Scrivener’s Forge 5 – Character and World Building

I would like to thank Neil MacDonald arranging these monthly writing exercises. I am grateful for the opportunity to focus on difference skills required for writing a good story. If you would like more information on the exercises please check out Neil’s post by clicking HERE.

This month’s challenge is as follows –


An exercise from John Gardener. Write a scene which places a character in a specific location. Use the interaction between character and description to show us a unique world we’ve never seen before and that will never exist again.  A man whose son has died in the war is looking at a building. Describe the building without mentioning the war, the son, or his death.

Hint: if you’re finding this hard to approach, consider why a character in this situation might even notice a building.

Here is my scene –

Henry sat, unable to move. The inside of his car flooded with alternating colors from the flashing signs. Blue, yellow, red. Blue, yellow, red. His heart and Budweiser beat in time. It had been twenty-five years since he had entered one of these stores but he knew every square inch by heart. The row upon row of bottles beckoned him as he peered between the posters that plastered the windows. His hands shook. Henry jerked forward and started his car and just as quickly turned it off. He removed the keys from the ignition. Blue, yellow, red. Blue, yellow, red. Henry stepped out leaning against the door jamb collecting his shattered nerves before closing the door and heading back in time.

The harsh glare of the fluorescent lights made the glass bottles twinkle a quiet invitation, pick me, pick me. He willed himself to walk past the stacks of cheap booze with handwritten signs piled in the aisle, remembering the burning turpentine taste. Henry moved quickly past the gin and the vodka, ignoring the aisles and aisles of wine. He knew what he wanted and knew that the whiskey was near the back of the store. His feet beat in unsteady staccato rhythm on the polished tile floor. He was aware that his every move was being recorded. If the bored clerk bothered to look up from his magazine and glance at his grainy monitor, he would see a middle-aged man, battered by time, wearing an expensive but disheveled suit. A man overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of choices, searching the shelves for a special bottle, something used for a celebration, maybe for consolation. Neither the cameras nor the clerk would see a man breaking a solemn promise made twenty-five years ago, a man about to take a careening bobsled ride back into hell. Henry reached to snatch a bottle of Jack Daniels off the shelf, its amber liquid offering promises of comfort. The bottle slipped from his from his trembling fingers and shattered at his feet. He whimpered at the sight. Shocked back to his harsh reality, Henry pivoted on his heels. He threw $40.00 at the startled clerk as he scurried to the shelter of his car.

Thanks for reading. All comments, hints, pointers, critiques are appreciated.

If you would like to read more submissions click HERE.



FF Challenge May 5th – To Honor

Welcome to this weeks challenge and my story. The picture this week proved to be a hard nut to crack. Finally it was the small flag, which I took to be a French flag, that lead me to a story.

Before we get to the story, first a thank you to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this weekly event. Click her name to get more info on the challenge. Also thank you to Sandra Crook for the photo.

If you would like to read more stories, click HERE.

buildings ff May 5
PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

Far from the cafes and galleries of Paris, a kestrel hovers in the stark blue sky. Lost 100 years in the past, the deep-throated roar of battle pummels me. My eyes are assaulted by the devastation strewn across fields cleaved by trenches and mortar shells. After three days of battle 3,598 Canadians lay dead in the blood-soaked mud, 7,004 are wounded. The fledgling nation of Canada’s identity was forged in the blood and mud of France. Standing in the shadow of the Vimy Ridge Memorial, I adjust my uniform and wonder if needed would I be able to follow in their footsteps and honor them?

Word Count: 104

Canadian National Memorial
Canadian National Vimy Memorial

The history behind the story: April 9th 2017 was the 100 anniversary of the Battle at Vimy Ridge. Many historians credit the battle, the first time four divisions from across Canada fought together in WW1, with defining the nation of Canada which was only 50 years old at the time. France ceded 250 acres of preserved battlefield to Canada to honor those that fought and died in WW1. The breath taking Vimy Ridge Monument was unveiled in 1936. Interested in finding out more CLICK HERE.


FF Challenge, April 21st – Grandma’s Secret

So here is my story for this weeks FF Challenge. A newbie to this challenge? The rules are simple – write a story 100 words or less based on the photo prompt. This challenge is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, please click her name to visit her site for more info.

Thank you Magaly Guerrero for this week’s intriguing photo.

Art and Shoes
PHOTO PROMPT © Magaly Guerrero

Now, here is my 102 word story – Grandma’s Secret

With a mischievous smile and twinkling eyes, grandma whispered stories about 1924 Paris like they were a shared secret. Nights at the scandalous Moulin Rouge and dreams of becoming a dancer. She always kept the best for the last, where a brazen twenty-year-old from New York met a shy thirty-year-old artist from Oklahoma and how their love bloomed in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

Grandma never talked about life and death on the farm in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl and she never shared the secret of how she kept her mischievous smile and twinkling eyes despite so many shattered dreams.

Thanks for reading.

Please click HERE to read other stories based on this week’s photo.


FF Challenge, April 14th – A Slice of Life

Thanks for dropping by for this week’s Friday Fictioneers. There are a few pieces of business before we get to my story. First FYI the challenge is to write a story 100 words or less prompted by the photo. The host for this challenge is Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, click her name to visit her site and get all the rules.

Thanks to Dale Rogerson for this weeks photo.

A Slice of Life
PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Now my 99 word story – A Slice of Life

The initial spark was now a raging fire that refused to be sated. Their weekly dates had quickly shifted from dimly lit restaurants to pizza and wine in her apartment. Tim would be arriving with their favorite shortly. The wine was breathing, she was simmering in anticipation.

Jessica flung open the door not expecting the young man who was offering her a pizza box. She barely grasped the ‘He paid already and said to give you this.’

