Tag Archives: writestuff

F is for Flashfiction | #AtoZChallenge

Have you ever written a flash fiction piece?

In general flash fiction is a story that’s less than 2000 words. It can be any genre and topic, of course. Every month for #writestuff I create a flash fiction prompt. This year, stories written with the prompts in mind could possibly be published in an anthology next year. Join the fb group and learn more.

Here’s a flash fiction story that I wrote. It’s not from a prompt, it was just a scene I saw. Hmm…I guess now you get a glimpse into my head. My apologies.

***

She grabbed his hand and held it for a moment, looking into his eyes. The normal sparkling green were murky, like a meadow in fog choked twilight. Beautiful but dark.

“What’s happened to you, Joseph?” she asked, voice barely a whisper. He shook her hand off and just looked at her. Through her.

“What did you think, huh? You could leave out, no call, no nothing, and all hell wouldn’t break loose? When’s that ever been true?” She reached out to flick that stubborn bang out of his face, but his face stopped her. Habits.

“I didn’t think it through,” she admitted. “I know that. I’m sorry.”

His laugh was short. Grating. This isn’t how she wanted things to be. This isn’t what she’d come back for. Everything was off. It was too quiet here. It felt like a mausoleum in the Ivory Tower. Voices spoke in hushed tones as the servants hurried past his room. Nobody stopped in to chat like they used to. His phone wasn’t getting texts every other minute. He didn’t have some hip hop blaring in the background. He hadn’t been out of there in weeks and it felt like it. The air was musty and heavy. She got up and opened one of the picture windows, letting in some air.

“What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to see you. See if the Great Joseph had really been brought so low. What are you doing with yourself, eh?” She reached out and yanked the blankets from his legs. She ignored how thin they were. Pale. He must not have seen the sun in weeks. She smacked them to see some satisfying color bloom. He jumped.

“The hell, Francine, you come back to abuse me?”

“No, to stop letting you feel fucking sorry for yourself.” She balled her hand into a fist and punched the bed between his legs making him jump again. She took a deep calming breath. “I know, you’re hurting, because of Steve-”

“You don’t know nothin’-”

“But you think he’d want this bullshit? Eh? You think he’d want you to just stay down like this? Wither away to nothing? Look at you. You’re a breathing corpse. Your room looks like a hospital room.” She smacked the IV-bag hanging on the stand beside his bed.

“Hey!”

“What’s you got in there? Something to ease your pain? What pain?”

“You don’t know Francine. You don’t know what’s like. You weren’t there.” He rubbed his hands down his arms. “I can’t get his blood off me.” Looking down at his clean arms, scrubbed free of even the hair. “I try and I try, but his blood is always there.”

“It’s always going to be there,” she said. “You gotta learn to ignore it.”

That laugh again.

“You gotta stop running away from life Joseph. You ain’t living up here in the Ivory Tower. Not like this.”

“You can tell me a whole lot about running, Franny, you wrote the book,” She winced even as she smiled a little. Childhood names slipped out easily.

“Oh what, you wanna be like me now, eh Joey? That what you want?”
“You know what I want.” He always knew how to stop her in her tracks. She licked her lips and his eyes followed.

“Whatever either one of us might want, some things can’t be like that,” she said. She took a deep breath trying not to fall back into old mistakes.

“Hey, remember Ambersterdam?” she asked abruptly.

He blinked a few times coming out of the moment, “Who could forget that car crash? You gave us the honor of being international car thieves.  Well almost, anyway.”

“I didn’t know cars were so different over there!” she grinned, “The steering wheel was on the wrong damn side, threw me off.”

He laughed this time, a real one. Rusty with disuse, but it sound good. Like the old Joey.

“Remember that time in Brooklyn?” he asked.

“How could I forget? Who knew those after hour parties were such good pickings?”

“We made a mint, going to parties and picking pockets that summer.”

“Yeah, it got us enough money to really do it up. Me, you and Stevie.” They sat in the moment thinking about times they both treasured in their own way.

“You can’t just come here, dishing out memories like chicken noodle soup and then leave like it’s all better. It don’t work like that,” His voice was low, raw. He didn’t meet her eyes.

Her smile disappeared. “I know. I ain’t gonna be gone for long. I’m back.” He smiled a little smile and reached for her hand this time.

Her phone rang from somewhere inside her Louis Vuitton handbag, shattering the moment.

“Knockoff?”
“Naw, the real deal, Holyfield,” she said.

“Nice one.”

