Writing Exercise – The Time Has Come

Time for another writing exercise from Fiction Writer’s Workshop. Chapter 2 of this book focuses on setting, and the different ways setting is used in fiction. I absolutely love the example given from Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, where a very stingy hoarder is described through how he keeps his living area. An exercise follows from this example – Exercise 12 on page 43:

Make a character visible through her surroundings. If she loves plants and cats and hates people, her house might assume certain traits. Sketch the house, listing the sights, smells, sounds.

Well, I won’t win any points for originality for my reaction to this prompt, but I just had to try this with an established character rather than one I made up. Here’s what I came up with:


card_tower

The Time Has Come

The mirror dominates the room. The frame may have once been an elaborate bronze, but its flowery pattern is now a hideous green from years of neglect. By contrast, the glass is pristine, reflecting myself and the room in perfect clarity. A house of cards sits in front, three tiers high. Faded, tattered cards lay about its base and at the foot of the plain wooden dresser upon which it stood. I nearly bang my shin on a low table, set with a delicate china tea set. Each of the table’s four sides hosts a tea cup on a saucer, with tiny silver spoons sitting nearby. The cup nearest me has long ago lost any distinguishing pattern on its bone white surface, and two stumps jut from it where its tiny handle should be.

I step over the carpet, my feet deftly avoiding several chess pieces. Stooping down, I pick up a queen. It is white, with flecks of red paint clinging to its surface. In my other hand, I take another white queen, this one noticeably shorter and a bit wider than the other.

I set the pieces before the mirror as I step to the rocking chair with its back to me. It rocks slowly, as though swayed by the evening breeze from the open window. Light snoring announces the presence of the lady I seek. I hesitate.

My eyes find another tea table next to the chair. This table looks even older than the previous, its varnish chipped away to show wounds of rotting wood. It is also decorated with ancient china – a plate, with a cake the size of my fist atop. The cake, to my pleasant surprise, was fresh, immaculately painted with chocolate frosting, and bearing the words “Eat Me” delicately spelled out in white icing. Next to it was a fine glass flask half-filled with a sparkling liquid. A square of paper was tied about its delicate neck by a tiny length of red ribbon. Predictably, I suppose, the blue ink on its surface read “Drink Me”. Unlike the table and the other dishes, this glass is spotless – I might think it freshly blown if I had seen it anywhere else.

I resolve to waken the lady. My business has to be done, no matter how regrettable I find it. I reach to the arm of her chair. My hand finds a glint of gold draped over its arm, and I am again distracted from my goal. I take up the gold, finding it to be chain for a fine pocket watch. I pop it open, revealing the hands working their way across a circle of Roman numerals. I nearly laughed, calming my breath as I see the drawing on paper placed carefully where a family portrait might be on other watches. The sketch was a detailed rendering of a rabbit, standing on its hind legs, dressed in overalls, and panicking as it stared down at a pocket watch.

“I’m late.”

My eyes snapped to the speaker of the soft words.

“I’ve gone and overslept, haven’t I, dear? You’re here to take me away.”

Snapping the watch closed, I nodded solemnly at the elderly lady.

“It is for the best, Ms. Liddell. Your family is worried, and I assure you, our home is like no other. You will be treated with respect and dignity.”

“Is there croquet? Oh, but not the kind with flamingos and hedgehogs.”

“There is croquet, of course. As well as many other pastimes – draughts and bingo, for instance. I’m certain I’ve never seen flamingos, and we do keep out any sort of pests.”

She stood up slowly, her wrinkled dress now revealed as it fell loosely over her bony frame. It might have been a bright blue, some ages ago, but the color had long worn away. She reached down, taking up the plate with the cake and offering it.

“Won’t you have some? You’ll get a little surprise, I think.”

“Perhaps another time. Our driver should be quite anxious by now.”

“The time has come, the walrus said.”

I shake my head, deciding not to answer her odd comment. I hold her bony hand gently, guiding the frail lady over the safe patches of the cluttered carpet. As we reach the door frame, she takes one last look at her strange room. She then gestures to the watch, and I realize that I still hold it. I give it to her, and she pops it open again before me. She points to the panicking rabbit.

