Friday, 28 October 2011

I thought I saw...

This week's WoW challenge is a 5 minute stream of consciousness thingamie, which I tend not to be all that good at.  I just kind of ramble and spew words across the page.  Though I guess that's sort of the point?

In any case, I gave it my best shot.  This is completely unedited, aside from fixing the spelling mistakes I made in my frantic typing.  The prompt was "I thought I saw..."

I thought I saw a pussy cat.  Which is actually ridiculous, because I know he's sitting on my feet.  I can feel how warm he is, mostly because the apartment is so cold today.  We had snow this afternoon, the first of the year.  Winter is coming, I guess.  Inevitable, and all that.  I think there's a saying about that.  Could be wrong though.  I often am.  Winter means NaNo though, which is always fun.  I'm looking forward to it, even if I do plan on cheating this year.  I've already got a bit more than 6k of the story I plan on using for it written.  I just don't see the point in abandoning a story that's going well for something half-baked and thrown together at the last minute.  That's what I usually seem to end up with for NaNo plots, so I'm just gonna skip it this year.  The story I've got is going well, and I have some idea where it's going, which is rather rarer.  I decided this morning that I'm going to give one of the main characters pneumonia.  It actually solves a rather inconvenient plot hole I've been struggling with
I claim no literary merit for it, but that's what I've got this week.  My goal for next week, aside from starting National Novel Writing Month, is to actually get to Write on Wednesday, on Wednesday.  I don't think I've ever actually managed it, so it should be an adventure.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Make It Better (WoW)

This week's exercise is about rewrites, which are decidedly not one of my strengths.  I went back through my previous WoW attempts, but nothing really caught my eye.  So I decided to use the beginning of the story I'm currently working on.

In the original draft, I have this:

Wraith was combing the little girl’s hair.  Tessa, the boy without a name reminded himself after a second’s thought.
In the weeks he’d been hanging around the edges of this pack, he’d begun to understand most of the children who denned up here in the abandoned warehouse at the foot of beggar’s road.  Their leader remained a mystery, though.  He watched as the other boy wove the little girl’s hair into a tidy braid and tied it off with a faded pink ribbon, before patting her on the head and sending her back to the others.
He was unprepared when Wraith raised his eyes to meet his own.  He fought down the urge to squirm under that direct regard.
A faint smile playing on his lips, Wraith gestured with the comb.  There could be no mistaking his meaning, much though he wished he could.  He rose from his place near the door and approached cautiously.  The other children watched his progress, but he kept most of his attention on Wraith.
He’d never been this close to the other boy before.  At a distance, he looked delicate and faintly unearthly, but up close it became obvious just how thin he really was.  The bones in his wrists stood out farther than they should, and his skin under the dirt was far too pale for someone who spent most of their time outside.
Stopping just out of arm’s reach, he waited.  He wasn’t sure for what.
“Sit,” the boy commanded, gesturing with the comb towards the space at his feet that Tessa had so recently vacated.  His voice was scarcely more than a whisper.
The older boy frowned.  He didn’t want to come any closer, in spite of the boy’s apparent weakness.  Long experience had taught him to stay out of reach whenever possible, but those steady eyes left no room for argument.
“With your back against the crate,” he added, as he moved to sit facing him.
He froze for a second, eyes wide in alarm at that command.  There was nothing to be read on the other boy’s face, to tell him what was coming.  Clearly it was a test, but a test of what he wasn’t sure.  Obedience, he guessed, but there were so many other things it could be.  Like common sense, which dictated never to turn your back.
Wraith waited, outwardly patient, while he debated with himself.  Finally, slowly, he turned and sank down with his back against the crate.  He would hope it was obedience he was being tested on, because that was one thing he was good at.
His shoulders rested lightly against Wraith’s folded legs, and he resisted the urge to pull away.  When something touched the back of his head, he could not stop himself from turning sharply.  Bemused, he stared at the comb in Wraith’s raised hand and the tolerant irritation in his dark eyes.  He turned back around, unsure what else to do and uncomfortable meeting those eyes.
 Having a character without a name makes things challenging.  I think that's part of the awkwardness of this opening.  I've tried to make it more clear which boy is which in the edited version, but I'm not sure how well I did.  I also tried to slip in a few bits of information about the pack and their world, hopefully without being too disruptive of the narrative flow.
Wraith was brushing the little girl’s hair. Tessa, the boy without a name reminded himself after a second’s thought.  Names were important, and he'd been working hard to learn them.
In the weeks he’d been skulking around the fringes of the pack, he’d been getting to know the children who denned up here in the abandoned warehouse at the foot of Serpent’s Road.  From a safe distance, of course, because he knew better than to think he would be welcome.
Their leader remained a mystery, though. He watched as the pale boy wove the little girl’s hair into a tidy braid and tied it off with a faded ribbon, before patting her on the head and sending her back to where the others were settling in to sleep.
He was unprepared when Wraith turned his eyes to him, and fought down the urge to squirm under that direct regard.
A faint smile playing on his lips, he gestured with the brush. There could be no mistaking his meaning, much though the boy curled up next to the door wished fervently that he could. He rose and approached cautiously. The other children watched his progress, but he kept most of his attention on Wraith.
He’d never been this close to the other boy before. At a distance, he looked delicate and faintly unearthly, but up close it became obvious just how thin he really was. The bones of his wrists stood out farther than they should have, and his skin under the ever present dirt was much too pale for someone who spent most of his time outside.
Stopping just out of arm’s reach, he waited. He wasn’t sure what for.
“Sit,” the boy commanded, gesturing with the brush towards the space at his feet that Tessa had just vacated. His voice was scarcely more than a whisper.
The older boy frowned. He didn’t want to move any closer, in spite of the boy’s apparent weakness. Long experience had taught him to stay out of reach whenever possible, but those steady eyes left no room for argument.
“With your back against the crate,” Wraith added, as he moved to sit facing him.
He froze, eyes wide in alarm at that command.  Clearly it was a test, but a test of what he wasn’t certain. Obedience, maybe, but there were so many other things that it could be. Like common sense, which dictated never to turn your back.  He wasn't a pack mate, after all.
Wraith waited, outwardly patient, while he debated with himself. Finally, slowly, he turned and sank down with his back against the crate. He would hope it was obedience he was being tested on, because that was one thing he was good at.
His shoulders rested lightly against Wraith’s crossed legs, and he resisted the urge to pull away. When something touched the back of his head, he couldn't stop himself from turning sharply. Confused, he stared at the brush in Wraith’s raised hand and the tolerant irritation in his dark eyes. He turned back around, unsure what else to do and entirely uncomfortable meeting those eyes.
So, what do you think?  Better?  Worse?  Equally indifferent?

Friday, 7 October 2011

In Which I Am Very Good At Procrastinating (WoW)

So, I actually wrote this Sunday night.  I did a bit of editing on Monday, and haven't touched it since even though I keep saying I will.

This week's exercise was a choice of past topics.  I picked one from before I found my way here, Sit Under A Tree And Write.  It's a timed piece based on a photograph.  I may have gone over the time slightly, since I was just estimating based on the computer's clock.  The only timer I could find that night was already in use timing the pizza in the oven.


One of the story ideas I'm playing with for next month (November is National Novel Writing Month, for anyone who doesn't know) involves a fantasy world mostly covered with a huge, deep-sea version of a mangrove swamp, and the twisted shape of this tree reminded me of that.

I tried the same exercise twice and I'm going to post my second attempt first, both because it would take place earlier in the timeline if I write that story and because I think it's a better piece of writing.  This would be just after my intrepid (and unwitting) adventurers arrive in the mangrove, and presents the captain's first view of the strange new world.  In case it's not clear enough, they arrive in a submarine.

