Friday, February 21, 2014

A Long, Dark Hallway

I issued a writing challenge to my local group a few weeks ago. They were to write a scene/short story of no less than 500 words using the prompt: Write about walking down a long dark hallway.

Since I'm the leader, I figure I should be the first to do these things. Tomorrow is our meeting and everyone who did the challenge is asked to bring their story with them to share and critique. I decided to post mine here as well. 

My shoes sounded a tap, tap, tap on the tile floor as I walked. I could hear the sound of the storm outside as it whipped around the corner of the building and rattled the windows. Thunder resounded and echoed along the hallway, rushing past me like a wave. The tapping of my shoes ceased momentarily, instead, making a skittering sound as I jumped. I bumped into the wall, noting the nubby surface of the finish as my arm scrapped along it. 

For a few minutes I leaned there, listening. The distant sound of rain pelting walls, roof, and windows was like the churning of the ocean which lay only half a mile away. I could almost imagine I was on a ship at sea during a storm. I reached for the mast to cling to, only to find nothing. I sighed. The wall at my back was a comfort as the darkness of the hallway was disorienting. There was a dim light ahead of me and one behind me but the distance between was great and I couldn't really see anything up close. If there were doors, they had no seams for light to seep around. 

Of course, I was below ground level so, unless there were basement windows, there would be very little light from the outside seeping into any rooms down here. And today, it would be a diluted light, infused with the gray of the storm.

I stood up and straightened my dress. I wasn't generally afraid of the dark but this was an unknown. I'd never ventured to this part of the facility before and had no idea what lay ahead. I strained to see if I could detect any other sound above the sound of the storm. I was surprised to be able to even hear the storm down here but then, there was only the ground floor above me. The long hallways and cinder block walls would allow sound to travel fairly well.

Moving forward once again, I stayed close to the wall, letting my hand trail along the surface. Surely there were rooms down here. You couldn't have a hallway traversing a building as large as this one with out rooms and doorways. I glanced back, toward the light that grew smaller the farther I got from it. A shadow moved across it and was gone. I stopped and turned. 

“Hello?”

I waited for a response that never came. Squinting my eyes and straining my head forward, I stared hard at the light. Was there someone standing next to the wall, just at the edge of the light? I shook my head and straightened up. I couldn't tell. With more than a little hesitation, I turned and continued my toward my destination, the slightly brighter light at the end of this tunnel.

I don't know what brought me to this place. It wasn't intentional. I'd been perfectly happy in my job as assistant to the CEO of Barnwell & Sons,  LTD. The pay was adequate and the benefits were nice. I had  a nice apartment and a great boyfriend. The promotion, when it came, was unexpected. 

The sound of someone moaning brought me to a standstill. I was now in the darkest section of the hallway. I judged it to be about the halfway point. Glancing back over my shoulder, again I saw a shadow pass between me and the light, more distinct now, and definitely a person. But that moan, that had come from much closer to hand.

“Hello?” I whispered. “Is someone here with me?”

A scurrying sound swirled around my feet and I gave a tiny squeal and my shoes did a little tattoo as I danced. Visions of mice hordes flitted in my head. Another low moan. I was shaking like a leaf now but  I swallowed my fear and stepped away from the wall and walked faster, toward the light at the end. It was growing larger. 

Two dozen steps later I skidded to a halt as a shadow stepped out of the shadow of the walls and into my path. It was definitely human, tall, and black as suet. 

A whisper of a voice echoed behind me. “Run.”

I wanted to, really, but my feet were planted firmly to the floor. My knees would not have been able to propel me forward or backward without a force stronger than my will.

So, how would you expect it to end? What is going on? Feel free to share your thoughts. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Reset

Tonight was my online accountability meeting with my writing buddy, Doug. I'm so busted. I've shirked for two weeks, managing to write only about 2000 words. I'm  annoyed but only a bit. He's had some setbacks, too. We tossed wet noodles at each other and discussed how to deal with the problem. We both agreed that we simply start over.

I've been looking at a few ideas and almost had myself convinced of making a major change to the POV aspect of the story. In fact, on the way home, I was convinced that making the change was the best idea. By the time I got home, I mostly talked myself out of it. Doug finished the job, telling me to leave it alone. It is probably good advice. I was thinking of eliminating the female character's chapters... well, not exactly eliminating but changing them to let one of the other character's tell the story. I have a single point of view = 3rd person. I have four perspectives on the story. I have a timeline because there are events happening in this story where several characters are in different places and things are happening at the same time. So, it gets dicey. And I won't know if it works until it is written and someone reviews it and tells me. God help me if they think it is awful. 

