creative writing, Writing, writing process

The man in the alley

pexels-photo-333850
Photo by Elti Meshau from Pexels

The night was cold and I quickened my steps home, wanting to put on warm pyjamas, wrap myself in a blanket and soothe the chill of the damp out of my bones. As I turned the corner into the alley, that’s when I saw him. He was a dark shape at the end of the alley, outlined against the night by a lone street light.

His silhouette suggested he was human, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that thought crossed my mind. What else would he possibly be? But, something wasn’t quite right. There was a crookedness about him, slight and barely perceptible. I felt dizzy as I looked at him, as though his posture tilted the way the world was oriented and somehow I was the one that wasn’t quite right.

He remained unmoving there, standing right next to the entrance to my apartment.

I took a deep breath, felt in my pocket for my keys and gripping them in fingers that felt like blocks of ice, readied them as a weapon. My heart pounded and I picked up feet that now felt like leaded anchors, taking slow laborious steps towards him. I saw the steam of his exhales mingling with the air as I got closer, and I became acutely aware of the sound of my boots hitting the pavement: the clop-clop of the heels echoing hollowly off the walls of the buildings around us, an intrusive noise in the otherwise unnatural silence.

He shifted suddenly. I stopped. That one move made me more uncertain of him. His stillness had become predictable, but now he’d changed the game and I no longer knew the rules. It was a game I didn’t want to lose.

“Hello?” I called.

This post was the result of a five-minute writing prompt—I’ve made some edits so it’s readable—from a workshop I recently attended, hosted by The Story Midwife. I’d highly recommend going to it if you’re:

  • struggling with writer’s block,
  • just starting out writing,
  • have never written before,
  • have been writing for a long time and want to connect with the writing community,
  • want to jumpstart into a creative life, 
  • ….and many more reasons.

Do you have a highly-effective writing prompt or method of practice that keeps you focused on the page? Please share!

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Writing, writing process

Procrastinating? Propel yourself with a prompt

As I’ve written before, I’m a big fan of writing prompts. I always have ideas for stories and I jot them down in a notebook, but when it comes time to actually sit down and formulate a story from beginning to end, I get overwhelmed and attempt to fight the urge to run screaming from my laptop. I don’t always win this fight. Most of the hikes I go on are actually me running as far as I can, just to get away from this feeling. And then I come home and write something, even if it’s just a rambling entry in a journal, and all is well.

The moral of that story is, I really enjoy writing. It’s cathartic.

ENTER: THE WRITING PROMPT

The best way to get started on writing is to start small.
Step one: Google writing prompts and find one that sparks some interest.
Step two: Freefall write about it. Set a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and just write. Don’t stop to edit, don’t worry about grammar, or punctuation, just write it out.
Step three: Either build what you wrote into a story or, don’t. Whatever you do, you’ve already done yourself a favour by writing.

Here is my result from today’s writing prompt:

Write a first line that has an impact.

For additional fun, I wrote one about my morning: Today, I write while sitting under the light of a blood-red sun which burns through the wildfire haze in the sky.

For the rest of my prompt-writing session, I wrote a bunch of first lines for a murder story:

  • When I woke up that morning, I had absolutely no intention of murdering anyone.
  • As I blearily rubbed the sleep from my eyes, I pondered what to make for breakfast; a simple thought that certainly didn’t alert me to the fact that on this day, I’d become a serial killer.
  • While I washed the blood from my hands, I had a quick flashback to my morning, where I had sat peacefully on my balcony, drinking coffee, with no knowledge that I was going to kill someone today.
  • I numbly cleaned the blood from the knife and then in a panic, tried to scrub it off my hands; what had I done?
  • As I stabbed the figure writhing on the ground, a scream pierced the silence, and was absorbed by the elephantine trees that surrounded us.
  • My heart was pounding in my ears and I could feel the blood rushing to my limbs as I gained control over the figure beneath me.

…well, that’s all the murder I’ve got in me for today. Thanks for reading!

Do you write from prompts? Feel like sharing what you wrote? Post in the comments, I’d love to read it!

 

Writing

The Collector

Seven-sentence short story.

