The rules are simple - post a paragraph from something you are working on right now. Each week we can come back in and update with a new paragraph we've written.
I'm holding you all accountable for writing at least a paragraph a week.
The second suite is for storage and study. Multiple editions and versions of the Bible fill the living room, some of them used for forging tools while others are simply read. Herbs, plants, and spores fill the kitchen cabinets. For the most part, these are procured at the food and ingredient outlets known as ‘grocery stores.’ Organs—both human and animal—are preserved in glass jars and kept in the refrigerator. Sometimes I experiment, like with that of Desiree’s infected vaginal cavity. The labia was carefully extracted with a sharp knife, seasoned with garlic and onion powder, marinated, then dehydrated using an electric oven. The flesh achieved a jerky-like texture that could be used for sustenance or an ingredient to a larger compound. My ability to fashion compounds was compromised some time ago.
I'm working on two currently...
From A Boy And His Charybdis:
When we first met, I was nearly the end of you. The inhale of my breath, it nearly crushed you. The currents were strong, otherworldly, and your fragile limbs could hardly bare them. There was salty water flowing within you, in places where salty water should not be. I was in your lungs, in your stomach. The weight of me buried your heart in sea foam and flurries of agitated sand.
From Funeral Songs:
Sometimes, the wind is enough to knock me off balance. My knees hurt most of the time, a dull ache in the bones when I lie down or sit that feels like somebody has sliced open my leg, dropped a handful of ice inside, and sowed it back up. The cold melts and dribbles down my nerves, muscles, my bones. A biting fire when I bend or walk as the bones scrape against one another. A stiffness, like someone’s done wedged a crowbar between my bones, won’t let me walk right. Sometimes it gets so bad it feels like my legs got a pulse of their own. Makes it hard to sleep.
This is a good motivator. Thanks.
“Elise?” My voice the hiss of a loud whisper, as carefully I creep across the dirty linoleum of the kitchen floor. Dinner’s leftovers sit dry and crusted to the pans and plates stacked along the draining board. Hotel California drifts down from an upstairs room, passing through the living room, playing at the kind of volume where the neighbours can make out every word. It almost masks the sound of sobbing from the next room.
(The Breath of Monsters)
Jaynie’s a home grown bastard of Mother Nurture. She’s what people call a new wave wunderkind. At some point in this little timeline we call life, Mommy and Daddy blew a fortune just to give her the perfect smile, azure eyes, airbrushed skin and a borderline genius talent. This is unnatural selection at its most prolific, at its most profitable. Go ahead check the financial charts if you don’t believe me. Check the rich lists. Mother Nurture Ltd is worth billions. The oh-so glossy catalogues with all the unique features on offer and, at an extra cost, an ocean of talent-genes to choose from. Think of it as an opportunity, your very own little investment because doesn’t everything come back to money these days? And for sure that’s the deal breaker for most folks.
(A Burning Girl)
When Police Officer Xavier Moore’s six-year-old son screamed down the hallway in the middle of the night, it stirred him from a dream about his wife, Rachel. He instinctively reached for her on the other side of the bed but found only cold, undisturbed sheets. As Jacob’s feet patted closer to the bedroom door, Xavier’s hand lingered, blue in the pale moonlight, and he grimaced. He could no longer smell her.
Still toying with that first sentence, as it's a bit confusing.
I should have fucking known better, Fin curses himself. An internal monologue. His boots are heavy, as if dragging little children through the sand. The sun is white hot. It's as if God is a child with a magnifying glass, boiling the blood beneath his skin because he can. Not quite thirsty enough to drink his own piss, but he's close. Over an hour of walking through the desert and Ari hasn't said a word. Not a sound other than the dense pop of setting his dislocated knuckle back in place. There's no breath in him. He just stares out into the empty space before his eyes, as if lost in reverie.
The story goes like this: business was slow and Mother Greene went out to the patio to take in the setting sun. She sat at a table with a cup of Fair Trade Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. While she was snapping over exposed photos of passing clouds with her smartphone, she noticed a ripple on the lake, which was otherwise as smooth as a mirror. Next, she saw three distinct humps, maybe seven or eight feet apart from one another. There was also a bowling ball with two pegs sticking out of it. The humps, graceful and swift, weaved in and out of the water, like a needle and thread through a quilt. Then they straightened themselves out and slid under the surface.
