The Write Practice

The Online Writing Workbook

Turn Routine into Inspiration

People who know me know I’m a big fan of sustainability. I walk the walk… literally: I walk instead of drive to many places, like the bank, the grocery store, the farmer’s market.

Problem with that is, if you don’t drive your car enough, your battery will die. Actually that’s not the full story. Your battery will die if you drive your car the wrong way.

That’s what the guys at my car dealership explained to me—albeit only on the second trip in with my resuscitated vehicle.  They said little short trips are far worse than if you don’t drive at all. Starting your engine requires a certain amount of power, and if you don’t drive long enough with your engine revved high enough (30mph minimum) to replace the energy lost at start up and then some, the next time you start your car your battery will drain a little more, and then a little more, till it’s sapped altogether.

Well, that’s great, Birgitte, you say, but you posted this in the wrong place.  This isn’t Car & Driver, this is The Write Practice

Photo by Jim Liestman (Creative Commons)

Photo by Jim Liestman (Creative Commons)

From the mundane to the inspired

It would indeed have been the wrong place to post this if I didn’t press on with my questions.  I am a journalist, after all, and naturally inquisitive. I could have had the guys just replace my battery and be done with it. But I wanted to know why. Why is my battery dying now when my car started just fine after I’d left it sitting for close to two months while my husband and I went on an extreme fishing expedition to Latin America?

I have a deeper understanding of how the starter mechanism in cars works now, which means any character of mine will also have this knowledge—or not, to his or her potential detriment, tension, or conflict. Just as you have the power to flush your characters full of wisdom, so too you have the power to keep them (and your readers) guessing.

Writing requires knowledge. Intimate knowledge. Writing also requires experience. Ideally, direct experience. How do you write a scene about a dangerous stall in the middle of a freeway if you’ve never lived it?  If you’ve never felt that cold curdle of realization your life might end in the next nanosecond? The panic of having just ten percent of your cell phone battery left?

You either interview someone who has, or you ramp up and extrapolate your worst start-up experience (and I don’t mean Silicon Valley startup). Mine occurred in the middle of a major four-lane street here in the Bay Area (yes, we actually have four-lane streets). My car stalled as I waited for a green U-turn light, after we’d just jump started it. My husband, who was luckily right behind me, had to make another U-turn further ahead, then come back on the other side of the road and park head to head to jump start my car with traffic flowing around us in both directions.

One of these days, this anecdote might just make it into one of my novels. It might take a completely different shape; it might turn into dialogue, an inciting incident, somebody’s dark past.

If you can’t live it, listen to it

My point is, TALK TO PEOPLE. Find out why that battery keeps dying even if you have to go through several mechanics before you get your answer. Press the staff at Trader Joe’s to explain why they keep changing the placement of their grapefruit juice. Get to know the other parents at your kids’ school. Leave that desk behind… take face-to-face lunches with your colleagues.

And if there’s no one to talk to, no matter. Just listen. The world around you is buzzing with rich new ideas. Listen to a papal address even if you’re not Catholic. Listen to the impossibly bizarre things that happen to your students. Listen to the needs and desires of your future readers.

It’s the most routine, mundane stuff out there that builds the mulch where stories germinate, that paves the roads we test our literary engines on.  Speaking of roads… I never met one I didn’t find inspiring.

What everyday experience have you had recently that might one day turn into a story?

PRACTICE

Take a mundane moment or scenario from your life or that of someone you know, and turn it into a story.* Post your practice here, and be sure to slice through other mundane-moments-turned-literary-drama with your samurai blade of critique.

*News articles, re-runs of Real Housewives of Wherever, and retweets of world events don’t count. You need to have a bonafide, verifiable personal connection to the event.

About Birgitte Rasine

Birgitte Rasine is an author, publisher, and entrepreneur. Her published works include The Serpent and the Jaguar, Verse in Arabic, and various short stories including the inspiring The Seventh Crane. She has just finished her first novel for young readers. She also runs LUCITA, a design and communications firm with her own publishing imprint, LUCITA Publishing. You can follow Birgitte on Twitter (@birgitte_rasine), Facebook, Google Plus or Pinterest. Definitely sign up for her entertaining eLetter "The Muse"! Or you can just become blissfully lost in her online ocean, er, web site.