Unfastening the locks on the hatches was a ritual.  First, second, third, fourth.  Bow, stern, port, starboard.  Always in the same order, the reverse of the order in which she's latched them.  Was it only eight hours ago?  It felt like much longer, especially with the way her ankle was still throbbing.  She knew it was silly and meaningless, but it gave her a sense of security when they were miles below the ocean's surface.
Ritual complete, she pushed up against the hatch.  There was a moment's resistance, as there always was, when the rubber seals fought to stay in place.  Then they gave, and the hatch swung open.  The air was redolent with the smells of leaf mould, damp earth and forest.  Frowning, she climbed two more steps up the ladder and poked her head out.  All around them were trees.  The biggest trees she'd ever seen, bigger even than the redwood giants of home which she hadn't seen since she moved to the far side of the country to do her doctorate.  Trunks the size of skyscrapers rose out of the water and vanished into the green haze of leaves and mist far above.
The second doesn't really have a defined place in the story, and belongs to another member of the crew.

The trunk twists its way upward, out of sight into the canopy.  The leaves here are brown around the edges, tarnished by fire or blight.  One of the walkways dips down near the water.  Not so close as to risk the ever hungry crocodiles, of course.  There's something off about the shallow steps.  Some intangible dinginess, as if they are not walked often.  There are only a few windows opening out of the trunk above.  It is not one of the better neighbourhoods, that much is easy to see.  Even to an outsider like me.  The bad neighbourhoods feel the same in any world.
Any thoughts?

Edit: I guess this is what I get for putting it off for so long.  The linky thingy over at Ink Paper Pen is closed already.  *pouts*

Saturday, 1 October 2011

It Is An Ex-Table; It Has Ceased To Be

Or, Why I Should Get Rid of Things The First Time I Anticipate A Problem

A while ago, not long after I first moved into my current apartment, a couple of friends gave me some furniture they didn't have any use for.  Among these things was a smallish glass-topped coffee table, maybe three feet square.  The glass slab wasn't fastened into place, it just sort of sat on top, but left to its own devices it was plenty stable.  Of course, there are very few things in my apartment that are left to their own devices for very long.

It was more or less below the window from which Kathmandu likes to watch the world, so he often launched himself from it on his way up there.  This was all well and good for several years, as the tabletop was mostly covered with books that I couldn't fit on the bookshelf and they weighed the glass down so that his leaping didn't have any noticeable effect.

Last weekend, I got a couple of new bookshelves.  They're nothing fancy, but they're rather nicer than the one I had.  More importantly to this story, they hold more books than it did.  Enough so that all the books in my apartment can now be shelved in an orderly fashion.

Without the stacks of books weighing it down, the top of the table began to shift rather alarmingly every time the cat launched himself from it.  I began thinking that I might like to get rid of it, and move the larger coffee table into its place.  But it didn't need to be done right now.

I'm sure it's obvious how the story ends.  While I was making supper this evening, I heard the now-familiar sound of the tabletop wobbling as the cat launched himself into the window.  Followed almost immediately by a truly impressive crash.  I didn't take a picture of the whole mess, though I rather wish I'd thought of it before I was most of the way through cleaning it up.  In any case, the cat spent half an hour in his crate while I picked up the bigger pieces, then swept and mopped (for the second time today, I might add) the entire living room to get the tiny shards.  He was, naturally, quite unrepentant for the trouble he'd caused.

So I'm down a table, but it wasn't a table I was much attached to.  Tomorrow I'll see about clearing off the big coffee table and moving it into that space.  It's rather hardier, so I'm not worried about it meeting a similar fate.

On a matter unrelated to tables, I started a new story today.  It's one I've been doing world-building for, for nearly a year now and I've started it three or four times before, but it never felt right.  It's meant to be a different take on the dragon-human bonding idea, with the dragons as the dominant party.

In the previous attempts I was trying to start at what I see as the beginning of the story.  This morning, in that place I sometimes find where I'm neither asleep nor properly awake, I came up with a scene a bit later in the timeline.  It's not really much later, maybe a couple of hours.  And having spent most of the day trying to write it, I've realised what I was doing wrong before.

