officers, paramedics, firefighters and reporters.  Cal walked back toward Sasha who was now sipping bottled spring water that the paramedic gave her.

“She’s okay, shaken but not injured Detective. You’re a brave woman Sasha.” The paramedic smiled kindly and patted her shoulder. “She shouldn’t be alone.”

“I know the drill.” Cal smiled. “I’ll watch over her.”

“Bring her in if need be.”

“Will do.” Cal turned to Sasha. “Can you walk?”

She nodded, shrugged the blanket off and took his extended hand.

I bet she didn’t know she had it in her. She did because I wrote it that way. Surviving danger is exhausting and can have a multitude of after effects. Now I did not make her super-heroic that would be dumb. Sasha is resourceful, smart and determined. She is not a cop or trained in any martial art. She didn’t grab the gun or take Baylor down in a magnificent duel. Why? That’s simple; she’s not ready for that yet. She is just a woman with really bad luck these days. Maybe it’s time to turn all that around. Maybe.

My advice about surviving danger.
Stay within the characters parameters, but allow for growth and opportunity to advance. Nothing too crazy or unbelievable. It’s weird and lazy to give someone an ability in a story and declare it a miracle of the moment or call them a “natural” at something they’ve never ever done before. *Totally rolling my eyes ’cause that happens all the time.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Sensible sensation

Wisely Perpetrating Gullibility

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Protest

Time to flip the switch

Everyone has that point, that moment when they’ve reached maximum capacity and put their foot down.  If they don’t then nobody will care or respect them that’s for sure. I monitor my protagonist’s progress carefully. Toss them a bunch of crap, show them slowly finding fault in their situation and then let them see reality. The moment when enough is enough and they finally stand up and square off to fight back.

This is where I like to have some fun. As with everything else people react differently to everything. So there are no hard set rules on how to make someone react to anything. The only thing I keep in mind is how they have been up to this point. Who have I made them? And where do I want them to go.  I try not to make it crazy unrealistic within their personality. A person that has never shot a gun before can’t just pick one up and take out the bad guys no problem. A person that is terrified of heights isn’t going to magically not be, they will still struggle and it should be a challenge. Nobody’s perfect after all.

Sasha was calm for someone with a gun pressed hard in her back. She’d almost laughed when Baylor skulked in with a gun pointed at her. His face said he meant business even more than the gun symbolized.

She couldn’t let him win; she would not be a martyr. Ben won. Cal was right about that. Ben wasn’t the only one either. Her dad subtly bullied her, Scott and Dale were picking on her in different ways and Amber was in full on war mode. Her stupid boss was playing some asinine game. No. No more losing for her. There was no way to know how long she had, before Baylor did whatever he planned to do. Baylor limped badly. It was more of a hobble since both legs were hurt. He rubbed his broken nose with his bandaged left hand and glared at her with his two blackened eyes. He hissed at her to stay quiet or else. Sasha was over being in danger and almost laughed again at his over the top grotesqueness.

The only thing that stood in the way of her fantasized bravery was a gun. It was obvious he didn’t want to shoot her. Probably because it would be loud and draw attention. The other probably was likely that he wanted to draw out his revenge. That thought made her angry. How is any of this her fault? She was polite and turned him down gently. She hadn’t been so gentle with Cal. But then again Cal was charming and started to wear down her defenses; setting alarms off in her head and she shut him down.

Baylor stopped at the end of the hall by the stairwell and opened a room. It was an occupied room. There were belongings everywhere, not in a messy way, but in the way that suggested the occupants had been there for more than a couple days. Baylor shoved her to the couch. This suite was the same as hers and Cal’s. Only in blues not white and tan.

“Stupid bitch. You’re ruining my life.” Baylor’s fury showed in his face and posture. He smelled as if he’d been living at the bottom of a dumpster or worse. “I’m a dead man because of you.”

Again, she thought of how is it her fault. Clenching her fists at her side, she stared angrily at the gun. She wasn’t afraid of him specifically. He’d scared her too much and she hurt him too badly. Her eyes darted to his legs and widened in realization; Baylor took it for fear and grinned. He’s hurt and his Achilles heel was up for grabs. She gave herself a tiny curt nod. No more victim for her.

“Why? Why are you doing this?” She said the words cringing inwardly at the pathetic cliché of them.

