To tell you about what happened at work tonight. I swear I will. Even if you forget to remind me.
It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life to date.
The rules are simple: I list three to seven writing related things that I’m really bad at and then list three to seven writing related things that I want to try.
I am not the best at:
- Dialogue tags. It is so hard for me to find that happy medium between too many and too few. I feel that dialogue, in general, is just not my strong suit. I read a blog post once that helped my confidence on this front tremendously–but I have no idea where I read it. Still, I’d rather tell you about a rock rolling through the woods than give you a nice happy convo, in spite of what you may gather from Strange Bedfellows. Jeez, those guys talk so damn much. Just shut up already and get on the road, am I right?
- Suspense. As I learned when my heart fell when I read the assignment for that one flash fiction competition. I’m not good at writing suspense. I’m straightforward, and I like to be funny, even when I’m morbid. I’m sure suspense can be funny–I just can’t pull it off. It’s against my nature. This lacking on my part kind of falls in with my whole philosophy on fiction, though: it’s for fun. It’s for entertainment. I deal with enough stress and suspense in my daily life, so I don’t want to deal with it when I’m trying to escape from that. Don’t get me wrong, I will read a good suspense novel and enjoy the heck out of it, but I suck at writing it.
- Naming characters. It is the very rare occasion that I immediately know what someone’s name is supposed to be. It is also rare that I come up with it after a few seconds of thinking about it. I don’t think I have enough names in my head; I even have to search and search when I go to a name generator for the right one. Ian names the pets in my stories because he’s good at pet names. He names all the real ones we have.
I want to try:
- World building. I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, and yet, I don’t write them, for the most part. I’m going to blame this on the fact that I do not prepare. I’m not inclined to plot and plan and chart and connect everything together. I don’t outline. I write like smoke; my stories float into the world, finding the path they’re destined to follow as they travel, not before they get there.
- Editing. I know, this sounds crazy, right? With everything I’ve written, surely I have some kind of editing cred under my belt. But I feel like I don’t, really. It’s only in recent weeks that I’ve done anything as (I assume) completely normal as moving sentences and paragraphs around in a piece. I’ve always laid down the story as it’s meant to be read, first time every time. While this method does involve a lot of stopping and starting during nonfiction, for me, it doesn’t at all during fiction. It just comes out, and it’s near enough to right that I leave it. When I finish something, it isn’t a draft; it’s finished except for the bit of copy editing I didn’t notice the first time through.
- A crown of sonnets. After finishing Writing 201: Poetry yesterday, I’m inspired to write more poetry, and two days ago, I learned about the crown of sonnets. It sounds pretty daunting, but I’ve done so many different and previously daunting things this year already, why not? Although I’ll certainly save it for after NaNoWriMo.
Now, it’s time to tag someone else; I’d love to tag someone who would get as much personal growth and motivation out of this as I did, but honestly, I’m not sure who would. And really, I got nearly as much out of reading others’ lists as I did out of writing my own, so I would love to read any and all of your takes on this. Everyone gets a tag!
And while you’re at it, what do you think I could improve upon, and what should I give a try?
Since we’re now on round two, I’m sharing my first challenge submission. The assignment was suspense genre, located at a radio station headquarters, and including the object an ice cream scooper. Do leave feedback, please!
Hector sat at his desk and stared at the piles of paperwork before him. Seriously? he thought. Wasn’t technology supposed to clean all of this mess up? He sighed and bent to his work. Running a radio station was more trouble than it was worth sometimes.
A crash sounded from the reception area, followed by another, and another, this one louder than the rest. Hector knit his brow and rose, pushing his chair back. He tried to peek through the blinds over his office window, but the angle was bad. As he walked around his desk to open the door, Barbara burst in, disheveled and crying.
“Barbara?” Hector had never seen her anything but calm, cool, and collected. He reached out to steady her, and she collapsed into his chest, sobbing.
“I don’t know what happened. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know…” she trailed off into more tears.
