“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days. […] Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance.”
― J.K. Rowling

3 Tips to “Show, Don’t Tell” Emotions and Moods

If you’re like me, one of the main reasons you read is to receive an emotional transference from the author. You love books that don’t just make you think, that don’t just entertain, but that make you feel something.

show, don't tell

Photo by Alyssa L. Miller

It’s the magic of reading: that an author can arrange a series of letters in a certain order and that these letters can affect our emotions.

As a writer, how do you develop mood in a short story or in the chapter of your novel without telling? Is it possible to build up emotional language while following the advice “Show, Don’t Tell”? In other words, can you make your readers feel something without writing like Stephenie Meyer or E.L. James?

How to “Show, Don’t Tell” with Emotion

I’ve been studying Roberto Bolaño’s short story “Gómez Palacio” from the New Yorker, and it’s a clinic on how to show emotion and mood without telling.

Edgar Allen Poe said this about how to write a short story, “A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”

The mood of “Gómez Palacio” is failure and the other emotions that come with it, like self-pity, paranoia, and depression. The twenty-three year old narrator feels he has already washed up and has exiled himself to a sparse town in the deserts of northern Mexico.

Here are three ways Bolaño builds up a single mood without telling:

1. Write about motivation.

Orscon Scott Card says one of the best ways to characterize is by talking about motivation. Instead of writing specifically about feelings, write about why your characters are doing the things they’re doing.

Here’s an example from “Gómez Palacio”:

I don’t know why I accepted. I knew that under no circumstances would I settle down in Gómez Palacio. I knew that I wouldn’t stick to running a writing workshop in some godforsaken town in northern Mexico.

2. “Show, don’t tell” action that reveals the mood.

Throughout the story, Balaño’s narrator reveals how paranoid he is. However, he never explicitly says, “I was so paranoid.” Instead, he builds the mood through action.

Here’s an example of how Bolaño brilliantly shows the author’s paranoia:

I found it hard to sleep at night. I had nightmares. Before going to bed, I would make sure the door and the windows of my room were securely and tightly shut…. Then I went back to bed and closed my eyes, but having drunk so much water I soon had to get up again to urinate. And since I was up I would check all the locks.

This works so well because instead of using the word paranoid, he shows the author doing paranoid things. And later, it says:

When we came out of the classroom, the director was waiting with two guys who turned out to be civil servants employed by the state of Durango. My first thought was: They’re policemen, here to arrest me.

3. “Show, don’t tell” through description.

This is probably my favorite part of the story. And you’ll notice there’s a little bit of telling in this, but it works because there’s so much showing as well:

On the horizon I could see the highway disappearing into the hills. Night was beginning to approach from the east. Days before, at the motel, I had asked myself, What color is the desert at night? A stupid question, yet somehow I felt it held the key to my future, or perhaps not so much my future as my capacity for suffering.

Later on, we get even more description of the night, and the description reveals the dark thoughts of the narrator while also making the, somehow, beautiful.

To use description to build mood, ask yourself what your character would notice in their state of mind. Focus on colors that seem to show his mood. Think of your sentences like brush strokes, and you’re painting a landscape filled with emotion.

Now That You’ve Shown,  Do Tell

As important as it is to “show, don’t tell,” there are situations where it’s better to tell, don’t show. For example, here is the very first sentence of “Gómez Palacio”:

I went to Gómez Palacio during one of the worst periods of my life.

That’s about as tell-y as you can get, but it works.Sometimes a short burst of telling can be worth paragraphs of showing. Your job as a writer is to figure out when to use which.

PRACTICE

Practice writing about a mood.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post your practice in the comments section.

And if you post, please be sure to comment on a few pieces by other writers.

Have fun! (Unless you’re writing about sadness. Then, don’t have fun.)

About Joe Bunting

Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).

  • Laurel 6

    The day had yet to break, but I was used to that.  My bladder screaming for release, I stumbled to the bathroom and did its bidding.   Damn, that business always wakes me to the early gloom.
    Slippers on now, I trudged to my kitchen and made my daily pot of coffee, then turned to the other counter for the various medications my doctor had prescribed.  Those I downed with my usual bottle of water, a familiar affair. 
    Finally I sat with myself to face another day.

    • Man, that was good. I completely relate, especially when the business wakes me up at 3:00am. argh!

      • Laurel 6

         Thanks so much, Pilar-I loved Joe’s article so much, I just had to give it a 15 minute try!
        Take care,
        Laurel

    • Marla

      This is so good!

    • It’s funny that we both wrote about screaming bladders. I also get that you’re not much of a morning person. 🙂

    • Clairelily2001

       this is such visual writing.  I can see the person, the surroundings, but wonder – is it a man or a woman.  another lovely final sentence.

    • Mariaanne

      Well two of us modern Americans motivated by our bladders.  I love this.  I don’t feel like the day this person is going to have is very promising, but maybe it will turn out surprisingly well.  

  • Jean Mishra

    Cigarette.  It was the only
    thought when I awoke but it slammed through my brain in a blinding light.  I couldn’t even feel my face, but I was
    salivating and it was nicotine-flavored. 
    But I was giving the bloody things up. 
    The whole day previous had been hell. 
    You know how it is.  The more you
    try not to think about something, the more it’s in your face demanding
    attention like a petulant toddler.  Now
    that toddler had grown to gargantuan proportions and was tantrum-pitching in
    every cell in my body.  My palms began to
    sweat and I wiped them on the sheet.  No.
     I wasn’t going to think about this.

    I wasn’t going to remember
    the emergency cigarette either.  The one
    I hid.  Just in case.  Oh god.  I squirmed and pulled the pillow over my
    face.  No.  I can’t do this. 

    The pillow case smelled
    like smoke.

    Screwed.

    My body exploded into
    action.  I stumbled.  Shin banged off the footboard.  Didn’t even feel it.  My legs were hell bent on one
    destination.  The bottom self behind the
    books.  Dropping to the floor my knees
    protested with double pops but
    already my fingers were stabbing through the pile of books into that secret
    space behind them. 

    Empty. 

    He’d found it.

    The realization burned
    like acid into every pore.  No car.  No money. 
    No more cigarettes.  Forever loomed in the moment and it’s
    landscape was barren and ugly.  I just
    sat there contemplating the lines of my palms and watched as they flooded with
    perspiration.  If only I could drown.

    • Jean Mishra

      Eek!  The formatting went totally wonky!  Sorry about that.

    • Marla

      Love the lines about the toddler. The whole thing is pitch perfect.

    • Elizabethwestra

      I’ve never been there, but I can imagine what it must feel like to want something so badly that you get sick without it.  This must be what a drug addict feels like when he/she needs a fix.

    • Nice. 🙂

    • Good job, Jean. Now if you change “cigarette” to “caffeine” you have my morning routine.

    • Clairelily2001

       Wow, this is powerful writing.  I love “Forever loomed etc.”   

    • Mariaanne

      That was dramatic to put it mildly but it does describe the specter that addiction and need can be.  I love the next to last line.  

    • wendy2020

      I really like the way you incorporated the senses.

      Saliva tasting like nicotine, pillow case smelling like smoke, knees popping protest.

      I might pick one or the other of these:  “in every cell in my body” or “into every poor”, maybe instead saying “The realization burned like acid on my skin.” 

      Very vividly done!

    • rachelle

      I love the “forever loomed in the moment and its landscape was barren and ugly” perfect!!

  • Marla

    My husband does not love me. 
    That much is sure.  At night, when
    I drape my arm across his waist, he plucks it off, and even when he sleeps, he
    draws himself up, he tucks his arms and legs in, so that he is never touching
    me.

    What keeps a woman devoted to a man like that?  For me it is the public hours, how he takes
    my hand at the movies, and how he holds an umbrella over the two of us, and how
    in those moments I believe that he might feel a modicum of what I do.

    But as soon as the doors shut on our Escalade, he turns the
    radio on, always financial news, and he looks straight ahead, both hands on the
    wheel, and he seems to lean into the driver’s door, as if I might invade his
    seat, as if I might force myself on him.

    At home, we talk of little. 
    We sync our schedules, so that one of us was always home in the day.  In the room at the end of the downstairs hall
    is another man whose name is Steel, our renter, who looms over both of us.  He sits at his desk all day, stringing
    Christmas lights together, that he uses to form an ever intricate map of the
    United States that trails across the gray walls.

    He keeps the windows open at night so that he can see the
    nearest TV tower, and he syncs certain lights on the map with the tower’s
    blinking, so that California and Delaware dance all night to the gentle thrum.

    And occasionally he set tiny fires, always in the daytime hours,
    the flames licking the drapes or the pair of slippers he keeps by his bed.  When this happens, we jump to attention.  We call the firemen, who lectured us at first
    and then began billing us when our calls kept rolling in.

    When Steel comes out of his room, which wasn’t often, he speaks
    cryptic messages with his eyes shut.

    “The gloom of man speaks certain doom, and you are the feeder in
    the chain of sorrow,” he said on a Sunday in May.

    He turned and walked back, and we were left blinking in his
    departure.

    It is my belief that my husband is under this man’s spell,
    although I can’t be sure.  He waits for
    Steel’s pronouncements, and then he spends days deciphering their meanings.

    He is obedient as a child when he approaches Steel, offering him
    the latest spy novel, a brush for his long hair, bringing him gimlets at night
    and mimosas in the morning.