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  • Chloee

    We lost the house. I looked outside of the car window watching the worn out neighborhood. Houses went by as I sunk down in my seat. My five other brothers and sisters had no idea how bad things are. My dads work had stopped. There was hardly any money. I was only ten but I knew a lot more. I put on a brave face as we pulled into the driveway of the new house or really shack.

    It’s outside was not very welcoming. It was just a weed riddled run down little thing on the bad part of town. As we walked inside I was horrified at the sight. Dirt wooden floors, Ants, And a little run down kitchen. The basement just imagine a basement from a horror movie and you got our basement. This house was a big change from our cozy three room house in the country to a old creepy worn out house in the hood.

    Mom and dad never let us go outside by ourselves wtich was new. Back in our old town you could walk down town with out any worries. It’s better then living in a hotel room I guess but i missed the safty of knowing that you could just run down the street and not worry about anything. I wanted to be free of the chains that kept me in this town. My little brother Ashton who was only eight was torn when we moved. It was the only house that we knew and now we were moving to a new house in the hood when mom and dad try to get enough money just to pay for gas. Being white in a almost all black community was awful I can’t tell you how many racist names i was called. At night I would listen to the dogs barking, yelling, and the police sirens. I missed my old house, my moms garden, and the old tire swing in our backyard. I could almost hear the old train tracks as I laid down I pictured the way the town looked. I cried myself to sleep at night hoping to get out of this nightmare.

    • http://www.wondering2004.wordpress.com/ Heather Marsten

      Chloee, I can feel the pain and heartache through the words you shared about this move. Well done with that. There are a lot of grammar errors and tense errors. But, an edit would take care of that. I loved your image of the chains that kept you in the thorn. I also liked how you ended the piece with an image of the house you left in the first paragraph.

      • Chloee

        Thank you it’s all based on my life at that time.

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      Captures the contrast between the two houses and the pain of loss.

      • Chloee

        Thanks so much.

    • ruth

      This is a very poignant story with detail which adds to its depth; “dogs barking, yelling and police sirens” paints the picture. There are a number of typos, punctuation errors and spelling which detract from the message. This could be developed into a larger work with a little more time. I’d like to read more.

    • Charles

      You have created some intense emotions with your words.I can feel a little of what must still be in your heart and I think that this is the skill of a good writer. In my humble opinion, I think you did a really good job with this.

    • Young_Cougar

      Awesome detail. I really felt the sorrow. At times I think the move from one sent to the other was rigid, and then at times the flow was clear and natural like the waters of the Ganges. I would love to read more, and well done.

  • http://www.wondering2004.wordpress.com/ Heather Marsten

    From my memoir – Tell Me What He Did – Hazel was my father’s girlfriend. Pam was a neighborhood child I used to play with. ***

    Mommy wipes sweat from her forehead with the back of her arm. “These sheets should dry fast, it’s so damn hot.” She rubs the small of her back and sighs. “I’d give anything for an automatic washer and dryer.”

    “Why?” I ask. “The wringer’s so much fun and we make a great team. You send the clothes through the wringer and I catch ‘em.”

    “Bet you Hazel’s got one. Bastard takes better care of her and her brat than he does us.”

    Wish she wouldn’t talk about Hazel.

    When the clothes are dry we make my bed. I point to a framed photograph hanging on the
    wall – a shorthaired pretty lady wearing a sparkly headband with a feather, kinda like an Indian princess. “Who’s that?”

    “Why, that’s me in my favorite dress. Don’t I look good? Let’s get a drink to cool off and I’ll tell you about it.”

    I sip cherry Kool-Aid at the kitchen table. “Why does the dress have those hangy things?”

    “Fringe. The fringe moved like wild when I danced. Maggie, a hoity-toity maid who worked
    down the block from me, wanted that dress too. I got it though. You shoulda seen her face when I wore it on my day off.” Mommy smiles and takes a sip of orange juice. “That’s the day I got my Flapper haircut. It was all the rage. My parents said I was trashy to have my hair so short.”

    “Flapper?”

    “That’s what we called ourselves in the twenties. I was so good at dancin’ the Charleston. Here, let me show you.” She puts her cigarette in the ashtray and dances. Sort of walking forward and back; then puts her hands on her knees and quickly moves her hands back and forth across her knees while her knees move in and out. “That fringe flied.”

    “I saw someone dance like that in a movie.”

    She sits down. “I saved five months for that dress. Back in those days you only earned a
    few dollars a week. That’s the first new dress I ever had.”