“Why?” His maniacal laugh sent shivers over her skin. “I had to pass up the easy mark. I was okay with it because you were so pretty and different. I don’t normally bother with blondes and now you’ve ruined everything.”

“Why not leave me alone? Go hide until they stop looking for you and start over somewhere else?”

“Oh I will, I’ll disappear right after I ruin you. I’m going to leave you so destroyed no man will look at you again.”

He meant his words and she yelped as he advanced. Then everything slowed. She turned her head and pushed off the couch to the right. Scrambling to the table, she grabbed a chair and swung it at him. Gun or not her instincts took over. No more cowering for Sasha. She swung low and with force. It wasn’t as hard as she imagined, but it was enough when it connected with his bruised legs. She let go of the chair, remembering in that fraction of a second, that in movies the idiot who held onto the swung object lost. The attacked would grab it and game over. More or less.

Her hyper-slowed momentum didn’t falter. She grabbed and threw everything she could at him. She didn’t know when she started screaming. Not the high-pitched one of terror, but the guttural one of ‘I’ve had enough of your shit’ scream. She tipped the table and bolted for the bedroom kicking the doorstop out. The door would close slowly so she kept going for the bathroom. That door had a lock and was metal, she had locked one just like it several times.

Sasha isn’t exactly a knock-em down and fight it out person. She is just a normal person, untrained in any combat or defense skills. That doesn’t mean she’s defenseless or useless. While strong-willed and smart, her strength is in her resourcefulness. She has no idea why Baylor is after her, or why her life is so suddenly messed up. She knows one thing, he means to hurt her and she isn’t interested in his brand of hurt.

It is important to me to keep her the victim while allowing her to break free at the same time. There is however no going back, once she gets her footing and starts to climb back up from rock bottom, she’s not going to revert. I think she’s had enough of being a doormat it’s time to flip the switch and let her find a way out of her misery.

My advice about flipping the switch.
This is necessary in any story, the poor protagonist must eventually learn from their past and press forward to gain ground. However, by this point the reader should really want them to, and cheer that they do.

-Sheryl

Other posts

The limitation of imitation

I’m ‘that’ kind of writer

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Martyr

Paint a desperate picture

There comes a point in writing when we need to induce stress in our readers by making our characters live it. Whether it’s a timeline crunch or a race to stop something horrible from happening. Showing the reader how the characters react and handle these situations will establish them further in their mind and hearts.  After as a writer I want people to love and hate my characters as much as I do. Making someone desperate and afraid is a great way to induce stress. 

