The Best Way to Become a Better Writer

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How do you get started writing? How do you become a better writer?

become a better writer

Photo by Ofek Sitbon

One route many people take to become a better writer is through school. You can take classes. You can major in creative writing or English Literature in college. You can get your MFA.

However, that won't necessarily make you a writer. Writing classes might help jumpstart your writing, but you can take all the writing classes in the world and still not have the motivation to put pen to paper, fingers to keys and begin to write.

Alternatively, you could just write. Write whatever you feel like. Write about the weather or how you feel about the last episode of Survivor or about your argument with your parents. This kind of writing is fine. It's good to connect your writing with your soul, but you have to wonder, who is going to read it? Who's going to care?

How you become a better writer writer? Not just someone who takes classes or writes in their journal because they enjoy it? How do you make writing a career? A vocation?

Become a Better Writer by Following the Greats

I studied writing in college, getting my BA in English literature with an emphasis in writing. However, I wasn't a writer because I wasn't writing. I thought the classes would do the hard work for me, that I didn't have to do the tough, confusing, painful job of daily, deliberate practice.

It wasn't until after college that I started to write on my own. At first, I just wrote whatever I felt like. It was freeing, but I knew it wasn't good enough. “Who would want to read this?” I thought.

Then, I remembered something I learned in college.

When Ernest Hemingway was just getting started as a creative writer, he wrote a series of short, terse vignettes. They were only fifty to 250 words long, but he would spend weeks on them, crafting them to perfection.

Write Small Pieces

I started to write short pieces like this. I called them “Small Things.” I would write them during my lunch breaks, then spend hours rewriting them. Sometimes, I would post them to my blog or even submit them to magazines.

I knew my small pieces weren't going to make me a living or win me any awards, but I learned more from writing those pieces than I learned in hours of writing whatever I felt like. For the first time, I felt like I was becoming a writer.

If you're just starting out and you want to become a better, the best way to practice writing deliberately is by finishing short, small pieces. Let's give it a try in the practice below.

What advice do you have to become a better writer?

PRACTICE

Today, start writing a small piece.

Tell a story, show a powerful action, or describe an interesting image in no more than three paragraphs. Post your rough draft below.

Then, spend the next few days rewriting and editing it. If you're feeling brave, when you think your piece is finished, send it to a flash fiction magazine.

And if you post your small piece, make sure you help out a few other writers by giving them feedback.

Happy Writing!

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

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243 Comments

  1. Robert

    Great post Joe … this has been my thought from the beginning: just write short pieces and write them often.  I haven’t developed the discipline as yet but I’m getting there, I even started a blog to feature my works but wonder if that’s the best use of my time.  

    The most difficult aspect of the short for me is the end.  Getting a complete story completed with the beginning the middle and the END … I always want to go on and usually towards the end there is always more I want to put in …

    Just some ramblings from me … carry on …  

    Reply
  2. Deidre Clark

    I found her at the end of myself. She was standing there, leaning against the wall fly as ever. She confidently stood clad in some fresh skinny jeans, a fitted turquoise tank with a fly head wrap. She didn’t wear any make up though, save mascara. And, yes, she stood 4 inches taller in a pair of dope stilettos. When I looked and realized who she was, our eyes locked. We reconnected immediately and that made us both smile. I ran to her and embraced her. I was so glad to see her again. She looked at me and said that I looked different. She could tell I had gone through some things and had grown a bit.

    I let out a slow sigh of relief. Although I had forsaken her, she had not forsaken me. She had been patiently waiting for my embrace; she’d been waiting to be rediscovered. She was sure that I’d embrace her again, confident that I’d return. So, there I was looking at myself, my “Fly” self. I hung my head in shame because I had neglected her. I separated her from my “mommy” self. I didn’t know how they could exist harmoniously. She reminded me that I should be gracious to myself. She insisted that being fly is much more than what I wear. In fact, there are few things more fly than being a mother that loves and nurtures her child…

    The time will eventually come when my son sleeps through the night. I will resume regularly treating myself to dinner, rocking out at Starbucks, hanging out with the girls and enjoying some degree of spontaneity. But, today I will enjoy every moment with my son. I will hug him as often as I’d like, kiss him as many times as I’d like, and play with him for as long I’d like. He will be confident that he has a mother and a father that loves him more than he can imagine. So, I will take her advice. I will be gracious to myself and allow for shapeless dresses, flats, sweats and t-shirts. I won’t feel shallow or less than a devoted mom when I do pull “sexy” out of the closet. I will get my nose pierced again and have my hood piercing done over. This is just the beginning of my journey as a mother, but I’m determined… this is and will be my resolution: Skinny jeans or not. Stilettos or not, I am Fierce, I am Beautiful, I am a fly MOM!
    WC:422

    Reply
    • Oddznns

      Nice. Thank you for sharing. It is difficult to remember the You, you’ve been and are once another little life becomes part of you.