From my assignment for the Tough Dames course:
I crack it just a little, and say, “I’m sorry but we don’t open until nine to—“
I’m on the floor and the left side of my face feels like it’s been hit with a baseball bat. My feet press against the bottom of the door, and the man is trying to shove his way in, he’s bigger than me, I can see now that the winter coat he was wearing isn’t puffy at all, its all him. I think of Shannon and Aiden coming home tonight to an empty house. A police officer waiting for them. They discover they are orphans. The police are looking into my mob connections, and they know their father was a gambling loser, their mother is a criminal.
Tim - it is a little clunky, but boil it down & clean it up and you'll be golden. Something like, Officer Xavier Moore dreamt of his wife Rachel. From down the hallway came a scream from his six year old son, waking him, sending him back to a world where he sleeps in an empty bed.
I realize that's not Pullitzer material, but you get the point.
Nice, Renee. How is that class? I would love to take it at some point, when I can afford it.
russian bloggers with an eye for detail. guys pretending to be dead just so they can get better seats at my restaurant. headbangers aping the ritual of which they saw pictures and presumably pertinent latin. cyclists each with a different make of automobile insignia welded shoddily to their handlebars. a dissected octopus wiggling life with the diodes of a stun gun.
This is the opening of my love story, titled "Tourist":
There's a certain kind of man that goes for damaged girls. It's not the kind of man you'd think. He's minding his own business and then he spots me from across the room. He looks for too long, spotting the filtered grey that clouds my gaze. A man like that is like a travel magazine in a hospital waiting room. You could go anywhere, see anything, but you'd never want to waste the money. Still, he stares. He smiles lightly. There's a tingle in my chest and I want to breathe in deep.
The things I'd do if I could, but I know better.
I always run.
From Skin Hunger, about my sister going to rehab for the third time:
"I came out of my bedroom with clothes dangling from my fingertips, clad in nothing but a bra and panties, and my mom didn't look up. Potato chips passed from her hand to her mouth with little to no recognition on her part. When she finally glanced at me, I said that the texture bothered me. I don’t know why I said that. She half-yelled, trying to laugh through a mouthful of crumbs, that I would be the next one going to the loony bin."
From the Deadly game -
The history books will always record me as a minor foot note to the past, Alexander Poskrebyshev the national secretariat. The personal assistant of Joesph Stalin. The annals will mention that I was a willing acolyte to Stalin’s paranoia and cruelty, through his purges and schemes. To some extent they would be completely correct. What the historians will never know, or their books will ever contain are my inner most thoughts. Kept away from my diary and reports, even from my two daughters. I always said to myself I’d show those to no one.
I’m this writing because I don’t want future generations stuck with cold records, some summery for a test. I want something interesting, from someone who traded punches in an age when giants strode the earth. Sometimes literal giants. It’ll be told as myth if new superheroes don’t exist in ages to come, cynical fools discounting things they don’t understand because it didn’t happen to them or contemporaries they trust, the same ones who doubt ancient records now. I’ve time travelled enough to know a likely future. No matter what I write they’ll discount it, so to those with more open or simpler minds, don’t be confused. This all happened. Maybe not on your earth or in a way you grasp but you’re reading a history book. Maybe knowing will let you see some humanity in super humans.
Good thread idea.
from an as-yet-untitled short story I'm writing:
"Finding his house desolate, the man checked the wipeable message board on the fridge. His wife had yoga that evening. Like most people he’d often wished for a great surplus not of money but of free time, but his wide open days felt less like a windfall than like a cash-out he got for hocking the dwindled stock of his bullet-proof twenties. He’d made as productive use of his considerable free time as possible without pushing too hard, tempting fate. Yoga seemed a good fit, with its promotion of still-mindedness and overall wellbeing, and so one night during his first week off he asked his wife about joining her class. Talking into a bottle of carrot-kiwi juice, she said he wouldn’t like it. When he persisted she told him she’d feel weird if he was there. It’d affect her concentration. But her studio had lots of classes, he could try one she wasn’t in."
