The Write Practice

The Online Writing Workbook

6 Ways to Shake Up Your Storytelling Style

Stories teach us, inspire us, and allow us to experience worlds we would not otherwise know. We learn about each other through sharing stories. We watch stories unfold on TV and in movies, read stories in books and magazines, and tell each other stories about our days, our childhoods, our travels.

Two weeks ago, I attended a panel presentation called “Storytellers: The Power of Perspective” during Chicago Ideas Week. While listening to the speakers, I was inspired by their different perspectives on storytelling—where they find inspiration, how they communicate stories, why they think stories are important and need to be told.

If you want to explore a new style of storytelling, here are six creative approaches to try:

Drawing of Girl with Balloons

Photo by L. Whittaker

Tell Me a Story

1. Pursue your passion.

What intrigues you? What do you daydream about? What did you love to do when you were young? Explore that curiosity with research and questions and your imagination. You will find stories along the way, and in telling those stories, your enthusiasm will shine through your words.

2. Reveal the person you are.

Facts and dates are great for constructing a resume, but stories are the key to showing, rather than telling. Share your story (or your character’s story) by writing about specific moments, whether those moments are life-changing experiences or very ordinary occurrences.

3. Experiment.

Stories don’t have to be written with a keyboard. Try other forms of storytelling—pen and paper, audio recording, video, drawing, painting, dance, song. One method may suit your story better than others. Or through experimenting with more than one type, you’ll depict different aspects of the same story.

4. Give yourself a limit.

When you set a time limit or restrict your word count, you force yourself to write the most important parts. Consider a commercial on TV; it may be 15 or 30 or 60 seconds long, but it must convey information and emotion quickly and clearly. What pieces of your story pack the most punch? What could you cut out?

5. Slow down.

Listen and look. Keep your eyes and ears open, and you will find stories in the most surprising places. Write them down with a commitment to quality. Choose each word with care. Read and re-read those words until you are sure you’ve told the story exactly as it should be.

6. Live your stories.

Try new things; travel; talk to people. Challenge yourself. Live a story so compelling and interesting that you must share it. Write about your experiences so others have the opportunity to live through you.

What story do you have to share? What’s your favorite way to tell stories?

PRACTICE

If you always write on a computer, grab a pen and paper—or if you usually write on paper, open up a new document on your computer.

Write for fifteen minutes. Tell a story, any kind of story.

When you’re finished, please share your practice in the comments section. Or let us know how trying a new form of storytelling influenced your writing.

P.S. This practice taps into the “time limit” approach too!

About Melissa Tydell

Melissa Tydell is a freelance writer, content consultant, and blogger who enjoys sharing her love of the written word with others. You can connect with Melissa through her website, blog, or Twitter.

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  • Michelle Woollacott

    Marvelous ideas! We all need to remember to be succinct and show the story without using too many words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pj.reece.9 PJ Reece

    I love writing advice that speaks to the practicalities… like setting a time limit.  I have one today.  Gotta get some research done by noon.  Maybe by then I’ll have a story to tell.  I look down from my window to my car parked below and see a pile of bear scat beside my driver’s door.  I can’t afford the time to check it out right now, but later, later.  I wonder if he was trying to get into my car.  I wonder what I left in there.  OMG… did I leave my tuna sandwhich in there, yesterday? 

    • Juliana Austen

      Bears in the driveway! Woah! There is a story there!

    • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

      I loved that, PJ. You gave just enough information to whet my appetite for more, but not day-old tuna sitting in a car. The bear can have that!

  • http://www.facebook.com/pj.reece.9 PJ Reece

    That comment below was by PJ REECE… don’t know why my name didn’t materialize

  • Shaquanda

    I love the advice about telling a story through a video or a song. Using multimedia to tell your story is starting to become a trend with podcasts, audio books, and youtube videos.

  • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

    This wasn’t very experimental (I would have liked to write it on paper, instead of my usual word processor, but my wrists just can’t take using a pen for that long), but it does touch on No. 2 above. I write about myself frequently, in order to get most of the crazy out, but I don’t usually share it with other people. Part of me feels that I don’t have an interesting enough life to include in my stories and another part of me is terrified to let an audience know who I really am. Either way, this got super emotional, haha. Enjoy.

    A young boy, no older than three, sits in the middle of a large forest green rug, playing with wooden blocks. His hair is a shocking blonde, but will turn brown with time. In the kitchen, his mother washes dishes and tries not to think about the turmoil roiling through her. She watches her boy and smiles, cleaning the same plate she was minutes ago.

    She hadn’t expected another child. Her relationship with Tom made her feel young, but it wasn’t love. She was nearing the other side of the hill and they agreed it might be in both their best interests for her to “get her tubes tied.” They each had kids of their own and that wasn’t going so well as it was. The doctor told her she was pregnant the day they went in. 

