October 31, 2011: Part 2- Write a paragraph that begins a short story about the last year of your life. CWE 29

Darts

Audrey sat against the wall in a deep booth.  A pendant lamp painted green hung low over the table, and a jukebox flashed in the dark corner.  Plastic tubes of orange lights were bent into the outlines of pumpkins, and they blinked in the window while snow fell.  It was two days before Halloween.  Cars sped down Union Street and churned the snow into gray slush.  Audrey’s friends talked about fabric samples and an exam on Tuesday.  Audrey walked to the long empty bar and handed over her credit card in exchange for a suede pocket of darts.  The girls took turns lining up behind the disappearing chalk line scratched on the dark carpet.  The bar was dark and quiet.  Audrey had never played darts before.  She was surprised to learn that she wasn’t half bad.  The sound of the dart piercing the cork was smooth and satisfying, a dry sponge drawing up water.  Audrey slipped one of the pointed darts into her sweatshirt’s pocket before she turrned in the suede pocket to the bartender.  She walked outside, and the snow fell in yellow cones of light hanging off the streetlights.  It was getting dark, but the sun had never risen so the day had that eerie feeling of no end and no beginning.  Sara and Nicole walked ahead.  Audrey pressed the tip of her finger against the dart’s point and walked a little faster to catch up to her friends.

What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, pages 47 and 48

Exercise completed using Audrey, from CWE 27 on October 29, 2011

1. Character’s name: Audrey Elizabeth Shoemaker

2. Character’s nickname: Aud

3. Sex: female

4. Age: 20

5. Looks: pretty in a simple way.  Long dark hair.  Pale skin.  Brown eyes.  In the past two years or so, she’s realized that some people think she’s pretty.  This is fun but confusing and a little overwhelming.  She was always the plain one.  Thrift store clothes.  She doesn’t have a lot of money, so her wardrobe is simple.  She looks at what other people wear to figure out what’s cool, and she replicates it the best she can.  She knows this is weird and is sensitive that people will figure out what she’s doing.

6. Education: undergrad at a small liberal arts college.

7. Vocation/occupation: student.

8. Status and money: part of the “cool” group because she’s friends with the cool kids.  She, herself, isn’t cool.  She blends.

9. Marital status: single.

10: Family, ethnicity: Her parents are divorced.  Her dad cheated on her mom repeatedly and was eventually caught.  She doesn’t talk to him.  Her mom is a big part of her life, in a distanced kind of way.  Audrey is Ukranian and Irish.

11. Diction, accent, etc: none that she knows of.

12. Relationships: She forms fast and hard friendships.  She likes to meet someone at 10:00 PM on a Tuesday night and stay up talking to them until 4:00 AM on Wednesday morning.  She takes friendship seriously and is a good friend.  She always makes time.  Her relationships with her family are more strained.  She can’t find her place among them and often resists trying.  It’s too difficult and everything feels wrong all the time with them.  They don’t seem to pick up on this difficulty, so she feels guilty on top of everything else.  She does not have a boy friend and for a 20 year old, she is strangely unconcerned about this.  Her level of unconcern worries her.  She sees her friends fluttering around, looking for a boy friend.

13. Places: She shares a dorm room with Kristy.  They are very different, but they are good friends.  Kristy always has a new boy friend.  She parties hard and drinks hard.  Audrey admires her.

14. Possessions: Audrey keeps a journal religiously.  She cares deeply about books and music.  Gifts from friends are special and displayed around her room.  Silly things, but they mean a lot.

15. Recreation, hobbies: Audrey knits.  She reads a lot and writes in her journal.  She doesn’t take her classes seriously, which is unexpected because she reads and writes so much.

16. Obsessions: God.  Friends.  Books. 

17. Beliefs: God, most days.  The Earth.  Compassion.

18. Politics: liberal.

19. Sexual history: none.  This is a background worry for her.

20. Ambitions: To be a writer.

21. Religion: raised Catholic.  Currently floundering.

22. Superstitions: none.

23. Fears: being alone.  Being different.  Crickets. 

24. Attitudes: shy, reserved, can seem snotty but isn’t really.  Just shy and uncertain and busy with her thoughts.

25. Character flaws: can seem snotty.  Self-absorbed.  Moody.  

26. Character strengths: compassionate.  Intellectual.  Enjoys conversations.  Likes to problem solve abstractly.

27. Pets: None.

28: Tastes in books, music: contemporary fiction, poetry, short stories, and folk music.