Hector was on red alert at this point; he settled Barbara into one of his waiting chairs and set a box of tissues on her lap before edging out of his office with no idea of what to expect.
One of the potted ferns in the lobby was overturned, loose dirt scattered across the carpet like a bizarre, dark constellation. Just a little closer, and I can see if Bev is okay.
Bev was not okay. She was crouched behind the remains of her desk, a portable bar that Hector had found on clearance and liked the look of. The sneer on her face was directed at a bag from the nearest fast food joint.
Hector was becoming more and more confused and less and less sure of himself, as a station owner, and as a judge of character. He’d personally done all the hiring. But really, nobody has a handbook for employees who’ve become unhinged by their cheeseburger. At least she doesn’t have a gun. He hoped.
Bev didn’t have a gun. When Hector’s toe nudged a pen, the noise startled her into looking up at him. She brandished her weapon, an ice cream scooper.
An ice cream scooper? I’m getting back into insurance when this is all over, thought Hector.
The sudden, blaring da-da-da of the phone off the hook broke the silence in the room.
“Bev, everything all right in here? “ Hector asked, more timidly than he intended. “I see the fern fell over. You okay?”
“It’s not okay at all!” Bev was screaming, and tightened her crouch, becoming nearly fetal. “Look at this mess!”
Hector was relieved that she was no longer pointing the ice cream scooper at him, but he was in no way comfortable with the direction this confrontation was heading. If Barbara hadn’t made this mess, and Hector would never assume that she had, the only person left out here was Bev. He turned his head to look through the glass to the broadcast room. The lunchtime DJ, Randy, put his hands up and slowly shook his head as if to say I don’t know a thing.
The blinds were closed to the remaining office, so Hector had no way of knowing what was going on with Steve, his ad manager. He turned his focus back on Bev.
Palms out and eyebrows raised in reassurance, he took his time kneeling amidst the wreckage in front of Bev.
“I see the mess, Bev, and we’ll take care of it. Don’t worry. Why don’t you go ahead and take the rest of the day. It’s Thursday already, so just take a long weekend, okay? I’ll get this cleaned up and back how it was and—“
Bev leapt from the floor, uncurling like a cat, pouncing on Hector and knocking him to the ground. She wrapped her left hand around his throat and dug her claws in as she held the ice cream scooper to his eye socket and hissed wordlessly in anger.
Randy double-checked the lock on his door.
Hector’s first instinct was to bat away the weapon as his knee went for her crotch. The knee didn’t have any effect on Bev, but her attention followed her ice cream scooper as it flew into the one and only gold record on display, something Hector had picked up secondhand and spray-painted. The glass shattered raining shards onto the still-vertical potted fern.
Bev cocked her head as if reading the matrix in the reflected fluorescent light. When Hector saw that she was distracted, he pushed her to the left, pinning her underneath his greater weight.
He looked down, and the crazed light went out of Bev’s eyes, and she seemed completely normal again as she apologized.
“Hector, I’m so sorry.”
He was opening his mouth to reassure her one last time as she grabbed a chunk of glass, slicing her palm to the bone, and slit his throat. As his blood washed over her, Bev laughed. Hector slumped to the ground beside her, his eyes already glazed in death.
Randy looked on in horror.
Bev wriggled from underneath Hector’s corpse and dropped the piece of glass she had murdered with. She took two steps to retrieve her ice cream scooper.
When the police showed up, ninety seconds later, she pointed the scooper at them, whispering “Bang!”
Randy ducked, fearing the worst, but the first officer in identified her weapon as a mostly harmless dessert utensil and quickly disarmed her.
As they cuffed her and walked her to the cruiser, Steve exited the bathroom after flushing the remainder of the LSD he had put into Bev’s cheeseburger and hour before.
“You should have given me that raise,” he whispered toward Hector’s body. “I didn’t know this would happen, but it’s been so much more enjoyable than what I imagined.”