    Her life had been doctors after that. The pregnancy. The heart disease. From hospitals to ceremonies, to cremation and loneliness. Years of confusion and heartache and telling her older son that Tom was just lashing out because he was in pain and that it would be okay. But it wasn’t. She set the dish down and watched Ryan lay down next to his little brother. Who would they be? Could she do this on her own? Again?

    Ryan watches her from where he sits beside Matthew. He doesn’t know how to make everything okay. He wants to make her happy, but what can he do? Matthew clacks his blocks together and giggles. Ryan smiles at his little brother and for a moment, though he can’t comprehend it, he sees how he can help his mother. 

    For Matthew, everything is nebulous. He knows his father told him to be strong, but he doesn’t know why or what that means. One day they were visiting Dad in a white room and the next, everyone was wearing black. It’s all a mystery to him, but he understands one thing: Dad is gone. It will be years before this truly dawns on him, but sitting their on that forest green rug, he knows that the shimmer of crackling nothing across from him both is and isn’t his father. 

    Tom looks down at his son, who he barely knew, and wants to hold him. He wants to tell Matthew that it’s okay. His older children are driving his ashes to a forest somewhere in the Pacific northwest. They’re crying and laughing and reminiscing, but what will Matthew have? Tom wants more than anything to give his son what he knows he can’t: memories. 

    The little boy stares at the apparition and then scrunches up his face in anger, “No. You go away. You’re not supposed to be here!” 

    Ryan looks at his mother, shocked, but her expression mirrors his own. Chills run up their backs. They watch Matthew, trace his gaze to the empty space in the room. Before too long, the boy is back to playing with his blocks, but his brother feels uncomfortable. His mother picks up a dish and scrubs idly at it, staring at her youngest son. She doesn’t realize it’s the same dish she’s been cleaning all night.

    • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate Hewson

      Spooky! I love the ‘shimmer of crackling nothingness’.
      Apparently my youngest aunt, when she was about 2 or 3, used to have long conversations with ghosts. I don’t think she remembers it now though.

      • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

        Thanks Kate :) 

        Apparently many children see things beyond this world. I’e personally always felt it to be a shame that we lose that soft intuition we have as kids. 

        • Endangeredsoul

          This is hauntingly beautiful. I really enjoyed reading it. 

          • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

            Thanks! I’m glad you liked it :)

    • Marla4

       This is wonderful.  I love the line abut the boy’s shocking blond hair.  So much in here to love.

      • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

        Thanks so much for the kind words Marla. It means a lot to me, for this piece in particular.

    • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

      Very good writing. I enjoy it very much. Very eerily shocking.

      • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

        Thanks Tom, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • mariannehvest

      This is great Jeff.  It’s a pretty complex story to tell so well in such a short space.  I like how each person’s experience is recounted.  My favorite is the part is when Matthew sitting on the green rug knows that his father is both there and not there.  It’s hard to write something like that and not lose the reader, but you writing is so clear that the situation is very apparent. Thanks!

      • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

        Thanks so much for the kind words Marianne! This piece really came out of nowhere, but I am happy I lucked into such a solid practice and I’m glad it got the message across :)

    • David Rice

      Wow.

      I usually don’t like ghost stories, but this was great.  In just these few paragraphs, each character already feels real.

      • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

        Thanks David, I’m glad you enjoyed it :)

    • Mirelba

       Well done!  Two suggestions:  I would name Matthew in the first paragraph, to make it less confusing later as to who was who.  Also,  I would go back to the third paragraph where I found the chronology confusing.  You had us going from ceremonies to cremation to loneliness and then years of lashing out because he was in pain.  Maybe reverse the order.

      Very strong story though. 

      • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

        Thanks for the compliments Mirelba and you’re absolutely right about the chronology. I wasn’t sure how to fix that, haha. Some times the simplest answers escape me ><

    • Melissa Tydell

      I love seeing how #2 inspired you and how this practice revealed who you are. It’s so interesting how everyone has a different interpretation and a fresh perspective after reading the same post. Thanks for sharing…

      • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

        I agree, Melissa. One of the best things about the Write Practice is the chance to see how so many different people interpret the same prompt. Thanks for reading!

  • Yvette Carol

    It’s funny, because the reason I write is the opposite of 6; ’living a life that is so compelling and interesting you have to share it’. I write precisely because the banter of little boys in my home drives me out the window opened by my imagination.

    • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

      I loved your last line, Yvette.

      • http://www.facebook.com/yvette.carol Yvette Carol

        Ha, thanks, Tom :-)

    • Mirelba

       well said!  I only wonder if in the last line it shouldn’t be through rather than out…

    • Melissa Tydell

       Yes, writing (and reading) can definitely be an escape from everyday life… I know I do them for that purpose too! So I suppose #6 would be a different take on your usual approach then!

  • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

    I observe them chatting softly between the hardwood pews, passing the peace. They seem a friendly lot, smiling and nodding. I see the men shake hands, occasionally slapping a back or two, conversing over scores and strategies. The women appear more prone to hugs and whispered conversations about family and friends. From my end of the sanctuary my heart embraces the scene. But even in the warm embrace of Christian fellowship, I feel the slight draft of winter wind.

    I hear the invitation of Jesus, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” I’m weary, Jesus, but where are you? Are you here in the sanctuary? Are you here in the midst of the singing and the chatter? If I laid down right here, would I be allowed to rest? Everyone seems so busy, maybe too busy. Are they too busy to hear my story, too busy to make eye contact? Do they see me? Do they care?

    I hear another invitation, “Come to the table.” I’m hungry, Lord. I’m hungry for you, but I’m also hungry for communion. I come to the table to be fed, but I fear some want to shorten the invite list. I’m a sinful man. Am I really invited to the table? Lord, only you know my heart. Only you can prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies. Are these my enemies, Lord, or my brothers and sisters? Sometimes I’m not certain. Perhaps an invitation to their table where we dined not only on the bread and cup, but meat and potatoes, would make me feel a part of the communion of the saints.

    From my vantage point, I see the congregation of beautifully broken saints covered in their Sunday best and I wonder if I belong. Am I a part of this family of faith? Do they see me from where I’m standing? 

    I am here, right in front of them, hiding behind the pulpit.

    • Marla4

       This is beautiful!  I love the end, because it is both perfect and unexpected. 

    • mariannehvest

      Wonderful Tom, that was so honest and sort of sad.  It must be hard to be “behind  the pulpit” all the times.  Thank you.  

  • Marla4

    The town where I live is small, 2,000 people, give or take a
    few Burkharts that move in and out depending on whether the sheriff is after
    them or not.  I’ve lived here all my
    life, and I’ve seen bad behavior from folks that sit up front in church and experienced
    grace from some who never darkened the doors.

    Tonight, I’m sitting alone at the Golden Pheasant, our one
    good restaurant.  Here, they put sesame
    seeds on the hamburger buns, and the Cokes are in bottles, that’s how fancy
    this place is.  I’m one another first
    date.  Henry.  His name is Henry.  His people aren’t from here, not from this
    town or this state or even from the South, which makes him irresistible to me.

    I’ve been coming here since I was sixteen.  My first date.  Melvin Shakleford.  He was a junior in college.  I was a cheerleader.  I spent sixty seconds under him on a hot
    night in May and it turned something inside of me.  You’re supposed to feel offended, I guess,
    when a guy takes your most prized offering and then won’t so much as return your
    calls, but me, no, I can’t say that I was. 
    I felt powerful all summer, and I got a tattoo of a dragon on by behind
    and I stopped taking shit off anybody.

    Henry is leaning in, tucking a lock of my hair behind my
    ear.  He traces the curve of my ear with
    one finger and looks me full on in the eye.

    “Lovely,” he says, and Harrell Lee, the waiter, near about
    drops the pitcher of water he’s holding.

    I once dated Harrell Lee, before his possibilities dried up,
    back when he was the center for our high school football team.  He was a moaner, as I recall.

    On the far table, next to the restrooms, is Gifford.  I spent an entire year trying to get him to
    love me.  Tonight he’s with a woman who,
    on a scale of one to ten, is an eleven. 
    She is laughing, and it sounds like bells, and she reaches out for
    Gifford’s hand and I want to die.

    But I don’t die.  I
    tear a piece of Pita bread off and dip it in olive oil and chew it.  My date Henry is saying, “The girls where I
    come from are very different from here. 
    For instance, they’ll go out without lipstick, even at night.”

    I shoot him a look. 
    Michigan must be fraught with abysmal women.  I have on lipstick base, lip liner, Mackdaddy
    Red Lipstick, and Shimmer Shimmer lip gloss. 
    Henry is staring at my lips, I realize, and I want to say, Up here, City
    Boy, my eyes are up here, but I don’t.

    “Interesting,” I say, and then Gigi, the man I left my first
    husband for, walks in.  He’s put on
    weight, and already he’s had too much to drink. 
    I can tell by his gait.  When he’s
    drinking, he leans hard on his left leg – the right one has a rod in it from
    the knee to his ankle.  Hunting
    accident.  I drop my napkin and reach
    down to get it.  I don’t need Gigi over
    here talking to Henry.

    We order.  Duck for Henry.  Steak for me. 
    When I go out, I eat.  Screw picking
    over a salad.  Dessert?  You bet. 
    That’s why I work the stair climber at the Body Shop an hour a day, even
    when I’ve got a headache.

    Henry’s phone rings, the sound like a car horn bassooning across
    the table.  He gets up, excuses himself
    and goes to the lobby to talk.  Calls
    during dinner are a bad sign, I know, especially when the man can’t talk in
    front of you.

    I’m not good alone in a restaurant.  I feel unhinged.  I eat more bread and spill olive oil on my
    silk dress.  I scan the tables.  Nine are filled.  All couples. 
    I’ve slept with seven of the men, and Harrell Lee, the waiter.  If Earl’s cooking, round that number up to
    ten.