Some sources of stress

Work/co-workers
Work deadlines
Family
Friends
Money – usually the lack of
Peer pressure
Self degradation
Illness
Threats
Blackmail/Extortion/Bribery
Holidays
Politics
Impending Danger
Active danger
I’m sure there are many more but I just wanted to suggest a few. Now, building tension and or stress is important. These are the moments, the foreshadows for something fantastic or important to the story. This is where I try to set my readers on the edge of their seats or at least be less willing to set the book down. Just one more page… The holy grail of writing, hooking the reader. This is important for many reasons. Good story telling, keeping the reader interested and dazzling the reader so they go and talk about the book to/with others and again, there are more reasons, but these are my primaries.
Stress can go hand and hand with desperation. The more stressful the situation, the more desperate a person can become. Whether the stress is real or mythical doesn’t matter, as long as I express it well. 
To do this I select a moment before the proverbial shit hits the fans. I start to ramp up the tension. This doesn’t necessarily have to be done through the protagonist. It can be anyone in the story thus far. I don’t suggest introducing a new character to create tension at this point, use someone established that has a report with the protagonist or even antagonist. If the reader likes my characters enough then they will be invested to find out what’s going to happen next. 
Cal dropped the keys, cursed and fumbled to retrieve them from the car floor in the dark. With seat-belt on and car finally started he sped out of the parking lot. 
“Dammit.” Sasha wasn’t answering her phone. His cell rang and he answered with his hands free. 
“Thorn.”
Thorn it’s Deputy Chief Jones. Miller filled me in. I have some bad news. Baylor Crowen lost his tail too.
“What!” Cal gripped the steering wheel tight as he stopped at a red light. All he asked was for eyes on both Baylor and Sasha.
The judge ruled him low risk, nobody believes he’s the guy disfiguring those women.
That was no excuse for lax officers. Cal took a deep breath avoiding a string of expletives that would get him reprimanded. “I’m on my way now to check on Miss Parsons.”
Thorn, if he’s not the guy then she’s in no danger.”
The muscles in Cal’s neck went taught as his stomach jumped. “I know it’s him. I’m going to check on her anyway.”
Do what you need to Detective. I agree with you, I think Crowen is guilty.
Cal pushed the speed limit. The Chief’s wishy-washy stance annoyed him as much now as it did earlier. A million scenarios played out in Cal’s mind. All of them berating him for not insisting Sasha have better protection. His gut and logic told him that Baylor was the guy. Sasha pissed Baylor off and he could easily get to her. She wasn’t taking this seriously enough and thought that being followed by a police cruiser was enough. 
“Thanks Chief. I’ll report in if I find anything out of the ordinary. It wouldn’t make sense for Crowen to try anything now.”
I agree. I’ll send the cruiser over to her place as well.”
“I’m almost there Chief.”
Okay then, keep me posted.” The call ended, Cal pursed his lips and flexed his white knuckled fingers. What a mess.  
The oncoming car approached too fast with their high-beams on. Cal would have to let them go by, he had more pressing matters than a car speeding. When the car swerved into his lane he steered to avoid. 
“Son of a.” Cal held his breath as the car righted at the last moment. He watched in his rear view as it careened into the ditch hard. “Of all the dammed, stupid things.” He u-turned his car around, drove closer to the ditched car and pulled over. He put his four-ways on, shook his head and got out of his car. He had to check on the idiot driver and probably arrest them. He took his phone out of his pocket to call it in and for back up. Now he was delayed for checking on Sasha who was just down the road. As he got a closer look at the vehicle, his heart skipped a beat.
“I know that car.” Cal moved fast toward the car as the driver got out.
With Cal’s nervousness, frustration and anger muddled with regret, he paints a desperate picture. Sometimes lack of judgement or complacency can lead to some pretty fantastic situations imagined or real.  The trick here is to use what I call anxious words or movements, nothing calming or ordinary. 
My advice about inducing stress.
Watch the trigger words, keep it tight and avoid filler words and wordiness. Less is more and will generate a better sense of urgency if the reader isn’t lost in a sea of description or narrative.
-Sheryl
Other stressful posts
Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Mythical

The wild card

When I’m writing my story and I’ve got the characters established. Their backstories are hinted at, their interactions are firm and the protagonist is ready for the next stage of their development. The story is moving along and I know it’s now time to shake things up. To introduce a wild card. Something random that may or may not influence the entire story line. At this point, I might introduce something that will expose or foreshadow the main antagonist. The one that will cause major conflict and make the protagonists life hell. It’s time for the wild card.

Sasha sat in her small office reviewing the next client’s requests. Her heart wasn’t in it. Valery grilled her at lunch and suggested some time off. It wasn’t a bad idea so she agreed. A tropical resort sounded much safer than dealing with Baylor and being followed by a police cruiser everywhere. She browsed some last minute vacation ideas until she was paged to the boss’s office. Mr. Clifton had little to do with the day to day. He was a businessman not an artist, he owned the company and spoke only to those well above Sasha’s pay grade. She glanced at the computer. Is it monitored? Would she be fired for slacking on the job?

