Writing 101: Don’t Stop the Rockin’

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

My brain is going non stop these days about one single subject.  (Listen up, Writing-101-powers-that-be, I’m going to be fixing my typos.  Stop trying to ruin me!  We’ll just pretend that it’s not editing.  Okay?)

Okay, where was I?  Lately I’ve been thinking – obsessing even – over something that happened over 20 years ago.  It has always felt like that day was a turning point in my life and not in a good way.  It was the day that the relationship I had been in for over 3 years ended.  It made an impression, what can I say?  Let me tell you the story:

It started in the summer when I was in a community theater production.  I was hesitant to take the role because it would take away from the time I had with my boyfriend.  The one I’d been dating three years.  Basically through all of high school.  I took the role anyway because it was fun and I loved theater.  The night comes for the performance that my family and boyfriend were scheduled to attend.  My part kept me off stage for most of the first half of the musical.  When I finally took the stage, I was able to look out into crowd and quickly found my family.  Beside them was the empty chair that should be filled with the boyfriend.  Of course I panicked!  But the show must go on, so I powered through the rest of the scene.  At intermission, I lost it.  I was angry!  I was confused!  What was happening?  Of course I couldn’t leave the back stage area.  We wouldn’t want to spoil the illusion of the low-budget community theater production we had going on.  Besides, we didn’t have understudies, so what would have happened if I’d not gone back.  Well, I know that answer now.

Finally, the show was over.  I hurried to change out of my costume and went to find my mother.  I asked her what was wrong. She said she wasn’t sure.  She only knew he had shown up before they had left for the play and had picked up his stuff and left me a note.  What!?  No I’m really in a panic.  What was happening?

I drove home as fast as I could safely do so.  I lived about 20 miles from the town where the theater was.  I was also giving one of the other cast members a ride.  I’m pretty sure he thought he was going to die.  Now remember, this was 20 years ago and I was a teenager.  I didn’t have a cell phone.  I wasn’t trying to call the boyfriend and ask what was going on.  I needed to get home and find out for myself.

When I got there, I found carnage.  Well, first I found a few of my belongings neatly stacked on a stool.  On top of them was a note.  I picked up the note and walked to my bedroom.  That was where I found the carnage.  The sweet little brown teddy bear he had given me and we had named after the boyfriend lay there on my bed missing one head.  He decapitated my teddy!  I read the note but still didn’t understand what was happening.  The things he thought he had heard about me (maybe that he did hear about me) were simply not true.  He had heard I was cheating on him.

We got through this rough patch.  We actually got back together.  But things were hard.  Things were never the same.  A few months later, we broke up over the phone.  He told me to “have a nice life.”  It was the harshest words I can ever remember hearing.

All these years later, I still look back at that time and feel like it was a moment that changed me.  I quickly became a different person.  I started making terrible decisions.  Decisions that affected my personal life, my career, my love life.  Lately I’ve been obsessing over how much I want the chance to go back and make those choices over.  I know I can’t.  But I do have to find a way to go back and find closure.  Sure, I know that sounds cliche.  It’s just what’s on my mind right now.

Writing 101: Honing Your Point of View

The neighborhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.

 

Today’s prompt: write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.

 

Today’s twist: For those of you who want an extra challenge, think about more than simply writing in first-person point of view — build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.

 

Something terrible must be happening across the street.  I want to know more, but I can’t.  I’m just going to sit right here on the steps inside our house and watch out the window.  Momma doesn’t like it when I look at other houses through the window.  I want to ask momma what is happening, but she’s not here.  So I’m watching out the window when the police cars show up.

I don’t like the police cars.  They were there on the day my daddy went away.

There is the lady who lives across the street.  I don’t know her name.  Maybe momma told me.  I just call her Alice because she reminds me of the maid on that old show momma likes to watch.  I like to watch it too.  Alice has lived in that house for a long time.  She has always lived across the street from me.  She used to live there with her husband and their kids.  They were all boys.  Those boys are a lot older than me, but sometimes I could play ball with the two youngest ones.  But that was before the day my daddy went away.

Alice’s husband went away, too.  It wasn’t the same time as my daddy.  My daddy went away years ago.  Mr. Alice only went away three months ago.  I know because I always count the days on my calendar.  I remember the big days.  The days when something important happens.  Like the day my daddy went away.

It’s hard to tell what is happening from inside the house.  I can see the police get out of their cars and walk toward the front door.  There are only 2 of them and they have another lady walking with them.  She is not a police woman, but she is dressed nice.  There were a lot more police the day my daddy went away.

When the police get to the front door, I see it open.  Inside, I can see my mom and some of the other ladies who live around us.  I thought Alice was alone in the house.  I see momma crying.  I move off of the stairs and go to the front door.  It takes me a long time to put my hand on the knob.  I remember how it used to feel to run outside.  To play with the other boys.  Even to visit ladies like Alice.  I liked her.