She nodded, while she fished her cell out her purse. She tried to answer it but remembered the notoriously bad reception in the upper levels of the Ivory Tower.

“I’m gonna go down and take this. I’ll be right back up.” She turned to walk away.

“Hey Franny?” She turned back to him. “I didn’t miss you at all.”

She smiled a little sadly, “I didn’t miss you either. Be right back.”

She walked out of the room that had the only spot of color in the entirely whitewashed house and hurried to the staircase. She passed his mother in the hallway. She remembered what today was.

“Happy birthday, Mrs. M,” she said, as she walked past his mother in her adjoining sitting room. Before her husband had died, she was always spoiled with some big party, big ring, always a big thing for her birthday. Franny idly wondered what she was getting this year.

“Oh, it will be,” Mrs. M. sat her teacup down on its matching saucer with an audible click. Franny hurried down the ornate stairs to answer the call. The house’s cell phone reception was notoriously bad.

“You shouldn’t have come back,” the voice said and hung up. She looked down at the phone, felt that sour space in her gut. She turned on her heel and ran back up the winding staircase, skipping stairs, two-three at a time. Something wasn’t right.

 

The boy looked up at him and smiled. He would always be a boy to him.

“How’s it goin’, Stan? Got any hot tips for the races tonight?”

Stan shook his head with regret. He was going to miss this one. “Sorry kid, Mama gets what Mama wants.

 

She tried to run faster than she ever had in her life. She started crying before she reached the top of the stairs. She knew what this was. How could she have been so stupid?

“What are you-?”

He put the pillow on the boy’s face so he wouldn’t have to seem him when he pulled the trigger. Close range like this was risky, but that’s what she wanted it. Low caliber. Silencer. The boy was weak, it didn’t take long for him to stop moving.

“Then we make sure to drop it over here, eh? Gonna miss you kid.”

He climbed out of the window. Opened like a present for him. Shimmied down the side onto the grassway like he’d been doing it for years. He took off at a loping gate, quickly entered the gatehouse like nothing had happened.  He took his position there, manning the radio. He grabbed his pastrami sandwich and gave it a good bite. Nice. His old lady had put extra mayo on it, just like he liked.

Mrs. M.’s screams shattered the quiet in the Ivory Tower. She was too late.

“Find that bitch, she killed my son!” Mrs. M’s voice ripped through the intercom system. Franny’s knees were weak. Trying to process. She wanted to go look, see for herself. But she knew protocol here. Shoot first, ask questions later. She turned, jumping off the balcony landing in a crouch on the ground. Two stories, no problem.

She’d been setup. But the only way to avenge her best friend’s death was to stay alive.

 

***

 And that is the flash fiction piece. Would you like me to write more of these this month? Are you writing any flash fiction for #AtoZChallenge or just in general? Let me know down in the comments.

letter F

Aloha y’all!

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E is for Editing | #AtoZChallenge

I’ve already given you one post with the basics of editing. I want to give you more good advice, but not from my mouth. I get tired of hearing my voice. I wanted to hear what others have to say. These are all writers who aren’t famous (yet), but are probably where you are today. They get it. The blood, sweat, coffee stained tears (or tea as the case may be). The late nights, confusing word choices, and moments where a character seems to have just popped into a draft like a party crasher.
What are you doing here Greg?! I didn’t invite you. You don’t even know anybody here! Why did you just appear for like five chapters. GTFO Greg! 
Where was I? Oh yes. Not losing it.
Right.
kill your darlings

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Here are some quotes on editing for friends of mine who have been in the editing woods and know what it’s like. (Most of them also attend my tweetchat #writestuff, which happens every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT or have joined the Facebook group. You could do that too. It’s nice there. We have cookies.)
These authors write a  variety of genres, but I think editing transcends categories. Their advice will resonate for you. Be sure to visit them at their websites and give them a hello.

K.M Vanderbilt, Website

Let it rest. Come at it again with fresh eyes and you’ll see more places for improvement. alternately… If seeking outside critique, be open to suggestions and percieved flaws. Even if you meant to write something one way, if you’ve missed your mark, it’s not so much about changing your vision, but about how you present it to your reader.

Jeremy Denton, Website

Don’t feel bad for taking things out! You may be removing things but never discard them completely. They may be exactly what you need in a future story.

 

M.A. Kropp, Website

Editing is hard. It’s hard to pull away far enough to cut and rewrite. Just remember that the final story will be stronger for it.

 Clare Argippina, Website

 Cutting a character may feel like betraying a friend, but what remains will be so much stronger you won’t miss them in the long run.