Checking her hair and make-up she walked quickly to the blue door and knocked. A come in sounded from behind.  Mr. Clifton was bald, very bald. His grey eyebrows and black lashes the only hair on his head. He was an average man. Attractive only because of his expensive suits, money and the power he exuded. Sasha didn’t like or respect him. Aside from the uncomfortable flirting at the office parties and yearly meetings, he usually only grunted at her dismissively.
“Miss Parsons, please sit. Don’t look so frightened, I don’t do the firing around here.” He laughed at his own remark. “Unless you make me very unhappy.”
She licked her lips as he continued.
“I was told you are doing very well lately and that your work has been securing some very large accounts. I asked about you and was assured that you can be discreet.”
She nodded and swallowed hard, the knot in her stomach tightening.
“I have a client that needs some sensitive and confidential work done. I think you are up to the task.”
“Yes sir.”
“Good. Here are the images and message he needs to be contained in the advert. Nothing blatant or obvious.”
“Subliminal.” She frowned. “But that’s…”
“It is not for public, and there is nothing illegal in the message.”
“Okay.” She opened the file.
“I want you to have a proof for me by the end of next week.”
“I can have it ready by then, but there isn’t anything being sold, what is the product?”
“That is not for you to know. The image on the last page is to be hidden.”
She flipped to the last page and bit her lips.
“Your discretion is of the utmost importance. Your career here has been exemplary and I wouldn’t want this to change that.”
A threat. She looked up ready to quit and stopped herself. The look on his face suggested quitting wouldn’t solve her issue with this and she needed this job.
“Wilber is retiring in a few months, his office and title would suit you I think Miss Parsons.”
She nodded. She had no choice. She smiled forcing her lunch down. “I am to understand that if say Valery were to look at this she would see an advert for… say… a security company but if members see it they will get the message?”
“You are smarter than you look.”
She bit her cheek and tasted blood. “Thank you.” It was better than the expletive that she wanted to launch on him.
“My time is important, I will see you next Monday with the final product.”
“But you said…” She would have to drop everything to make this work. If she lost this job, she would lose her house and her dignity along with it. What little she had left.
“I Changed my mind. Is that a problem Miss Parsons?”
“No not at all.” She stood. “I work best under a deadline.”
“Good to know.” He dismissed her by looking at his computer screen.

Sasha walked down the hall holding the file and her stomach. This screamed of illegal and even though it looked innocent, it smelled rotten.
“You look like you chugged car oil.” Valery held Sasha’s purse out.
“Long day. Mr. Clifton just asked me to do a job for him.” Sasha took her purse and they stared walking out to the parking lot.
“The hush hush kind right? What did you do to piss him off?”
“I don’t know, he hinted at Wilber’s position. Why? Has this happened before?”
“Every few months he has someone doing secret projects. They are either fired or quit after a while.”
“Why the hell am I just hearing about this now?”
“There’s no proof and we have a lot of staff that come and go. Barry thinks it’s just coincidence. I try not to let gossip percolate through the office.”
“Well I’ll do what Clifton asks, ask nothing and show no-one.”
“Not even me?”
“He casually hinted I would be fired.”
“Best if you don’t then Sash. It’s probably some weird sex fetish club thing anyway. I’d rather not know my boss’s boss, is into playdoh sex or something.”
“Weird.”
“I bet it’s a thing too. I knew Wilber’s leaving, you’re probably up for promotion, whatever the job, just work your magic.”

Sasha laughed as she got to her car. The idea of a promotion dulled the underlying fear that’s been present all day as she drove. She had a few stops to make before going home. The problem was the cost, was she willing to sell her soul for the position? She knew whatever the message was is illegal. Or would lead to something illegal. The symbol of the left hand palm up in a circle with the thumb crooked oddly up was a sign. It was to be hidden within the image and that was ominous on its own. She didn’t know it, but it wasn’t anything good. She would know about that. Even after visiting with her parents and stopping at the grocery her mind was still stuck on the file and Clifton’s request.
“Maybe it’s just a test, it’s probably nothing.” She muttered as she pulled into her driveway. “After the past few days I’m just being weird.” She looked in the rear-view mirror. “Get a grip Sasha.”

So, I have added an ominous task to distract Sasha. Bad things can happen when someone is distracted (Bwahahahaha). Her mind should be on other things… Right? Adding this unexpected event opens the doors for more, hopefully a lot more. Sometimes these ideas are an innocent distraction and singular, sometimes they are part of a greater plot and the catalyst to start the main story line.

My advice about wild card moments.
Whether you use them as a defibrillator for a dead or dying story or the key to the gates of the actual story, adding something random can revive or open the story.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Silliness and seriousness

The ‘been there, done that’ people

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Percolate

Splendidly Stupid

Writing and reading take up a large amount of my free/spare time. I love both and more so when a story is fun.

When smart people do stupid things, it can get fun. In scary movies, people watching yell at the screen “Don’t go down that hall!” Or something similar. The characters do stupid things that propel the story forward. A good person can commit a crime with the right motivation. A lonely person can be blind to offered love because they are stupidly looking elsewhere.

Stupidity is common and ranges from mild forgetfulness to voluntarily opening a closet door that has blood oozing out from beneath it. Here are some obviously stupid things people do that can jump-start a story.