When I started with the main human character being taken from her family to be bonded to "her" dragon, it left the story trying to be about her and her family.  And that's not what it's really about.  Not the first part of the story, anyway.

I never did get to the actual piece I imagined, but I got in a good 1200 words building up to it.  So I'm pretty happy with that.  And now I'll end this massive post to go and poke at it a bit more.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

WoW - Decaffeinated Version

I'm not sure if it's the lack of caffeine or something about my music collection, but this week's exercise was really hard for me.

I suspect it may have something to do with the proportion of my play list that's made up of musicals for which I know the plot.  It just feels like cheating to write from those.  I did give it a couple of attempts, after much flicking through my play list, but I think they're really more inspired by the lyrics than fleshing them out.  They're both pretty short too, mostly because when I actually focus on what I'm listening to I end up losing my train of thought when the song changes.

The first song is Chiron Beta Prime by Jonathan Coulton.  Quite possibly one of my favourite songs, and very silly:

Well, the asteroid's pretty much mined out now.  Maybe if we're really lucky, the robot overlords will let us visit Earth on the way to the next one.  A sort of Christmas present, you know.  Though they did give us that pie already.
The second is Flavour of the Week by American Hi-Fi.  I've got no idea where the song came from, and I don't recall hearing of the band before I checked the name for this post:

Maria brushed a hand across his knee, painted nails bright against the faded denim, then up to his shoulder.  "Maybe we could go out tonight," she suggested, smoothing down the hem of her tight black dress.
"Nah, Jerry Springer's on."  His eyes never left the television screen.
So that's what I've got this week.  And this time I'll actually remember to link it as well.

Edit:  So on my way in to work this morning, a song came on my ipod and I got a great idea for this exercise.  I wrote it up as soon as I got home, and since it's only Wednesday I thought I'd share this one as well.  It's rather longer, and I think I like it best of the three.

The song is Winter's Now the Enemy by Spirit of the West.  I actually used the first line of the song to start it off, even though that was a different exercise, because it seemed to fit really well:
His body lay there in the cold, blood painting the snow about his head a deep, lurid red.  The flow had slowed to a trickle now, and even as he watched the edges of the pool began to freeze.  Falling snow caught in his hair and eye lashes, and on the surface of the swiftly cooling blood.
His hair tumbled over his eyes and he brushed it aside impatiently, eyes never leaving his own still body.  Thoughtfully, he raised his hand farther to touch the back of his skull.  It throbbed under his fingertips, but in a distant sort of way.  The kind of pain he'd had these last many years from his knee, as much memory of the old injury as fact.
That thought made him drop his hand to his knee.  The pain was already fading there as well, even though he could see the unnatural angle of his leg, where it had twisted under him when he slipped.  It looked painful.
He vaguely remembered that it had been.  Not nearly as painful as his head, though.    He'd felt something when the back of his head struck the ice, some inexplicable certainty.  Nothing so dramatic as his life flashing before his eyes, but then he'd never been the type for big, dramatic gestures.
Standing in the blowing snow, not feeling even a hint of the biting wind, he looked down at his face.  It wasn't exactly what you'd call peaceful.  Sort of slack and vacant, really.  Still, it didn't look pained, and that was something to be grateful for.  Not for himself or some misplaced dignity, but for his son.
It was getting dark, and he would start to worry soon when he didn't get that evening phone call.  Had probably already started to worry, in fact, and might already be on his way over.  There was no doubt in his mind that his son would be the one to find him.  With that thought, he pushed his wrinkled hands into the pockets of his jacket and settled himself to wait.  It seemed the least he could do.
 And now I'm done

Friday, 23 September 2011

Write on Wednesday, Exercise 15

I can't think of a witty title for this today, because my head is pounding.  This is what I get for trying to give up coffee.

