As is the case often, whether for better or worse, yesterday evening did not go as I planned. Practically everything I set out to do took longer than expected. I decided to go to bed rather than post here.
The tiny quote below is from a story where the character’s wife has just died (remember how I’m mean to all my characters?). It strikes me today that it applies to so many different relationships that end for so many reasons.
“We were happy together. Why doesn’t it ever last?”
Another in the long string of examples of my being mean to my characters:
“She’s gone,” I break on the word. “They killed her. I tried, I tried to save her, but I wasn’t fast enough, and I barely got away myself. They shot me with one of their blasters. They killed her.” I’m shaking. I didn’t want to, didn’t mean to, but the tears burst through. Swaying, I realize my feet won’t hold me against this and lower myself to the floor, lean my head against the palm of my left hand and close my eyes.
“I don’t think I can possibly explain how little patience I have after listening to Kyle’s self-congratulatory villain-monologuing for three weeks straight.”
I think the above piece of dialogue from one of my short story’s owes its existence to the Incredibles.
P.S. The above image is absolutely not mine. Pixar + internet memer.
I have various tricks to help me not lose my flow when writing. If I’m going to reference a statistic that I haven’t looked up yet, if I can only think of a word sort of like the one I’m after, or I haven’t named a character yet, I put a descriptor of some sort in brackets. For example:
The next days are an indistinct mass of noise. First there are the numbers.  dead.  missing and presumed dead.  wounded. Only  of us escaped unscathed. No, no. Physically unscathed.
Those numbers aren’t real world statistics I need to look up, I just need to double check that all the related numbers I mention throughout the novel make sense given the progression of events.
Today, in looking back at a story I never finished, I found this and it made me laugh:
We are going to [place] to do [something].
In my defense, this is all the way at the end and is going to illustrate that my character has overcome the terrible things I inflicted on her and is ready for another adventure.
This may be one of the funnier paragraphs from my high school and college stories:
The directors couldn’t have looked more surprised or confused if a marching band of vampires had somersaulted into their office wearing pink tutu dresses and carrying a singing mermaid between them. And I couldn’t have been more bewildered as to why they were so astounded. What, did they think it was unlikely that someone so young would have been assigned to this case?
I’ve been noticing similarities in my stories from high school and my more recent writings. It’s only the first two sentences here, but they still reminded me strongly of my novel:
It was a scream that woke me. A hoarse, panicked scream. Followed by a flailing arm smacking my face. And then a series of desperate sobs and the dull sound of hands and feet striking out against sheet and mattress.
As a reminder, here’s the first paragraph of my novel:
The scream is agonized. It cuts the cold air, the walls, the closed door, fierce like a siren, too loud and too close. It echoes in the chill that tickles my spine, in the shiver that embraces me.
From another story I wrote in high school, inspired heavily by a scene in a Deep Space Nine episode:
When I finished eating I looked across the table to see if Ellis was also done. What I saw puzzled me. There was still a good amount of food left on his plate but he was not eating it. He was cutting it into little pieces and setting it on a napkin he had spread out beside his placemat.
“Hmm?” he didn’t so much as glance at me.
“What are you doing?”
Flushing, my friend abruptly dropped his knife and fork, letting them clutter noisily against the plate. “They hardly fed us in the hole. When they did, I learned to save as much as I could,” he mumbled, not once looking at me.
Oh. How…sad. I swallowed. Feeling ill at ease, I averted my gaze. What did one say to something like that? Was I expected to express my sympathy? Should I tell him that I was sorry? Offer to listen if he wanted to talk about it? I felt so powerless. I wanted to help him but had no idea how.
I’m really not kind to my characters. This week I’ve been rereading stories I wrote in high school. These lovely little paragraphs are from one of those stories (I’ve cut out a lot of the exposition):
He sighed. “It’s not as bad as you think.”
“Not as bad as you think,” I repeated dubiously. “What exactly happened to you last night?”
“I tried to fight them off but I was sluggish and couldn’t see. There were too many of them.”
“And why did they attack you?” I pressed.
“Why do you think?”
“And what did they do to you?”
“They broke my wrist and four of my ribs,” he began, eyes never leaving mine. “They fractured my jaw and nose. They beat me severely, causing multiple contusions, cuts, and bruises, as well as internal bleeding and two concussions. Apparently one of them nearly choked me, which almost crushed my trachea. Shall I continue?”
I swallowed, unnerved at how emotionlessly he could say all of that and appalled at what had been done to him. “And all of that,” I gestured vaguely, voice guttural, “is not as bad as I think?”
When they bring him in I jump to my feet like there’s something I can do other than clench my hands into fists so the nails dig into my palms. But he’s covered in gashes and blood and mud and I’m no doctor. They wouldn’t let me anyway. They’re already rushing him into the back and telling me to wait here. This is a waiting room, after all.
“Waiting room.” That says everything. A neat little description for this helpless, teetering limbo, for standing at the edge of a void.
I understand now. The warnings they gave me… I understand. I can’t do anything. I can’t help him. He’s alive and I’m not and we lost our chance of a relatively painless parting when my cruel words drove him to avoid me until it was too late. Now he feels guilty for words left unsaid and forgiveness denied and I feel horrible for having brought him to this place.