    “Your parents didn’t get you new clothes?”

    “There was twelve of us. Daddy was a coal miner. We were dirt poor. We used to run and
    meet him after the whistle blew. He saved crusts of bread from his sandwiches to give us kids a treat. Couldn’t afford new clothes. All my dresses were passed down from my three older sisters.”

    “Didn’t the kids in your class make fun of you?”

    “No, we were all poor. Sides, I only went to school ‘til eighth grade. My baby sister, Anna, was the only girl to get new clothes and graduate high school.”

    “You didn’t have to go to twelfth?”

    “Nope, eighth. My parents needed money to support the family. They farmed me out as a
    live-in housekeeper to a rich family in Chicago. Most of my money went home. With the little I could keep, I bought that dress.”

    “Doesn’t seem fair.”

    “Wasn’t. Anna got everything cause of the money I sent home. I got shit.” She sighs and
    sips her orange juice. “Still, I had fun. On my day off, my friend Betty and I went dancing. Those were some good times. Go on out and play.”

    Pam’s not outside, so I sit in the shade behind the barbeque pit and read. I can’t imagine her dancing and having fun.

    • Young_Cougar

      Wow, awesome dialogue. I love it, and it seems it’s from a book you’ve written. I’m sorry, I know this might hurt like I’ve hurled a stake into your heart and then twisted it just for fun, but I think there’s just a little too little of descriptor image. Maybe because the description has already been told some time earlier in the book? Just thought you should know.

  • Young_Cougar

    My ears prickled and my hands loosened on my mouse. Was that a whimper? Jumping out of my computer seat I run for my bedroom. Only halting at my door to soften my steps; so to not awaken the baby if she already wasn’t. I pip-toeing my way to her bedside and gently pull away the cloth curtaining her little crib.

    She’s just waking up, her eyelids closed tightly as a shutter keeping out the glaring sun. Her visage shadowed by her furrowed forehead as she tried to regain the bearing of this world. Her tinu minuter hands reach out to rub her eye. My heartbeat stops. I just revel in that pure magical moment. She’s so perfect, I think. So pretty, and God do I love her. It’s like everytime I look at her an invisible hand grabs my heart and squeezes. The fear, the pride, the throat-gushing-suffocating love. It all rises like a tidal wave, but before it can crush me under it’s weight, I clamp down. With a grappling hook I shove them in a chest and lock them with a hundred or so locks, and just to be sure, a few hundred more. Not that the’ll last…..I take a deep breath and just enjoy the miraculous sight for another second before slowly calling, “Morning, Kitten.”
    She opens her eyes, the window opens, and her gaze lands on my eyes. She gurgles. She recognizes me. My heart gushes with love. “You want me to pick you up?” I ask, already in the process of unwrapping her from her many coverings. “Baby wants to go out and play with her big sister, don’t you?” I watch to see her little bemused response. “
    “I’m not picking you up,” I tease and move away from the pen.
    “Gugalagguga!!” She makes cute baby sounds while kicking her feet and hands around at the scale of 500 miles per hours. I grin.
    Delighted at her little adorable act of trying to entice me into doing her biddings, I surrender. Picking her up in my arms I cuddle her and sprout baby nonsense from my mouth. And she pretends to get a kick out of what I’m saying and doesn’t bother to embrace me by suddenly talking and reprimanding me. Which I appreciate. We do this all the way to the living room. “Mum, Kitten’s awake!”

    - I’ve always believed the more an author knows the diverse and detailed the characters of that author can be. And that everything that we experience is a tool for our writing.

    • Marilyn Ostermiller

      You’ve captured mother love beautifully. It is evocative.

      • Young_Cougar

        …..it was actually the older sister. (Is this bad?) Thank you, though. I just re-stated what I felt for my younger sister.

        • Marilyn Ostermiller

          I read it too quickly. My comment stands, though. The love is beautifully expressed. The details all feel right.

    • Eliese

      I loved the descriptions of talking to the baby. So sweet. This made me want to go and cuddle mine!

    • http://www.birgitterasine.com/ Birgitte Rasine

      Young Cougar,

      Let’s assume you start a story or novel with this post. The first sentence has a strange effect. Some readers might have to guess it’s a computer mouse. Is there another way you can open, maybe something about fingers on the keyboard?