29. Journal entries: constant.  Self pitying.  Rambling.

30. Correspondence: exchanges long letters with a childhood friend.

31. Food preferences: bread.  Cheese.  Beer.

32. Handwriting: boring.  She wishes she had interesting handwriting but doesn’t.

33: Astrological sign: Gemini.

34: Talents: writing. Listening. Bringing out the best in others.

What I’m thinking about

Interesting to note that, as I wrote this, I wanted to make Audrey into everything I’m not.  I wanted her to have a cool wardrobe.  I wanted her to be a prolific writer, the life of the party, the one with the eclectic, intriguing handwriting.  But I can’t write about that person, because I have no idea what it’s like to set trends and be the intriguing one.  I have to write about the person who fades into the background, and I have to make her worth reading about.

October 30, 2011: Write a paragraph that begins a short story about the last year of your life. CWE 28

Darts

Audrey sat against the wall in a deep booth.  A glass pendant lamp painted green hung low over the table, and a jukebox flashed in the dark corner.  Clear plastic tubes of orange lights were coiled into outlines of pumpkins.  They blinked in the window while snow fell on October 29.  Cars sped down Union Street and churned the snow into gray slush.  Audrey’s friends talked about fabric samples and an exam on Tuesday.  Audrey walked to the long empty bar and handed over her credit card in exchange for a suede pocket of darts.  Sara and Nicole joined her, and the girls took turns lining up behind the disappearing chalk line scratched on the dark carpet.  The bar was dark and quiet.  Audrey had never played darts before, and she was surprised to learn that she wasn’t half bad.  She couldn’t figure out how to get the dart to land in a particular spot, but the darts kept landing on the board.  The sound of the dart piercing the cork was smooth and satisfying, a dry sponge drawing up water.  Audrey slipped one of the pointed darts into her sweatshirt’s pocket before she turrned in the suede pocket to the bartender.  She walked out into the snow falling in the yellow cones of light shooting down from the streetlights.  It was getting dark, but the sun had never risen so the day had that eerie feeling of no end and no beginning.  Sara and Nicole walked ahead.  Audrey pressed the tip of her finger against the dart’s point and walked a little faster to catch up to her friends.

October 29, 2011: 25 things that make me smile. CWE 27

1. Katie

2. bunny flops

3. a good writing prompt

4. short stories

5. pajamas, especially Lanz flannel nightgowns

6. jewelry.  rings, bracelets.

7. Dogfish Head Punkin beer

8. long, alcohol fueled lunches or brunches

9. darts

10. snow on October 29th!  holy cow!

11. bobbies from Capriotti’s

12. infomercial marathons

13. midday naps

14. setting my alarm on weekend nights, purely to turn it off and go back to bed

15. Words With Friends, even though I suck

16. my friends

17. clean sheets

18. dirty dishes and an empty dishwasher

19. my netbook

20. blankets

21. fireplaces

22. washing my face

23. kids in Halloween costumes

24. not proud of it, but Neil Diamond’s, “Coming to America”

25. when Katie’s fish eat their peas

October 28, 2011: Describe a building from two different sets of eyes. CWE 26

“Here is a classic creative writing prompt that can be found in almost every writing workshop. Describe a building from the point of view of a man who just lost his only son in war. Do it without mentioning death, war, his son, or himself. Describe that same building at the same time of day and weather conditions, from the point of view of a man who has just discovered he’s going to be a father. The same rules apply however, don’t mention birth, or babies. (If you feel more comfortable change it to a woman’s point of view.) The point of this is to challenge yourself to see through your characters eyes. What is ugly and brutal to one person, in one frame of mind, may not be to another.”

http://www.creative-writing-solutions.com/creative-writing-prompts.html

Man 1

Bricks are loose and quietly shaking out of their mortar.  The gray mortar is riddled with apertures, pinpricks for decay to breed.  The building is peeling at the corners, bricks rubbed clean of their red, whites and grays left behind.  Broken glass reflects mountainous silhouettes.  Graffiti marks the building, cartoonish rants in purple and white careening across the broken bricks.  Balconies are broken teeth, railings split into weapons.  The building shakes out brick dust and mortar dust and glass dust all day.  It is splitting at the seams.  A day will come soon when a bus brakes hard at a streetlight.  The street will vibrate, imperceptible to pedestrians, but the building will quietly lift its feet from its foundation, sigh one last time, and crumble onto itself, leaving behind a tidy pile of dust that stirs just a little as the taxis drive past.