    I wear my husband’s neglect like a shroud, and I fear Steel, as
    you might expect.  But my terror is not
    based in the fire this prophet (or madman) produces, but for the ice that moved
    in when he did and now covers what used to be my happy marriage.
     

    • LoriT

      This shows such creepiness. I really want to know WHY Steel acts like he does and WHY the husband is under his spell.

      • Marla

         I should keep writing and find out!  Thank you Lori.

    • This was very cool to read. I liked the shift between marital crisis, and supernatural WTFness. Near the end though, you talk about the “fear” the MC feels. I don’t think you need to mention this. It’s clear from the opening her major concern is for her relationship with her husband.

      I would steer away from the emotions she feels, and reflect more on the description of events. That, I felt was the strongest aspect to this whole thing.

      • Marla

         Thanks for your careful reading.  I appreciate your input.

    • Very sad.

      • Marla

         It is, Pilar. Thank you for reading!

    • Elizabethwestra

      Good tension, but the reader will wonder why her husband is under Steel’s spell and why he doesn’t show affection to her anymore. 

      • Marla

         I agree, Elizabeth.

    • I like it, Marla! You really brought out the despair of the wife. And then there’s the whole creepy homoerotic thing happening upstairs…or is it just me?

      • Marla

         You know Tom, I don’t have a clue.  I just wrote for a bit and listened to this unhappy woman.  Weird, huh?

    • Oddznns

      Wow… this is so interesting. What happens next. How did she ALLOW this creep to continue living there. Has the argument between her and husband about creep taken place yet? I need mroe of this Marla. It’s such good show, I don’t want to get out of the scene, no matter how creepy it is.

      • Marla

         I wish I knew what happens!  I just wrote and this is what happened.  I may take it up again.  Thank you for your encouragement!  You’re always so kind.

    • Clairelily2001

       You have captured fruitless longing so well, and fearful anticipation.  I’m sure the rest of the story can only increase in tension.  But how will it end?   In fireworks? 

      • Marla

         Thank you! I really don’t know.  I just sat and wrote and this is what happened. Maybe I should let this woman tell me the rest of the story. 

    • Mariaanne

      Wonderful trio there Marla.  I could understand how she has many emotions but the predominant one seems to be that she is wistful for her husband’s affection that is now transferred to Steel  

      • Marla

         Thanks Marianne.  I didn’t know where this was going.  I just had the first line.  Kind of different for me. 

    • Cindy

      I really felt the despair in what you wrote. You put her emotions into play by using very descriptive words. My favorite line was “I wear my husband’s neglect like a shroud”. Wow – very heavy.

  • LoriT

    The wind hissed as it snuck through the cracks around the edge of the window frame.  Jody glanced outside and saw it had begun to snow again. Another thing to bury me, she thought. But at least it would serve to hide under.
    The square of waxed paper which lay on the metal table was limp except for wrinkles which would not smooth out even though she had spent too long pressing and flattening it. She folded the wax paper over the sandwich tightly and placed it in the lunch box which sat on the counter. Peanut butter again, but it was all that was in the cupboard. She opened the refrigerator door and pulled out the crisper drawer. It was still empty. She opened her purse and dug to the bottom where she knew there was a small box of raisins. Should I save them for tomorrow? She wondered.
    By the time Jim came downstairs she had filled the thermos with the rest of the pot of breakfast coffee and placed the raisins on top of the sandwich. She added a paper napkin she had taken from the table at the lunch counter where she worked on weekends. It was untouched, but still considered used so she was supposed to throw it away. But Bill, the cook and part-owner told her it was OK to take it home.
    “Hope it’s peanut butter on white bread,” Jim said, smiling, as he entered the room.
    Jody’s shoulders sunk and she turned away.
    “Hey, don’t be sad, my girl.” Jim wrapped his arms around Jody from behind and kissed her neck.  She turned and melted into his arms. She never could resist.
    “I love you,” she whispered.
    “It’s going to get better, don’t worry about a thing. I’ve got work now and we’ll get a good paycheck end of next week.”
    He gave Jody a squeeze, let go and reached for the threadbare jacket which hung next to the door.
    When Jim was gone, Jody sunk down into the kitchen chair. Her fingers traced a gentle tattoo on her belly as she wondered when she should tell him.

    • Very good writing. 🙂

    • Great job of capturing the mood of this piece; the cold, the hunger, the worry. And then Jim lightens everything up. So I’m sure he’s gonna be great with the new tattoo on her belly or the baby inside of it…either way. 🙂

    • Clairelily2001

       What gentle writing and with such insight.  A complete piece.   

    • Mariaanne

      You create a very  poor and cold environment and then when he hugs her she has some shelter for a moment.  I really liked this.  It was like a mini story all by itself but it could be the beginning of a novel too. Well done IMO.

    • Marla

      I love this.  Especially when she reacts to the snow the way she does.  The ending is superb, so so strong.

  • Thrust. Lift. Dump. Thrust. Lift. Dump.

    It’s simple. It’s easy.

    Thrust. Lift. Dump.

    My arms are sore, but my body doesn’t slow and my mind doesn’t
    care. Every part of me has agreed to forego its usual functions. Just dig.
    Thrust. Lift. Dump.

    I don’t hear owls. In the movies, during scenes like this,
    you always heard owls. But I don’t hear owls.

    I don’t hear anything save for the shovel shifting dirt.

    Something snaps. I stop for a second or for a hundred thousand
    minutes. Nothing happens. The stars stay in the sky. No men rush me from the
    bushes. No rabbits hop busily by.

    I dig. Thrust. Lift. Dump.

    Clumps of dirt roll back into the hole. The pile is too
    high. I start a new one.

    I want to hear something. I shouldn’t, but I do. I want to
    hear a car, or animals, or another twig snap. I pretend to. It doesn’t help.

    Thrust. Lift. Dump.

    My hole is deep now. I dig on. It needs to be deep enough.

    Thrust. Lift. Dump. I continue on alone, my company a shovel
    and a garbage bag.

    • LoriT

      What a picture you paint.
      I especially love:
      I don’t hear owls. In the movies, during scenes like this,you always heard owls. But I don’t hear owls.

    • Elizabethwestra

      What is he burying?  Is it his trash or is it a body?  You leave this up to the reader.  I like the suspense here. 

    • Yeah!  that’s doing exactly what Joe was talking about, better than I did as a matter of fact!

    • Jack, loved this story. At first I just thought you were a philanderer on a series of one-night stands, but then you introduced the owls.

    • Clairelily2001

       I like the suspense here.  It’s such a good lead in to a story – maybe to a back story?

    • This is a great piece. I can sense the tension as he hurries to carry out his unsavory task, whatever that may be…

    • Hey, thanks everyone! I really appreciate it!

    • wendy2020

      I love your snappy pacing and creative phrasing.  Wish you had just one more modifier… something to describe the garbage bag, just so I have confirmation that it is not empty.  Overstuffed? Lumpy?  Rigid? 

      But really, one of my favorites for this exercise!  Would value your feedback on my own.

      ps:  You have a great author name.

    • Marla

       I love the line about wanting to hear something.  It’s unexpected and perfect here.

    • Jack, I was immediately outdoors 🙂

  • Lisa Howe

    Pacing. Counting the steps to the door and back. Fifteen to be exact. Such a short distance, yet longer with each trembling step. My high heels make a sharp clicking sound on the floor as I walk; the sound is amplified by the silence of the room, marked only by my harrowed breathing. I look at my watch again– it’s only been four minutes! I watch the tiny needle of the second hand slowly click off the seconds..click.click.click. My heartbeat seems to keep rhythm as I continue my walk, back and forth, heels clicking, clock ticking. Pacing, counting the steps, waiting, hoping, silently falling into the abyss of time; it never ends, this waiting. It never ends. Click.Click. Click.

    • Great job of showing the feeling of anxiety without naming it.

    • Nice job, Lisa. I’m sorry you got all dressed up for your date and he never showed up. I hope he didn’t die in a fiery car crash. That would be sad. Maybe he was late because the florist messed up his order. 🙂

      • Lisa Howe

        Actually, the piece interpretation is entirely up to the reader. I wrote specifically of a feeling that everyone could identify with, be it an emergency room, a date, etc. At some point, everyone feels that the “waiting never ends”. 😉

    • Oddznns

      IS it a date? It could be something else couldn’t it? Like for the doctor to come out of the emergency room with some news of a loved one … or even for the drug dealer or a john.  It is a wonderful show of tension.

    • I like the way you use motion, sound and short bursts of sentences to create the feel of anticipation. Very clever, I could feel and hear it.

    • Clairelily2001

       Okay Lisa, you have drawn the reader in and left her wondering on the “Click”.  You’ve portrayed tension so well, and using high heels was a brilliant move.

    • I started getting anxious reading this. 🙂

    • Marla

       I loved the word needle to describe the hand on the clock.  Captured everything.

  • I chewed on the hang-nail until it stung and bled. Anything to take my mind off the incessant droning of the speaker and the building pressure in my lower abdomen. 

    “Why, oh why did I drink all that iced tea?” I shouted inside my brain.

     Beads of sweat and ripples of chills came over me like a stadium full of fans doing the wave. Everything around me seemed to grow larger and more ominous as my bladder filled to the tipping point. 

    I practiced meditation and prayer, anything to transport me from this hell, but envisioning seasides and streams of living water, did more harm than good. 

    “Excuse me… pardon me… I’m so sorry.”