      As a mother I can definitely relate and know how sweet that love is. But let me challenge you: because this “mundane” moment is repeated so often in parents’ lives, and because it is so universal and well known, it is that much more difficult to express it in new or unique ways.

      See if you can find a detail that other babies and mothers perhaps do not have or share. Give us more background. Maybe the mother’s at the keyboard writing a book dedicated to the baby. Or she’s just learned that the child’s great grandmother just passed (or the grandmother won the Nobel Prize or was killed on a peacekeeping mission), and that colors the way she looks at the child. Infuse the dramatic, the intense, into the mundane. That’s the point of this exercise. ;-)

      • Young_Cougar

        (Thanks you, Brigitte! Here I go!)

        The Late Days of November

        Her mother had been right. Abigail sighed. It’s too late for regrets, She told herself sternly. Besides…this is a completely different situation.

        Abigail mopped her face with a towel, tapping it lightly around the base of her face, trying not to aggravate the acne showing up. “The rest room’s free,” she announced, stepping out.

        “Oh, thank god!” Alex, her younger daughter, exclaimed; her hands opened upwards as if sending up her regards to the heavenlies. .

        My own little Drama Queen, Abigail mused, nostalgia settling on top of her like a whipping coating for a cake. She pulled her baby girl into a tight bear hug.

        “Mama!” Alex protested ostensibly, but didn’t bother physically struggling. Which was a good thing; considering, she highly doubted she’s have been able to contain her daughter. Strong as bears, they were, just like their father.

        “This is all Nona’s fault!” Alex grumbled darkly, and now hugging her mother rather then the other way around. “She’s so stupid!”

        “Behave,” Abigail scolded sternly. “She is your older sister.”

        “A rotten one!”

        “Alexandria Maria Fanicha!”

        Alex squirmed out of the hug, “Yikes!” She launched herself towards the restroom door. “Full name alert!”

        Abigail chuckled, mastering that technique had taken tremendous effort, but in the end it had come in very handy. Her eyes shifted upwards to the second floor. Now only if it would work so well on the other one.

        As her children grew, she’s started to learn that every year, every single year, she had less and less control over her children’s life. What they thought, what they wanted, what form their beliefs and goals were forming…. it was like as if her opinion didn’t matter anymore. And now her consent.

        Which wasn’t necessarily bad, but she missed being able to dissuade her babies from any perceivable danger by just one stern look. Now, even her most confidential weapons wouldn’t work. She was ashamed to admit it, but she’d tried every, old and new, conniving trick to change her daughters mind but….

        A taste of your own medicine, another part of herself commented, but she pushed it away. Hard. She couldn’t, wouldn’t, go down that path. It would eat up all her ideas and thoughts that made her and leave nothing but the residual fluids of a virus. It would destroy the thing that was at the core of her. It would leave her a lifeless soul . . . void of nothing but regrets and sorrow.

        “Oh, mama, you’re here!” Geminin pushed her head out from her bedroom and beamed at her. “Mama, I’ve got the most faboulist idea!”

        Not a real word… “Really?” Abigail smiled. Nonetheless, she had to surrender all her weapons. Not because she had given up, no, never. But because she realized that force would only cause a larger rift between her child of the body and heart. “What is it?”

        “I was just thinking how much trouble it would be to move these things into a store and then have to pay the monthly fee. I thought we should just sell them. I mean, I’m not even sure when I’ll return. And Honestly? These things are a bit embarrassing.”

        Abigail massaged her forehead with the forefingers of her right hand; she could feel a massive headache coming on. “Mrs. Rainy Dancer and the Queen of Shalibring are embarrassing? I don’t think I was more disappointed when you decided that sweet-jade wouldn’t do for a high school decor.”

        “How’d you put it? Yes, you needed more ‘pomp’ and ‘darkness of eather’”

        Giminin giggled. “Ok, not embarrassing.” Carefully maneuvering around the mess she called hers; she pulled her mother further into the room. “I just think it’s time for Mrs. Rainy and Q.S to give some other kid the magical experience that they gave me.”

        Abigail barely resisted the urge to roll her eyes in a complete mimic of her teenage girls. Nice trick, baby, but it’s not like I haven’t used the same trick on you for most of your life.

        “Ok….and you think a kid who buys something for 50 cents will cherish them as much as you did?”

        “No, but…” Giminin frowned and glared at the the box besides her, hoping that the answer she needed would jump out of it magically.

