Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #7

Day 7 of this writing experiment was my jackpot day.  I liked everything I wrote, some more than others, but Day 7 was when a run-away idea took hold and didn’t let go for most of the day.  You know how people describe some books as ones they can’t put down?  Once in a very great while I have an idea like that, that has to get typed up as fast as possible and won’t leave me be until it’s done.  I love days like that.

On Day 7, I set a personal word count record, typing around 6,000 words.  That turned out to be about two-thirds of “The Princess Behind Thorns,” a kind of Sleeping Beauty story, though a great many things are different from the traditional tale.  My story is about Princess Rose Amelia, who is very much awake, but trapped by a spell in a garden behind thorns.  And the prompt that inspired it all was “The garden shrank at night.”  Here’s a bit from near the beginning.

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            Tonight was worse than it had ever been.  She had been out on the wide lawn with her cats, so big a lawn that by day she didn’t even mind the thorns bordering the far side.  Her latest two kittens, Silvertips and Emerald Eyes, were especially adorable today.  She had been teasing them with a long grass stem, laughing at their antics, and she hadn’t noticed the descending sun until the shadows had nearly reached them.

She looked up at a sudden chill on the back of her neck, scrambled instinctively backwards away from the reaching shadow of the thorns.  It was long, so, so long, deep, deep black, and mere feet away from her.  For a moment she tried to look through the shadows, to see the grass that had to be there, that had been there minutes before.

Nothing but blackness.

In another moment she jumped to her feet, caught up a squirming kitten in each hand, and ran.  She ran through her garden, heart pounding in her chest, ran through the paths she knew by heart, and shied away from even normal shadows.

It wasn’t only the shadows.  It was the noise.  The sound of creaking, rustling, scraping branches.  The thorns were moving, swaying and shaking and writhing.  There was often a gentle, tricksy breeze in her garden, but the thorns moved like they were caught in a storm, a malevolent, howling storm.  Except that there was no wind at all.

She ran all the way to her bower, dropped the kittens and fell onto her bed.  She hadn’t been a child for many, many years, but some buried instinct told her that she was safe with the blanket over her head.  She lay huddled there, shaking, listening to the thorns moan, for a long, long time.  The kittens scrambled in beside her, and only their warm furry comfort let her finally fall asleep.

In the morning the sun rose and all seemed well.  She walked the edges of her garden, exploring.  Half-afraid of what she would find, eying any shadows suspiciously.  But all seemed well.

Until night, when the shadows reached out and the thorns moaned again.

Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #6

Following from the previous day’s story about Evelyn and Mark, I decided to write a kind of sequel, from a different point of view.  Spoiler for the previous story: that “date” really didn’t work out.  I set the next story in the coffee shop where they met, from the point of view of the barista, who’d like Mark to pair up and stop bothering her other regulars.  The story prompt I used was “She liked to fit people into the world like puzzle pieces.”  I’m calling this one “Cupid and Coffee.”

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I see Mark check out Extra Caramel’s skirt as she goes by, and then he’s up to my counter.  “Black coffee?” I say before he can.

“You’re a saint.”  He pulls out a crumpled five and a charming grin that looks equally over-used.

He’s perfect for Extra Caramel.  That’s why I sent her to the back.  Because I know Mark will head that direction as soon as he notices Evelyn sitting in the front armchairs.  Those two are not one of my matches.  Anyone could see that Evelyn is much too smart for him.  I’m not surprised she saw through him in a single date.  I was only surprised he got her to go on one.

Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #6”

Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #5

After several fantasy stories and a bit of P.G. Wodehouse, on Day 5 I decided to do a real world story.  It turned out to be a somewhat serious story, though with a humorous side to it.  The prompt I used was “Being painted wasn’t what she expected,” and here’s the opening.

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Being painted wasn’t what Evelyn had expected.  She had always heard that you had to stay perfectly still, to a degree that could grow exhausting as the minutes and hours passed.  She had imagined that painters studied their models with laser-like intensity, making solemn faces and adding careful daubs and strokes to their canvases.  She had worried that she would grow uncomfortable, stared at like that.  Even by Mark.  Especially by Mark.

They’d been circling each other for three weeks already at the café.  A popular spot for artistic types to hang out, drink cheap coffee and take advantage of free wifi, free heating, or free comfortable chairs, as applicable, they moved in different circles who both frequented the establishment.  They had yet to find a direct common acquaintance, though she felt sure that the degrees of separation couldn’t be too many.  The twenty-something artist community in town was only so big.

He had spilled coffee on her papers one day, and it was a sign of just how cute he was—or how lonely she was, her cynical side said—that she had forgiven him for it.  They had chatted amicably that day and most days since, as she corrected proofs of her latest manuscript and he sketched.  And yesterday he had asked if he could paint her.

Evelyn had been touched—honored—hopeful.

Her cynical side said he probably painted every girl he wanted to sleep with.

Evelyn was not entirely sure that was a problem.  And then, because she was too much of a romantic to let that comment stand unqualified, she argued with herself that a portrait was a serious commitment, and surely a sign that his interest was equally serious.  And committed.

Anyway, she had agreed to be painted, and now here she was.  And somehow it wasn’t exactly as serious as she had expected.  But in a good way, she hastened to add.

Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #4

By my fourth story on this writing adventure, I decided it was time to break the sad trend of the previous two and write something funny again.  With the prompt, “an intermission, a chateau, mistaken identity,” I wound up with a P.G. Wodehouse-inspired story of a conwoman, with a lot of absurdity and a touch of romance, with a happier ending than Story #3!

Here’s the opening scene of the story.

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It all began during a production of Gounod’s Faust.  A quite bad production, or so the gentleman with the pince nez told me.  I happen to be tone deaf.