“Have you seen him? Always late, always in a rush.”

“Can’t say that I have, Ms. Liddell. Come now; follow me to a far better world than this lonely life here.”

Her wrinkled face radiates a wide smile as she finds something amusing in my words. As she allows me to take her hand and lead down the staircase, she chuckles softly.

“Curiouser and curiouser.”

Wednesday Writing about Writing – The Zone

Time to get a new feature going on here at Write or Else! Every Wednesday, I’m going to put up a writing prompt, much like One Minute Writer and similar sites. I’m planning for these prompts to ask about your writing process, thoughts on writing, and other aspects of the craft.

While I encourage participants to at least spellcheck, don’t worry too much about grammar and sentence flow. Write whatever comes to mind. I recommend around 5 to 10 minutes of writing for each of these prompts.

You can reply to these prompts on this blog site, or come on over to the Facebook page. You are more than welcome to link to your blog in your reply. If you write a response on your blog, you can link to the post in your reply here or on Facebook. I will post my own reply both here and on the Facebook page.

Today’s topic is The Zone.

The Zone is that wonderful time and place when the story just pours out of you, when it takes on a mind of its own. How does it feel when you are in The Zone? Can you get there easily, or is there something special you do to get there?

One-Minute Writer – Ancient Life

This prompt over at One-Minute Writer asks about the job you see yourself having if you had lived hundreds of years ago.

My answer:

I could see myself as a travelling merchant. Wandering into shoddy inns and taverns, seeking the local gossip and learning which wares are most needed or popular.

At the same time, I’d take in so much of common folks’ lives. I’d have tales to share, which might even get me in good with the managers of the taverns I patronize. If I could read and write, I’d be writing up my tales on the side of all my work. If I couldn’t, I’d seek out the scribes of all the cities I visit – perhaps they’d find some interested eyes for my tales.

Sunday Scribblings – Prompt #394, “Poem”

Sunday Scribblings looks like another place I’ll get prompts. Sleep isn’t finding me tonight, so here I go with another writing prompt today.

The latest prompt as of this post is Poem, “The word that strikes fear into the heart of many a writer.”

Here’s the bit of nonsense that came out of my fingers:

A poem to me is a strange thing
I’ve heard many but never wrote mine
If I wrote one, would it break the rules?
Would it rhyme, would it have any reason?
Not only rhyme, but poems have meter
Numbers, patterns of syllables, right?

I only know what high school taught me
Poems were things we studied in depth
My mind never saw on that level
Metaphor, simile, subtext? Ha!
My writing is subtle like a brick!

Anywho, check out Sunday Scribblings. Their prompts are simple, but quite effective judging by the community involvement.

One-Minute Prompt – Awareness

Here’s what I wrote for the latest One-Minute Writing prompt – Awareness

The Prompt: You’re given the opportunity to write a long-form magazine article that will get wide public exposure on any topic that you like. What would you write about? What do you wish more people knew about and were aware of?

I wrote:

I wish more people were aware of common urban legends. I flinch whenever somebody repeats information that has been widely disproven. My article would take ten commonly repeated urban legends of the time of publishing and compare them to the true stories. I would dispel the prevalent myths surrounding them, and try to show people how a little skepticism goes a long way.

I should note, however, that I’m far from adverse from using urban legends in fiction – after all, people believe them because they are intriguing stories!

One-Minute Writing Prompt – Your Town

I stopped by the One-Minute Writer blog today, and I figured – why not?

The prompt for November 6 is: “Why do you live in the city you do? If you don’t have a choice (say, you’re underage and your parents picked it) what do you like about where you live?”

Edit: Here’s my slightly revised version:

I found my heart here, along winding trails and among the forests and mountains. The minute I held her hand, I know that these valleys would serve as the nesting place for our new love. Our hearts grow together in our many hikes and wanderings.

The original is still in the comments under the prompt on One-Minute Writer.

Pretty sure this site will be one of my frequent stops around the web – I love the concept and the contests they have.