        Maybe force wouldn’t work but she had to hope that love would do for her what nothing else could. “Baby,” Timidly she clasped the ends of her daughter’s hand into hers. “Do you really have to join the military? We have such amazing schools around here. And if you want to leave and experience the world then I’m sure any UC would be glad to have you. Please, you don’t have to join the army. Don’t do this, please.”

        Gaminin pulled back from her mother’s grasp. “Mum…no. No,..I just.” Her face flushed and she looked away from her mother’s besieging look. “I’m…I.I want to follow after Papa’s foot steps. I want to make him proud.”

        “Would leaving your family and home make him proud?” Abigails voice had gone coarse and tears were running down her cheeks. “Tell me, baby.”

        Gaminin hesitated, but then shook her head. “Don’t try to confuse me mama. I’ve decided. I’m joining and that’s it.”

        A shadow of despair settled over her like a cold cloak of death. But worse. With firm, strudy footsteps, Geminin headed outside. “If I manage to sell all this stuff I think I’ll have enough to pay for my fare to washington.’ She paused, and as if to recuperate, she added. “Don’t worry mama, ok?”

        “Mama, please!” Abigail shouted and closed her eyes. “I need to go, mama! I need to see what I can be….please.”

        Paullin pursed her lips and shook her head. “No, I don’t. I don’t give you permission to leave.”

        “Mama!”

        “It’s not worth it!” Paullin shouted. “You’re making the same mistake as your father! He lost himself in his work, and guess where it got him!”

        Abigail grabbed her bag and pushed past her mother. “You can’t stop me mother. I’ll make sure to call and write as soon as I reach the college dorm.”

        “Abigail Elizabeth Hunter, don’t you step out of this house!”

        “Mama-”

        “Find a good job, met a nice boy and settle down,” Pauline persuaded, walking around her to take her chin into her hands. “You’ll be happy.”

        “No mama. No I won’t.” She pushed through the porch opening. “I won’t be happy.”

        Her heart spilled, and bled bile and regrets. She was broken. Weeping silently, she slid onto her baby’s bed and continued to bawl. And if anyone had heard her they’d probably have fallen to their knees from the sheer pain emitting from the howling sound of torture.

  • Marilyn Ostermiller

    More from my WIP. It is 1928 and the family is moving from Kansas to Minnesota. Fred is 13, Dorsey is 9 and Lillie is 7.

    At lunchtime, Papa Ben parks by a stream. Mama opens a tin filled with hard-boiled eggs, fresh-baked bread and apples.

    After awhile, when Fred makes sure there isn’t any food left to eat, he yells, “Tag, you’re it, Dorsey.”

    Dorsey jumps up from the picnic blanket to chase him. Fred is bigger and faster, but she has a plan.

    “Lilly, run over by that big tree, throw yourself down on the ground and pretend you are hurt,” Dorsey whispered.

    Lilly runs as fast as her chubby little legs can carry her, throws herself down and cries, “Help me, Fred. I think I broke my arm.”

    Fred loves his little sister and cannot bear to see her get hurt. He dashes over to pick her up. Just then, Dorsey jumps out from behind the tree and tags Fred. “You’re it,” she said.

    Realizing he has been tricked, Fred said, “Aw Dorsey, that’s no fair. I’ll get you for that.

    “And, Lilly, it’s not nice to tell a lie. Haven’t you ever heard the story about the little boy who cried wolf too many times? When he was really in trouble, no one came to help him because they thought he was fibbing again. So don’t ever do that. Okay?”

    “I’m sorry,” Lilly said, sniffling a little and feeling really bad that she took part in Dorsey’s trick. “I won’t do that again,” she promises, brushing blades of grass and dirt from her pinafore.

    Mama considers the Bible her rule book, frequently reminding her children to “do as you want others to do to you.”

    Having seen the trick Dorsey played on Fred, Mama pulls her aside. “Young lady, let’s have no more of that behavior. Apologize to Fred and Lilly right now.”

    “Yes, Mama. I’m sorry I tried to trick you, Fred. I’m sorry I asked you to help me, Lilly.”

    “That’s enough now,” Papa Ben called. “Time to get back in the truck.”

    • Eliese

      Your WIP looks interesting. I historical books. I can see why you used this for this prompt. Nice dialogue and set up of the characters.

      • Marilyn Ostermiller

        Elise, thanks for the encouragement. I appreciate it.