      Reply
      • Deidre Clark

        Thank you for reading 🙂

        Reply
    • Mariaanne

      Love this!

      Reply
      • Deidre Clark

        Thanks!!

        Reply
  3. bekahboo

         They’re sitting
    on the railing across from me, laughing. They have no clue my sad eyes are
    watching them, but that’s how I like it. People-watching is no fun when the
    people you’re spying on are aware of you. But these two sisters, in their
    matching pink skirts and high ponytails, are completely oblivious to my full
    attention of them. After all, sunglasses weren’t invented to shield our eyes
    from the sun—they were made for spying.

         So I watch as
    they share their large cup of lemonade, giggle together, and simultaneously
    glance back at the two boys behind them. It’s painful, like a knife slowly
    slicing through my heart. They’re so young. We were so young. But they’re
    better. These sisters are friends. And now all I can do is regret the way I
    lived as a teenager—the way I treated
    my sister.

         By the time I’ve
    blinked back my shameful tears, they’re walking away, arm in arm, down the cement
    steps. I look at the ground. Is it too late to ask for the long-needed forgiveness
    I’ve been avoiding? We’ve been angry at each other for years. I don’t even know
    where she lives anymore. But I know I could find out.

    Reply
    • Mariaanne

      Wow great timing, really great.  The way this is laid out and moves forward is just about perfect IMO.  

      Reply
  4. Themagicviolinist

    My mom discovered this really cool thing (that Ernest Hemingway started). They’re called six word stories. Hemingway made a bet that he could write a story in just six words. The result: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never Worn.” So I started getting really into it and I thought this would be the perfect post to show them on since we are talking about short stories. Here are a few I wrote. Some of them were inspired by songs or books.

    There’s a dog who is crazy. (Inspired by my dog Scout).

    I am stuck. No words come.

    Horses gallop. Run! Run from danger!

    Kittens get lost. Gone. Gone forever.

     

    Harry, Ron, Hermione = Evil gone forever. (Inspired by J. K.
    Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

     

    Time slows down whenever you’re around. (Inspired by Taylor
    Swift’s “Today Was a Fairytale”).

     

    Wanting to write . . . blank computer screen.

     

    “Lily. After all this time?” “Always.”
    (Inspired by J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

     

    Flower. No water, no sun. Dead.

     

    She’s silent, eyes closed. Someone wails.

     

    Fire. Baby cries. No one answers.

     

    Fire crackles. Baby cries. No answer.

     

    Wails fill the house with sorrow.

     

    She’s silent, her eyes closed. Wails. 

     

    We are never getting back together. (Inspired by
    Taylor Swift’s “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together”).

    Reply
    • Chihuahua Zero

      The last one: Now that’s…heh.

      There’s actually this one site which posts such stories daily. One of the most chilling ones? “This is our secret,” whispered Daddy.

      One of my own: She lunges. He struggles. He obeys.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

         Nice one! 😀 I’m subscribed to a few of those blogs. My favorite: “‘Rapunzel, I am slipping! A wig?!'”

        Reply
    • Colton Durbin

       Intriguing. Let me try:

      Buried alive, my last breath fades.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

         Nice! 😀

        Reply
    • Deidre Clark

      I’m definitely going to try this.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

         Yeah, these are awesome. 😀

        Reply
        • Deidre Clark

          Here’s my attempt:

          She cried. His hug healed her.

          Reply
          • Themagicviolinist

             Nice one! 😀

      • Mirelba

        You just did.  Three words. Perfect!

        Reply
        • Deidre Clark

          HA! I didn’t even realize it!!

          Reply
          • Mirelba

             See here– you did it again!

          • Themagicviolinist

             Tell me you realized that one. XD

    • bekahboo

      Very cool!