    My body can no longer retain the fluid, as tears pool in my quivering eyes. I push my way to the men’s room, delirious and giddy as I anticipate relief.

    My hands shake and my back sweats as I finally catch a glimpse of my porcelain god. I make my way on shaky legs to humbly bring my offering.

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh-men

    • Elizabethwestra

      Been there too.  It can be agonizing.  You made it real and the reader could feel it. 

    • There you are! I was looking for you. You are such a great writer. I always enjoy reading what you write.

    • That’s good!  It made me laugh, with rueful identification under the laughter.  

      • Thanks, John. Like I’ve always said, “It’s better to laugh than to cry over spilled urine.”

    • Oddznns

      Hahaha Tom. Only one small nitpick.. Shouldn’t you be faster in bringing your offering to the porcelain god.
      “I make my way on shaky legs” seems like it might be too late.

      • Half an offering is better than none at all, right? The rest was broken and spilled out for the janitors and dry cleaners.

    • Clairelily2001

       this was such a witty piece of writing, and who in the world could not identify at some stage.  You should be proud of it.  Maybe we will see it in a flash fiction collection some day.

    • wendy2020

      Would have commented sooner, but I had to run to the bathroom. 😉

      Very good pacing!  Not an easy skill (at least not for me) and I think you did really well with it.

      I think you could lose the quotes and the ‘I shouted inside my brain’, and just let that sentence rest on it’s own humor unmodified.

      I do have a question… so is your God a toilet or a urinal?  I haven’t been in many men’s rooms so I am wondering if a guy who has to pee bypasses a urinal or if porcelain god is a urinal synonym?  🙂

      I liked it.

    • Marla

      Tom,

      You must be the life of the party!  You captured this so well.

    • Heh heh, you caught me off-guard with the ending!

    • Nell

      Loved it.Great way of showing not telling.

  • Sorry Joe, there is nothing like writing about heartbreak LOL! 

    I remember it was a cold day. The air mercilessly whipped against my face. Oh how it stung. I finally arrived to my destination. Sweat and testosterone pervaded the air. Grunts, head nods, rolling eyes. I hesitated before making my way to the back. I heard the pay phone ringing. None of the jokers want to pick it up. What. Do they think I’m their secretary? I reluctantly answered. Hello. She answers in Spanish. She assumed I spoke Spanish. Lucky for her I do. I answer her. She says his name. Silence. She repeats it again. I stare into space. I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. My pulse quickening. I wanted to bash the phone into smithereens! I finally muster the courage to ask her who she was. She says she’s his lover and calling about his son. Son? He never mentioned a son?! Is it me or is the room spinning? I’m suffocating. I needed to get out of here. I want to run. No. I won’t. I’ll stay and confront him. Pain is coarsed through my body. I hang up the phone. How could he? He said he loved me. I believed him. I know I will never be the same.

    • Great job, Pilar. You really have me wondering where your destination was. I’m thinking you were walking across campus to your boyfriend’s fraternity house. Am I close? My frat had a pay phone back in the day when such things existed. 

      • Thank you. Actually it is a gym. But you were close. 🙂

    • Clairelily2001

       this is a lovely story, fuelled by emotion.  I like the way you have bracketed the story with short declarative sentences.  It gives a wholeness to the writing.

      • Thank you so much. You are very kind. I appreciate your taking the time to read what I wrote and also comment.

    • So strong, Pilar – and I agree with Clairelily -the short sentences are really effective.  I especially love the beginning descriptions.  Only one thing – I think the last line isn’t necessary – I would leave it with ‘I believed him’ – leaving the emptiness of that belief broken.

      • Hi Zoe. Thanks for taking the time to read what I wrote. You are right. I was having trouble with that last sentence too. I deleted it. Thanks!

    • Mariaanne

      Wow Pilar.  That was very strong.  I kept hoping that the woman on the other end was not going to be any kind of real threat but she was. Then I thought why do I dislike the other woman, it’s the man who has caused the pain.  

    • Marla

       Heartbreaking, and so spare.  Great writing.

    • Cindy

      Your words exemplified heartbreak! Made me want to know what happened next.

      • Wow, I wrote this a long time ago. I forgot that I did too. LOL! Thank you for reading it and commenting. You have no idea just how timely it was. Thank you.

        • Cindy

          Sorry – I am new to this site and when I responded – I then noticed that this post was written 2 years ago! Not sure how this works. I am getting emails with writing exercises, but they all seem to be old.

          • No worries. It is great that you are here. Your timing was encouraging to me. I needed it. 🙂

  • It was another ending, and if there was a way to avoid the awkwardness he saw looming, he’d take it.  With what detachment he could muster, he could see that his staying on here would not be good for him or for anyone else.  His position as Sunday musician and daily sanitation engineer was less than inspiring at this point.  

    And there was the whole issue of Monica.  Yes, she was a lot younger than he, and some folks had a problem with that on principle — but he had no regrets over his relationship with her over the past two years, including  her casual crazy-making.  The people in charge, though, had made up their minds about her early on, and there was not enough  love and tolerance, apparently, to bridge the gap.  The good times with Monica, the close times, were his for the rest of his life, undimmed even by the jagged break that came with his realization that he’d never mattered that much to her.

    Forcing his mind in a different direction, he concentrated on what would bring a measure of sanity.  He had the money to get a motel room, and then find an apartment.  The determination solidified:  the way to end this predicament became obvious the more he thought about it.

    Just leave quietly, just start over.

    Again.

    He had his belongings packed in the car within a half hour, and it was so easily done.  He knew he was running, and running’s what cowards do; but he didn’t think he could sit still for a lecture.

    A week later he had a new address.

    • Hey, I think I know this guy! He used to play in my praise band! Good job, John. It made me laugh when you described him as Sunday musician and daily sanitation engineer. My first gig after college was an interim music position at my home church for 6 months and then they hired someone else and I became interim custodian. I was definitely working my way up 😉

      • Thank you sir, I see you can relate!  It’s really true that the most difficult situations have their funny side.

    • Clairelily2001

       I liked this piece, the lightness of the writing, the humane vision.  I particularly loved the final sentence.  It’s a lovely complete piece.

      • Thank you!   It’s good to know I was able to make the writing light in describing a difficult situation.

    • Mariaanne

      This is excellent.  I feel the loneliness and depression here the need to walk away from this less than adequate situation.  I have a hope that he doesn’t run into something worse because despite his blaming his situation on “the people in charge” I wonder if some of the fault isn’t his and I base that one one work “again”.  Thanks for a good read. 

      • Thank you so much for your kind comments!  A good deal of the fault is indeed his own, and by this point there is a record of failures, of running.  Will this character stay between the lines, out of trouble, out of jail?  Remains to be seen!

    • wendy2020

      Hmmm, I am still trying to figure this one out.

      “the people in charge”, is that just metaphorical, i.e., fate or God?

      What is crazy-making, and is this something good that happens in bed or something that drives you insane, but you ignore because you love the person doing it?

      I couldn’t tell if he was having an affair with Monica, and the awkwardness was that his marriage was ending over a relationship that didn’t even mean that much to his lover.  Or whether he was moving out of the place he shared with Monica. 

      Who was going to lecture him?  And about what?

      Guess it is a good thing to leave a reader wanting to know more…

  • Clairelily2001

    This is from a short story I’m working on at the moment:

    Only
    the rock seemed solid in this eternally moving world.  The ocean heaved and sighed, the clouds
    scudded and whirled, and beneath her feet the sand moved, parting as the tide
    crept toward her.  She would have to rise
    from the rock, walk away from the rising sea across the glittering meniscus filming
    the sand, to safety, to the trees.  But she
    could hear them tossing in an agony of flying leaves and cracking
    branches.   There was no shelter among those grey
    contorted shapes.  She felt something
    move beneath the arch of her right foot and pulled her legs up, huddling on the
    rock.  The subterranean sand creatures
    were on the move.  There really was nowhere
    to go from here.  

    • Such strong emotion in this.  Great.

    • Mariaanne

      That’s like a nightmare, weird and scary with strong surreal images.  

    • Marla

       I love that the rock is solid when nothing else is.  Perfect description.

  • For the fifteenth time in the last half hour she adjusted her veil. He noticed every little detail about her. The way her eyes flew around the room touching briefly on each person but never landing, like she was searching. The way she smoothed her dress, again. The way her lips parted wide with un-containable laughter, showing perfect white teeth, just like her mother.

    He stood close to her, near enough to take it all in. When had she lost the baby dimples he had loved to kiss and grow out of their favorite bedtime stories? It wasn’t possible she was a young woman ready to be a wife. The hum around him faded. He only had eyes for her, drinking in every last detail of this moment with his girl.

    “All right, grandparents to the left of the bride, parents on the right. Squeeze in just a bit closer, look this way.” The instructions of the photographer intruded on his thoughts. Resentfully he complied with the request. He lost sight of her in the swirl of people and flurry of photographs.

    Before he had time to catch up the grandparents and mothers had been seated. A woman in a plum colored dress was pointing and giving directions. Music swelled from behind the church doors. It was time. 

    “Daddy.” He turned his eyes to the young dark haired woman beside him, slim and poised in her white lace gown. “Are you ready?” She smiled up at him. No doubt she was ready.

     His heart bled, “No!” His mouth smiled back, “Yes.” 