Man 2

The building has been here forever, long before I was born.  It’s abandoned and has seen better days, but my God, they don’t make buildings like this anymore.  It stands like a sentinel, waching over the city, its city, proud and stalwart.  The bricks have weathered beautifully.  People pay for this effect, but it never looks like this unless the wind and weather do it.  Some things can only be accomplished with time.  The windows are broken, but they reflect the morning sun and mirror the passing clouds.  The woodwork along the roof is exquisite, carved beautifully.  I forget how beautiful the world can be, and then I see woodwork like that.  And someone did that before there were powertools.  They did it by hand.  The front doors are impressive, waiting for presidents and primeministers and popes to walk through.  I could stand here and look at it forever.  It needs a powerwash and some work, but structures like this just don’t exist anymore.  The love and craftmanship and thoughtfulness of so many people.  It’s extraordinary.

I’m reading:

For Esme- With Love and Squalor, J.D. Salinger

Silver Water, Amy Bloom

What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, Laura van den Berg

October 27, 2011: What kind of games did you play in your neighborhood as a child? CWE 25

Teddy knocked on the front door while we were still cleaning the kitchen after dinner, dragging the mop’s heavy braids across the ceramic tile.  As soon as we were done, we flew through the front door, the screen door closing slowly.

Someone slammed down an empty 2-liter soda bottle on the pebbled street in the middle of the court, and Joey held his hand over his eyes, counting out loud.  He spun in a tight circle, one hand over his eyes and the other arm blindly extended.  We scattered, darting around the back corners of houses and hiding behind rhododendron bushes.  Kids laid flat along the tops of hills and hid in forts created by trees.  I wonder if any kids in any neighborhood in any town played the game right, but we certainly didn’t.  Joey never left the bottle so no on ever had the chance to kick it and free everyone hiding.  He stood in the center of the court for an hour, scanning the front and side yards for movement.  Occasionally, he got get lucky and caught a kid darting from one backyard to the other.  He’d run to the bottle, grasp its neck, and use it to beat the hell out of the street while screaming, “1, 2, 3…I see Amy in the Daub’s backyard!”  More often than not, though, his hour of scanning yielded nothing.  His tight circles grew wider and slower, but he never left the bottle.  Those of us hiding sat down and pulled up long stalks of waxy grass, piling them in our palms and smoothing them out until someone finally walked out of a backyard, hands in the air, yelling, “You can’t get me!  I’m not playing anymore!”  The rest of us walked out one by one, saying, “Me, too!  I’m not playing anymore.”  It wasn’t a game.  No one did anything, took any risks, or followed any of the rules.  There were no hard feelings, and we’d play the same game the next night.

October 25, 2011: When you get home, lie down on your back and examine the underside of a chair. What do you see? CWE 23

The underside of a chair’s seat is shaped life a slice of bread.  A woman’s body out of order: wide hips and a high and narrow waist that rounds down into a healthy backside.  A messy stain wraps around the perimeter, rubbed on thoughtlessly.  Just slightly off center and crooked is a stamp, about the size of my little finger, with black numbers partially worn clean: “801363”.  Two unstained 1x2s are nailed to the base, ostensibly to strengthen the chair’s base.  Each strip is nailed three times, at regular intercals.  Two yellow pricetags without prices are peeling off at different places.  They are stamped with 0s and 1s.  Pricetags are becoming pieces of ephemera.  Two dowels pierce the chair’s hips.  They are the base of the chair’s back and remind me of the way chairs used to be made.  Holes and dowels cut for one another.  The undercarriage of the seat drank the stain at different rates which accounts for darker and lighter parts.  The seat is held up with four thin lathed spindels, spun into concentric rings, slimming down before they swell proudly and then taper again.  The four legs are joined by two simple dowels.