When Jessica’s poisoned body was found, clutched in one hand was Tim’s picture, in the other was the note.

‘Sorry. I’m married.’

Thanks for reading. Please click HERE to read other stories based on this week’s photo.

Scrivener’s Forge 4

This month’s challenge was a tough one for me. But before I get to that I want to thank Neil MacDonald  for hosting this monthly challenge. Want to develop some new writing skills or sharpen some old ones. Take a gander at Neil’s challenge. Here’s the LINK to this month’s exercise.

To quote Neil here is the challenge for April –

Character and Likeability

A main character doesn’t have to be likeable, but they do have to be interesting. Any believable hero or heroine must have flaws (just as every satisfying villain must have good qualities). They may even be overwhelmed by their flaws. Flawed heroines are given a much harder time by readers than flawed heroes.


Write a scene with an unlikeable main character that you think will engage the reader’s interest. You might want to try changing their gender and writing it again. If you do this, consider what you learned from the comparison.

Here is my scene, word count 509

The door closed behind Matt with a satisfying thud. Avoiding the pile of newspapers and mail scattered in the hallway, he made his way into the kitchen. Things had gotten a little out of control since Helen left. Good riddance, he thought, the bitch had been driving him crazy with her constant nagging. As if on cue the phone rang. He placed the McDonald’s bag on the counter, pushing aside dirty glasses and empty bottles, ignoring the ear-piercing ring. The number of empty bottles strewn across the counter surprised him. One by one he picked up the bottles, convinced one would not be empty. One by one he threw them against the wall.

The phone rang again defeating the joy he had felt at finding a bottle that was a quarter full. He knew who it was and knew she wouldn’t give up. Matt snatched up the phone. His ex-wife’s voice was like nails dragged across a blackboard.

“Where the hell were you?”

Matt seethed in silence.

“You know you missed his baseball game again. You know how much he wants you there.”

Thoughts of seven-year-old Steven sobered him for a moment. “Christ Helen, I never said I would go. You’re the one filling his stupid little head with ideas.”

“Matt. He’s your son. The least you could do is show some interest in him.”

“Screw him and while you’re at it screw you.” Matt slammed down the phone.

Grabbing the bottle and a glass he headed to the living room and settled into his recliner. Matt didn’t bother turning on the TV. He knew what today’s top story would be. House fire claims the life of four.  The smell of smoke still lingered on his skin. No matter how many showers he took, the scent of smoke followed him everywhere. Gulping back some whiskey, he had long ago given up of the niceties of ice, he braced himself. He knew the images would come, just as he knew the only way to stop them. It had been also most two years ago. Flames had roared through the house destroying everything in its path. The captain’s voice boomed through his mic. We’re missing one. A five-year-old. Matt crawled room to room, hands frantically searching. The thick smoke blinded him. His breath was a ragged roar echoing inside his mask. On and on he probed. His stomach had lurched when his hand had brushed the small leg. Clutching the little boy, he rushed down the smoke-filled hall almost tripping as he burst through the front door into welcoming daylight. The EMT’s snatched the child from his arms. Matt had watched them frantically working. His heart was torn in two when their frantic actions slowed, then stopped.

How could he explain to Helen that every time he hugged Steven, he felt the body of the dead boy he had so desperately wanted to save? How hearing his son’s laughter, he was reminded that he had failed that little boy. Every smile from his son was a reminder that he had let a little boy die.

Thanks for reading. Leave me a comment. Did I develop an engaging unlikable character?

Visit this LINK to read other submissions to the Scrivener’s Forge Exercise.


FF Challenge April 7th – Best Friends

Welcome to this week’s edition of Friday Fictoneers.

Let’s start with a visit to or host Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, at her site for all the rules for this challenge.  In brief they are to write a story 100 words or less based on the photo prompt. Take a chance and join our group by submitting a story. Thanks to Jellico’s Stationhouse for this weeks photo.

Click this link to read all the stories based on this week’s photo.

Now on to my story for the week – Best Friends

PHOTO PROMPT © Jellico’s Stationhouse

We played all day. You ran, I chased. You jumped, I jumped higher. When you mastered your bike, we raced down hill, arms stretched overhead. Your laughter was a babbling brook that followed us everywhere.

Here in the dark corner of the garage your bike and I wait. Its bright blue paint is covered in dust. The quiet whispers frighten me. Leukemia, they utter furtively as if terrified by the word. Your parents clutch each other, tears streaming.

I saw your parents when they came home yesterday. They were laughing. A sound I’ve missed. Soon you’ll come out to play.

Word Count – 100

Thanks for reading. Take a moment and leave me a comment.



FF Challenge March 31st – Betrayed

Here we are, the last challenge for March. Yes, April is just a few days away. For those of you living in northern climes, spring is here and summer is on it’s way. I miss spring almost as much as I miss snow. I long for the first sighting of tulips as they push out of the ground promising a riot of color.

Enough longing for the past. Here’s to the future. Let’s start with a visit to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, at her site for all the rules for this challenge. Stop by, read her story and leave a comment. Take a chance and join our group by submitting your story.

Click this link to real all the stories based on this week’s photo.

BTW the photo is courtesy of Fatima Fakier Deria, who retains all rights to her photo.

And now my 100 word story – Betrayed


The blazing sun shot daggers into my eyes as I scanned the horizon. A hopeless gesture. Day 18 since my young husband left for a daytrip on his sailboat, a gift from me for his 30th birthday. I had been amused when he named it. No news, no sightings since the life preserver emblazoned with Molly’s Folly was found on day four. Still, I wait. I watch.

Day 61 a withdrawal from the bank account I discovered on Day 10. A breadcrumb trail to follow.

I wait. It will take years. Can you be convicted of killing someone already dead?

Thanks for taking the time to read. Please leave me a comment, good or bad.