    “Daddy, I love you.” Green eyes sparkled, they could have belonged to his five year old going off to kindergarten, but they didn’t. 

    “You look beautiful, Amy.” And he kissed her forehead, that china doll brow, for the last time as his little girl. 

    • you always add such rich details, Beck.  I love the tenderness of this.

      • Thank you Zoe!

        • wendy2020

          Hmm, my comments for you keep not showing up.  Just know I gave a thumbs up review, and a few sentence tweaks (that were just my opinion).  You definitely have a sparkle to your writing.

    • Mariaanne

      This breaks my heart. It’s so hard to part with your children, so hard and you catch a moment when a man is trying very hard to let her go with grace which is a supremely loving act IMO. 

      • Thank  you Mariaane. I made myself cry as I wrote it! I will never forget the look in my Dad’s eyes on my wedding day. I didn’t understand it at the time, it was a mixture of so many emotions, but now that I have children I’m beginning to see more clearly!

    • wendy2020

      I think this was a really great piece. No doubt you have talent.

      There are a few places where I think less might have been more. I personally want critique, not just praise, for my writing (well really, just praise would be great, but it wouldn’t make me a better writer). So, in hopes that you will do the same for me, here are some thoughts.

      The green eyes not belonging to his kindergartener was so unique and poignant, I wanted the story to end on the strength of that sentence. I think from that, readers would get that she was no longer his little girl, without having to say it in the last paragraph.
      I might clip a few sentences earlier to make the pacing snap even more.

      …baby dimple he had kissed over bedtime stories.

      …slim and poised in white lace.

      I’ve read a bit of your blog, too, and like your writing style. If you have any feedback on my exercise submission (that I accidentally submitted twice), I’d appreciate it.

    • wendy2020

      My computer is being a brat.  I think it ate my first response, but it won’t confess to it (i.e. my iphone shows my feedback while my computer doesn’t), so I am going to post again.  Sorry if it comes through twice.

      This is a really good piece.  No doubt you have talent.

      There are a few places where I think less might be more, as they say?

      The green eyes not belonging to the kindergartner was so unique and poignant that I wanted the story to end the strength of that sentence.  I think from that the readers would get that she was no longer his little girl.

      I might clip a few sentences to make the pace snap even more.

      …baby dimples he had kissed over bedtime.

      …slim and poised in white lace.

      I’ve read a bit of your blog, too.  Good Stuff!

      If you have any feedback on my exercise submission (that I accidentally submitted twice), I’d appreciate it.

  • Katherine

    She
    frantically bounced up and down as she walked. 
    It was 2 a.m., and the suburban street was deserted.

     

    “Wah!  Wah!” the baby cried, and she patted his back
    harder, her eyes darting around to see if lights were going on in the houses as
    neighbors got up to holler that they were trying to sleep.

     

    She rubbed
    her eyes and stared blankly at the perfectly manicured lawns that stretched out
    before her, as she had done every night for the past week.  Sighing heavily, she bounce-walked her way to
    her backdoor and made her way into the kitchen. 
    She turned on the fan for what seemed like the millionth time that night.

     

    “Wah!  Wah!” the baby screamed.

     

    She leaned
    against the counter and let her head droop back, closing her eyes.

     

    “Wah!  Wah!” the baby’s cries intensified, and she
    opened her eyes again.

     

    She
    bounce-walked into the living room, picking up her purse and packing it with her
    USB drive for the her morning presentation at work.  Patting the baby’s back, she went to the
    bedroom closet and picked out her clothes. 
    It would be another difficult morning.

     

    “Wah!  Wah!”

     

    She made her
    way back to the kitchen and picked up the bottle again.  At first, the baby turned his head away as he
    had for the past two hours.  Then he
    turned back, opened wide, and started sucking. 
    She exhaled and felt the rigidity finally leave her body as she watched
    his eyes droop and then close.  Holding
    her breath, she pulled the bottle from his mouth and watched as he sighed and
    then buried his head in her chest.

     

    Slowly, she
    turned off the ceiling fan.  He stirred
    but did not open his eyes.  She walked to
    the nursery and tentatively lowered him into his crib.  When she saw his arms loosely fall above his
    head and his breathing regulate, she finally smiled.  Checking that the baby monitor was on, she
    walked to her bed and curled into a ball, her eyes closed before her head hit
    the pillow.

    • Katherine

      Whoops — sorry about the formatting difficulties.  This is my first time posting!

    • I really liked this – although not sure that’s the right word?!  You show the growing desperation well and make me want to postpone babies for… maybe just another year.. 😉

    • Mariaanne

      I like the interconnected tenseness of the mother and child here.  They are a unit but one part of the unit is not cooperating.  It works really well.  

    • wendy2020

      I could totally identify with the scene you created.

      Just 2 thoughts:

      I think it might convey the idea even stronger that nothing the mother is trying is working, if instead of intensifying the the verbs describing how the baby cried, you just repeat.  “Wah!  Wah!”  Just that naked repetition could be pretty powerful.

      Second, I kind of like the idea of instead of the mother closing her eyes before her head hit the pillow, that she cried into her pillow or maybe cried herself to sleep?

      I found myself wondering what the characters’s names were.  Did you have any in mind? Were they intentionally, nameless?

      Strong scene!

  • dreamyclouds

    I walked out of the school door, feeling as though I was naked as the sun shone on my bare face, making me uncomfortable. Casting a side glance, I tried to walk ahead of a group of giggling schoolgirls. Now there was a human wall behind me, I sighed a sigh of relief. At the corner of my eye, I saw an old woman with white hair.

    Can it be? Can it be the Landlady?

    In my mind, a white-haired old woman who once asked me for my number filled the void of the Roald Dahl’s imaginary character description. It fits so well… I can almost sense her now… smelling of bitter almonds with the poison she’ll offer me..

    I picked up my pace. 

    But not so quickly she can see you though, a voice in my head said.

    Right after I turned right at the next corner, I stopped and sighed. The blur of white hair turned left. 

    “So that wasn’t she after all,” I thought. 

    But be careful, another one is coming.

    Aware of this, I began to pick up my pace again. 

  • I had fun and ran with this, much more than 15 mins!!  I can’t help feeling something’s missing in this piece – or not quite right… Any ideas?

    The rivers burst last night after the rain.  Debris from the river banks gushed down the river and, after mingling with the waves, left the ocean gritty and wild.  The muddy waves throw themselves back at the sand.  Foam that was once white has turned brown, and it sticks to the black rocks who stoically ignore the bombardment.  

    Silently the couple walks side by side, without holding hands as their daughter toddles ahead.  

    Melanie looks between the rocks, where off-white muck is gathering in the tidal pools.  They look like breaking spiderwebs, she thinks.  

    ‘It’s an investment if you think about it,’ Dave says, reaching for her hand.  She jerks it away and wipes a cold palm on her faded pair of jeans as she walks towards her daughter.

    ‘Come here Sophie,’ she says. ‘What have you got there?’

    Sophie, plonked on the sand, is surrounded by strands of black seaweed and chewing happily.  She grins as Melanie runs towards her but the smile fades as she recognises her mothers intentions, and turns her face away.  

    ‘Daniel,’ Melanie says in a voice just like his mother.  ‘Daniel, she’s eating seaweed.’

    He doesn’t do what she expects – run towards Sophie, scold, chide and stuff his fingers into her mouth and rescue her.  He’s been running on his wife’s treadmill and rescuing her for the last 20 years and it’s left him exhausted.  No, he simply sighs and shakes his head.  

    ‘It won’t hurt her,’ he says, wrapping a piece of seaweed around his finger.  

    ‘That’s yucky,’ she yells, digging the black goo out her daughters mouth.  

    She crunches her teeth together, biting down the words meant for him.  They only encourage his passivity, make the sloth in him come alive.  If he was earning and active, then maybe she could see the need for a bigger TV.  

    A wave smashes against a rock and the dirty brown water moves towards her toes.  She grabs Sophie by the arm and hitches her around her waist, stomping jerkily into the grainy sand.  She ignores Sophies wails and her husband, who has become a spot behind them. Dave lumbers forward, hands hidden in his pocket, and every step an effort.   

    Melanie reaches the parking lot and the feeling of cold pavement under her feet steadies her.

    ‘Let’s go sit in the car,’ she says to her daughter, touching the lines on her forehead.

    ‘Yucky,’ Sophie says, pointing to the black seaweed  dotted all over the sand.

    ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘yucky.’

    • Mariaanne

      I think it certainly describes the conflict in a marriage clearly.  You might want to stick to just one POV and I like his better than hers because he seems less sure that he is the one who is “right”.  You could emphasize his attachment to the child and growing dissatisfaction with the wife.  I don’t know but I do love the scene and the seaweed and I certainly felt at first afraid for her to eat the seaweed and then, even before he thought it, I thought “well people do eat seaweed”  .  Are you going to work it into a short story.  

      • Thanks so much Marianne!  You guys are right – I think 2 POV’s – at least how I’ve done them – makes the scene bitty.  I do like the symbolism of the black seaweed and the immoveable boulder, so this may become something I work on. (Due to your suggestion, I’m working on my ‘mail-order’ story for the contest this week!! So thank you  –  you are such an asset in this community.

    • wendy2020

      Hi again, Zoe.

      Agree, about sticking to one POV, but you seem more invested in hers, so if you got rid of a few sentences that pop into the heads of Dave (or Daniel… I think you called him that once?) or Sophie, that would accomplish it.