Driving drunk / getting in a car with a drunk driver
Speeding
Jay walking
Shoplifting
Snooping
Forgoing safety for embarrassment
Not locking the door
Opening a door
Investigating a strange noise
Walking alone at night
Walking toward the danger
Trying drugs
Drinking too much and/or too fast
Having unprotected sex
Having sex
Volunteer for a shady organization
Going off alone with a virtual stranger
Talking to strangers

I know there are infinite things that can be added to the list. The point is if I need someone to get into trouble, the best thing to do is momentarily lower their IQ, and make them do something that everyone and anyone can see is dumb. Really dumb, the dumber the better. However if it’s too obvious you might get some eye rolls and lose the readers interest. I’ll get back to my usual style of blogs soon. For now I’ll share the next chapter. This is what happens after Sasha leaves the bar.

Sasha paid the taxi driver and went up the steps to the back door of her house. The dark yard empty and ominous. A grand waste of space that she didn’t need. Nobody understood why she bought the ‘dammed house’ as her father called it. She did, it was a beautiful house away from the city and cookie cutter suburban homes. It was quiet and lonely. Just what she wanted, or was it what she needed? She could never decide which.

The door swung open as she flicked the kitchen light on. Sasha dropped her purse on the counter and turned back to lock the door. The abrupt swing of it opening knocked her back and onto the floor. She yelped in surprise as the man from the bar pushed his way into the kitchen.

“Get out of my house Baylor!” Sasha scrambled to get up.

He smiled at her on the floor and let her get to her feet. “I think you owe me an apology and a conversation.”

“I owe you nothing. Get the hell out!” She glanced at her purse behind him on the counter. Her pepper spray and cellphone sat useless out of reach. She didn’t have a landline phone and her neighbours complained that she was too young to be living alone. The words witch and lesbian were overheard once or twice. Sasha didn’t care one way or the other, she saw no problem with either option. She half wished one or the other was true, maybe she’d be happier then.

Her body went cold with fear as she turned to run for the front door. It would be locked and dead bolted and would take too long to open. Her elderly neighbors too far to hear and would be long tucked in for the night. A rough hand grabbed her arm and shoved her toward the sink.

“Oh no you don’t.” He sneered. “Tell me Sasha are you a natural blonde? I just don’t see you as a pick. Although…” He squinted his dull-blue eyes. “You are close in face… really close.”

Baylor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter. She barely knew him.

He shrugged. “Either way I get what I want even if you were a mistake.”

Screaming was pointless, nobody would hear. “You should leave. The police…” She squeezed her eyes shut.

“Are nowhere to be found. Unless you have a psychic connection no one will hear you here.” His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Baylor’s deep voice made her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”

She could only gasp for air as he 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, might survive this.

The door flew open. “What’s going on here?” Cal advanced with fists clenched on Baylor.

Sasha’s legs wobbled as Baylor let her go and his eyes widened.

Cal swung hard at Baylor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made Sasha gag and Baylor crumpled the floor.

Eyes wide Sasha’s hand flew to her throat. “Di-did you follow me too?”

“Dammed right I did. Right after I saw that piece of filth follow you.” He pulled out a badge and a pair of handcuffs. “Detective Cal Thorn.”

“You’re a cop?” Sasha sat hard on the creaky wooden chair, her shaking hands resting on the antique kitchen table.

Cal finished cuffing Baylor. “I am.” He stood and faced the pale shaken Sasha then called to confirm his backup who were already on the way. He opened a cupboard, after two tries, found a glass, and filled it from the water cooler in the corner. “Here drink some water.”

She reached a still shaking hand for the glass. “You never said, I wondered what kind of job you had you were awfully observant.”

“Kind?” Cal sat shooting Baylor a cursory glance. “Meaning?” His eyebrow went up as she sipped her water.

“I don’t know, I thought maybe, I don’t know.” Her shaking subsided as a flush crept to her ears.

“Go on, tell me, what did you think?” He moved to check her for injuries.

“I’m not hurt.” She turned her head avoiding his hands. “I thought model maybe. You knew what designer my shoes were.”

He narrowed his dark brown eyes as he sat in the adjacent chair. “Nice try. So what was your first conclusion jump?”

She looked up from her water. It was so thoughtful. Then again, he would know how to calm someone that just had a fright. She licked her lips and looked back at the glass. He’s a detective there was no point lying.

“Well you skipped over my gorgeous hot friends staring only at me and commented on my shoes. I was dressed more expensively so I figured player or gold digger?” She furrowed her brow looking into her glass. “Can men be gold diggers?” The question in her voice made him laugh deeply, the abrupt pleasant sound filled the small room.