From one of my failed Teleport Us attempts. (Which I'm still working on)
In exactly one minute and forty-nine seconds from now a Taker will kick splinters through the motel door locked by a weak chain and shitty bolt. He’ll strike me in the back of the head with his Uzi. I’ll fall to the filth-carpet unfit for roaches. He’ll do God knows what to the woman I met half an hour ago. The woman the Keepers sent me to protect. If that happens, I’ll be discharged or imprisoned or worse. What I do next determines our fate. I get to decide. So it goes, as the life of a Teller.
from a recently finished rough draft of a short story appearing soon in a collection by zeitgeists publishing in denmark.
He treated the presence of her dead body as he would regard a framed portrait on the wall or soiled dishes in the sink- as something whose presence is not especially worthy of note. No melancholic rumination over the loss of her life, and by his hand, stole into his mind, but this could not be attributed to severe detachment, nor could an absence of amorous feelings for Chelsea be blamed for he did, indeed, care for her immensely. It was the alchemy of power, exercised over another to a vehement degree, coupled with an alloy of fright and anguish that transmuted his confused mental state into supreme indifference, albeit a transcendent indifference, an empirical anomaly which the pen could never hope to render. He had taken to completing a number of household chores and tending to other trivia as a subconscious mechanism to hinder his minds constantly churning over the murder, although he neglected the room in which Chelsea lay, leaving it as messy as ever. He sought refuge in the bubbles that ran and burst on every wet dish, the grout removed from between every tile, and every drop that collected and dripped down the leaves of his household plants. An idle mind is the Devil's playground, so he labored feverishly for hours until his home betrayed the pristine order borne of obsessive compulsions. The aging day had crawled weakly into dusk when he had exercised himself of his obsessive hygienic impulses. He sat nervously in his recliner, whose leather, though worn and baggy, had been obsessively polished and cleaned.
OTB-- It's great. Just finished up. Christa gives really focused assignments so it's a bit different than the classes I took with Lidia, but pretty awesome. She's not afraid to give a little ass kicking if you need it, either (we won't discuss why I know that, haha).
Bek-- is that the same one with the bit about the roadmaps? Because I love this paragraph as much as that one.
Renee - It is. And thank you! I'm just editing up the second draft of this story. The character is supposed to be depressed but I wanted her to have a more self-aware voice that was a bit more direct to the reader. I don't usually do that for fear of sounding too "Palahniukian". But some characters have a way of speaking to you and you kind of have to write down what they say.
Sometimes it's surprising. I won't lie, even after writing some of the passages I did for this story, I had to pat myself on the back.
Also, if you want to read the whole story I can send it over to you.
I always want to read your stories :)
Okay, expect it this afternoonish.
This is a great post. Courtney, I loved your paragraph. Have been on vacation -- thinking about writing, but not doing it Can't wait to get home tonight and put down some words.
Even when I try to keep the boat of my own sanity on calmer waters and not steer for the roughest rapids of any river, I still end up capsized amid the squalls of a bitter and vindictive fate. Sure, fate smiles on many. On me, though, it spits and pisses and shits. Not just any shit either, no; the really rank, runny, foul shit that no one deserves - not even a murderer. Nope. Fate can kiss my fuckin' nuts. Fate and I are in a death spiral, neither of us willing to let go till we're a mingled stain on the cement. But really, what escape is there other than death? Even then, how the fuck do I do that? I tried before, and the docs just shook their heads and said how bizarre it was that a man could've survived after taking so many pills. If that didn't do it, and walking in to the police station and admitting to half a dozen cold-blooded murders didn't get me the chair, and just got me two weeks in a psych ward, and that deer jumping on my little Volkswagen as I was doing about 85 on the bypass didn't do it, what the hell else can I do? I mean, shit, even the pneumonia and congestive heart failure didn't break me free of fate's mean-spirited, hateful, comically-evil-if-it-was-happening-to-anyone-else brand of bullshit. Goddamit. Reenie doesn't deserve to have to live with all the shit she knows about and the shadows of all the shit she don't know - but she doesn't deserve to have to clean up the blood stains either, or have to clean the cat box when I'm no longer around to do it all the time. Fuck.
First paragraph of a story about a psychopath who gets mad when an expert tells the media scarred faces are one sign of a psychopath. It's under 1,000 words. i might workshop it. Love any opinions.
The clock alarm blinks red, blood-shot eyes back at me. 12:00. 12:00. 12:00. I run a sour tongue over fuzzy teeth, sit up and click the TV. I chug bottled water from the nightstand to end dry mouth, and listen to this lady "expert" on TV. She has cropped red hair, thick-rimmed glasses and a shiny blue dress that fits like snake skin. Her own skin, though, looks soft, white and lightly freckled like an owl.