      I like the descriptive way you set the scene, but I think it could be trimmed a little?

      Debris from the river banks gushed downstream…

      Sea foam, stained brown by river mud…

      where off-white muck gathers in the tidal pools like broken spiderwebs.

      I REALLY like the line about the rocks stoically ignoring the bombardment (but I think it needs to be “that” not “who”?).  It is a good metaphor (whether intentional or not) for how Dave is unaffected by his wife or child or life, and just wants a big screen TV.

      You give a very good sense of the dynamic of this couple.  Good job!

      • I really appreciate this crit. Taking a lot away to chew on and remember for next time (ESPECIALLY less is more!!).  Thanks for such thorough feedback, Wendy!

    • Marla

       I wish I could use descriptions the way you do!  I agree with the POV, but it’s still wonderful.

  • I’d like to nominate you for a One Lovely Blog Award – check out my blog entry here to get the details.
    http://www.viciousviciouswords.com/2012/09/07/one-lovely-blog-award/
     

  • Julia fun

    The hardest part was the waiting, I just realized. That bastard who walked like he owned the world; shoulders thrown back in a conceited show of arrogance. Hehe… won’t be so cocky soon. I got a tingling in my body, a bead of sweat ran down my back. Blink. Blink. Why was he taking so long?how long does it take to walk up a flight of stairs? Deep breath in and out. My feet moved, shadowing him as I gleefully awaits what was about to occur.Not so cocky now huh? 

    • Marla

       Love the shoulders thrown back.  Good work.

  • Julia Fun

    The door shuts soundlessly after me, the room is desolate with a mahogany table and a chair. They call it a dining room, one fitting for a monster. A new maid is setting the table; a glass, a pitcher and a plate. She is a new one, the previous one probably quite. It doesn’t pay eneough. She staggers and clutches the table to steady herself, she is no maid. She looks  up caught and she shifts. Hatred rears it ugly head in her flame colored eyes. Ba-dum. a knife is where my head was, another one on the way. Ba-dum, Ba-dum. I roll out of the way and rush at her. Her nail moves across a knife and it responds with a fiery awakening.Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Ba-dum. Avoiding the projectile is futile as several replace it. I don’t like heat, and she was heat personified. Blood rushes in my ears and my heart wants to jump out of my chest. Why? She lungs  with her fire knife and my hand darts out to stop the killing blow. Pain, Fire. I throw it away from me. A chill nearly overcomes me; sweat runs down my back.
    “It’s a pity I’ll have to kill you,” she says,  allowing a soft smile to grace her features. She is confident, but frustrated.
    “My brother sent you, didn’t he?” Her eyes widen and the hate vanishes momentarily as pain creeps in her golden-amber eyes. Her grip relaxes and the knife clutters to the floor.

  • wendy2020

    At 6:35 AM, Carrie slapped her dollar store purchase into silence.  At 6:45, when it came back for more, she knocked it to the floor.  The black plastic cracked, wiring and circuitry poking out.  The LED display was a flat grey.  Time had stopped, but she could no longer delay getting out of bed.
     
    Carrie padded toward the kitchen.  Grit from her unswept hallway bummed a ride on the bottom of her feet.  Bubble-gum “La-Las” popped through her daughter Ava’s closed bedroom door.  Ava sang along with gusto and tone-deafness, flicking a smile onto Carrie’s face before she remembered to hide it.  Carrie dusted her fingers along the edge of the “Please Knock” sign Ava had scribbled in 9-year old penmanship and stuck to her door with an abundance of Scotch tape.  Carrie debated doing what the sign said, but inaction won out in favor of just facing her daughter at breakfast.
     
    The morning-after a mother-daughter screaming match could scald like coffee or go down easy like fresh-squeezed orange juice.  On only 3 hours and 41 minutes of sleep, Carrie’s brain was too deprived of reasoning skills to predict which way the dawn would break.
     
    Carrie bypassed the usual breakfast fare of whole-wheat bagels and banana and went straight for the freezer side of her Kenmore.  Freezer-burned air gushed forth, leaving Carrie’s cheek numb but not cold.

    She pulled out the mint chocolate chip ice cream, even though she preferred vanilla.
     
    With the only clean spoon left in the utensil drawer, Carried scooped out two heaping bowls of black-speckled greeness.  She plunked the spoon into one dish, and pulled out a fork for herself.
     
    “Breakfast!”
     
    “Coming!!”
     
    The only iciness on their tongues that morning was laden with sugar.

  • wendy2020

    At 6:35 AM, Carrie slapped her dollar store purchase into silence.  At 6:45, when it came back for more, she knocked it to the floor.  The black plastic cracked, wiring and circuitry poking out.  The LED display was a flat grey.  Time had stopped, but she could no longer delay getting out of bed.
     
    Carrie padded toward the kitchen.  Grit from her unswept hallway bummed a ride on the bottom of her feet.  Bubble-gum “La-Las” popped through her daughter Ava’s closed bedroom door.  Ava sang along with gusto and tone-deafness, flicking a smile onto Carrie’s face before she remembered to hide it.  Carrie dusted her fingers along the edge of the “Please Knock” sign Ava had scribbled in 9-year old penmanship and stuck to her door with an abundance of Scotch tape.  Carrie debated doing what the sign said, but inaction won out in favor of just facing her daughter at breakfast.
     
    The morning-after a mother-daughter screaming match could scald like coffee or go down easy like fresh-squeezed orange juice.  On only 3 hours and 41 minutes of sleep, Carrie’s brain was too deprived of reasoning skills to predict which way the dawn would break.
     
    Carrie bypassed the usual breakfast fare of whole-wheat bagels and banana and went straight for the freezer side of her Kenmore.  Freezer-burned air gushed forth, leaving Carrie’s cheek numb but not cold.She pulled out the mint chocolate chip ice cream, even though she preferred vanilla. With the last clean spoon from the drawer, Carried scooped out two heaping bowls of black-speckled greeness.  She plunked the spoon into one dish, and pulled out a fork for herself.  “Breakfast!” the mother fired down the hall “Coming!” her daughter shot back. The only iciness on their tongues that morning was laden with sugar.

    • You show the tension so well.  There is so much weariness in the first couple of sentences that I love – the grit bumming a ride being one of them!  I appreciate the quiet layered details that show the conflict and mood really well in this piece without shouting it – i.e. she’d prefer vanilla ice-cream, no more spoons…  And you tie up the conflict with one simple, beautiful line.  

    • Wow, Wendy that was so rich in description and certainly mood. I did have to read a couple of lines twice to follow what was being said; in the first and second paragraph mostly, to get my bearing. I think because you described things in such unique ways. Not bad just different. 

      The end left me with questions about the details of all that had transpired before, but also the feeling that mother daughter relationships are filled with many bitter sweet moments in life. 

  • There is no heartbeat in depression. At least I can’t hear mine. The walls, the floor, the garden is grey. The music blobs, and bleats, and berates my ears with muffled noises. I walk and walk. My feet hit the concrete. Cold wind sends leaves, birds flying to the ground. A child’s voice wails thinly. 

    • The starkness is tangible – this is such a good description.

    • Yvette, you’ve created a realm I feel I walk in when I read this.  I like the simplicity.

      • Thanks, Jean! I don’t suffer from depression, however I’ve been there at significant times of transition in my life. So I just went back there.

  • Mirelba

     

    After six long months, she was on her way to the station to
    meet him.  Even the rain orchestrated a
    watery symphony on her open umbrella and plip-plopped merrily into the puddles
    forming on the ground.  “Six months
    over, six months over” all the windshield wipers seemed to sing.  She could see rainbows in all the glistening
    raindrops.  Her smile flashed out at the
    people on the street, bringing rays of sunshine to all who saw her.  Her feet seemed to skim the air, she was
    practically singing.

    • I love the happy dance your words convey. It’s a swirl of motion and sound and joy!

      • Mirelba

        Thanks! Joy is usually accompanied by sunshine, so I tried to play it differently. And probably the onomatopoeia exercise influenced me as well…

  • Hi Wendy, I’m sorry I took me so long to respond to your comment. It has been a zoo of a week! Thanks for your suggestions. I think they are spot on. I agree with the “baby dimples” sentence. I wasn’t happy with the flow of it. I guess I was just being lazy and left it the way it was. I’m also surprised, but I agree with your suggestion to leave off the last couple of sentences. I’ve started to notice that about my writing that I don’t stop when I should and less really is more. Thanks for your comments and encouragement!

  • Rosieo M

    My heart beat to the rhythm of my footfalls. Thump. Step.
    Thump. Step. I raggedly inhaled another feeble
    attempt to soothe my air-deprived lungs. My tormented body screamed for mercy. Each
    leg seemed to bear the weight of lead. Each step required strength I no longer
    had. And yet I ran.

    Perhaps it was the adrenaline pumping through my veins, or
    some unknown reserve of energy, No, sheer will-power thrust me forward. I tried
    to focus my muddled thoughts on the only sanity I could acquire. Repetition. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot.

    All
    around me was a blur, a swirling mass of color. I didn’t know where I was
    anymore. I didn’t know where I was going, but I couldn’t stop. Time wasn’t on
    my side.

    They knew…

    I threw a glance behind me… I didn’t see anyone, but that
    didn’t mean they weren’t there.

  • Dan

    The doors are unlocked. I’m certain
    of it.