“My sister is a designer and travels the world. She talks, I listen.” His smile went deep into his eyes. “I’m pleased that you wondered at all.” Cal watched her process his words, what happened and she tucked it all away quickly. She’s not used to confrontation or violence, but was or has been at some point. This wasn’t a new pair of shoes, she’s worn the victim footwear before.

“Thorn.” Sasha furrowed her brow again then widened her eyes. “Calanna Thorn?”

His chest puffed out as he nodded succinctly with a smile. “The very one.” He saw now that the bitchy somewhat shyness he mistook earlier was as he suspected, just discomfort for the situation. This woman was intelligent and confident, not for physical self but as a person. “What type of graphic design do you do?”

“Advertising.”

“That has a tone of compliance to it.”

Her mouth fell open, nobody knew, how did he guess so quickly?

“Let me guess Sasha, you went to college for art, your parents or whomever influences your choices, frowned severely at the wasteful choice. So you sidestepped into advertising, worked yourself to the bone to climb whatever ladder there is in that industry and are sitting pretty close to the top rung.”

Again, she gawked at him.

“It’s my job.” His knowing smile curled his lips as he reached for her hand. “You have paint on your index, a slight ink stain on your pinky and the callous of someone who sketches and or paints by hand.” His fingers ran over the rough skin on her middle finger knuckle. “Your clothes, while understated, were expensive. You have confidence in your abilities, but not in yourself.”

She pulled her hand away putting both in her lap as a loud rap on the kitchen door made her jump. He was too intuitive for her liking. She was so careful to hide herself and in one evening this virtual stranger has unravelled more than she let anyone know. Not even Valery or Anne.

Cal opened the door and slipped into all business super cop. He directed one of the two officers in uniform to take Baylor Crower into custody and read him his rights as he was now stirring. The other officer took out a notepad and asked Sasha the usual questions. Cal stopped him half way through and said he’d bring her to the station for an official statement.

The adrenaline was long gone and Sasha sat quietly as the surreal evening played again in her mind. Cal left her alone in the little cold room, she glanced at the observation mirror a few times feeling like the criminal not the victim. The statement was as clear as she could be and now she was waiting. What for, she had no idea. The door opened and Cal was framed in brighter backlight. Somehow it looked angelic and devilish all at the same time.

“Come on.” He smiled holding the door open. “I’ll drop you at home.”

She nodded and followed him. Yawning she glanced at her watch. 4:47 am. The combination of sugary drinks earlier, the late night, excitement, danger and stress took its toll and she nodded off in his car. Cal watched her a moment after parking the car. He honestly thought Baylor would go after Anne or Valery, they were more his type especially Valery. When Baylor showed up Cal nearly lost his control. He needed to catch him in action, probable cause to arrest him. Baylor’s prints were not on file and the last woman couldn’t identify him. His prints were however in evidence for ten crime scenes. Baylor Crower was going to prison for a very long time. That didn’t mean he wasn’t a threat to Sasha. He’s never left a victim untouched, not that Cal knew of and criminals such as he, are resourceful. Something about Baylor’s approach tonight didn’t sit right, he let her see his face as he attacked her. Cal would to look into that.

“Sasha.” Cal brushed her hair back from her cheek and she startled awake instantly.

“Oh!” She looked around and fumbled for the door. “Thanks for the ride Detective. Sorry I fell asleep.” She jumped out slamming the door before he could react. She ran inside and locked the doors behind her, leaning against it she worked to calm her panic. “Way to be cool Sash.” She rolled her eyes at herself. After a scalding hot shower to wash the memory of Baylor’s hands off and the terrible evening, she crashed into her bed unceremoniously.

Sasha did a few stupid things. One, she left the bar alone with someone following her after being a bitch. Two, she didn’t lock her door immediately complacent in her secluded neighbourhood. Three, she went in the back door, had she gone in the front she might have seen Baylor’s cab. And four, she left her only phone out of reach. Not huge errors in judgement, but enough to give the assailant opportunity.

My advice about stupid.
Everyone lapses in judgement so no matter how smart or wholesome a character may be let them make a bad decision. The conflict you can create may take your story to the next level.

-Sheryl

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It’s a love hate sort of thing This one is actually based off part of this chapter but used differently

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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

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