I don't think it will be awful. It may need a lot of work but I've seen this done. It isn't easy but then, I never take the easy route anyway. Do it the hard way! Still, one perspective makes for much easier writing. I'm bouncing around in four different heads, four different voices, and only one of them female. Honestly, the hardest one to write is that woman. I just think my women characters are always stupid. This one is not much different. 

In a sense, it isn't surprising I prefer male writers, too. I don't like the fluff of many books by women. So, the allure of my story is to be expected. What I didn't expect was to be able to write from that perspective so easily. In fact, I didn't expect to be able to write my antagonist perspective so easily. He's sadistic and I wouldn't have considered myself to have any traits like that. However, when one delves deep enough into the darkness of their own mind, one is apt to uncover some very odd things. 

What do I mean? Should I put up an excerpt of Stryker's? I promise is isn't violent at all and there is no gore, no bad language. Nothing at all. But writing it scared me a tiny bit. One, because I'm a woman who imagined herself in that situation. Two, because I could write from the dark character's perspective, think what he was thinking. Scared me more than a little bit. Someone said write what scares you. 

Here's the piece. It's a first draft so don't expect much. Just put yourself in my female characters skin, in a restaurant, alone. Just for a few minutes. It only takes a few.

The lowering sun sparked off the crystal water goblet on the table as Stryker sat down in the restaurant. He deliberately chose a table against the wall with an unobstructed view of the room. He ordered black coffee and waved the waitress off.

He watched as the woman sat down at another table. She put her briefcase and handbag on the chair next to her. She was slim, well dressed in a black tailored skirt and jacket with black heels. His eyes skimmed down her body, ah, very pretty legs. He liked pretty legs. The long, blond hair hung below her shoulders in silken waves while shorter strands caressed her jawline and cheeks. The bone structure was perfect, high cheeks, fine nose, shapely brows. He sighed. One had to appreciate fine art.

She picked up the menu and as she read through it, he studied her face. So expressive. One could almost tell what she would order by watching her expressions. The tiny frown marring the brow at this, a small moue at that, a flicker of delight that turned up the corner of her mouth at something else. Passionate, he was sure she was passionate... about everything.

He put his sunglasses in his jacket pocket and picked up the menu on his table. What had triggered the delight? He scrolled down the list. Ah, triple chocolate cake. He’d bet on it. He lay the menu down and raised his hand. The waitress hurried over and he ordered the cake. He wanted to share in the delight. The other would come later.

While he waited, he picked up the file on his table and thumbed through it. Her name was Dani Vaughn. She had a son attending Cambridge University in England. Very good, Dani. He looked at her over the top of the file. And who is paying for that, love?

She lived alone but worked as an administrative manager for a man named Cameron Doyle. They often went to dinner together, on an average of once a week. What does your husband think of that? He looked up at her. She was looking out the window at the passing traffic, her elbows rested on the table and her hands clasped with her chin resting on it. He turned his head to one side. Interesting. She was content.

He hardly noticed when his order arrived and the waitress moved away. He looked back at the file. Mr. Doyle was a man of great interest, as well. He was a former Horus employee. In fact, he had been one of the top trainers for Horus for nearly a decade before he had left their employ after a disagreement over procedures. Apparently, Doyle disagreed with training methods imposed after a change of leadership in the agency.

Movement at her table drew his attention. Her waitress delivered the woman’s order, a piece of triple chocolate cake. He smiled and picked up his fork. As she put a bite of the cake into her mouth, he took a bite of his own. Together they savored the moistness, the array of flavors from three different chocolates. He sighed and as he watched, she did, too. Yes. Perfect.

It was half an hour before she decided to leave. She glanced at her watch and then toward the windows overlooking the street. Darkness had fallen. Hurrying now, she paid her bill and gathered her bags to leave. Stryker had already paid his bill and he got up and left ahead of her. Outside he slipped on the dark glasses and walked to the end of the building, stepping into the shadows that lurked there. He waited. Moments later she exited the restaurant.

For a few minutes she stood looking for a cab but when none seemed inclined to stop, she started to walk. He fell into step yards behind her, a leisurely stroll, his hands in his pockets, looking at the merchandise in the shop windows. 