From the novel I'm working on. It's called At Sixes and Sevens.
Jack looked up and met her gaze head-on. Her colorless eyes reflected the light in a way that made them look almost the same shade of pink as the beverage she still cradled in her right hand. One of the guys in the neighborhood had a pet white rabbit when they were kids. Jack remembered holding it. He remembered his surprise at the bony, muscular body under the softness of its fur, and the rapid beating of its heart against his chest. He remembered the startling red-pink of its eyes. Her eyes were a similar color, but where there had only been mute panic in the animal's eyes, there was a languid intelligence in her gaze. She had his number.
I posted the previous paragraph of this on a similar type link on Facebook. Going for an intelligent southern voice here, mature and confident without sounding like Gomer Pyle. If you don't catch that vibe, please let me know.
Hank the Tank was dead. Been dead, probably for a while considering the odor coming off what was left of him. Movies set the standard for what demons look like, how they act, what they think, the words they say. The only thing the movies ever got right was they are legion. With that one exception, they couldn’t have been more wrong. The demons that possessed Hank were probably long gone, but the wreckage they left behind would leave a scar on the earth forever. Beck stepped into the room, boots sliding in the slick molten carpet on the floor. Strips of wallpaper hung down in singed tatters, exposing scorched sheet-rock and charred beams. The bed was flipped up and pushed against the wall so there was ample space on the floor for the patterns burnt into the carpet. If there was a spot in the room that wasn’t burnt, then it was coated with a film of blood. In the center of the room was a crispy husk that was once a little boy. With each step Beck took in the room ash puffed off the charred bones. That’s all that was left, bone and ash. Surrounding the blackened body were the symbols Beck had seen many times before. To the North was a horizontal line cut by one vertical slash. Same for East and West. At the South was a circle. The circle was an entrance, a way for those South of Heaven to enter this world. Knowing the symbols was one thing, knowing what to expect when you used them another.
Bob -- Loved your paragraph. You asked us to listen for Southern though, and I didn't hear intelligent Southern or Gomer Pyle Southern. It was good, just didn't pinpoint a region for me. Maybe you are being too careful to keep out the Southern? -- Lisa from Tennessee
It's great. Just finished up. Christa gives really focused assignments so it's a bit different than the classes I took with Lidia, but pretty awesome. She's not afraid to give a little ass kicking if you need it, either (we won't discuss why I know that, haha).
I was gonna ask you the same thing. Glad you dug it, interested to see what material you get from it. It was one of the funnest/toughest classes I took when it first came around. I maybe nearly cried it was that tough. I think she called one of my assignments "Hardboiled Shakespeare," which, for soul-destroying criticism, sounds like the coolest thing ever.
I've been blocked all week trying to find a new story. I think I'm just going to rewrite all you all's paragraphs into something.
@Bob - Sounds rural, not southern. You might should* change
The demons that possessed Hank . . .
The demons what possessed Hank . . .
A minor change or two like that might make it sound more southern. Not sure what part of the south this is set in or if that phrase is used in all the south, but you get the idea.
*Tell me you caught that.
I'm not well-versed in Southern lingo, but I second Dwayne. Also, Lisa can chime in on this since she's from Tennessee, but I know that my dad's family consistently uses "for" instead of "so" and they're from very rural Tennessee. The three women who use it most consistently are all college-educated, too. For example, they'd say "Could you bring me clothes for I can change?" instead of "...so I can change?"
@Whammer Loved your paragraph.
@Dwayne. If it sounds rural, then I'm hitting the right notes. My MC Beck has been around for a while, been all over the place, but always makes it back to Texas, usually in the rural areas. He's a suidical Constantine with butterfly knives and a terrible secret. This is the opening scene in a series I'm working on. Urban Fantasy with an amoral protagonist and a gritty slant, where magic is real, it just never, ever works the way you want it to. Wish me luck, I've got a long way to go.
