Scrivener’s Forge 8 – Plot and Ending

Once again I would like to thank Neil MacDonald, for posting the writing exercises called Scrivener’s Forge. Please click his name for more information on Scrivener’s Forge. This month’s excise is the following –

A simple way to think about plot is as the events seen in the light of their endings. Endings are important, and one of the most difficult parts of story-telling. A good ending should be both surprising and inevitable.

Exercise:

Write a cracking-good ending (a paragraph or two). Then work backwards and develop the sequence of events (the plot) that leads up to this ending. Note that this may feel very artificial for writers who like to “discover” their ending in the course of writing. But it’s an exercise to help us be aware of the sequence of causes that create good endings. It’s also a great technique when you’re editing a story to do a “backwards pass” and check that you have properly motivated the ending. A “backwards pass” is exactly this process of working backwards from the ending.

This was a very challenging one for me. Luckily, I had a story that had been bouncing around in my brain, a response to a Friday Fictioneer’s photo of a pay phone I didn’t get a chance to write. Now I have the opportunity to flesh out that idea. Hope you enjoy my story.

Life Line

I stomped the dust off my boots and cursed. This backwater town was strangling the life out of me. I was bored to death by the smiling faces that greeted me every day inquiring about me and my family. I was done with the dusty two lane main street that lead people in and quickly ushered them out of the tiny dot that was my home town.

When you’re young the long stretches of fields were a great place to play hide and seek. The country fairs full of corn dogs, cotton candy and stomach-churning rides were the highlight of the year. It’s funny how you can see the same things year after year then one day the familiar sights look different, almost alien.

Head down, I spent my high school years plotting my escape. My ticket out was a full scholarship at UC Berkeley. I packed my bags ignoring my mother’s hand wringing and my father’s defeated look. They had lost the long argument. The University of Nebraska was not big enough, not far enough for me. Mike, five years my junior still under the spell of life in the country, understood none of the tensions that shattered the peace in our tiny farm house.

Two days into my first semester, denying the empty feeling that stalked me from class to class and haunted my restless sleep, I called home from the dorm’s payphone for the first time. The achingly familiar sound of my mother’s voice sent tears streaming down my cheeks. The local twang, one I was struggling to hide, was a sweet song to my ears. It became an addiction. I called home once or twice a week. I would hang up, breathing a sigh of relief, shored up by knowing my one stoplight town and all its occupants still existed. I cheered the high school’s football wins, I laughed at my brother’s fumbling attempts at dating, I mourned the loss of people that had become as familiar to me as breathing. For years, I clung to the lifeline that was mounted in the hallway of the dorm.

Undergraduate and Graduate degrees led me to Silicon Valley, another new world to explore and conquer. My small-town roots, are now firmly relegated to the distant past. But I still shore up any moments of doubt and insecurity with memories of those fall fairs and Friday night football games. Payphones are now an endangered species that are rarely spotted.

But there one hung, almost impossible to resist. On my way into the truck stop, I breezed by it studiously ignoring it’s existence. On the way out, I strode confidently past it until my resolve dissolved. I turned back and stood face to face with it drowning in indecision. I watched as one hand snatched up the receiver, the other hand dropped in some coins and my fingers dialed the number from memory. I clung to the lifeline.

Whrrr click, whrrr click. The voice heard so often over the years reached deep into my soul.

“The number you have dialed is no longer in service.”

I dropped the receiver as if bit by a snake. The room twisted, I slunk to the floor. As always it came crashing back to me, the horrible day, a sunny afternoon during my senior year. The day a drunk driver changed, forever, the voice on the other end of the line.

Thanks for reading. Please click HERE to read other submissions to this month’s Scrivener’s Forge.

 

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FF Challenge Aug 11th – Pride and a Fall

Once again with feeling, welcome to my submission to this week’s Friday Fictioneers Challenge. Not familiar with it here’s a recap. The goal is to write a story 100 words or less based on a photo prompt. Interested in finding out more please visit our noble host’s site by clicking Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

This weeks photo prompt has been provided by CE Ayr. Thank you Mr. Ayr for the intriguing photo. It was a tough one.

Please click HERE to read stories by other writers.

Now here is my 99 word story –

FF Aug 11
PHOTO PROMPT© CEAyr

Pride and a Fall

Hey old man, where are you? Couldn’t keep up, huh? Damn root, my ankle is swollen. Tried to stand, I fell again. I think my wrist is broken.

Day 2

Pops, where are you? You said the rock that looks like a head, right? Spent the night pressed against that rock. So many noises. I’m scared.