  • Ashley Liz

    I know it is not a mundane experience,
    but it is what I was inspired to write from the prompt. Here is my practice:

    All Sam could hear was his
    own breathing. He took hard and ragged
    breaths. He could feel his lungs burn and his heart pound. Sam licked his lips
    and tried to slow his breathing. He didn’t want to give away his position. He
    pressed his back to the cement wall. Making his 6’1” 250 lb. build as small as
    possible. ‘At least I have the night on my side. The shadows will keep me
    covered.’ He thought.

    “Mr. Cole?” A voice called into
    the night, drawn out and taunting. “Mr. Collllle…”

    His breathing slowed as he
    began to take shallow quite breaths.

    “I don’t know why you bother
    hiding from me,” the voice said. “You’re only prolonging the enviable. I will
    kill you, and then I will find your sister and kill her, then your mother, then
    and your aunt. Shall I keep going?” the voice called out to the darkness.

    Sam licked his lips again.

    “Cole?” The voice echoed off
    the walls. And then there was nothing. No footsteps, no voice, complete quite.
    Sam held his breath, waiting, trying to hear something that would tell him how
    close his enemy was. Anything. His mouth was dry, his heart pounded. He didn’t
    want to die, not like this. He repeated that to himself over and over, like a
    prayer or a wish, ‘Not like this, not like this.’

    She fell on top of him as if
    she came from the sky. Her knees struck his chest, forcing the air from his
    lungs. Sam choked and gasped for air. His knees buckled and the small dark figure
    rode him as he fell to the ground. She planted her knee firmly on his windpipe
    and pinned his arms with her feet. Then she pressed down cutting off his air. As
    he struggled to get loose, she brought her face down to his so that all he
    could see was her eyes. Cold and black they were, full of hate and anger. Then,
    as if she had read his mind, she whispered.

    “Yes, just like this.”

    Sam face went numb with fear as
    her breath touched his cheek. His vision tunneled and a low hum entered his
    brain. The hum got louder and louder, until it consumed everything else, the
    vision of her face looming over him became fuzzy and far away. He felt himself
    drift away, away from his body, away from that room, away from her.

    She waited until the darkness
    had completely swallowed him. She watched as his eyes changed and became empty
    and dead. She waited until his hands went limp and the last bit of light faded from
    his face and his chest was still.

  • ruth

    Just groceries, a weekly chore at the neighborhood market. She unloaded her cart and noticed a couple in front of her. The man wore a baseball cap which said “Navy” on the front and the lady had a musical laugh you could hear all over the store. They waited for the tally on their purchases. He looked at her with a kindly smile and said, “I hope your day is good. Today is all we have. Yesterday is gone and there are no guarantees for tomorrow.” That was all but the words lingered with her for a week.
    It was the start of a strange relationship. Every Wednesday they shopped at the same time, shared a few pleasant words and went their way. After six months they finally introduced themselves by first name and began to visit, casing a mini traffic jam in the aisle. They had likes in common. Both women loved to garden, feed wild birds, can vegetables and bought fresh flowers from the grocery store. He was a retired Navy veteran who served as a Ham radio operator and worked part time as IT specialist.
    After a year they greeted each other with hugs on holidays and again after she returned from two surgeries. The couple was like family, warm-hearted, caring and full of positive thoughts. The daughter of one said, “Now wait. You call these people your friends and you met at the grocery store? Where do they live? What’s their last name? Do you see each other outside the store?”
    The answer was no, this was a grocery store friendship. Then one day the friends did not show up. Again the next week. A chat with the checkout girls confirmed they had not seen them either. They had disappeared and left behind a great sense of loss.
    Had she failed the friendship? What happened to them? Why had they not exchanged phone numbers or taken the time to visit? Had they been given a gift they neglected? What might the friendshp have become if given a chance? The questions haunted her.

    • http://www.birgitterasine.com/ Birgitte Rasine

      Ruth, this has a nice core to it. Unusual concept. First thing I’d do is clarify who’s who and who’s talking to/about whom. I know it’s a rough draft—but as it is now, it feels like jumping into a body of water you know nothing about, and all you feel are the bubbles around you. Give us a good mask to see into your world, Ruth! :-)

      Above all, tease out the mystery more. Maybe instead of putting the questions out there so explicitly (“What happened to them?”) which is far too obvious, play with it a little. Dig into it, see what unique or unusual things you can find…

  • Hathaway

    It was dark outside, but the fluorescent lights on the ceiling filled the princess pink

    ballet studio with cold, but audaciously bright light. The teacher was out, making a note in her office, and the dancers draped themselves against the Barres like bits of threadbare laundry. It had been a long day, ten hours en pointe doing variation after variation, combination after combination. Their sullen mouths could barely speak and they were lost in the pain of their feet and legs.