I live in Memphis Tennessee, and went to school in Martin Tennessee(Northwest j15 minutes beneath Fulton Kentucky), so I'm very familiar with city-southern and rural southern parts of Tennessee, also have family in the backwoods of Mississippi, and bumfuck Arkansas, and as far as I could I'd have to side with Lisa on this. I really didn't sense any sort of southern vibe. Your narator sounded, I suppose like a successful business man in Memphis would sound. But I know some of them that still don't say everything correctly. As far as people using "for" instead of "so" I came across that alot when I was working in construction, and out in the middle of nowhere but, I've never heard anyone in the city or with a college degree do that. I'm not sure if any of this helps. I tried to write dialect the exact way the country characters would sound one time and everyone hated it.
Not everybody in the South talks like they've been hit upside the head with a two-by-four anyway.
Dewayne. Most people in the south would not say the demons "what" possessed Hank. Bob said he had an intelligent character.
@Jonathan--I first tried it in first person, but that sounded too corn-pone for me, too rural, or too country. I need multiple narrators anyway, but Beck is my main. Other narrators will be a third of the books. I try to think of the narrator sounding like a humorless Waylon Jennings narrating a horror movie instead of The Dukes of Hazzard, but then that's not quite accurate either. I know I'm going to need to tweak it anyway, just trying to hit the notes. Maybe I should go for all out redneck in the first draft and clean it up in the 2nd and 3rd. And I'm not using redneck as a derogatory term here. From where I'm from, we're all rednecks over here.
For some reason I read that bit like it was first person. Not sure why. Now that I know it's a third person narative, I think it works pretty well for what you're going for actually.
@Bob - The rural is good, but it reminds me more of Fargo then something southern.
@Jeonathan Riley - I know a fair number of intelligent people who say that, although it could be a regional variance.
@ Dewayne. True Dat! I haven't been to all the regions.
I'm aware that parts of Texas use 'y'all' in the singular, that kind of thing.
Bob's paragraph there reads just as fine as Larry Brown for a Southern narrative voice for me. That hodunk-podunk "well-then-there" voice is a pretty dead depiction of the dialects unless you're writing for Foghorn Leghorn.
Well Ren I think I suggested the most changes at two words, we are all bringing up fairly subtle stuff here. I don't think anyone would really support starting with, "Golly gee!" and getting more redneck from there.
I'm not saying you shoudl make them sound stupid. In fact I hate it when Southerners are displayed as dumb. I've never heard the "for" thing Courtney mentioned, but there are different things like that everywhere.
I think if you want to sound Southern or rural (two different things) perhaps a phrase could relate to the geography of the place, of the earth. Then we would know this is a guy from, say, Mississippi. Maybe he loves blue grass because he grew up with it in Tennessee, or something like that. Or the smell of the night reminds of when he was little growing up in Alabama, with lightning bugs. Just a tip in to the region. If that is what you want. I thought it was fine NOT being specifically Southern or rural. I chimed in because I thought you wanted to make it seem like that.
@Courtney---Thanks! It was a fun description to write.
I love your title--and all the details you pack in. It hangs together nicely. I like how these are everyday occurrences but there's also a clear sense of tension there.
I've never seen bluegrass in TN. Is it common?
wow. start a thread on the subject already.
Most of the Southern-isms I notice are in people with college educations who didn't get them until their late thirties or early forties, so most of them already have those ingrained in their heads. We're all mentioning voices that pertain to specific characters... is this even helping, Bob?
@Whammer I love it when an author finds a good metaphor without going overboard. I've been noticing that a lot lately and actually read your paragraph twice because I noted it as a good example of finding a good, solid allusion without taking it to the extreme. And -- thanks! I'm glad you got the tension, that makes me feel a lot more confident about the piece. It's for a creative writing course and has to be >1,500 words, but I'm trying to work in that tension at a subtle pace.
Bluegrass started in Kentucky, the "bluegrass state," but is beloved in Tennessee. Kind of related to country music. Others may disagree, but that's what I know about it.
Bluegrass started in Kentucky, the "bluegrass state," but is beloved in Tennessee. Kind of related to country music. Others may disagree, but that's what I know about it.
Oh, I thought you meant the literal grass.
"Amongst the sounds of the Muses, Kay could see the music as it wove and dipped and twined. The lyrics of the Cat Muse were just part of the assembly. Every word, every sound of string and horn and even Kay's clap carried its own contribution to the song, verses to the work. And Kay could hear that it was about bigness and love and space, and cats and cinammon and burgandy pillows, and tears and years and a book that had yet to be written."