Stock – 3 granola bars, and 1 1/2 bottles of water

Day 6

Dad, you used to say something about pride and a fall. You were right. Where are you?

Day ?

I’m exhausted. I just want to sleep. Daddy, where are you?

Thanks for reading. Please let me a comment, criticism or just off the wall remark.

Cindy

FF Challenge August 4th – I Vow

Hey there, welcome to my submission to this week’s Friday Fictioneers Challenge. Not familiar with it here’s a recap. The goal is to write a story 100 words or less based on a photo prompt. Interested in finding out more please visit our noble host’s site by clicking Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

This weeks photo prompt has been provided by Dale Rogerson. Thanks Dale for the inspiring photo.

Please click HERE to read stories by other writers.

Now here is my 90 word story – I Vow

FF Aug 4th
PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Bright bursts of color. Jagged yellows, searing reds, blinding white. With each blow, the colors blossomed.

Did he really believe the flowers that arrived like clockwork after each assault would make it alright?

They keep coming, small bouquets to towering arrangements. The colorful array of bruises fade, the broken bones heal. I run my fingers down the stem of a rose, searching for the thorn that I know is there. I prick my finger, squeeze out bright red blood and vow, never again.

A new batch of flowers arrived today.

Thanks for reading. Please take a moment to leave me a comment.

Cindy

FF Challenge July 14th – Light of Hope in the Dark

Thanks for stopping by to read my submission to Rochelle’s challenge. New to Friday Fictioneers please click Rochelle Wissoff-Fields to visit her site for all the rules. The bare bones is to write a story based on the photo prompt that is 100 words or less.

The photo prompt this week is provided by Janet Webb, who retains all rights to the photo.

So here is my story –

FF July 14
PHOTO PROMPT © Janet Webb

Walls of seawater swelled by the storm crashed. Floorboards creaked. Her skirt swept the worn floor. She roamed window to window checking the candles. In the blackness of a night when the stars were cloaked by roiling clouds, it was these flickering lights that would guide them past rocky outcrops into safe harbor.

The thump of wood against wood roused her from her sleep. Outlined in dim morning light, her son bounded from the boat. The aging fishing boat that bore her husband and only child was home. She slumped relishing the reprieve.

One by one the candles sputtered out.

Word Count – 100

Thanks for reading. Please click HERE to check out more stories based on the photo prompt.

Have a great day.

Cindy

 

Scrivener’s Forge 7 – Go In Late

Thanks once again to Neil MacDonald for posting these writing exercises. The information I gleam from these short exercises has been immeasurable. If you are interesting taking part please visit Neil’s site by clicking HERE.

Here in Neil’s words is the challenge for this week –

This is a classic principle of gripping screenwriting.  You create more drama in a scene if you enter it with some action already underway. You avoid the boredom of a drawn-out conclusion if you leave it once the action is done (preferably even adding another hook to the next scene).

Exercise:

Write a scene that starts slam bang wallop in the middle of the action. No introduction, no back story. Use what you’ve learned in previous exercises about character, description, and action to fill in any details we need.

Now for my scene, hope you enjoy it.

The angry voice pierced the air, shattering all notions of peace. Jolted out of my conversation with Lisa, my head snapped to the small group who had been playing water polo a few feet from shore. Lisa lurched to the edge of her chair her eyes pivoting between eight-year-old Michael and his father Matt. Indecision was etched on her face, she kneaded the towel in her hand. My mind struggled to make sense of the scene in front of me. Everyone but Michael and Matt where frozen, stunned by the onslaught from Matt.

“Don’t just stand there. Go and get the ball.” It was then that I noticed the beach ball caught in the current drifting away from the clutch of players. A normal beach scene on a bright summers day. Nothing to worry about.

“Get your ass in gear.” The words ripped through the air.

Michael withering under his father’s glare started to swim. From the beginning, it was a losing battle. The faster his little legs pumped and his arms sliced through the water, the further the ball floated away. We all watched, unable to tear our eyes away. Everyone, except Matt, was holding their breath. He continued his tirade.

“How many times have I told you to be careful?”

“Now you have to pay the price. Get those lazy legs working. If we lose that ball it’s coming out of your allowance.”

Stroke after stroke Michael struggled on. Although awkward the situation didn’t appear dangerous. Michael was within reach of five adults.

