Friday, January 8, 2010


It's the end of a long, brutal week, and while I have not been as productive as I would have hoped, I have managed to cobble together 327 words hopefully crafted into complete sentences. Here they are. What do you think?


When he wakes, he opens his eyes to nothing. It’s cold and dark, the pitch black giving way to a dull, gun-metal grey at the edges of his peripheral vision.

He curls in tighter to himself; pulls the filthy, threadbare blanket closer and listens to the harsh exhale of his breath. There’s a weight against his back, heavy, pressing close.

Brain still slow with sleep, scrambled from the remains of the dream, he throws back an elbow, rolls, and shoves hard against the stiff, formless shape. His hand falls, palm down, onto a sharp-boned, unmoving chest.

He rolls out of the blanket, rolls to his knees. Bright, dead eyes lock him in their line of sight.

He quits breathing; listens hard in the silence and the dark. There’s nothing beyond the sound of his own pulse pounding in his ears.

Fingers thick with cold and clumsy in the dark search blindly for a sign of heartbeat or breath.

There’s nothing. The body is cold and hard and silent.

He shifts on his knees, grabs the bottom of the thin, torn shirt, wrestles it up and off its unresisting owner and over his head.

Ignoring the stench that makes his stomach roll, he drives his arms quickly through the sleeves, pulls it down.

He slides down the body, yanks off worn boots; shoves bare feet into the rotting leather and freezes.

Still as stone, he flicks his eyes around the dark.

It’s quiet.

He moves again; pulls rancid pants two sizes too big off the corpse, rolls them up in the blanket.

He buries the rank bundle in the bag that’s filled with everything else in his life; crawls into the corner.

He huddles there, wrapped in his blanket, listening for the sound of boot steps. As the stillness and dark congeal over him, he slips into faded memory from a long ago sometime that floats like ash on a cold wind.

He dreams in grey.

When he was small and hurt she would hold him. Soft, cool hands, satin-smooth and small, would cradle and caress him, and she would sing to him.

His eyes snap open, his head snaps up.

He can remember everything about her; the feel of her hands, the scent of her hair, the sound of her voice. Everything except her face.

Shrouded in the blanket and the rags he still feels the cold coming up off the stone, sees two burning eyes staring at him in the dark. A leaden cold that has nothing to do with hunger claws at the hollow in his gut.

It’s been a long time she’s come to him.

He can’t remember how long.

He’d thought he’d stopped dreaming.

He should remember.

He pulls his bag and the blanket closer, his knees up to his chest, wonders if he’ll see her again.

He tries to pull breath deep into his lungs; hasn’t any to spare.

The corpse watches him from the shadows. Once he took pity on the dead; now he wishes they would take pity on him.

He wraps his arms around his knees and waits.


  1. Powerful. I can't find a better word to describe this.
    As it often happens with your works, what you barely hint at between the lines is more troublesome than the actual description, the imagined being more terrifying than the words under our eyes.
    And somehow filling the blanks becomes less important than being *there* with your nameless character and his demons, because they catch you by the throat and don't let go.
    Yes, powerful indeed.

  2. You are always far too kind to me. But I’m glad you think this works.

    We’ve had the discussion before about my efforts to pare down my verbiage, to make the words that do appear justify their presence, to paint the picture in minimalist mode as it were.

    I’m glad you think there are enough here to make you invest.

  3. I don't think I can add much of value to the discussion. Here's another example of writing so vivid that it touches on all the senses.

    and, of course, the "inquiring minds want to know" part--what happened?

  4. Actually, the whole 'inquiring minds want to know' part is what I'm wondering about.

    I seem not only unable to write anything with any sign of it, but I also seem unable to even conceive of a coherent one.

    I'm thinking that's because I'm locked up over plot in the novel(s).

    Character just seems so much more doable at this point, though there's no guarantee that what I'm doing with it is anything other than self-indulgent.

    And given the intricate intertwining of plot and character, I’m beginning to fear I may never write anything longer than a few hundred words again.

  5. Well...As you know, I'm not a plot driven author. Nym and I have discussed this aplenty, as have we.

    It always seems to me that if the character is believable, then he/she is going to do something. Or react to something. Or interact with something/someone. And from such things are plot born.

    And when you start adding more players, you'll want to get into their heads, possibly. And their interactions and relationships. Before you know it, you have 100+ pages. Ok, it may be crap but at least you have a framework.

    I think sometimes we try too hard to give the characters something to do. If we just let them out on their own, they usually find trouble of some sort.

    See how easy it is? ;-)

  6. I think you're right. If you are honest and respectful with your character, their lives will unfold in your plot. Their dialogue and motivations will be real, as will their actions/interactions.

    It's all a function of imagination, and I think what the problem is for me at this point, is that I'm looking around and feel very much that I lack that crucial element.

  7. Hello again!
    First things first, let me tell you I'll take any of your so-called self-indulgence without thinking even once about it - and it's not kindness, it's a fact. Augh! (LOL)
    I'm in complete agreement with Eva here: character study is more than enough to drive a story forward, because plot comes from what the characters do in relation to the world around them and with what happens inside their minds and souls.
    You're not missing the "crucial element", I'm certain that it's there but you're just having...connection troubles, so to speak, maybe because you're trying too hard. How about going with the flow and see what happens?

  8. Oh, I also agree with you and Eva about character. And I know we’ve discussed more than once the lack of characterization in certain plot-centered works we’ve read. I like long, plotty things as much as anyone, but not long, plotty things with cardboard, cutout, or mangled characters who offer nothing but convenient hangars for action sequences or self-indulgent rants from the person writing.

    I have plot points and a not-so-vague road map for the novel(s), so hopefully that will be enough. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just continue working on smaller things.

  9. Very vivid. I love the line: There’s nothing. The body is cold and hard and silent.

    There's some great stuff going on in this. Very great atmosphere. I could totally see it happening.

    There are a few places where it seems like there are too many adjectives. Like the "thin, torn shirt." I think it would be better to pick one. Like thin and if it's really important to know that the shirt is torn add it in the next line or something. (Sorry, if you didn't want this kind of feedback. You can always tell me to shut-up.)

  10. Hello, and welcome.

    I’m glad the tone and atmosphere work for you here. Coming from someone with your eye for the visual, that’s a great compliment.

    And I agree with you about the adjectives. I usually don’t use all that many, but I think part of the problem here is that I’m having a slight problem with word choice and am consequently just tossing all possible contenders into the mix.

    And that’s only one of my problems.

    So thank you and please don’t shut up. Also please feel free to give me your feedback anytime.

    I appreciate it.