      Reply
    • Antonia

      I know these. I am part of a small writing club at school called Pen & Ink, and we did them for our yearly publication last year, and probably again this year. We call them 6 word memoirs. Mine was:
      Madhouse? Just check out my family.
      There were some great ones. One of my favourites, written by someone else in the group was:
      When-you-run-fast–you-trip.
      6 word memories are a lot of fun to write.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

        Those sound really cool! 😀 I like the one about your family. 😉

        Reply
        • Antonia

          Thanks

          Reply
    • Mariaanne

      That’s cool  I especially like the one about the computer screen and the one about the flower.  

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

         Those are probably my favorites, too. 🙂

        Reply
    • Jack Dowden

      Been kidnapped. Not joke. Please help.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

        That sounds a little like one my dad made: “Help! I am trapped in here!”

        Reply
    • Katie Axelson

      Six words or fewer? How about 140-characters or fewer? What would Hemingway Tweet? How’s that for an anachronism?

      Reply
      • Joe Bunting

        Way to drop the vocab, Katie 🙂

        Reply
        • Katie Axelson

          I don’t want to be mendacious, I had to look it up.

          Reply
          • Mariaanne

            Me too.  I thought it meant mountainous.  All I could think of was a song called “The Road to Mendocino” which is probably not even a mountainous place.  

      • Mariaanne

        I always wonder when I read about the baby shoes what made him think of writing that. Did he have children? 

        Reply
    • Colton Durbin

       Got a few more:

      No bullets. No blood. Finally, sleep.

      Even without eyes, it sees me. 

      The slanted blade drops. Heads roll.

      I’m cold, but death warms me.

      “Idiots.” He doesn’t notice the bodies. (Came up with this one as I was driving home, cursing whoever it was that wrecked his car and caused the spot of bad traffic I was stuck in. I realized how selfish my whining was, especially if someone got hurt, or worse.)

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

        Wow, these are dark, but very good.

        Reply
      • Missaralee

        Ooh, chilly.

        I died from your cold shoulder.

        He’s gone. No more morning coffee.

        Reply
        • Phyllis Chubb

          Wow. Leave lots to the imagination.

          Reply
      • Mariaanne

        You’re getting very dark there Colton.  I like “Even without eyes it sees me”.  

        Reply
    • Oddznns

      This is a good exercise MV. A little like Japanese Haiku but even more compressed. I’ll try it.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

        I learned about Haikus when I was six or so and loved them. I started making them about everything I saw. I even made one about a lamp. 

        Reply
        • Mariaanne

          I tried them but could never get a good one. Of course I was comparing myself to the Chinese masters so maybe that’s why mine never seemed to work too well. 

          Reply
          • Themagicviolinist

             Ha ha! XD Yeah, that’s probably why. Try not to compare yourself to other writers! I used to do that a little bit and then I ended up stealing their ideas.

        • Lew

          Beneath the rubble; gleam of light.

          Reply
    • Oddznns

      Can’t resist. Must try. Here’s one.

      Aother one! I’ll never get published.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

         LOL! Those are great! 😀

        Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I like this one the best, MV:

      She’s silent, eyes closed. Someone wails.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

        Thanks! 😀 That one just kind of came to me.

        Reply
      • Mariaanne

        It’s weird to see you say MV. That’s what a lot of people call me and I keep having my eye drawn to it thinking it means me.  

        Reply
        • Joe Bunting

          Well, shoot. I’ll have to change it to TMV, then. 🙂

          Reply
          • Mariaanne

            That’s okay.  I’m in good company with TMV.  

    • Mirelba

       I love it!  Tried a few before I went to bed last night:

      Hi wife! Bye wife! Next wife! (inspired by Henry VIII)
      “Mom, Susie.” “Over my dead body!”  😉

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

         Ha ha! Love the one inspired by Henry VIII! 😀

        Reply
        • Phyllis Chubb

          Me too

          Reply
      • Phyllis Chubb

        Marriage merry-go-round.

        Reply
    • Tess

      These can be quite funny to read. Here’s my offering:

      Mini dress. Playful breeze. Red face.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

        I love this one! 😀

        Reply
      • Stella

        Love this too! It’s original, funny and the twist comes at the end.

        Reply
    • Themagicviolinist

      These are some of my favorites that I didn’t write:

      “Logged out. Pulled plug. Found life.”

      “ADHD. Searched for cure. Got bored.”

