Short Fiction: Twenty-Five Years (Part II)

This is Part II to the short fiction piece I wrote for my class. (Click here to read Part I.) Comments, reactions, questions, and criticism are welcome (I have one more chance to turn in a revision, and it’s always good to keep revising, right?) Part III will be posted tomorrow. Hope you enjoy it! 

The flight attendants began waving their arms mechanically as a monotone voice crackled over the speaker. Catherine pulled out the bright safety insert from the pocket in front of her and stared at it intently. Her brow wrinkled, deepening the lines that had been there for twenty-two years.

“So why are you going to Wyoming, of all places?” Lucy shouted over the pilot’s voice.

Other passengers were beginning to stare. “I’m visiting my mother,” Catherine muttered.

“My goodness! Is she okay?” Lucy screeched.

Catherine’s cheeks reddened. “She’s fine.”

“But she’s been having health problems? I mean, what kind of a visit is this?” Lucy was turned in her seat so she was facing Catherine dead-on, boring into Catherine’s face with thick black-rimmed eyes.

“It’s nothing. I’m just going to see her, that’s all.”

“But you purchased your ticket last-minute, right?”

Catherine’s head snapped up. “How did you know that?” Continue reading

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Short Fiction: Twenty-Five Years (Part I)

I turned in my short fiction assignment today. Here’s the first part of it. Comments, reactions, questions, and criticism are welcome (I have one more chance to turn in a revision, and it’s always good to keep revising, right?) I’ll put up the rest in the next couple days. Hope you enjoy it! 

A gust of hot, sweaty wind enveloped Catherine Richards in the moment between the long corridor and the door of the airplane. She stepped into the cool, compact interior of the plane, escaping loud Texas into the dry, muted atmosphere. A flight attendant with a glued-on smile welcomed Catherine onto her flight.

Catherine breathed a deep sigh, staring down the narrow aisle. Her knuckles whitened on the handle of her bulging carry-on, and the light wrinkles on her face deepened. After a moment, she started her pilgrimage through the crowded seats, past the cushy first-class armchairs and toward the back of the plane.

A voice shrieked, “Katie!”

Catherine stopped abruptly, swaying with the weight of her duffel bag, staring up at the glitzy, pink-lipstick woman leaning toward her from a seat several rows away. “Lucy?”

“My goodness, Katie Brown!” Continue reading

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Point of view.

I have one thing to say about point of view: It ain’t easy.

(Yes, I have just freely, of my own will and choice, used the word “ain’t.” My husband would be proud.)

I have been instructed to use third person restricted in my fiction piece. This means that I have to write through a narrator that sees through the eyes of my main character, but I can’t see into the thoughts of that character (or any other, for that matter). My professor described it as seeing through a camera on top of the main character’s head. I can see everything that the character can see, but I can’t go into his or her thoughts.

At first, I thought, it would be awesome. I loved the challenge of it. I had no problem being limited to third person restricted. Bring it on, I thought.

And then I started writing. And then I realized: It ain’t easy.  Continue reading

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Fiction.

I don’t know if you could tell from my last post, but I really love writing creative non-fiction. It’s my bread and butter. It’s what I see myself doing for a career. But fiction? That’s another story.

Last Thursday, my teacher gave out the fiction assignment. I didn’t start it until today. You might think that’s just regular college student procrastination, but I couldn’t wait to start my non-fiction project. I started it that very day.

But I just couldn’t think of anything good for my fiction piece. I would get little germs of ideas, and then drop them before they had a chance to grow. Finally, today, I started something.

I’m proud of myself for finally putting something down on paper (or, I should say, paper on a screen), but I’m still lukewarm about what I’ve written. It doesn’t seem very interesting to me, and while I have an idea about where I want it to go, I’m not sure exactly how it’s going to get there.

So I’m going to share it with you, and I’m looking for honest reactions. What do you think about it? Would you read the rest of the story? Is it interesting? Does it feel drawn-out or contrived? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Continue reading

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Writing Non-Fiction.

Tomorrow I turn in my first piece for my creative writing class.

This is not the first class I’ve taken on creative writing. I’ve taken a fair few, considering the relatively small number of years I’ve had to take them. So naturally, I have the voices of several different writing instructors, whose advice I have worshipped, yelling in my ear any time I sit down to write.

There are countless “rules” (which, to be fair to my teachers, I’m sure they would have readily admitted are not hard and fast) that I think of when I write. “Show, don’t tell.” “Use exclamation marks very sparingly.” “Write what you know.”

