Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #8

My goal with this writing effort was to write seven short stories in seven days.  #7, “The Princess Behind the Thorns,” stretched to two days and 9,000 words.  After I finished it, I found I wasn’t quite done with the project.  So on day 9, I wrote one more story.  After that I went on to other projects…until the next time I decide to write a spurt of short stories!  I really enjoyed the project, and loved the chance to invest deeply but briefly in new worlds and characters.

I also enjoyed the chance to write in different styles than usual.  This last story, “Cinderella’s Dresses,” is obviously a fairy tale twist, but darker than most of what I write.  Here’s the beginning, written from the prompt, “The dress spoke for her.”

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The dress spoke for her.  It said wealth, power, beauty.  It said she belonged, amongst this august company who glittered and glimmered in the candlelight.  She never had to say a word.  The footman let her in without a murmur, without asking her name, without looking for an invitation.  The dress said she was meant to be here.

It was the dress that told the prince to approach her, as she stood near the bottom of the stair, suddenly afraid to take the last few steps down to the shining ballroom floor, to enter into that whirling, elegant throng.  She knew she would be lost among them, not knowing where to turn, what to do.  The dress shimmered and glowed and beckoned the prince away from the girl he had been eying with a considering favor, to approach her instead, to bow and to extend his hand.

The dress seemed almost to dance for her too, its full skirts whisking about her legs, twirling and floating and carrying her along with the music in the prince’s arms.  When he whirled her away from the crowd, out into the moonlit garden, the dress spoke for her then too, rustling as they walked, whispering that she had secrets.  But the whisper of silk could only hint at elegant secrets, rich secrets, aristocratic secrets.  When he plied her with questions and she blushed and demurred, the dress whispered that all was well, that her story was a delightful one, that someday he would be so pleasantly surprised when he learned the truth.

When the clock struck midnight, the dress all but carried her away.  She ran away down the path, feeling her skirts growing slight and intangible in her hands as she lifted them to flee.  The dress distracted her, its thinning, dissolving remnants twining about her legs, so she didn’t judge the steps correctly, so she stumbled and lost one shoe.  The dress was mere cobwebs and air now, and she didn’t dare to stop, even to pick up that one glittering shoe left behind.

She limped home, retired to her small bed by the fire, and lay awake until nearly dawn, trying to decide if the ball had been the most delightful thing that had ever happened to her, or simply terrifying.

Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #7.5

Two weeks ago for Writing Wednesday I wrote about my run away idea, the story that became “The Princess Behind the Thorns.”  I didn’t manage to finish the story in a single day, considering it stretched to 9,000 words, so I finished it on the second day.  I don’t think I knew quite how it was going to turn out until I got there–although to be honest, with a story written that fast, it’s hard to remember the order different ideas arrived in!

For the eighth day and seventh story of my flash fiction writing challenge, here’s another excerpt from “The Princess Behind the Thorns.”  This excerpt is quite near the end, after a prince has come to rescue Rose, but that didn’t go as expected either…

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            Rose sat up, looking out through the gaps in the bower’s woven walls.  There was blackness all around them.

“I think the spell’s breaking down,” Terrence said, sitting up too, staring at the shadows around them.  “That’s the only explanation, it’s been too much time and the magic is coming apart.”

Continue reading “Writing Wednesday: 7 Stories, 7 Days – #7.5”

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.