    But still Mrs. Alexandrov did not return. It must have been a rather long note, or a very large correction to the variation – hopefully the former.

    In the lobby, a door creaked. It was probably the wind. It was, after all such an old
    building. On the far side of the room, Tanya dared to sit down. She pushed her fingers into her shoes and massaged what little foot she could touch. Louisa sat down too. Then Marie. Soon the whole company.

    And so it was that Mrs. Alexandrov returned to find her twenty girls on the floor. The angry curves of her mouth turned down farther that her natural frown, and her mouth opened in what would have been a harsh chide. Would have been, if Tanya had not cried out; she had not turned around; and the lone shooter had not pulled back his finger.

    • Eliese

      A beautiful recital of mundane, painful, practice turned tragic. Sad story. I could easily see how this could be turned into a larger story. I liked the descriptions of the girls as they tried to rub their feet.

      • Hathaway

        Thank you!

  • Shelly

    I really like Birgitte’s descriptions like: “cold curdle of realization…” They create great word pictures. Also, who knew that’s why our old truck’s battery keeps dying? We start it every now and then, but can’t remember when it last got up to 30 mph. I’ve learned all kinds of things today! Thanks,

    • http://www.birgitterasine.com/ Birgitte Rasine

      Shelly you’re welcome! Glad you now have a clue into your truck’s battery troubles, I bet you that’s what it is. I’m a total car girl and take care of my baby as if it really were one. Even used to change the diapers (oil) myself once upon a time… car ramps and all.

  • Charles

    Jacob walked with the spirited gait of a health-oriented pensioner as the rising sun greeted him with its bright smile. The birds filled the crisp air with their cheerful melodies and he waved and smiled at the familiar faces of those who walked every morning for the same reasons. He felt healthy, wise to the needs of his body, and, perhaps, a little too smug, especially when he saw the sagging pot bellies of some of the others. The walking path was curving through a thick grove of trees where it began a very steep climb up, up, so high that many walkers avoided it. It was Jacob’s favorite part of the walk because of the cooling shade of the trees and the stillness of its isolation where only the birds were his companions. He noticed something small and dark ahead of him on the path. As he approached it, he could see that it was a wallet surrounded with paper money blowing gently in the breeze. He stood over it and turned full circle to see if anybody was near. He was alone. Without thinking, and with a panicked instinctive rush, he gathered the money and the wallet in his fingers and quickly moved behind a wall of bushes. He counted the treasure of hundred dollar bills and his heart raced with the total of six thousand dollars. Had anyone seen him? He didn’t think so. Six thousand dollars! Should he, would he keep it? What were the chances of anyone ever catching him? Oh, but the embarrassment if they did. Maybe jail time. And if he spent the money and then got caught, it would all have to be repaid and he barely made it on his pension now. No, not worth the risk. Maybe the owner would give him a reward. The wallet had the usual array of cards so it would be easy to find a telephone number. Should he call the man or just give it to the police? There was more of a chance for a quick reward if he called him so that’s what Jacob did. He got one hundred dollars for his lucky find and he, with the wisdom of his old age, was happy with that.

  • Eliese

    Splashes and laughter echo through the large, expensive blue bathroom. The toddlers face is sparkling with joy as he plays in the tub, but visible beneath the joy is exhaustion from a hard day of learning and playing. Bed time approaches, and the first battle will soon begin.

    “Little man, it’s time to get out.” Says the tired teenage Mother.

    “No!” Screams the chubby toddler kicking his feet which causes water to splash over the side of the tub.

    “I said you had five more minutes. Time is up.” The Mom says as she rubs her makeup free face.

    “No go.” He yells again.

    “Ok, five more minutes.” She caves.

    “Yay!” The sweet child smiles showing off his two white bottom teeth.

    The conversation repeats until the little boy shows her that he is ready to get out. This scrimmage was won by the child, but the next is about to begin.

    “Let’s get your clothes on like a big boy!”