    I creep down the stairs, groping my
    way in the dark for the light switch. I finally find it, and flick it upward.

    The rooms suddenly floods with light.
    From outside the windows, grotesque figures hiss and scream, their faces
    distorted and disturbing.

    Don’t think about it.

    I reach down to the door handle, arms
    shaking. Tension builds up within my body. My fingers are quivering as I curl
    them around the handle.

    I pull it down. It’s unlocked.

    Horror pervades my body. I’m sweating
    now, and can feel chills running down my spine.

    I turn it to the right, until I hear
    the click. Then I turn it back to the left and unlock it.

    I turn it to the right.

    I have to hurry up. Bad things will
    happen to me.

    To the left.

    I can feel my face burning up. I hear
    the whispers behind me.

    Right.

    The grotesque figures are coming now.
    I can feel their icy breath on my neck.

    Left.

    I can almost feel their tortured
    faces looming close to my ear, whispering promises of death.

    Right.

    A flood of relief fills me. I wipe
    the beads of sweat from my face.

    I am terrified, but I look behind me.

    No one.

    I switch of the lights and slowly
    creep back upstairs. The darkness shrouding me grows larger.

    The darkness becomes invasive.

    I grab hold of my necklace, and swing
    it in circles.

    Suddenly, it feels a lot better.

    It feels a lot safer.

    For now.

    • Rosalie Bello

      I don’t care if this was two years ago, this made me actually scared. I was grabbing my shirt and shaking in my seat while I read this. There was so much tension! Amazing writing! Are the figures zombies? Just wondering.

  • Michelle

    It didn’t matter how many times I readjusted my scarf,
    twirled an unruly lock of hair around my finger or bounced my leg up and down,
    as if an infant were perched there on my knee giggling with delight, the time
    for action was brought no closer. Perhaps, I reasoned, if I breathed more
    evenly or counted dust moats, but no, those actions only served to prolong the
    space of time between the onset of waiting and what was ahead. Though not seen
    in the distance the inevitable would certainly be upon me, this I knew, yet having
    no knowledge of a proscribed itinerary lessened the value of knowing to an
    excruciatingly miniscule blip on the radar of my current circumstance.

  • Cindy

    What is it with being single that makes all your family and married
    friends treat you as if you are the lowest form of a pariah? So what, Laign thought, she was 35 with no
    boyfriend in sight, and despite what her pregnant friend Cassy had said
    tonight, she didn’t hear the incessant ticking of her ovaries counting down
    their productivity with each year that passed.

    For the millionth time, Laign kicked herself for not having
    more single friends, but it seemed they were all going down like flies. Each year it seemed she was in someone’s
    wedding and each time, she had to hear her mother bemoan the fact that she was
    going to be too old to hold her grandchild if and when Laign ever gave her
    one. Plus wedding gifts were outrageous!

    On a good note Thursday night happy hours were now shorter,
    because her friends had husbands and children to get home to. That cut down on hangover recovery on Fridays
    and increased productivity, which led to promotions. Laign
    had Miss Mouse, her cat, whom could care less if she came home or not; as long
    as someone fed her.

    The evening air littered with traffic noise was cucumber
    cool, and with the time change, darkness had overtaken the seven o’clock
    sky. Laign walked on oblivious to the
    fact that she had 15 blocks to go.
    Despite everyone else’s concern for her relationship status, her only
    concern was watching where she was walking.
    The lights of the city seemed to intermingle with the stars in the sky
    and she would rather be looking at them than where she was going, but her
    manolo blahniks made maneuvering the cracks treacherous especially after having
    had two glasses of wine.

    That was another point on the pro side of being single. She could buy as many pairs of shoes as she
    wanted and no one would give her grief.
    She didn’t have to share her closet with anyone, and given its constant
    state of upheaval, that was a good thing.
    There was also the fact that as soon as she reached her apartment, she
    would don her favorite pair of worn out boxers, and rattiest NYU t-shirt, throw
    her hair up into a ponytail and not care about having to look good while she
    watched “The Bachelor”. Oh and there,
    that was another item to go on her list – no one to give her grief over
    watching afore-mentioned show.

    Feeling empowered with each item that made it
    onto her mental list, Laign didn’t see the oncoming pedestrian until she bumped
    square into him and his phone that he was texting on. Rubbing her head and getting ready to give
    him grief over not watching where he was going, she looked up into the bluest
    eyes she had ever seen. A cornflower
    blue crayon came to mind.

    • Lucy Hill

      Really good story, plus I love the name Laign

      • Cindy

        Thank you very much Lucy.

  • Michael

    I checked my pocket watch every five second.

    “Would she come?” A thought raced through my mind.

    I started to tap my fingers nervously, my gaze drifted to the table

    The spoons and forks weren’t parallel, the menu didn’t stand in the perfect center. A drop of molten wax slliped of the candlestick and fell on the table.

    The watch bleeped, it was seven.
    “Were is she?” I glanced around the restaurant, sending a fork flying to the floor with my elbow.
    Getting irritated I snatched it and slammed it next to the other forks.

    Then I felt my heart jump as the door opened, but a frown quickly replaced my eager smile.

    It was someone else.

    • Pretty good job showing, Michael! I only noticed two spots where you used feeling words, “Getting irritated” and the sentence starting “I felt my heart jump.” Otherwise, you did a great job showing!

  • Grumpy Cat

    He looked down at himself. He was dirty, sweaty, his hair was greasy, his collar had popped away from his shirt, which was stained with mud and ash. There was a hole in his trousers and his palms stung. He’d been dreaming. Or having a nightmare, he realised. Anna was not dead! The Martians had not killed her!

    The Martians! Oh the Martians! He began to walk-stagger-towards home. He didn’t know what time it was, didn’t know how long he’d been lying there on the bridge. He was lost with his thoughts. The Martians were still out there. If only they’d been a nightmare. The threat of them seemed to close in on him like insulation foam, loom over him like the expectant news of the death of a loved one.

    • Nice GC. I like how you used the character’s voice and tone to convey emotion without using feeling words.

  • Sammie

    Back on Bodney Road, Matty and I were stood in thick jackets in the cold. We were lucky that business was unusually slow today. Pedro was busy picking up a few things for the job so we didn’t have his car to hold the amount of drugs we normally did and I didn’t feel comfortable selling from my Mustang. Although Harkley was a relatively safe place for us to deal, thats not to say it didn’t have its hazards and drawing unnecessary attention catering to fiends in a car like that would just be asking for trouble. Stood in the dark alley we normally parked in front of, Matty was telling me about his daughter.

    “I saw Erin today.”

    “Really? I thought you weren’t allowed to visit.”

    “Well I saw her from a distance. It was her first day of school today, you know. I stood across the road from her school gates on her breaktime and watched her play with the other kids for a few minutes.”

    “How old is she now?”

    He looked at his hands and started fiddling with the bag of coke that was in them.

    “She just turned five.”

    He stared off into the distance, looking everywhere but at me. I tried to lighten the mood. “Wow, seems like only yesterday you were freaking out about being a father.” Not so much as a smile.

    “Yeah, five years flew by, didn’t it?”

    “She looks a lot like me. Kid’s got a little motormouth too. Never stops talking.”

    “Apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, huh?”

    He smiled and scoffed.

    “Fuck off.”

    “Hey, Matty?”

    “What?”

    “Dianne will come round to her senses, mate, don’t worry.”

    “Yeah…I guess.” He sighed.

    • Interesting twist to this conversation and great use of dialogue to convey mood!

  • Lauren Timmins

    We used to dance, my husband and I. His arms would wrap tightly around my waist, and our bodies would move with the melody like reeds moved with the wind. The music would tease our faces, puling up the corners of our mouths and dusting spots of light in our eyes. Our heartbeats matched the tempo, one pound, two pound, and- a-three pound.
    The pictures of the old bar are faded, yellowed with age. They cover the walls like ghosts of a time long ago, a time where the music was always happy and our feet were in perfect rhythm. Young, bright faces stare at the camera. They’re frozen in that moment, preserving the specks of light in their eyes and the little melodies playing with their smiles. Memories. Memories of warm summer nights and fox trots and waltzes with fireflies. My favorite picture is hung on the mantel. He insisted it went there; now it’s been damaged by the annual fires of the wintertime. We’re looking away from the camera. He has his hand in mine as we approach the floor. You can see the butterflies in our stomach tickling our senses, dusting our expressions with a nervous glee.
    One, two three. One, two three. I can hear the melody, the slow waltz. It echoes throughout the room, all around the pictures. For a moment, transparent figures step out of their frames, find their partners, and dance. I close my eyes, raise my hands to the air. It holds me as I make my way around the living room, spinning round and round until it fades into silence. The figures’ smiles drop as the music leaves their expression. Their eyes widen slightly as they release each other and vanish into the air as the last chord dies. My eyes open, and I can see the last glimmers of my husband’s eyes as he steps back into our frame.
    I know that this is the last time I will dance. I allow myself to start another waltz in the silence, alone. My steps shake, and I stumble on the second beat. They recover, tracing the footprints they made forty years ago. On the final beat, I fade as well, and join the pictures on the wall.

    • Mmm… this was beautiful Lauren. You so clearly captured the mood, especially that last paragraph, and all without telling. Well done!

      • Lauren Timmins

        Thank you so much!