      “‘Rapunzel! I am slipping! A wig?!'”

      Reply
    • Tom Wideman

      Mendacious men hiding skeletons. Politicians suck.

      Open wounds buried deep. Addictions flourish.

      She turns to find him gone.

      He returns with carton of milk.

      She cries because she’s lactose intolerant.

      Reply
      • Themagicviolinist

         I like the last two best. 😀

        Reply
      • Yvette Carol

        Music plays. She dances. He sleeps.

        Ball bounces. Crash. Bang. Mum yells.

        Sun streams in. The clock’s ticking.

        Reply
    • Missaralee

      Neat! It occurs to me these could be linked up to the log line tool we were talking about here a few months ago. Six words to ignite a story. Imagine the details you could colour in as you expanded from six, well chosen words. I’m going to have to try this…

      Reply
      • Yvette Carol

        That’s a brilliant idea, Missaralee! My fave 6 word logline of all time, ‘In space noone hears you scream’

        Reply
      • Mariaanne

        Good idea. 

        Reply
    • Themagicviolinist

       Wow, so many people have replied to these, I can’t even reply to them all! XD I loved everyone’s six word stories and Missaralee, that is a great idea! 😀 I’ll definitely  try using six word stories as inspiration for a book.

      Reply
    • Thomas Petri

      Empty glass. Too drunk to fill.

      Too much blood. Only paper towels.

      A locked box. The key inside.

      Paper due. Video games. Video games.

      Reply
    • Olivia Blackburn

      That sounds like a great way to jump onto the writing track! It’s a lot better than sitting there for hours without writing anything down at all. Who knows.. maybe you will find 6 truly amazing words that could become the main theme of your book!

      Reply
    • Dusty Sharp

      Eyes closed, lips touch. No spark.

      Reply
    • Lew

      The snow abates; I go home.

      Reply
    • Lew

      The mouth’s corner tells a story.

      Reply
    • Lew

      I cry; She weeps; Eyes touch.

      Reply
    • Asia Hester

      Learning Spanish. Donde estan mis pantalones ?

      Reply
    • Stella

      My favourites are ‘Time slows down whenever you’re around’, ‘Lily. After all this time?’ ‘Always.’, and ‘Fire. Baby cries. No one answers.’ I like them because they’re subtle and suggest a world of meaning. They connect to larger themes – infatuation, love, danger and loss. They make me want to know more.

      Thought the horses, kittens and death-of-woman ones were weaker. You repeat the words ‘run’ and ‘gone’ in the horses and kittens sentences, which seems unnecessary since you only have six words. Also, horses running or kittens getting lost might be a conflict, but it doesn’t ignite any wider theme to me as a reader. It doesn’t make me care.

      For the ‘death’ ones, a similar problem – yes death is shocking, but why do we as readers care? I think the best stories, regardless of length, are those that leave questions in the reader’s mind. Hemingway’s ‘baby shoes’ story makes us wonder what happened to the baby. But your ‘death’ lines are fairly expected – someone’s dead, someone else is sad. Nothing unexpected to trigger further interest.

      (I hope this feedback makes sense. If not, please let me know! Want to learn to give better feedback too.)

      Anyway, here’s one I came up with in four words:

      ‘Master remembers me…right?’

      Reply
  5. Casey

    Hi, Joe. 

    Thanks for the recommendation- I just downloaded Claude’s Canvas, and am looking forward to reading it. 

    Best wishes, 

    Casey

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Nice, Casey. I hope you like it!

      Reply
  6. Chihuahua Zero

    “Trees of Bottles”

    The glass bottles adorning the trees clattered together in the wind. Several more leaves fell to the ground, gathering in unracked piles of reds and browns. The setting sun brought down night like a blanket, smothering someone to a comfy death.

    Gloria sat between some of the trees in her backyard. Many more bottles, some empty, some full of grime, surrounded her in a fairie ring. She held a fresh whisky in her hand, which she barely could focus on in the haze.

    Back when she promised to be sober, she hung up all her old bottles as a promise to never return. Now she had. She took one more sip and succumbed to an eternal hangover. At least it was better than an old, chocking noose.

    Reply
    • bekahboo

      I like it. It really portrays how hard it can be to let go of something.

      Reply
    • Mariaanne

      I love the bottles in the fairy ring.  It’s like there’s a magic to addiction.  This says a whole lot for such a short piece.  