    Sometimes I wonder if I’ve lived here too long.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s time I
    straightened up.  I’m thirty-one now, and
    here I am in my den of sin, where tonight my past has decided to gather, like a
    biblical tale that screams for redemption, or at least a sacrifice.  Some ram caught in a thicket, maybe, or at
    least a trip to the Blood Bought Church, where I carved my name in the back pew
    when I was thirteen.  I never went back.

    Gifford catches my eye and winks.  I feel the heat rising inside me.  No, he didn’t love me, he didn’t even pretend
    to love me, but once when I had the flu, I woke up and he had his hand on my
    forehead, and he was frowning, a thing like concern passing across his
    eyes.  The things he did when I was well.  My lord. He made my legs shake.  He made me quiver.

    “If you don’t quiet down,” Gifford said one night, “the cops
    are liable to show up.”

    Henry appears then. 
    He’s running his fingers through his gelled hair.  “I hate to do this,” he says, “but I’m going
    to have to go.”  There is an energy about
    him that I haven’t noticed before.  A
    quickness.  His brow is furrowed and he’s
    reaching for his keys.

    There is a story here, I’m sure of it.  Either there’s a woman waiting or a real
    emergency.  Either way, I feel like I’m
    competing against something.  I touch the
    napkin to my lips.  It is now stained
    red.  I fold it and put it back on the
    table.  Henry pulls out my chair and I
    rise, and the slit in my dress shows my toned thigh, pale as a statue’s.  Henry watches.  Oh how Henry watches.

     

     

    • http://spiritualsidekick.com/ Tom Wideman

      Great story! I need to read more. I love hearing this from the town slut’s point of view. Her vulnerability gives her such depth. Your first three paragraphs were super. The Burkharts, the small town, the way you describe the best restaurant in town were all first rate! Keep writing!

    • http://twitter.com/1stwordproblems Jeff Ellis

      This is beautiful Marla! What a great character. You’ve really brought a feel of humanity to your protagonist and her different relationships. I love the claustrophobic setting of the only decent diner in her tiny home town. 

      Excellent practice.

    • mariannehvest

      What a great character.  She is realistic and funny and very likable.   I like the descripiton of the “only good restaurant” in town that’s so fancy that it serves coke in bottles.  .  

    • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate Hewson

      Awesome, Marla! This lady is very different from the ones you have written about before. Quite a few of them are romantic and passionate, but this lady is more pragmatic! I like her. I also feel like I would like to spend a night with Gifford. Haha!

    • Mirelba

       Marla strikes again :-)
       I love your little one-liners that say so much.  the fanciness of the restaurant, Harrell nearly dropping the water pitcher, the moaner.  There is so much to learn from your writing!

      One thing struck me as off though.  If a guy says that girls here are so different from the girls he knows, would he really bring their not wearing lipstick in the evening as the example?  That doesn’t sound like any male I know…  (although I love where you took it.)

    • Melissa Tydell

      The rhythm of this piece pulled me in… I felt like I was looking around the restaurant through your character’s eyes. Great job packing so much information into the piece as well as striking a sympathetic note.

  • http://twitter.com/renourishblog Renourish

    I love writing in my notebooks (although I keep using different ones which gets confusing!). It automatically slows me down so that I can choose words with care. In saying that, sometimes letting ideas be flung onto a computer screen is more satisfying as I don’t feel held back.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Meghan-Malcolm-Kenyon/820450092 Meghan Malcolm-Kenyon

    *To shake up my storytelling, I chose a genre of writing that I’ve never done before! A western.

    The old wooden bar stool wobbled back and forth as Petunia
    fidgeted with her skirt. She should have put on a pair of Gregory’s pants to come
    to the likes of this place, but when she had gone to his dresser and pulled
    open the top drawer on the right, the smell of him filled her nose and she was
    stricken with grief. She could stomach the thick saloon air smelling of liquor
    and sweat more than she could the faint smell of her husband’s clothes.

     

    Broad shouldered, belly-bearing cowboys with no damsel to
    save or villain to duel, filled the tables around her. They didn’t seem as
    boisterous when a lady was in their presence. Some glared at her, hoping she would
    feel unwelcome and leave, others licked their lips like hungry dogs. Petunia
    avoided their eye contact and examined the initials of eating contest and bar
    fight champions that were carved into the post in front of her tall table.

     

    And there she waited for him. For the man who knew where
    Gregory was. For the man who knew how she could save him.

    • mariannehvest

      What a good scene.  I can see the whole thing and think this would be a great opening to a story. Well done.

    • Melissa Tydell

      Love that you tried a new genre… and that it was a western without feeling totally cliche. Hope you keep going with it!

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Meghan-Malcolm-Kenyon/820450092 Meghan Malcolm-Kenyon

        Thanks very much Melissa & Marianne!