“Egad, but this is shockingly bad, isn’t it?” he said to me on the interval, as we milled about in the grand entry hall, chandeliers glimmering overhead and the crowd glittering around us.

“Oh yes, shocking,” I agreed, sipping my champagne and studying this new conversation partner.  He was at least forty years my senior, hair gray, evening coat gray, eyes gray, skin with the grayish pallor of a man who has never worked outside in all his life.  He was the most elegant, most obviously rich person I had ever seen, and I was surprised that he was speaking to me.

“That Marguerite couldn’t carry a tune if her life depended on it, and Faust looked no more like a man capable of demonic involvement than a choir boy,” he derided in a stentorian voice.

“I don’t imagine you’ve met many choir boys,” I murmured.

He stared at me through his pince nez for a moment, then erupted in a roar of laughter heard around the room.  “I have always loved your sense of humor!” he informed me, then clapped one hand to his forehead.  “By jove, I nearly forgot!”  He reached into his jacket pocket and drew out a folded square of paper.  “Here is your invitation to my château, for my Friday to Monday shooting party.  You mustn’t disappoint me.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” I said smoothly, accepting the paper.

“Capital, simply capital!” he said, just as the bell sounded for five minutes to curtain.  “Ah, back to the wars.”  He turned towards the entrance to the theater.  “I look forward to seeing you again, Cousin Mabel,” he tossed over his shoulder, and disappeared into the crowd.

I wondered who Cousin Mabel was.

Writing, um, Thursday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #3

I got a little behind in my blogging this week, but here a day late is the continuing excerpts from my “flash fiction” stories.  The prompt this time was “Winter is the only season we can be together.”  Possibly carrying some of the melancholy from the previous day’s story, I found myself writing a very bittersweet romance, about a woman in love with a dryad, a tree spirit, who can only meet her in winter.  Here’s the beginning.

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Winter is the only season we can be together.  Every year I watch impatiently for the signs.  The temperatures dropping day by day, the birds making their pilgrimage south, the ice slowly, so very slowly, forming across the lake.

I know the village thinks me eccentric, with a kind of amused tolerance that I both accept and despise.

Spring, summer and fall I live alone in the big old house beside the lake.  Built by my great-grandfather, built for his dreams of an expanding family tree, children and grandchildren on down the line, he never would have expected that by now there would be only me.  Only me to rattle about amongst the many empty rooms.  I closed off most of them, made a kind of smaller house within the bigger one.  My kitchen, my bedroom, my library, and outside, my garden.  That’s all I need.

Because in the winter, I have him.

Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #2

Last week I shared about my short story project, trying a different writing prompt each day and trying to complete a short story or flash fiction piece that day.  I planned to try it for seven days, and wound up writing eight short stories in nine days…one of them 9,000 words and split over two days as a consequence!

Today I’m sharing Story #2, from Day 2.  I call this one “The Once and Never King,” and it’s the only one that didn’t come from a writing prompt.  There’s a certain song that has fascinated me for years because it hints at a wonderful story–but it’s not based on a specific legend, piece of history, or anything else.  So I finally wrote the story myself.  I’d rather not tell you the song, to see if anyone can guess at it!

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They walked slowly together down one of the long boulevards branching out from the market, into the narrower, smaller streets that crowded together by the river.  One friend, then another, joined them as they went, falling into step as they all made their way towards home, done with whatever tasks they did in the bustling city to stay alive another day.

They were a kind of army, he thought sometimes.  An invisible, disregarded army, sweeping away dirt, digging ditches, chopping wood, performing a hundred, a thousand other tiny, menial tasks.  Each one insignificant, all together necessary to keep the life of the city going.

And sometimes he thought to himself that he shouldn’t put them in such terms, that he shouldn’t think of martial things anymore.  That he shouldn’t try to make his life now more important, more meaningful.  He swept the steps of a dozen people and lived from one day to the next.  That was all.

As they neared the river, the royal palace came into sight.  It was so big, so grand, with soaring towers and shining lights, marble arches and peaked roofs.  It was as beautiful and otherworldly and inaccessible as the moon.

“I lived there once,” he remarked, his eyes on the glowing windows of the palace.

He heard the soft chuckle of his friends, felt Alden pat his shoulder.  “Of course you did.”

He knew they thought him slightly mad, slightly touched, on this point at least.  He didn’t mind.  They were always kind to him, and he valued their kindness all the more, when they showed it to one they thought mad.

For a long, long time he would not have dared to say such things.  But it didn’t matter now.  The old king, the wicked king, had been killed a dozen times, was living in exile in a dozen places.  Everyone was sure that the wicked king that was had gone far, far away, in this life or into the next.  And after years of sweeping streets and living rough, with accumulated layers of rags and dust, with his hair faded and his back bending, he no longer looked like the imperious monarch who had once sat on the throne.

Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #1

I recently read The Creative Life by Julia Cameron, which is mostly not important to this post, except that her roommate tried a project of writing 90 songs in 90 days.  And that got me thinking.  I don’t write songs and I don’t have 90 days for a project, because I need to get back to revisions on Book 2 of the Phantom trilogy–but I could respond to seven flash fiction prompts in seven days and see what happened.

Today I’m on Day 6.  I haven’t written yet today, but so far I’ve written five short stories in five days.  None of them ended up being flash fiction (1000 words or less), mostly clocking in around 2,000, but aiming for flash fiction has still taken some pressure off, and helped me rein in my tendency to elaborate and convolute.  When I need to finish the story today, I have to figure out the ending almost as soon as I begin.

And I’ve been having a lot of fun with this.  I’ve written a few stories quite different from my usual style, explored some interesting ideas, and created some things I like.  In only five days!  I thought I’d share what I’ve been creating over the next several weeks. Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #1”