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: Your Personality on the Page

We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.

Today’s twist: Write this post in a style distinct from your own.

The chair is uncomfortable.  The room is too hot.

She speaks.

“What are you afraid of?”

“That I won’t get better.”

“What would that look like?”

“Well, I just don’t want to go through this every week and come out on the other side of it knowing nothing has changed.”

“What do you want to change?”

“The way I feel.”

“How do you want to feel?”

“Happy.”

“When was the last time you felt happy?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’s sad.”

“I know.”

We are silent.

This time I begin:

“I can’t remember what it was like to feel happy.”

“Then how will you know when you are?”

“I won’t spend every day wishing my life was over.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“I know I need to do the work.  My head has accepted that but my heart hasn’t.”

“How can I help?”

“Tell me what to do.”

“Okay.  I can do that.  When you go home, I’d like you to start by…”

“Don’t be a smart ass again.”

She smirks.

“I remember your satirical list from last time.”

“Okay, let’s start with something simple.”

“I’d like that.”

**Author’s note:  In honor of National Mental Health Awareness week, I’ve chosen to publicly address my fear of never “getting better” in my struggle with depression.