  • Jason Dookeran

    A single drop of water alit on the towering tree and glided
    for a moment down the leaf, slipping to the edge of it before it flew down,
    down, down onto the traveler’s head. He looked up at the tree. He had not been
    this way before, as far as he could remember, but it somehow felt familiar. He
    touched the rough bark of the tree and took a deep breath filled with the rich,
    moist scent of the rainforest.

    He wasn’t sure where he was, or even who he was for that matter. He knew that he needed to retrieve something from this place. He could feel it here, calling his name, reaching out to him with its tendril-like aura, stroking his neck like a lover. He took another deep breath and, yes, there! He opened his eyes and turned to where the scent was coming from. This was it; this was what his goal was centered around.

    Cautiously, so as not to slip, he traipsed over the moist leaf-cover, stopping now and again to close his eyes and smell the scent so strongly wafting to him. The further he traversed into the wood, the sharper the scent came. He was close; he could almost taste victory. Closing his eyes one last time, he breathed deep, the scent permeating his very core and the heady scent circulating around his nostrils. He kept his eyes closed and let the scent lead him for the rest of the way.

    He opened first one eye, then the other, his mouth falling open in awe at the place he had wandered into. A single shaft of light illuminated a brilliantly glowing gem at the center of the clearing as large oaks linked their boughs together all around the dais where the gem lay, protecting it from the cold cruel world outside. Cautiously, he took first one step, then another, each one making the next easier. His body was drawn inexorably to the dais and he reached out a finger, touching the gem.

    “You have come to this place of your own free will?” a soft, feminine voice caressed his ears as he stroked the hard, unerring edges of the glowing shard.

    “Yes,” he stated simply.

    “Would you wish to see those you love again?” the angelic voice whispered.

    “What?” the traveler asked.

    “To touch me and hold me would mean giving up everything that had come before,” the angelic voice explained. “You can touch me and go on, or release me and I shall release you.”

    The traveler thought and in the fuzzy reaches of his mind he could remember things, faint shadows at the edges of his memories. He focused harder on thinking about it, but the more the focused the blurrier it got. “I give myself to you,” the traveler said, and in that second everything was still. Slowly the traveler closed his eyes.

    A massive explosion flung him from where he stood and he lay on the ground in bewilderment looking up at the flak-covered sky.

    “I thought we lost you there Sarge,” a young man said, holding the traveler in his arms.

    “Where…where am I?” the traveler asked.

    “We’re in France,” the youth replied, “kicking ourselves some Kraut kiester. You took a hard blow from an artillery round and we thought you’d had it, but here you are then. Welcome back to the war Sarge.”

    As the traveler looked into the sky, he thought he saw something, maybe a trick of the light. Yeah it had to be a trick of the light.

    • David Rice

      Loved it Jason!

      I really liked
      how you took the internal struggle of giving up and made it a real world with
      real decisions. I really felt the dreams. Great descriptions without interrupting
      the plot.

      • Jason Dookeran

        Thanks! It just sort of wrote itself actually. I just sat around and watched it happen :)

    • Mirelba

       That was great!  Great descriptions, and what a surprise ending!  Well done.  Interesting though, that he chose to leave those he loved, yet ended up coming back to them…

      • Jason Dookeran

        Thanks, but you have to consider if it was talking about those he loved on Earth or those he loved that were already gone…

        • Mirelba

          hmmm, true. food for thought

          • Jason Dookeran

            I always enjoy making my readers think…:)

  • David Rice

    This is my first post ever and my first time doing a writing prompt. Let me know what I can work on. Thanks everybody.

    Frozen in place I stay as I hear the footsteps. They’re coming for me. They will find me. There is no question of this. The question is when they will find me, and how will I react.

    I curl myself tighter in a ball on the cold stone corner of the basement floor. I tightly grip my blindfold, I am told that it is red. Their feet tap lightly on the wooden floor above. They know I am here. They can feel me as I can now feel them. I say a silent prayer for all that I have lost. It has been much. My home, my family, my sight. I have gained as well. Known as The Blind Assassin, I strike fear into the hearts of many. The same fear that has crippled me. They are searching. They will take me back. I cannot go back.

    This is the end. I can’t help but think of my brother Jacob as I steady my breathing. He always took care of me. He always protected me. His corpse is a much less capable guardian. I’ve lost so much. They have taken it all. It’s over. They will never let me live. They can find another. They can take her eyes. They can make her see as I do. I’m going to die tonight.

    I’m going to die tonight. My breath has steadied. My hands stopped shaking. I have completed my last mission. I will take them with me. They did this to me. They killed my brother. They probably killed my parents. I will take them with me to the nothingness. They have taken all they can take from me and I will take all that they are.

    I crouch below the floorboards, bend my knees and flex my muscles. I point my sightless eyes up and feel my surroundings. They took my everything. I will take all of them.

    • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate Hewson

      Great writing, David! I’m wondering how ‘he’ is going to take them with him. Its all very short sentences, but I quite like that – it feels very…final. Like this is it, this is the end…

      • David Rice

        Thank you very much Kate.

        Short sentences is something I need to work on.  I feel it worked well on this prompt because it shows that the characters mind is racing and she is not thinking clearly (I meant for the character to be a girl but I edited the part out where I mentioned her dress).  But I seem to fall into very short sentences because I’m worried that I will put too much detail and bore the reader, or my own mind will wander and I’ll get completely off topic.  Also I can’t figure out where the paragraph should end.

        But that’s why we practice.  I’ll figure all this out eventually.

        • http://thethoughtfulbuttonhook.wordpress.com/ Kate Hewson

          I thought it was great, but yeah we all need to practice and this is such a fantastic place to practice in!

          • David Rice

            I know, everybody is so nice here.  This is not the internet that I’m used to!

    • Mirelba

       Very well done, but stickler that I am I have to confess to being confused about one point:  the blindfold.  If she can’t see, why does she need a blindfold?  And if she can’t see because of the blindfold, then why doesn’t she just take it off, since no one can see her (and presumably what she’s doing) anyway?

      Looking forward to more of your practices.

      • David Rice

        Mirelba,

        I have to confess that I cheated a bit for this first one.  Currently I’m world building for a fantasy novel that I’ve been wanting to write for a very, very long time.  I have a list of really really awesome things that I want to put in the novel.  This character and situation came from the list of awesome.The real reason for the blindfold is I think it’s cool to have a deadly assassin with an impairment that should prevent her from doing what she does so well.  She is blind.  Specifically her eyes were removed.  Why? I don’t know yet.  Why doesn’t she run away?  She can’t.  Why? I don’t know yet.Obviously I’ve got a lot of work to do.

        I would like to say thank you so so so much for being a stickler.  I can’t show any of my work to my family or my friends because they are just too nice (except my wife…she can be pretty mean :).  It really great to get some constructive criticism.

        I think I’ve rambled enough now.  Thank you for reading!

        • Mirelba

          I don’t think that’s cheating. If you can use the 15 minutes prompts to make progress with your writing goals, then that’s wonderful. Certainly much better than letting them distract you from what you actually want to write!

          And as to the blindfold, according to my dictionary, a blindfold is something placed over the eyes to prevent a person or animal from seeing, so to that technically speaking, if the person is blind, than the covering would not be a blindfold but a bandage, eye covering or whatever. As to the critique bit- I can sooo empathize. My dh isn’t even an English speaker, so no help there. The rest of the family aren’t readers, pretty depressing.

          • David Rice

            It’s good to know that I’m not breaking any rules!

            Good point with the blindfold.  I might rethink the wording.  I don’t like bandage because it makes her sound wounded (which she is, but I don’t want to focus on her physical damage as much as her emotional damage).  Or, maybe she does have a reason for a blindfold.  Maybe she can’t physically see, but her other senses have compensated and created a visual like bats and dolphins do with sonar.  Maybe the blindfold assists that in some way or makes it more clear.  Don’t know yet but this is going in my awesome list of stuff to write about.  Thanks for the critique

            I’ve been staring for 15 minutes but I can’t figure out what a dh is… My mother read to me and my brother as kids, but now my mother only reads the bible and my father only reads woodworking books.  My brother started working on cars when I was busy getting lost in Narnia.  Nobody else likes fiction.  Personally, I don’t see how people live without it.  There’s nothing like the escape of a great plot, setting and engaging characters.

          • Mirelba

            I agree, hundred percent. With me the eye-opener was The Wizard of Oz, and to get you out of your agony: dh=dear husband.

  • Juliana Austen

    I spent the weekend reading Collette, one of my favourite authors, her prose pieces of flowers and childhood. Then I went away and thought (thank you Marla) and wrote this.

    Today the lake
    sparkles in the sunshine, a breeze ruffling its surface. A bright windsurfer
    skims over waves, its transparent sail shimmering like a dragonfly wing. A
    black swan glides by guarding his mate and their nest.  A Cormorant sits ungainly on a rock, its
    wings outspread, drying its feathers. The big trees around the rim of the lake
    are full of buds soon they will be smothered in Crimson blossom, but not yet.

    It wasn’t always so
    peaceful this lake at the bottom of my garden. It is a crater lake, and my little
    house sits on this volcano’s tuff rim.

    When the pressure of
    the “hot spot” below Auckland forced a bubble of liquid rock, molten magma, to
    the surface it exploded into a violent eruption. A base surge of lava pushed
    out from its vent, while superheated gas, and liquid rock were thrown up to the
    sky in a great plume of smoke and a fountain of fire creating thunder-storms.

    Black clouds of ash
    roiled into the sky, raining down rocks, boulders, ash and cinders. A great forest
    was lost enveloped in an inexorable flow of seething viscous rock.