These are lovely rules, and have helped me a lot over the years. I’m not trying to denounce them, or even to question them. But when it comes to non-fiction, which is what we’re studying first in this particular creative writing class, everything seems to be less sure, less true, less real. It’s hard to know which rules to break, which to bend, how far to go, how close to stay, how much to say, how much to leave unsaid.

You’d think it would be the opposite. You’d think non-fiction would be the easiest genre to write. After all, you don’t have to have any imagination–all you have to do is re-tell something that already happened. Simple, right?  Continue reading

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Getting Serious

This is a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago–I thought I had published it, but I hadn’t. Instead of discarding it, I’m going to share it with you now, as well as something wonderful that happened only a few days after I wrote it: After a few months on a waitlist for the creative writing class at my university (a class that is in very high demand and is difficult to get into), I made it into the class, and I’ll be starting next Monday! As the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” 

How do you know when it’s time to get serious?

I’ve been debating on what to post today. I’ve been thinking a lot about where my writing is going and where it needs to go.

Lately, for some reason, a lot of my old writing has resurfaced; I’ve been finding and reading stuff I forgot I even wrote. And I’ve realized something. I keep feeling like I’m in the beginning of my writing–the “love of learning” phase of my writing, one might say. I haven’t subjected myself to a really rigorous curriculum of learning to write because I’ve felt that I’m not ready for it yet, that I want to get comfortable writing before I can do that.

But now I’m beginning to think that I’ve been wrong. Maybe now is exactly the time for me to seek out a mentor–preferably one I can converse with, but at the very least a writer I can learn from, whether I can have real conversations with them or not. I’ve had a more prolific beginning than I’ve realized. I had a conversation this week that got me thinking, am I really serious about learning to write right now? Immediate answer: No, I’m not. And then the inevitable question: Why on earth not?

I love to write. I mean, writing is not always a comfortable, easy-breezy thing for me, but I can’t just go around saying that I’m still teaching myself to love it. I totally do. But I’m not going to become a great writer with nothing but love. Maybe, if I really stuck to it for many, many years, I could become a good writer. But not a great writer. I need guidance, direction, and someone to be accountable to.

So this is my leap of humility. It’s time to get serious. It’s time to find a mentor.

To end on a happy note, I’ll leave you with a very silly poem that I wrote on a whim a couple of years ago:

Literally 

“I literally hate him!” she said into the phone,
“I want to kill him–literally!” in a light, annoyed tone.
Meanwhile, her friend on the other end of the line
Had a sudden vision flash through her mind.

She literally imagined the scene of the crime,
The victim literally lying in a pile of grime,
A blood-stained knife, literally inches from his head,
used to cut his throat–or maybe stab him instead
literally right through the heart.
Or perhaps, even worse–he was literally hung!
From the rafters, a rope was literally strung,
end tied in a noose, wrapped round his throat;
while his corpse literally hangs there, the murderer gloats.
The murderer–literally, her own best friend!
If the cops found out, this literally might be the end.

“Are you still there?” the murderer literally said;
rather than answer, her friend hung up instead.
With pale face and literally shaking hands,
she vowed never to give in to that murderer’s demands.

I literally saw it all with my own eyes.
Literally, it’s a true story–cross my heart, hope to die.
Literally.

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Tuesday, May 21st

Today, I am writing. 

It’s funny how hard and scary it is to do this. Yes, all I need to do is put my pen down on the page, press down, and move it to form ink letters. Letters that make words, words that make sentences. That’s all I have to do. 

So why does it scare me? Why would I rather sit and stare at a blank page for an hour than simply put words on it? 

Because these tiny, spidery little minions crawl into my brain and give me a hundred reasons not to: If I wrote something, other people might read it. They might hate it. They might like it. might hate it. I might like it–and then I might want to publish it, and then more people will read it, and they’ll hate it! And they’ll send me horrible hate mail! And they’ll tell all their friends and family that I am an imbecile! And I’ll never get published again! 

All this before the page has a single mark on its bemused blank surface. 

But today, I am banishing those minions. I’m laughing them right out of my brain. With every word I write, another minion begins to shrivel–furiously poking his tiny sharp legs at me, one last effort to break me–shrinking and staggering as the light spreads toward him–and finally, he skitters away, leaving one more inch of my brain pulsing with uninterrupted life, ready to offer its ounce of creativity. 

So today I am writing. Not so I can publish it or so people will like me. Today I am writing for me, precisely because I fear it so much. Today I am writing so I can be free, so I can write even more, so I can be myself. 

Today, I am writing. 

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