Twice she stopped to hail a cab and twice they ignored her. It puzzled him that she had not called a cab from the restaurant. They’d have been glad to assist her in that. Instead, she was strolling along a busy city street on a mild autumn evening as if she hadn’t a care in the world. He squinted at the jewelry glittering in the window. She seemed to have no real interest in what the shops offered. She never even suspected that death could be a dozen steps away. He looked at her. She was not what he expected.

So? You can comment at the bottom if you're so inclined.

I once told my husband once that I'd have made a better man. He didn't disagree but he did say he was happy that had not happened. That tendency has come in handy a few times. Writing men seems to be one of them. What's really odd is I like writing Stryker.

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Case of Bleh

You know, I read all those cool writer quotes and they just sound so understanding of a writer's struggles. Some are really funny and some very serious. Some chide you into making plans and plots and charts and appointments with yourself. I mean, with all that stuff on Pinterest, how can you not find inspiration and encouragement to write. 

Beats me.

I started in January working on my novel, the one I've been working on for ... too long. I love the story that has evolved and continues to evolve. Since I began this year's mission, I've been very excited by what I've been able to accomplish. I mean, I actually developed a timeline.. well, I started it. I haven't got the whole timeline done but it seems to be going along very well. Except when it doesn't and I have to reset it to a different day, three times. But I got past that. Until I had to reset some of the scenes. But since I'm trying to reorder and fill in the blanks, that's going to happen. Apparently, a lot. 

I'd just like to get past the halfway point in the story. There isn't enough story yet but the halfway point teases me. I mean, I think I'm going to get there only to find this gaping hole in the road, so to speak. Or maybe it it more like this huge piece of the trail missing... at 15,000 feet... and they did not install the hand rails this high up. I just write it and move across but in the next section... it falls down. Now I'm stuck on the wrong side, at the wrong time. I move some stuff, write some stuff, and now the trail is as good as new. Until I reach that curve where the whole thing is just gone. I'll deal with that later. I'm going to rest for a bit. Maybe have lunch. And dinner.

Still, things have been moving at a fairly steady pace. I've met my goals nearly every week. Until February. I've been sick with some of the worst pain I've had in a long time. If this winter gets much worse, I don't know if I can handle it. I'm ready to move to Arizona. I have a contact there. Maybe I should have him looking for a shack in the desert for me. Never mind. I'm not crazy about desert wildlife. 

Anyway, the pain in my joints was bad but I have to say, the pain in my neck has been beyond endurance. I'm not sure.. no I'm positive I have no words to tell you how bad it hurts. I had swelling in the left side of my neck that caused pain and numbness in my neck and jaw. I was unable to turn my head in any direction without shooting pains. I expected to see sparks fly out my ears from the current that appeared to be coursing through the tendons and muscles in my neck. They've (doctors) done nothing about it. No advice, no suggestions, no meds. I've awakened in the middle of the night screaming as some electric current shoots through my neck and I dream of hot blue cords in there. The pain is agonizing. I get up in the morning nearly dead from a bad night's sleep. I can only sit in a firm chair, straight up, looking straight ahead. I'm dying I think. If I'm not, I might consider it. This is hell. No really, it is hell and devils are sticking me with hot forks. I'm nearly done.

Still I tried to write. But finally, when the pain made it impossible to sit up or lie down I gave up. So, for at least two weeks, virtually no writing has happened. I've sought comfortable positions everywhere. Nothing last long. As of Sunday, three weeks after this started, I began to feel a slight improvement. I'm still having the numb spot on my left jawbone. I'm pretty sure there are some nerves being pinched all around my neck. But it is a bit more bearable. Today.

Tonight I actually got 300 words down! Wow, I'm elated. Not. I hate when the pain gets so bad it robs me of an ability to function, to create anything. And the exhaustion that has resulted from dealing with unrelenting, intense pain takes whatever initiative I have left. I get a hot towel, wrap it around my neck, lock it into place with a next pillow, and grab a blanket. I get as comfortable as possible. I might be good for 15 minutes before I have to reheat the towel to about 100 degrees.. not sure about that. Must measure it. Very, very hot. My neck turns red. Sometimes I have to put a cloth between me and the towel. 

So, here we be, we three. Me, my pain, and my frustration. My novel is somewhere around here. Maybe in that case of Bleh. 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

January in Review -WRoE




Text View
 I finished January better than I anticipated. I just did the calculation of the total words written on my Primary Project and, although I would have liked to have done more, I'm happy with the outcome. For January I wrote 5,798 new words in The Dream Stealer. My challenge with my friend, Doug, seems to be working but he's way ahead in terms of words written. 