I open the front door, but I am frozen to the spot.  There are more police now.  I start to breathe hard.  I look around with wide panicked eyes.  I haven’t been this far outside since the day my daddy went away.  And now the police are here again and somebody else is going away.

Only this time Alice is alive.

 

**Author’s note:  This was a prompt I just really did not want to respond to.  This is a half-hearted attempt and I know I should do better.  Sorry…

 

Writing 101: Third Time’s the Charm

“Rebekah, please carry those boxes to the storage room?”  Allie’s voice rang clear with authority but never came across as bossy.  Rebekah had learned to love that about her stepmother.  She always knew how to get things done, but never made it seem like you were being forced into it.  Yes, Rebekah considered herself lucky indeed that this was the woman who came into her father’s life and stepped in to raise his two children.

Rebekah never knew her real mother, Sarah.  She had died in a car accident when Rebekah was still an infant.  All Rebekah knew of the woman who had given her life could be found in the framed photograph kept on her bedside table.  At night, she wold reach over and kiss the photograph of her mother before switching off the light.  As the years went by however, it became harder to hold on to that mother with such a vibrant, loving mother figure could be found in Allie.

Now it was moving day.  She and her brother, Ben, had both graduated from college and moved out of the house.  Seeing this as the perfect opportunity to move into the beach house they had always dreamed of, Rebekah’s dad and Allie had put her childhood home on the market and found just the right home a few towns away.

At the end of a hall Rebekah found the semi-finished room off the garage that would serve as a storage room for now.  After setting the boxes on the floor, she found a chair and collapsed in it.  It was hard to believe that all of the furnishings from her old home had been sold off or moved here.  The place seemed too small for all of those things, much less all of her memories.  With a sigh, she looked through a few of the boxes closest to her her.

Inside them were some old school papers from her and Ben, clothes they had long ago outgrown but which still held some sentimental value, a few photographs in old frames and some books.  She lifted the lid off of what looked like a large, old-fashioned hat box. The contents of this one seemed different.  Instead of being carefully folded and tucked away efficiently, these items seemed to be stored in haste.  One by one, Rebekah removed the contents and examined them.

First came a rose colored robe of softest silk.  It felt cool and soft to the touch. Next, she removed a velvet jewelry pouch and set it aside.  After that was a bag full of yarn, knitting needles and an infant-sized sweater in palest pink.  A lump was forming in Rebekah’s throat through a tiny sense of recognition.  There were only two items left in the box.  One was a very well-used Bible and the other was a leather bound book with no title.  Lifting this last item out of the box, Rebekah delicately opened the cover.  The pages inside were covered with a feminine scrawl.  She knew at once it must have been her mother’s.

Sarah had apparently not been consistent in keeping a journal. Rebekah could tell that the book spanned years as she flipped through the pages.  The first entries were made years before her mother died.  They were made before Ben was even born and they continued until the last few weeks Sarah was alive.  Without a thought for the work that needed to be done around her, Rebekah began devouring the words in front of her.

She had no idea how much time had passed when Ben came knocking at the door.  “So this is where you’ve been hiding.”  He made a move to bump Rebekah over and share the chair with her.  Before he could sit however, she jumped up and began pacing the floor.  “Hey, what’s wrong?”

Rebekah looked up at him and slammed the book shut.  She was breathing heavily, as if she had just run a race.  The look on her face was one of hurt, disbelief and a growing anger.  “Did you know dad and Allie knew each other while mom was still alive?”

“Maybe.  I’m not sure.  I was pretty young when…”  he didn’t have to finish the sentence.  He had been old enough to have some memories of their mother and so he had taken it much harder.  “Why do you ask?”

“Mom talks about her.  In here.”  She held the book out so he could see for himself.

Standing, he took the journal from her hands and opened it.  “What is this?”

“It’s mom’s.  She wrote in it, not often – but she started it when she and dad were first married.  I’ve been reading it since I came in here and I just found an entry that mentioned Allie.”

“And?”

“Mom thought she was having an affair with dad.”

The silence hung between them like a cold damp sheet.  It didn’t seem possible.  Matt & Allie were such a loving, God-fearing, normal couple.  Finally, Ben spoke.  “Are you sure?”

With a sigh, Rebekah sank to the floor.  “Of course not.  Mom wasn’t even sure.  But she was worried enough about it to wonder.  I don’t even know if she ever spoke to dad about it.  After the entry that mentions it, she doesn’t write again for months.  The next entry is about finding out she was pregnant with you.”

Ben sat cross-legged in front of his sister and handed the book back to her.  “What do you want to do?”

“Well first I think I’ll read the rest of this.  I’m not sure I can ask them.  It’s just too weird.”

“Don’t you think we have to, Bek?  There has to be another side to this story.”