She collected breath like dream catchers collected nightmares. Creeping into your house at night, crawling in through open windows, picking locks when doors were closed, she’d capture your breath in a jar. Sealing the jar against your mouth, she’d watch wide-eyed as your face scrunched, struggling against the glass pinned to your face.She’d been doing this for years and no longer feared waking anyone up; the jar always fogged up with your breath faster than you could be pulled from sleep. She’d snatch it away and hold it close to her chest, twisting the lid on tight to keep your exhale in and be off to the next house to gather more, and she always needed more.

She knew these breaths were the key to everlasting life and she was investing in her future.

Writing, writing process

Describe how it tastes

I’ve been lazy with my writing. For a while I was justifying my non-writing behaviour with the fact that I got a new job and had to move provinces. Then I was doing freelance work and I just didn’t have time (although my Netflix playlist will tell a different tale). I just kept coming up with excuses, and yeah, I’ve been busy and life has been chaotic, but is that ever going to change? Probably not. There are always going to be reasons to not write.
And so, I have been sitting down for at least ten minutes every day, and writing from a prompt.

I thought I’d share one with you.

This prompt directed me to look at an object and describe how it tastes. I’m not the greatest at following directions, as you will soon read:

I love food – food of all kinds. Most people identify with preferences for either sweet or salty, but I identify with edible. If it’s edible, I want it.

It’s rare to find something I don’t like the taste of. I will stop eating some foods based on other factors. For example, after an extended period of time of eating the same thing, I will eventually hit a wall, like the egg wall. There is nothing worse than the egg wall and it usually extends to chicken and fish. The poultry-fish wall. Just stop and visualize that for a second, the hitting of a fish and poultry wall.

Unfortunately, there is no chip or candy wall. I could eat from both of those food groups until I became one of them. People would stop inviting me over. It’s undesirable, my crumbly, oily chip self, leaving grease spots on the fabric of the couch in your living room. You’d find chip crumbs in your bed if you had me as an overnight guest.

I’m not interested in describing the taste of food. Who cares what it tastes like? Just give me more of it.

I’ll even eat paper. I think that’s what my appreciation for the smell of books is all about. A used bookstore to me is like a roast in the oven. Words spilling over like meat juices in a pan, saturating my brain. Oh, the words taste like a salty broth, dribbling out the corners of my mouth and onto mashed potato pages.

After writing all of that gold…I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t stop writing altogether. 

creative writing, Writing, writing process

And I’m free…free falling!

Free fall writing, that is.

I live quite a routine life; go to work Monday – Friday, work out 5 times a week, drink lots of water, eat food at pretty regular times of the day, and all of this routine works well for me. Sometimes though, I need a bit of chaos in my life. I mentioned in a previous post that I am a pantser type of writer. To recap this term, it basically means someone who writes by the seat of his or her pants, as opposed to those who sit down and plot a story out.

This is where the free fall style of writing comes in.

With free fall writing, you grab a writing prompt, set a time limit and just write. Get the gunk and junk out of your head and onto the page and don’t stop to think about it.

There are a few reasons why I love free fall so much:

  1. You come up with so many ideas that you can scrap or build on later.
  2. Excercising this style of writing really pulls you out of your head and lets your creativity take the reins, producing the most random content.
  3. It’s a mess.

Note: the mess is undoubtedly the reason why I love free fall writing so much, and it’s incredibly important. We live in a world where everyone is posting their best versions of themselves on social media. While it’s lovely to look at, it is unbelievably unrealistic. The craft of writing is dirty, it’s messy, the words that come out are more often than not, complete crap. I don’t think there is one person in the world that can just write a perfect short story, or novel with just a first draft. It’s why it’s called a first draft, not final. In the first draft, there are gaps in the story, characters names might change mid-way through, the plot isn’t fully developed, whatever, it’s all a mess. And it’s real.

I’m going to share my free fall writing on this blog, and pieces of my first drafts. I want to show everyone that the first words on the paper are supposed to be garbage. It’s what comes after that defines you as a writer, the work you put in to make sense of the mess from the free fall writing. But, the story starts here, amid the chaos.

What kind of writer are you? Pantser? Plotter? A mix? What’s your favourite way to start building your story? Comment below and tell me!

Ps. I feel like I’ve made myself sound quite drab. I actually do a lot of things spontaneously, or out of the routine order of life. I write about all that in another blog though…