I actually started playing with this week's exercise on Tuesday and I wanted to post something for it even though I'm not overly happy with what I've come up with, since I never managed to get something together for last week's.  It came out as a sort of a character sketch, and no matter how I prodded at it I couldn't come up with a conflict.  I'm not quite sure of the word count, since I was writing it in OneNote, but I think it's about right.  In any case, this is what I've come up with:

The pencil moved slowly, its blunt tip a hair's breadth above the page as his eyes followed it.  It stopped entirely for a beat as he skimmed back over the last sentence before slowly lowering it the last millimetre.  Drawing a narrow, precise line beneath the words as he read them through a third time.  He nodded thoughtfully to himself and brushed aside a stray strand of greying dark hair, studying what he'd done for a second before moving the pencil tip farther along the page.  Again, near the bottom of the page, he paused to reread a phrase.  The pencil hovered indecisively, then moved on without making a mark.  It was a good sentence, but not a great one.  He needed a great one.  He turned the page, skimming the first few words without the pencil's company as his other hand rose to close around the steaming mug on the table at his elbow.  The coffee burned ever so slightly down his throat.  Before the sensation faded, he'd laid it aside again to draw another slow line beneath another phrase.
Any thoughts?

And now, I think I'm going to lie down and hope I don't throw up.  My caffeine addiction may be a little out of hand.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Brief Exerpt

I came across this scene while doing a preliminary read-through of the story I am hoping to edit to reaquaint myself with it.  I'm rather of two minds about it, so I thought I's share and see if I can get some constructive feedback.

There's a few things before this that need to be added and extended, so it may be later in the finished story, but right now it's in what I'm calling the second chapter.

I think it can mostly stand alone for this purpose, but in the interest of setting the scene I'll give you a very brief bit of background.  Alison, the story's main character, is in hospital overnight after what appears to have been a gas explosion at a restaurant where she was having lunch with a coworker, James.  It should also be noted, though I doubt that Alison has, that James is, shall we say, quite fond of her.  I think that's enough to set things up.  Please keep in mind that this is from a first draft, so the prose is not as polished as I would like.

Alison woke much later, almost four o’clock the next morning by the clock across the room.  For a moment she couldn’t remember where she was, and her heart raced as she took in the cold, unfamiliar room.
Then memory flooded back.  James and the explosion.  The ambulance ride and the emergency room.  Then the doctor’s announcement that the baby was just fine.  After that there wasn’t much else, and she guessed that she must have passed out in relief.
Looking around, she could see the monitors hooked up to her.  Two hearts beat steadily on the screens.  She sighed and leaned back against the pillows.  It was not long afterwards that she fell back to sleep, resting one hand on the reassuring swell of her stomach.
Across the street from the hospital, a smoky gray cat watched, unnoticed, from the rooftop.  It had been there for some time now, sitting as still as a statue with its green eyes fixed, unblinking, on a single window.  Even when a soft scuffing sound came from the peak of the roof behind it, those luminous eyes remained fixed.  Only a slow rotation of one gray ear showed that it had noticed the end of its solitude.
“She’s going to be fine,” the newcomer announced in a smooth voice.  “So’s the baby.”
The cat didn’t move, not even to twitch it’s long, sleek tail.
A soft sigh.  “You know this is ridiculous, yes?”
The cat sniffed delicately and twitched the whiskers on one side.
“Right.  As long as you know.”  Shoes scuffed softly on the shingles as the visitor turned, jacket fluttering momentarily on a stray bit of breeze.  “You should send her flowers, if you’re really that interested.  Or a teddy bear.  Humans like that sort of thing.”
There was no answer.  Not that the visitor had really been expecting one.  Turning to look back over his shoulder as he reached the peak of the roof, he could see the cat’s tail twitching madly now.  Surely a sign of deep thought.  Or else he’d seen a bird and was about to leap off the third story roof to catch it in midair.
Either way, he decided it was a good sign.  A slight smile played over his thin lips as he stepped off the roof and vanished.
Presented without comment on the other two characters in the scene, because I want to know what kind of an impression they make on their own.

So, what think you?