  • DrewS0311

    I was lying on my stomach on the roof of a ramshackle house
    somewhere in a godforsaken desert. I was soaked to the bone and shivering
    uncontrollably, but I wasn’t about to move. Moving would be too dangerous right
    now. I knew I was probably going to be stuck there until the dawn. I was pissed
    at the situation, its times like these I wished I had made different life
    choices, but there’s no time to think about that, I’ve got a job to do and
    people trusting me to do it well. But damn it was cold. The rain continued to
    steadily fall onto my body. I chuckled to myself as I thought about the bright
    side, at least I couldn’t get any wetter.

    I continued searching into the dark. There were a few visible
    buildings, one being the police station and the rest being mostly just civilian
    homes. Maybe there was a school, but there shouldn’t be kids in a school at
    night, so we weren’t too worried about it. The police station had been under
    attack for a while, as was made evident by the tracers that kept going back and
    forth periodically, over the last forty-five minutes or so. Our position was far
    enough away to be out of immediate danger but close enough where things could
    get “hairy” at any moment. We not only had to worry about the insurgents
    attacking the police, but the police themselves. We were on a covert
    observation mission, no one knew we were there and we knew the Iraqi’s were
    more likely to shoot at us first rather than find out who we were.

    I maintain my sector, still scanning, searching and assessing
    the situation and radioing to the LT at predetermined times any new
    information. There was none. I continued to get waterlogged and freeze. I hadn’t
    stopped shivering for hours. I honestly thought I was becoming hypothermic. I
    couldn’t wait for either dawn or some of those insurgents to wander down
    towards us so we could be ‘compromised’ and get a little action in. It had been
    weeks since we’d taken any contact, and we knew those mother’s weren’t too far
    away. It hurt more than the cold to know they were out there and our hands were
    basically tied.

    This was becoming mundane. Most of an infantryman’s job is
    more like “Groundhog Day” than “Rambo.” Contacts. This how quickly an
    infantryman’s job can go from mundane to thrilling.

    Contacts! I got on the radio and let the LT we had possible
    targets moving in our direction. I counted seven and yes, it looked as if they
    were armed. As the other Marines moved into fighting positions, I maintained
    situational awareness, not wanting to get tunnel vision on these clowns only to
    get surprised from another direction. We still had no authority to attack the
    group, as we didn’t know their intent. Most of them had their rifles slung and
    were, therefore, not a threat at that time. They were moving rather quickly
    though, and with what seemed like purpose. As they got closer I was able to put
    glass on them and found they did not have on police or military uniforms. They
    were wearing running shoes, had their faces covered and were wearing some
    battle rattle. These were the insurgents that had been attack the police for
    almost the last hour and a half. They had to be.

    I had stopped shivering. I was concentrating too hard on
    these assholes approaching us. I had a perfect sight picture through the irons
    on my SAW. One wrong move by any of them and I’d squeeze of an eight-to-ten
    round burst that would probably knock down at least half of them. I knew my
    weapon would pull up and right, so I aimed at the left leg of the left-most
    insurgent, knowing that I’d put a couple through him and hit a couple of others
    on his right in their torso, or maybe even face. The closer they got, the fewer
    of them I’d hit on my first burst. I just wanted them to do something stupid.
    Just one bad move.

    Their point man stopped and looked intently in our
    direction. To this day I am unsure what gave us away, but he definitely saw us.
    He yelled something loudly, in Arabic, to his comrades and raised his rifle in
    our direction…

    (No edits or proofing, I banged this out as quickly as I could as I remembered the situation)

  • kreynolds

    I was sentenced to die.
    Not by any court of law, no, it was my own treasonous mind that had made
    the pronouncement. I had done nothing
    that I was aware of so injurious that I should suffer unspeakable anguish until
    my hopeful demise. It was my mind,
    always pronouncing a guilty verdict upon me.
    Guilty, guilty, guilty whispering in deafening silence. The many unheard voices; beckoning me to step off the ledge into the
    darkness, the endless unknown. There the
    torture would end, wonderful nothingness, wonderful emptiness. No coming back however, it would be the final
    act of this convict.

    How did it begin? I
    tried to think without the distraction of demons surrounding me. If I could remember how it began perhaps I
    could go back to that place and take a different road. Had I made a sinful choice, was that it? Did I do harm to someone and my mind has
    blocked it out? It’s no use the voices
    will not allow me to find my redemption, they have become part of me and
    although I understand them to be depraved and loathsome now they were not unpleasant. If I could see them I know they would be beautiful,
    lovely. In the beginning even seemingly virtuous………..until
    you realize they have driven you mad.

  • Sam

    Drip. Drip. Drip. The tears are silent as they fall. I count them as they land. They make a small wet spot on his rug. The sinking feeling in my stomach grows, until I feel like I’m going to hurl. I hear light footsteps on the floor and cast an upwards glance through my hair. It’s him.

    The couch dips and I know he’s sitting next to me. I feel his arm moving around my shoulders, trying to comfort me. I won’t allow him to touch me ever again.

    I flinch away from him. “Don’t touch me,” I say, my voice a hoarse whisper.

    His arm moves back to his side. He gets up. I know this is the last time I will ever see him.

  • Brandy Elder

    The darkness seemed to push in on her. The smell of rotten eggs and moldy hay chocked her. The ice of the shackles biting into her wrists and weighing down her arms caused her throat to tighten. The ice cold stone leached the feeling from her feet.

    Was she ever going to get out of this hell? She wasn’t able to focus on any one thing for very long. Every noise made her jump. A rat skittered across her bare legs causing her to jump out of her skin.

    There were foot steps in the hallway outside the door to her personal hell. Was her devil coming back to torment her some more?

    She felt like a cockroach caught in the sudden light of an open door. She pressed herself against the back wall, trying to make herself as small as possible.

    This was not enough to deter the man who filled up the doorway. He was much taller than she with shoulders as wide as a barn. His stingy dark hair hung just past his shoulders. His face was marked with scars that told a story of many fights. One notable scar was the one than ran from his narrow forehead, through his dead left eye, and down to his pointy chin barely missing the curl of his thin lips.

    In his hand he held the weapon of her destruction. His favorite tool of torture, the cat-o-nine tails. The shiny points of the nails a reminder of the pain to come.

    He walked over to her, his beady eye drilling a hole in he soul, and ripped the shirt that had dried to her back after his last beating from her body.

    The screams that emanated from her body were far more heartbreaking than any sound that had ever befallen Fidelia’s ears.

    Unbidden tears spilled from Rayeena’s eyes as he grabbed her by the arm and threw her against the wall. She tensed up for what she knew would be coming next.

    The sound of leather whipping through the air caused an involuntary shudder to run through her body. She flinched when the metal claws hit the wall near her ear.

    “The anticipation is the best part, don’t you think?” he asked in a honeyed tone.

    She whimpered in response as he reared up for another swing. The points entered her back and tore the flesh from her bones. A scream that she had no control over ripped through her as the nails bit into her flesh over and over.

    By the time he had finished, she had nearly passed out from the pain. She fell to the floor sobbing as the door slammed shut.

    “That should do the trick,” a rough voice said from the other side of the door. “The Elf won’t be able to stay away for long.”

    She tried to reach out to Fid to warn her but she fell into the nothingness of unconsciousness before she had a chance.

  • Duchess Undertaker

    I felt as though I was falling. All around me; a darkened version of what used to be. A silent symphony of voices that were never there plagued my mind, as I felt my bones tremble with uncertainty. The windy atmosphere whipped at my mind, tempting me. Tempting me to give in to this dream.

    My eyes traveled to the infinite void underneath my body. I could see a bright red dot; like it was my only hope out of this darkness. I could hear my mind shouting out to me, ‘Quicker… Quicker!’

    But… that ground of hope never came spiraling closer to my body. Instead… it was more like I was… floating.

    Just like that, the endless realm transformed into a starry night’s sky; flowing on, to the non-existant horizon and beyond. A warm feeling overtook my senses, and felt as though I was being engulfed in some sort of relief.

    Well…

    It is always seems like Heaven after Hell…

  • Abagail

    Dunno why I chose this, but I did mine on grief/guilt.

    No. No, no, there was no way she could be gone. My best friend, the one person that accepted me for who I was when no one else would. She couldn’t just be….gone.

    “But she is.” my mind whispers without my permission. I desperately try to clamp down on my thoughts before they continue, but I can’t gain control, and the words slither into being. “And it’s all your fault. You should have seen. You should have seen just how much she was hurting and done something about it.”

    “But I did.” I whimper despairingly. My tears are waterfalls originating at my eyes and flooding down my face.“I tried my hardest, I swear.”

    “You were too busy wrapped up in school and reality to try your hardest. You ignored her when she needed to talk, to let it all out, and it killed her!”

    “NO!” I cry out, and the ache I’ve kept carefully under wraps in my chest explodes out of it’s cage and rips through my chest, my mind, my entire body with claws sharper than anything I’ve ever experienced. It overcomes my senses entirely; I can’t hear over the throbbing in my ears, can’t feel anything tangible for the pain ripping my soul to shreds, can’t see anything through my blinding tears, can’t taste anything but bitterness, and can’t smell anything over the scent of blood. I know there isn’t actually any blood anywhere near me, that the blood from the bullet wound on her head has been scoured from my hands like it never existed, but I swear it’s the realest thing right now. I gag on it, it pours down my throat, and my sobs are screams as the monster carves me up from the inside out. I squeeze my eyes shut and clench my jaw against it, but the back of my eyelids are far worse than my blurry bedroom. All they portray are my best friend in the whole world lying on the floor of her beloved forest, crimson soaking into her wonderful brown hair, her beautiful blue eyes staring at the trees she defended so adamantly. But she doesn’t see them. Can’t. Never will again. She’s gone and never coming back. We’ll never giggle over inside jokes ever again. She won’t ever tell me my boyfriend is being dense, and won’t text me encouragements when I need a boost. She’ll never smile, laugh, or cry again.