Amy Tasukada, Website 

My big advice would be don’t always edit at the (first) part in the story. Mix it up and edit from the middle or the end first.

Natalie Westgate, Website 

Don’t treat your work as precious – cut what needs to be cut, change things around, and it doesn’t have to all be perfect in one edit.

Stevie Rae Causey, Website

Change the font before you self-edit. It tricks your brain into thinking its new material. It’s easier to lol critically at the new rather than the familiar.

 

Kevin Wayne Williams, Website

Take it seriously, and have someone else do much of it. Retain creative control, but editing is a separate skill. Pay for it if you haven’t got a skilled relative to abuse, but don’t even consider skipping it.

 Alexandra Penn, Website

Read your work aloud to yourself when you need to line-edit, since it means you can’t skim.

I hope these bits of advice gave you a bit more insight into the editing process. Karen Beidelman said it best, “Editing is harder than I ever expected.” You took the words right out of my mouth, Karen, as I sit here, pretty sure I’ll never stop editing Blood Roses and Honeysuckles.
Which piece of advice did you feel the most? Do you have any advice you’d like to share? Let me know down in the comments!
Also…
sprint announcement

Aloha, y’all! 

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D is for Dialogue | #AtoZChallenge

The phone rings a few times and someone picks up. I have a hard time hearing over the sound of WWE blaring in the background.

“Hello?”

“Hey,” I said, waiting for my brother to figure out who I am.

“Hey T!” He got it.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing much, what are you  up to??”

“Nothing much. Is Mom around?”

“Yeah, hold on a second.”

This is an example of what the conversation sounds like when I call my Mom’s house. It’s boring and bland as dishwater. This is not the kind of scintillating conversation you want to relay in your dialogue in your stories. Continuing with the ABCs of Writing, today we’re at D. D is definitely for Dialogue. If you missed letter A, letter B, and letter C, check them out.

eddie murphy quote2

Now going along with the above example, instead of using this boring beginning for a conversation, I could write a dialogue of my mother not being able to hear me, even after the television volume is set at a dull roar. Or we could dispense with the awkward beginnings all together and dive directly into the meat and potatoes of the conversation.

I’m nosy as hell, which is great for writing dialogue! Listening to others talk is probably the best way to learn how people speak. Do you ever listen to conversations going on around you? Whether you’re at work, public transport, standing in line for a Big Mac or what have you, pay attention to what is being said about you.

You’ll notice a few things:

  1. People who know each other, don’t necessary begin conversations the say way as everyone else. Two friends may greet each other with hugs, a silly handshake shake, a shriek of excitement, or just launching right into the gossip of the day. Two people who aren’t as friendly may be more stilted. Mother and small child will have a very different conversation than the mother and her girlfriend/wife.
  2. The pitch changes, the more intimate the information, the lower the volume (generally). They may lean toward each other a bit to show they’re really getting into that conversation. Or bring a hand up to the ear so whispering can happen.
  3. There’s a lot of “Umms…Uhhh…Like…Err….” and other fillers littering the conversation landscape. Also…pauses happen. (However, too much of this in the conversation makes it boring and drag a bit.)
  4. If you’re not looking at the people, you may miss part of the conversation, because there’s silent communication too. Gestures, significant pauses with raised eyebrows, sideward glances all make the conversation a richer landscape.
  5. Everybody sounds different. They ain’t perfect grammar speakin’ automatons. They may skip over words in excite, use slang, speak with colloquialisms, they swear, make loud exclamations, etc. They have a distinct voice.
  6. They’re not telling every single detail of a situation, but you’re probably able to piece together what’s going on.

 

Those 6 tips that I’ve learned from being a super ninja conversation spy helps me to write conversations that aren’t wooden. But what else can you do to make the dialogue interesting? Make sure you’re not just writing dialogue for your reader. Try to write the dialogue like you’re literally just writing for those two characters…and your reader is listening in. It’s not about the reader, it’s about your characters. Once you  know your characters inside and out, this will be much easier to execute. Yesterday’s post can help you with that point.

Those are it for the ABCs of Writing for today. Do you have any tips for interesting dialogue? Any favorite bits of dialogue you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments down below!

If anyone is interested, I will be hosting a liveshow on my YouTube channel tonight discussing writing goals for the 1st quarter. If you’re interested watching it, but aren’t available at 8 p.m. EDT, don’t fret my pet. It’ll upload onto my channel after the broadcast is complete.

See you tomorrow with letter E!

Aloha y’all!

letter D

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