From the beginning, Doug's goal was to just write, daily. Mine was to write at least 500 words three days a week and edit a chapter. So, I wasn't just writing new material, I was editing old material. Scrivener doesn't count that. If you delete a word and add two new ones, you've only added one word to the work. A couple of times I was down 100 words! I started redlining words I was going to delete and that solved my deficit problem. 


I was thinking in terms of finishing a "chapter" a week but quickly realized this might not work. I don't have chapters. I have a bunch of scenes, lots of them. And many of them are out of sequence in the document. There's a post somewhere, either here or on Life on the Ledge about how that came about. Anyway, I decided to stick with the concept of three scenes to a chapter. Scrivener is awesome the way I write. 

I set up folders for my theoretical chapters and started sorting my scenes. Another problem presented itself. I was still having to read each one to find out where it fell in the order. This is tedious, especially if you have "Chap 1, Chap 2, Chap 3, etc. You'll understand in a minute.


corkboard view
There is a great corkboard feature in Scrivener that lets me see index cards with details about each scene or chapter, not both at once. So, if you're looking at chapters and there are three scenes, you only see the chapter descriptions in one view. If you go to text/scene view you only see the scenes in a single chapter. And sorting the myriad scenes in a chronological order was giving me a headache of global proportions. This was the wall I'd been coming up against for several years. 


Outline View
The outline view is astounding once you fill out the synopsis cards. With color coded file labels and synopsis cards filled in you can use outline view to get an idea of the flow and if something is out of place, you can see it pretty quickly. Wonderful. But totally impractical when you're still getting things in the right order. 


Chapter/scene headings
See, you have to move the stuff around. And yes, I could do that but it wasn't working for me for two reasons. Remember those titles? Yeah, you have to re-order them and type the correct chapter number every time you move something. I learned that a while back and stopped putting chapter numbers and went with character names. Equally as annoying since you may have 20 Simon scenes and 20 Cameron scenes and you have no idea what is in them! Yes, Scrivener can number and probably reorder for you but I am a control freak. 


Chapter/Scene headings in Text/scene view
The second reason was that I also write things that are missing while I'm sorting. For example, I might have three "chapters" in order but as I read over them, I realize some are missing some pieces or are not clear. So, I stop and write that bit. In outline mode, that's just a hassle for me. I have to switch views and I would have to switch views every time I changed chapters or needed to write something. You might find it ok but I didn't like it. I need to be in text mode to write and rearrange sections/chapters as needed.

About the third week of January, I stumbled on an idea. I decided that my problem was time. In this story, things are happening in a relatively short span of time and there are four very vocal characters who are doing things at the same time in different places. I have always known that this was a problem with the story but I simply couldn't find a work around without creating this elaborate time line and keeping it handy to refer to every time I wrote something, moved something, or deleted something! Look, I didn't choose to use four POVs. Who'd do that? But they just won't shut up. And yes I know it is insane but you write your story and ...well... we'll write ours. Anyway, I knew I had to nail down the timeline if I was ever going to get this mess sorted. 


Note: time has replaced "chapter" headings
So, I had this idea. Really, an epiphany. I would use the day and the time of the events as chapter and scene headings, breaking it down to minutes if I wanted. I began to go through each scene and establish when it was happening. I had several things going on at once but once begun, everything began to fall into place and it was like someone turned on the light. 

I was astounded how I began to get ideas and could actually move stuff out that either was in the wrong time frame or didn't even belong in this story. I was deleting more stuff and writing new stuff. All because I now had a time line in place to tell me where someone needed to be and when! It occurred to me that this should have been obvious sooner because the MC, Simon, is such a control freak he'd never go anywhere without some sort of calendar, either on his phone or in his head. And so would his former friend, Cameron. 

The best part is that the chapter/scene headings can remain in the final draft as "chapter" divisions.  I won't have to rewrite names over and over. Although, early in the process of establishing times, I've had to move things backward. By that I mean, I originally started the story on a Friday. You can see I've since pushed it back in the week. I've also moved some things back on the clock here and there. I may have to change heading if something needs to be moved on the timeline but that's still easier that the way I was doing it. 

At our last meeting, I told Doug that time was really arbitrary. It doesn't really matter when it happened as long as, from that point on, it is consistent. And day and time is much easier than reordering a bunch of numerically ordered chapters. 

So, there you have a review of what I did in January. In hindsight I can see I've done a lot. I've broken a rule here in that I've written about writing rather than writing the story. But I wanted to put something positive up that I could review when I get down on myself about how much I've accomplished.