    “Your fault.”

    My fault. My fault that she won’t ever graduate high school, that she won’t find the true love she thought she’d had, that she won’t get to live her life.

    “Your fault.”

    She’s not coming back, and it’s my fault.

    I clutch my arms around myself, as if to capture the shattered slivers of my heart and keep them from flying away, to try and mould them back together again into a shape I recognize, into any shape at all. To try and keep the monster in me from destroying every bit of me completely, even though I already know it will.

    I clutch my arms around myself and scream at the top of my lungs.

    “My fault.”

  • I am taking a writing class now and I have always had a hard time showing and not telling. When I wrote the assignment for the class that was evident. So I wrote this as a separate piece to her as an example to see if I really knew how to show and not tell. Here it is.

    Now a question I have is this: is it easier to show and not tell when writing in present tense as if you are a character ????

    Here without farther ado is the example…

    “Hurrying to my computer, I open its lid and press the
    button. Impatience gripped me as my stomach tightened and I could feel my heart
    beat. Would she like this assignment, did I get it right finally? Standing there waiting for the screen to turn blue with the welcoming message and the desktop background to appear was like watching paint dry. Slow.

    As I wait my impatience causes me to pace as my steps are slower than my racing
    thoughts due to surgery. I walk to the kitchen to make coffee. Maybe busying
    myself would keep me from thinking of the email that would be waiting for me
    when I did finally log in.”

    Thank you for reading and or commenting.

  • Kairu

    I’m still worried I’m not all that good with Showing and not Telling, but here it goes:

    His legs stood firm and strong as he slid along the flagpole with the grace of a circus performer.

    A heavy, but liberating feeling of relaxation came to his legs as his feet gave way and his pale hands clapped around the pole below him. The rattling surged along his arms all the way to his shoulders as he looked down to the light spangled crowd below him.

    “Here it goes…” he muttered to himself, his hesitant breath jagged in his mouth.

    And he let go.

    As soon as his fingers brushed over the cool metal flagpole and his stomach lurched upwards, the wind began to whip coarsely through his hair and the frigid air washed over him. This feeling was still the same, even after all these years. His body was falling, but his soul felt like it was lifting.

  • someone

    ya

  • Riles

    The sweat dripping from my forehead arose to my memory, creating the small tears grow to my eyes. Morphin jail has become a torture chamber in my mind. I still remember my mother calling to me, “Don’t give up, Erin! Run away!” as I was locked in the car, her legs raing up to the bumper, making horrible noises. -My Book So Far

  • Cath

    I looked around in the cold dark alley, hoping, almost begging that I had lost him. I never believed it could go as far as this, I didnt think and that is the problem. A clatter was heard from a distant and I jumped, my heart beating harder and harder. I looked out of the corner and saw a little cat on top of a garbage can. My breath slowed down and I sat down on my knees, tears was streaming down my cheeks now out of happiness. I had lost him, I had finally managed to lose him.

    I stod up on my feet and a little smile played on my mouth, I turned the corner and walked out of the dark and cold alley. When I got out of the alley my heart starting beating like an elephant running around, how? How could he be here so fast? I turned around fast hoping he didn’t see me, but it was too late, he grabbed me and smiled his sinister smile as he always did. My heart didn’t stop beating and I was now out of breath, sweat was pouring out of me and mixing with my tears of fear now.
    —-
    Not sure if anyone is ever going to read this considering the post was 4 years ago, but I just wanted to try write this and if anyone reads it please leave a comment 🙂

  • Rebecca

    Pitch black. Silence. “Please somebody help me!” No response.
    Her breaths get shorter and shorter, her heart starts beating rapidly she hums’ to calm herself down and counts 1…2…2… ..3. The heaviness strapping her down she manages to wiggle her legs lay dormant her arms are set free. She pushes upwards above put her hands above her face feeling a smooth, cool, soft unbreakable surface. As she clawed, punched it wouldn’t budge. All it would do is recycle the pungent smell of a disinfectant and metallic aroma, making her feel nauseous. Again, she starts to count to steady her breathing. She feels something scratching her left side of her calf wiggles down her right side of her body stretching to work her arms down towards her feet reaching she almost has it.
    Click. Eeerup. She freezes. The darkness is barley lit. She steadily wiggles herself back up the wetness in her hands, rolls down her back. Muffles voices in the distance. Footsteps coming closer. “Help Me! Please!” “Why can’t you hear me!”
    A Deep males voice leans over her “Poor girl she was young.” He pats her were her legs are. He looks over to the newbie that was on the opposite of her.”Well newbie you’re up.” “Looks like you have a Jane Doe” The newbie has a shaky hands and unzips the pouch and notices the toe tag and her toe are clinched in her right hand.

  • Rosalie Bello

    It was like the night circled around me, tighter and colder, and I had nothing to wrap across my shivering shoulders but my thin t-shirt that was ripped into shreds. The trees rattled their skeleton-like, pale branches, and the black night sky was void of stars. The only thing that provided light was that yellow moon that hung fat in the sky, hidden by dark, swirling clouds.

    My bare feet trod upon the thick, white snow, even though I could barely feel it, for my feet felt numb with cold. As I shuffled on in that dark forest, my sleep-deprived eyes spotted two red slits among the shadows of the trees, and a large, black silhouette to go with them. My eyes widened, and I took off through the trees, tripping over the high snow. Every time I turned my head, that figure seemed closer to me, lurking in the darkness. My feet continued crashing upon the icy precipitation, resulting in craters in the once untouched snow. Wind howled in my ears, screaming a warning to get out of that forest before the silhouette with the scarlet eyes could catch me.

    My breath came in hitched and quick as I raced across that forest, keeping my arms tucked into my body tight for warmth. My eyes whipped around once again, but I searched those pale trees and saw nothing but black.

    No red eyes. No silhouette. Just darkness.

    Suddenly I was scared to turn my head back, and I kept my eyes behind me as I sprinted blindly. Instantly, my body hit something hard, and I found myself on the ground, stuck in the icy snow. My bare arms and legs started to sting, and my hands went under me to pick my body up from the snow. I turned around slowly, because my body wasn’t frozen from only cold.

    As soon as my head was fully turned up, I was face to face with those scarlet eyes, that dark silhouette towering above me. It gave long, deep exhales, puffs of frigid breath drifting off into the night. My eyes stared into the deep red eyes of the figure that hung over me, and I watched as it produced claws from its shadow that used to be unclear. And those long claws became closer and closer, and I could hear them scratch each other with deafening screeches. They gleamed with sharpness as they were ready to caress my face with their blade, and I sucked in one last breath, squeezing my eyes shut before the final blow…

  • Ash O.

    It’s gone.
    I can’t believe I lost a seemingly unimportant piece of paper to anyone else who was loaded with money, but was like my whole treasure to me.
    I had it in my hand a minute ago. I swear!
    I looked on the kitchen counter, not there. I looked in all my mail, even the ones I had thrown away in my trash already. Not there. The last place I looked was my living room. Guess what? Not there either!
    Sweating now after my uneventful treasure hunt, and partly because I didn’t have air conditioning in my apartment, I plopped myself down on my steal of a couch from the thrift store. My leg was insistently bouncing up and down at the realization that I had truly lost my paycheck. Creating little tremors throughout the floorboards that were probably earthquake size to the tiny people I used to believe lived under the floor. Learned my lesson the hard way when I decided to extend an olive tree branch towards the little people in the hopes of becoming friends with them. The only way I could do that was to tear up my family homes kitchen floor up. I thought their headquarters would most likely be there. That way they would have easy access to food and water. I was a smart little runt if I do say so myself. To my disappointment in the end all I found was this sticky black substance that wouldn’t come off my hands for weeks and a front row seat to the spectacular view of a moldy crease joining two adjacent walls together. My parents were dissapointed in me to say the least.
    Maybe they had it? I knew they had it out for me the day I ruined their home. All I would need to do was call up my landlord and demand to have my floors yanked up from the very place they were put d-… Now, now Michael. Putting the blame on childhood creatures was not the way to go about things. I knew, and the little people knew that I was avoiding the real matter at hand. It wasn’t that I couldn’t fess up to my irresponsibility. It was that I didn’t want to. Losing my paycheck was the one thing I always got right. Going straight to the bank to deposit it was my regular routine. Today though, I had given in to my lethargy of working my graveyard shift down at the gas station and headed straight home. That’s what I get for breaking a good routine.
    Closing my eyes at the mental war that was happening upstairs, I thought of all the possible outcomes of this one mistake. The one that stuck out like a sore thumb and hurt like one too was I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent. My two month overdue rent to be more specific that was due tomorrow.
    This only meant one thing, I had to face my landlord face to face. I usually could avoid that because everything was done online now, but this was serious and I had no other means to pay it. My social skills weren’t that impressive, neither my over the phone conversations. I had texting to thank for solving those two problems. So meeting my elusive landlord was going to be a real treat all together.
    Wish me luck little people.