    Today the rock still
    looks alive, you can see which way it was moving by the folds and creases in
    the black scoria. The ghosts of the trees can be seen too – tree-trunk shaped
    holes in the rock, absences.That was all a long ago, some 40,000 years. The crater filled with water and formed my picturesque lake. It is deep, very deep 57 metres (nearly 200 feet) and sometimes there is a shimmer – a twitch of movement spreading over its smooth surface like a memory. Or is it something stirring, warming beneath its waves.

  • Mirelba

    Thanks, Melissa.  I have to confess, that I practice what you preach.  Well, at least some of it.  When I”m out of the house (on bus-rides, for example), I write with pen and paper.  At home, I write on my computer.  When with my grandkids, I tell them stories that I make up for them.  We use the prompt system:  each one gives me 3 different words or a sentence, and I have to incorporate them all in a story.  They love it.  I try to find moments in the everyday, and yet I try to open myself up to new experiences.  And hey, I’m here, which means I’m practiced at 15 minute writing spells. 
    However, just this week I discovered an alternative to the 15 minute prompt, which I often find to be limiting.  (I waste time wondering what to write, and end up with small bits)  The writing class I had started in September had been on a month-long hiatus because of our holidays, and the night before we were to resume classes I suddenly realized that I hadn’t received the e-mail prompt for the class.  I got the prompt, and then had to prepare four pages of writing to submit for the class.  So I sat down to write four pages, no matter how long it would take, and ended up with five pages, 2000 words (the writing just flowed, and gave me hope for Nanowrimo) which I’d written in about an hour.  So, that is what I tried to do differently, and this is the first half of the result:

    Ruchie was 14 when her world turned to ashes.  When she had beenthirteen, she still had a
    house, a family, friends.  But then she had
    turned fourteen, and everything changed. 
    She was taken from her home along with her parents and her little brothers
    and sisters.  Their entire community had
    been taken as well.   Just a few days later, she was taken once
    again with her family, crowded onto a train with what remained of their
    community and taken to a place of haze, and stench, burning, and death.  And then she had no more family. 

    As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months one
    by one the friends and people from her old home town disappeared as well.  And now, Ruchie,surrounded by hundreds of
    other women, was alone.  There was no one
    left who had known her when she had had pretty dresses, long flowing hair and
    twinkling eyes.  Now she had only rags to
    wear, her hair was gone, her eyes were sad and dull.  And she was always tired.  So tired. 
    Tired of the cold.  Tired of the
    hunger.  Tired of the fear.  Tired of the endless walking and the constant
    terror.  Tired of the never-ending road
    and the rifle bursts and sudden lashes. Tired of this terrible death
    march.  And afraid.  Afraid that she would never know fifteen.

    “Ruchie!  Snap
    out of it!  You have to keep going.”
     Marta grabbed her hand and pulled her
    along. Marta’s head was covered with a rag she had once traded a piece of bread
    for.  When she spoke of it, which she
    rarely did, she said it was to remind her of the husband she had to continue to
    believe was waiting for her somewhere.

    “Why? What difference does it make? I can’t take any
    more.”

    “Now is not the time to give up.  Not with liberation so close.”

    “What liberation? 
    For weeks you’ve been talking about liberation, but I haven’t seen any
    sign of liberators. I’m tired”

    Marta glanced sympathetically at the girl.  She was so young, the youngest in their
    group.  She nodded to  Libu walking on the other side of Ruchie.  Libu surreptitiously handed a heel of bread
    to the young girl.  “Here, I found this
    on the side of the road.  Don’t let
    anyone see it.” She raised her voice slightly as she looked at the
    darkening sky.  “We’ll probably be
    stopping soon for the night.  You’ll get
    a chance to rest then.”

    “Sei Still!” barked one of the guards, as he
    lashed out at Libu.

    Libu faltered under the whip but she heard the click of a rifle
    and staggered on, catching her breath.  In
    the days of their march, since they had left the camp, they had seen what
    happened to those who faltered, or stumbled and fell.  Libu was not about to let that happen to
    her.  Libu may have been the oldest of
    their group, but it was not just her young-looking face that had seen her
    through selection after selection which younger women had failed to pass.  It was that and her stamina.  Her inner strength never failed to surprise
    Marta and the other women.

    After several more long minutes of walking in silence, stars
    began to appear in the dusky sky.  They could
    see a large building ahead of them.  The
    guards began to call out among themselves, but Ruchie was too tired to pay much
    attention.

    “Halt!” called another voice.  They all stopped where they were, worn out, exhausted,
    drooping on their thin legs.  After a few
    moments, they were herded into the building and given some meager rations.  There was no light except for the bit of
    starlight that managed to slip through the dusty windows high above them, but
    then what light did they need?  They had
    no bedding to set up, nothing to prepare or do, each person simply sank onto
    the ground beneath her feet yearning for some much needed rest.