Long seconds ticked by. I could see Bob and Ken moving, not swimming simply drifting towards Michael, closing the gap between themselves and the little boy. I pumped my foot to the chants of ‘It’s okay Bob won’t let anything happen to our grandson.’ On and on it went. Michael’s strong strokes started to flounder. His arms were now crashing into the water. Lisa and I were now standing at the edge of the deck. But damn it, I said nothing. I looked at Lisa and silently willed her into doing something, anything to stop the tragedy that was playing out before us. Her head was swiveling between her son and her husband. Do something, help him, I yelled in my mind. Matt continued to rant. His tone and words becoming uglier and uglier.

Michael’s floundering turned to thrashing. He stopped trying to swim and was struggling to tread water. His little head bobbed barely above the surface of the water. Then it slipped. It slipped below the surface. He came up gagging. He disappeared once more. My scream was strangled in my throat as Bob and Ken lunged towards Michael. Ken was closer, he arrived at the sputtering little boy first. Two strokes later Bob was there. Ken clutched the slight form of his nephew to his chest and swam towards the shore.

I shook with anger from head to toe when Matt abruptly changed his tune and was now shouting words of support and encouragement.

“Great job, you almost did it Michael.” Matt’s eyes were bouncing from person to person seeking for support. They settled on Lisa who refused to look at him.

Ken, chest heaving with adrenalin, hands flexing, turned to confront Matt. Bob grabbed his arm and whispered something in his ear. They stood like that for several seconds. Ken vibrating. Bob attempting to calm him. Ken shook his head in disgust and stomped away towards the cottage. If my arms and legs hadn’t turned to rubber, I would’ve walked up to the sneering Matt and slapped him.

Matt sat on a rock beside his son, throwing his arm him, ignoring Michael’s stiff posture. I turned away from the jarring scene, attempting to hide my anger at myself. I had stood silent, not intervening while danger prowled in our midst. Just like my mother before me, I did nothing.

Thanks for reading. Please click HERE to read more responses to this exercise.

Cindy

 

FF-Challenge June 30th – Those Eyes

Here we are, coming up to the last day in June, easing into a holiday weekend in Canada (Happy 150th Birthday!) and Independence Day in the USA. But before we get to those celebrations, let’s take a moment to read some Friday Fictioneer stories. If you would like more info on this weekly tradition please click Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s name to visit our hosts site.

Today’s photo prompt is brought to us by the esteemed and accomplished Rochelle. Remember this photo is the property of the photographer and shouldn’t be used for any purpose without express permission.

HPIM0533.JPG
PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Now my 100 word story –

His emails became more frequent. They played with Valerie’s heartstrings, turning her inside out. Her mother didn’t understand why she had to go, why she chose to leave her well-tuned life. “You’re trying to grasp smoke,” she scolded.

In Naples, Valerie wove her way down sun dappled cobblestone streets, questioning her decision at every turn. “You don’t know him,” echoed in her ears. Her hesitant knock on a battered wooden door was answered by a man Valerie had never met. He gazed at her with heartbreakingly familiar eyes. Valerie whispered what she had longed to say all her life, “Papa.”

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed the story. Leave me a comment by clicking the link button below the LIKE bar.

Please click HERE to see what other’s are saying about the photo prompt.

Cheers,

Cindy

FF Challenge June 24th – When the Sky Cries

Welcome to my newly revamped site. Glad you dropped by for this weeks Friday Fictioneers Challenge. In brief, this challenge is to write a story 100 words or less based on a photo prompt. Please take a moment to visit our host Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site for all the rules.

This week’s photo is brought to you courtesy of  Ted Struzt. All photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission.

Care to read other inventive stories please click HERE.

Now my 99 word story –

FF June 23 17
PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Reflecting events, the sky is inconsolable, tears rain down darkening my mood. I thump the steering wheel in time with the wiper blades. I need to prepare, to gather my thoughts.

Explaining my job was hopeless. “You’re a stockbroker, making loads of money. Me, I’m a Recovery Diver for the Coast Guard,” ends in looks of revulsion when they figure out what I recover.

Unanswered questions strike like lightning bolts. Seven are missing. Shrouded in darkness, knowing what I will find, I will grope for answers. I can’t offer hope but maybe I can bring comfort from knowing.

This weeks story was loosely based on the tragic and inexplicable collision of the USS Fitzgerald with a container ship that left seven sailors dead. Stories like this haunt me partly because it should never have happened and maybe a little because my son is in the Canadian navy and has been deployed to the Mediterranean and Black Sea for the last 6 months. My heart goes out to all the sailors on the Fitzgerald and their families.

Thanks for reading. Before you go please leave me a comment by clicking the link below the LIKE section. 🙂

Cheers,

Cindy