October 24, 2011: Write a dialogue between two of your bunnies, the ones that fight. CWE 22

I have five pet bunnies.  Adelaide and Eli live in a bedroom upstairs.  Alma and Esther are sisters who live in the dining room, and Michi/Peach lives in the living room.  The living room and dining room are really one room, so a gate separates the two rooms when the bunnies are out to play.

Peachy’s mate, Sadie, died a little while ago.  We’re trying to bond Peach to Alma and Esther, which is not easy.  Alma and Esther have been bonded since birth, and all three bunnies are girls which makes things extra hard.  We’ve been sporadically trying to bond them in the kitchen for over a year. 

This dialogue takes place mostly between Michi and Alma, who are housed in side by side x-pens.  Esther lives with Alma.

Peach (flat on the floor, head down, submissive):  Psst.  Hey.  Hey guys!  Can you hear me?   

Alma: We can hear you.  We hear you all the time

M: Oh, okay.  Well.  I wasn’t sure.  I. I see that you guys have a.  A bunny club over there?  And, well, I was thinking.  That I’d be a good member.  If you’d let me join?  I mean.  I’ve been in a club before, and.  And I was good at it!  You could.  Boss me around?  And I’ll just do what you say.  Oh, my, my name is Micayla.  Sometimes they call me Peachy.  Or just Peach.  Sometimes it’s Peachy Peachy Pumpkin Pie.  You.  You could just call me Mich, though?  That’s what they called me in my old club. 

A [deadpan]: We know your name.  You live next door to us. 

M: Oh, well, yeah.  I.  I didn’t think of that.  But!  I know your names, too.  You’re Alma, and you’re Esther?  Right?  I’m right, aren’t I?

A [to Esther]: Don’t talk to her. 

M: I know you have a club, and it’s a good one.  I can tell, and.  I mean.  I know clubs.  Because I was in one before.  Did I tell you that?  I know good clubs, and you guys.  You guys got one.  I know how clubs are.  I know there’s a boss and everyone else listens.  And that’s okay with me.  I don’t even like being a boss.  I just like being in clubs.  I can do lots of things.  Like.  Like I can click my heels!  Watch.  Are you guys watching?  Guys, hey guys, ready, here I go!  [jumps in air and clicks heels]

A: We can do that, too.  You’re a bunny, right?  All bunnies can to that.

M: I can do more stuff than that!  Let me think.  Um.  I know!  I can jump on boxes without falling off!  Esther, you always fall off, I’ve seen you!  But I don’t ever!  Watch!

E [quietly, to Alma, cutting her eyes]: Is this bitch serious?

M: Guys, do you see me?  I’m up here, on top of the box!  Do you see?  Hey guys!  Do you see me?

A: Get down, Leach.

M: Oh, okay.  Okay, guys.  I’m coming down. [hops down] Okay, so what do you guys think?  Do you think I can be in your club?  I can run really fast, too, and I.  I can pull all of my hay out of my litter box.  And.  I can dump my bowls!  I do it every day!  And they get mad at me?  But I don’t care.  They’re my bowls, so I dump them whenever I want.  And I dump them next to each other, so that the water makes my food mush.  And then?  They have to get me more.  They don’t want to, but.  I don’t care.  And I can dig, too!  Have you seen the holes in the carpet?  They’re bigger than me!  And when I get yelled at, I keep digging.  I don’t care.  Sometimes I’m like, you know, “Why don’t you guys kiss. My. Butt?  You can’t make me stop.”  And they can’t either.  I just keep digging.

A: Once again.  You know we live next door, right?  What do you do when they squirt you with the water bottle?

M: Well.  I mean.  I guess I stop.  But I stomp my foot first.  You know I do!  You’ve heard it!  I stomp as loud as I can, and then I flick my heels right in their faces.  I mean, it’s not like I just stop right away.  They know I’m mad.  So what do you guys think?  Can I be in the club or not?

A: Tell you what.  Esther and I.  We’re going to think about it.  We’re going to talk about it at our next meeting, and we’re going to get back to you.

M: Oh.  Well.  Okay.  So you’ll tell me soon?  Because I’m telling you guys.  I really am a good club member.    

What I’m reading: Joyce Carol Oates, “How Delicately,” and Sharon Olds, “The Unborn”