    He refuses, but the Mother has a plan.

    “Daddy come help.” She calls.

    A short, dark haired man in his mid twenties arrives to her aid. She holds the wiggling toddler as he puts on the diaper and clothes. Success. One point for the parents.

    The last is the most difficult. Bedtime includes, a story read by Father, a couple refills of juice, a snack, and then being rocked by Mommy.

    The first three steps are finished and the child now sits in his Mothers arms with his legs wrapped around her waist, and his hands rubbing her earlobe as she rocks him. She sings ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, and his breathing slows to a constant rhythm. The sweet angel is soaring through fluffy cotton clouds in his dreams.

    No one won this battle which means the final score is, as always, a tie.

    She places the tiny sleeping person in his crib, kisses him, and then turns on the computer complete her online classes for the night.

  • LisaYang

    Pauline’s dormitory. A nice and warm place, with walls painted in summery, bright colors and decorated with simple paintings and photographs. I come here very often, not to visit though, but to tutor. She has decided to bridge the gap between maths and her never-resting, adventure-seeking mind.
    You would like her, I think. I immediately did. You feel comfortable around her, relaxed. Just listening to her stories, her ideas, her plans for the next adventure she will embark on makes me smile. I have never met anyone more energetic, more spirited, more effervescing than Pauline.
    When I arrive at the dormitory, she is leaning on the windowpane, forehead pressed against the window, her eyes scouring the streets below. Today, the weather is nice. Sun, blue sky, white clouds. I wish I had a camera, this moment is worth capturing. It always saddens me a little when I have to tap on her shoulder and signal her that it’s time for our daily rendez-vous with maths.
    My hand lightly touches her shoulder. It’s done. I have pulled her out of a deep trance yet again. Pauline turns her head around and I know that she will meet me with big eyes, sparkling with excitement and her broad, adorable grin that I love so much.

    Time flies by really fast. In between questions about equations and functions, she tells me about traveling to Amsterdam with her friend. It’s a secret journey, something Pauline would do, spontaneous, adventurous.

    I close my books and she walks me out of the dormitory. I know where I would find her, if sneaked back again. Her short affair with maths is over and like a guilty lover she hurries back to the window.

  • Peggy

    Do You Really Want to Be That Rich

    Today I went for a long walk at the beach. The trail winds through a neighborhood of mini mansions that sit just off the shores edge. The beach comes and goes as the rocks take up some prime real estate but add density to the drama of the scene. The waves were crashing and spraying foam across the rocks and onto the beach. At the end of the trail sits a small lighthouse with a huge beacon attached to the top. If it weren’t for the beacon the lighthouse might be mistaken for yard art. The lighthouse welcomes ships and boats of all sizes into a small and beautiful harbor.

    Today, just outside the harbor entrance sits a yacht. It is really called a mega yacht. I have seen other extremely grandiose yachts in the harbor before but this one was way beyond anything I have ever seen. It has been in the harbor for over a week. The local paper even had an article about the yacht and its owner. The article said the mega yacht costs $200 million dollars to build. On my walk I encountered other yacht watchers. One of them told me that the owner, a wealthy European, had given it to his wife as a birthday present. I saw a helicopter land on the ship and take some people off to somewhere unknown. Another man on the trail told me how much fuel the yacht could hold and how much it would cost to fill up the tank. A lot! It was fun for a moment to dream about what it would be like to board the yacht and cruise to somewhere. I could just imagine the stories the mini ship, mega yacht could tell.

    Then I was struck by how much work and resources it takes to own such a luxury. I hope the people who own the yacht really enjoy it. I am so happy that I am not that rich. I think there is a point in life where you can have too much money and your happiness and peace would be compromised by so much grandiosity. I also wondered if the owners can only find some peace from being out to sea. You might think my heart would be filled with jealously and envy spying such a different way of life filled with opulence, but instead my heart was filled with gratitude that I had peace and privacy and freedom.

  • http://www.robynlarue.com Robyn LaRue

    Loved this. I’m a firm believer that every experience ends up in a writer’s stories somewhere. :) Though Hubs doesn’t understand, he does at least stand quietly while I oohh and aaahh over some observation, sight, or experience. :)

    • http://www.birgitterasine.com/ Birgitte Rasine

      Glad to hear it Robyn. It can be hard for our loved ones to get inside our worlds, but then the reverse is often true. Mutual respect!

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