    “Eat Ruchie, then rest. 
    You have to stay strong.  You have
    to remember, you’re our hope for the future. 
    You hear?  You have to stay strong
    for us.  You can’t give up now!”

    “Leave her alone, Marta.  She’s tired. 
    She’ll feel stronger tomorrow. 
    You’ll see.  Our Ruchie is a
    fighter; she’s not about to give up now, are you, ketzele?”

    Ruchie was too tired to answer.  She settled down on her side, listening to
    the rustling of all the other women as they settled into the night.  Ruchie was no longer bothered by the night time
    noises of the many women.  Total
    exhaustion has a way of eliminating distractions.  Marta and Libu settled down beside her,
    nestling her between them.

    In her dreams, as always, Ruchie was seated at a table laden
    with all of her mother’s traditional holiday foods.  She could see her mother and father smiling
    at her over the golden plaited challahs, platters of gefilte fish, mounds of
    kreplach and steamy chicken soup. “Ess epes, ess” they would say as more
    and more food appeared on the table:  sweet
    tzimmes, potato kugel,chicken and rolls of stuffed cabbage.    She would
    sit there, salivating, just staring at the food, breathing in the smells,
    feeling refreshed by the bounty before her and her parents’ loving smiles.  She would hear their voices, whispering
    softly,  ”Stay strong, Ruchele.  Stay strong for us, mein kind.  Survive.  For us.”

    She awoke at dawn, as usual, her mouth still full of saliva
    from her dream.  She could hear the rustling
    of those who were still alive as they awoke and began getting themselves ready for
    the new day.  By now, they were all used
    to getting up at daybreak.Ruchie sat up and looked at the women around her.  She could see some sitting up like her, gathering
    their strength for whatever lay ahead, while others fidgeted, worried about
    what the new day would bring them.  The
    minutes passed, and the doors remained sealed. 
    Voices muttered in various corners. “Where are our morning
    rations?” 
    “Why don’t they open the doors so we can dump the slops?” As fingers
    of light began stroking their hair, their cheeks, their shoulders, the
    muttering grew louder.  “Where is
    everyone?” “What’s going on?”

    “Maybe we should look out the window, see what’s
    happening” one woman suggested.

    “Fine, you risk a bullet in the head.”  another one answered.  As the minutes slipped away, the feelings of unease
    grew and with it the arguments.  Finally
    one woman offered to risk a peek.  Several
    women hoisted her up till she could peer out the window, as the others gathered
    round.  No rifle report.  Everything was still.  So still that they could hear their own
    breaths, which they could see taking shape in the cold air.

    “Nu, so what do you see?” asked one woman.

    “Nothing.”

    “What do you mean, nothing?” someone asked from
    another corner.

    “I don’t see anyone.”

    “What’s the matter with you, you go blind or
    something?” yet another voice called out.

    “People don’t just disappear.”  There was more muttering in disbelief from all corners, in several different languages.

    The woman climbed down. 
    “You don’t believe me, you take a look.”

    A woman near the door gave it a slight shove.  It rattled slightly, but there was no other
    sound.  No shouts, no rifles,
    nothing.  Another woman gave it a
    stronger push, the door creaked, but that was it.  Soon more and more women gathered by the
    door, shaking it, pounding on it, beginning to yell.  And yet the door remained closed, there was
    no response. 

    “The manyaks! 
    They locked us in and left!”

    “You think they’re really gone?”

    Excited voices were raised all around. 

    “Wait!” shouted a woman from one of the
    sides.  “I found a loose
    board!” Several women rushed to her and began working the board
    loose.  Soon, they managed to pull the
    board free.  And then, as the light
    streamed in, there was a mad rush as women ran to the opening and began pulling
    at the boards in a frenzy.  Women were
    pushing and shoving to get to the boards, trampling people before them.  Amid the curses and shouts, Libu and Marta
    pulled Ruchie to the side.  “We’ll
    wait, little one.  We’ll wait.”

    And soon with groans and shouts, the other boards gave way,
    and women eagerly streamed through the opening, some of them pushing and
    shoving to get through. 

    Only when the silence overtook them once again and the only
    bodies around them were those that would no longer move, only then did Libu and
    Marta lead Ruchie through the opening.

    Ruchie stared at the landscape outside.  Marta and Libu looked around as well.  Great trees reached for the sky, their bare
    branches glittering in the sunlight, seeming to reflect the snow all around
    them.  It had been such a long time since
    Ruchie had looked to the sky.  It seemed
    as if all her yesterdays she had been looking down, making sure that she made
    no missteps, searching the ground for a crumb to eat or a puddle to avoid.  But now, now as she looked to the sky, she
    could see the sun smiling down at her. 
    She could feel a soft breeze caressing her cheek, and although it was
    still winter around her, she could feel the ice in which she had encased her
    heart beginning to melt.  She smiled for
    the first time in a long time.  Libu
    caught her glance and smiled back.