1. With grudges thin but miles wide,
You’ve always felt guilty and your temper flies.
Because a child unloved has a reason to rage;
Has it earned you any favor?
Did it ever make her change?
You lived your whole damn life holding on to the scorn
And the day she died was a day you mourned
Someday you’ll be slipping, and you’ll go where she went
Will you find peace then?
Will it help you repent?
2. With business dreams and your head in the sky,
You’ve always been rolling and you rolled on by.
Because a child unwanted has something to prove;
Did you ever get there?
Was he ever proud of you?
You gave your whole damn life holding on to the wheel,
And the day he died you were unwanted still.
And now you’re slipping, about to go where he went.
Has it all been worth it?
Is it worth one cent?
3. With choices now for me to make,
I hope I’ve learned from your mistakes.
Because a child who’s loved has a reason to rest;
Will I show this to my own?
Will I try to do my best?
I’ll live my whole damn life holding on to this hope,
And the days you die I hope it helps me cope.
Because someday I’ll be slipping, and I’ll go where you’ve went
It has to be worth it.
It has to be well spent.
In Chapter 11 of The Complete Handbook for Novel Writing Lisa Lenard-Cook teaches how to establish a setting with accuracy, originality, and telling detail. Accuracy means the particularity of the details match the story to make it feel true. The setting should quickly tell the reader when and where the character is, why he’s there, and should prepare him for what’s about to happen.
Today I’ll practice writing a setting using this formula:
An iron door creaks on its hinges to reveal a steel-faced man in black combat boots and blue fatigues. He frivolously salutes the guard and strides into the long concrete hallway whistling his national anthem. Dim red light smolders on the ceiling and flushes the walls. He pauses to intentionally capture the scent of dirty bodies, open wounds, and freshly polished boots. Then he reaches cell 13-A.
“It’s time for your appointment!” he sings through the bars.
On the other side a crumpled pile of rags, limp and filthy, cowers into the floor.
Are the details accurate, original and telling? Feel free to leave feedback in the comments!
In chapter seven of The Complete Handbook for Novel Writing Monica Wood explains the difference between putting your characters in a situation and giving them a complication. A situation is something that happens, but a complication “illuminates thwarts, or alters what the character wants.”
In the last post the “situation” was the lovers fighting and the man knocking the woman unconscious. Now I’ll practice including a complication for the same characters in another scene. The complication is that a mutual rival has the upper hand if she’s out of the picture so the man must decide whether to set her free:
The man leans on a wall, arms folded, in a walk-in closet. He looks down in triumphant amusement on the woman as she wakes up to find herself handcuffed to a metal folding chair.
“No. I got so bored I went to sleep. You hit like a little girl.”
In chapter 8 of The Complete Handbook of Novel Writing Les Standiford suggests writing novels more like movie scenes: each scene has it’s own beginning, middle, and end and uses as few words as possible to enrich character, provide necessary information, and/or move the plot forward. “Exposition” and “thought” aren’t available so scenes must be shown using only action, dialogue, and description.
Today I’m going to practice a one-page scene:
A healthy, middle-aged man and woman hold hands walking along the beach when a bottle washes ashore. They stop suddenly, look at each other in alarm and break into a run. The man is faster than the woman, but she pulls down his shorts to make him trip. When he realizes she’s passing him he gives her a clothesline and she falls into the sand. Before he can get his shorts back up she jumps onto his back and chokes him while he crawls toward the bottle. She’s pulling his head backwards when he finally pops the cork and pulls out a tiny piece of paper which she snatches away and eats.
The man points triumphantly. “I knew it! I knew you were a spy!”
“Then you should’ve come prepared, baby.” She draws a pistol.
He drops his hands and smiles looking very comfortable. “What makes you think I didn’t?”
She pulls the trigger and gets nothing but an electric jolt. He closes the gap in two steps and knocks her out cold.(more…)
I was scared at first so I only tried a small dab on a chip. My taste buds never noticed the flavor as they were all immediately set to cursing and swearing in a tirade against me. Powdered glass lined my throat with every breath. My head turned into a big sweaty tomato and my feet started walking me in circles around the kitchen.
I’m not sure if it was my own thought, an angel from above or my wife who was watching me, but someone called me an idiot. I would have responded, but my tongue was in revolt and my throat had revoked all passes–nothing in or out.
After six or seven minutes I crawled back to do it again. I shook the bottle hard and the thick sauce landed in a small glob.
I stared for six or seven seconds thinking of my manhood and decided to fear nothing so small. I remember my wife rolling her eyes, and I remember stepping on one of my children, but not much else is clear until I was standing over the toilet holding a box fan and praying to God. After thirty minutes my temperature dropped back down into the triple digits and the tears and hiccups finally stopped.
I spent most of the night thinking about life and death and decided to give it a couple of days before trying again. I hope you like it as much as I did!