      Reply
      • Chihuahua Zero

        I wasn’t actually thinking about “magic to addiction” when writing that piece. Maybe that’s one direction I could take when revising it.

        Reply
  7. Bill Polm

    Great post. I  haven’t tried that practice in  particular.
    I also do watercolors, and I advise those that I advise to do a lot of small sketches, because with the small sketch (or painting for that matter), you encounter all the problems of larger ones.  But because they are small, you can do more of them and in essence get in more practice. But I have noticed too that my best paintings are those I have painted several times, improving them each time.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Mmm… great analogy, Bill. I might steal that! 

      Thanks for mentioning that.

      Reply
      • Yvette Carol

        That’s what I liked about painting with oil, you could add layers endlessly, and every layer changed and deepened and improved the image.

        Reply
  8. Suzie Gallagher

    The
    dress spoke to her through the window. The bright red colour shone in the glow
    of the shop lighting.
     

    If she had that dress, her life would be
    right. If she wore that dress home tonight her husband would sweep her into his
    arms. He would crush her as the velvet crushed against him.

    How? That was her question, she looked at
    the window, she looked towards the door. Her hands drifted up to her hair as
    she pulled down the unruly curls, in her pocket she found an elastic band and
    tied up her hair into a pony tail.

    Spitting on a tissue she wiped some of the
    grime from her face and hands. She moved towards the door in the freezing snow.
    The people were slipping on the sidewalk, she fixed her eyes only on the dress.

    The shop assistants looked at her as she entered.
    They moved as one forcing her backwards. She heard them call her names as she
    left.

    Later after meeting with the boys under the
    bridge she wandered back to town She usually stayed under the bridge but
    tonight she went to look at the dress. She slept in the doorway, frozen.

    Some time later a few men came past and saw
    her. She was found in what looked like the dress she so admired in the middle
    of the street, her open eyes fixed on the dress, as her own “dress” flowed
    around her.

    Reply
    • John Fisher

      Chilling images — I spent a short time homeless years ago,  and the picture of the shop assistants advancing as one to drive her back matches exactly how the homeless are run out of places every day.  The emotional coldness,  the freezing, great imagery.  I don’t fully understand the last paragraph about her “dress” but that could be a metaphysical element.   Good stuff!

      Reply
      • Bruce Humphrey

        Yes, chilling story indeed. 
        I agree with John about the last paragraph, it is hard to fully understand. I think that she froze to death there, but the red dress in the shop makes it look as if she was covered in blood, or lying in a pool of blood.

        Reply
      • Suzie Gallagher

        meta physical – yo John way over my head.
         Red on white snow looks like a dress?
        dead girl?
        that’s what I was aiming for.

        Reply
        • John Fisher

          . . . .ooooooh, NOW I get it!  LOL!

          Reply
    • Themagicviolinist

       I really like this one. I agree with John. This last paragraph is a little confusing since you never really know what her “dress” was. The only other thing I would change is this line: He would crush her as the velvet crushed against him.
      I suggest using another word besides “crush” and “crushed” in this sentence.
      Other than those little nit-picky things, really good job! 😀

      Reply
      • Suzie Gallagher

        Thema, it is confusing for a reason. I am trying to leave the between the lines stuff open to interpretation. Show don’t tell. Some people got it.

        The crush thing – I understand where you are coming from, but when I am loved by someone and they hug me I want ot be crushed by a hug. 

        There is a guy in my church, a tall skinny latte of a man and he gives me the best hugs in the world. I feel like I am an island and he is the water.

        The other bit to it is – I was describing the dress without  – “yadiya the dress was red and made of crushed velvet yadiya” Obviously didn’t work. Hey ho 

        Go forth Thema and nit pick on today’s post, grammaticals and everything – catch ye over there!

        Reply
    • Oddznns

      Suzie. This says so much in such a short time. It’s chilling the last part… we’re left to imagine what happened to make her “dress” flow around her. What we might conjure will certainly be more horrible to us than anything you might write. It’s so effective.
      BTW – tried and tried but couldn’t do anyuthing with mendacity.

      Reply
      • Suzie Gallagher

        mendacious is so difficult, but;
        my gerbil, Princess sits, mendaciously sits, eating her sunflower seed. She doesn’t eat like a gerbil and since her tail dropped off and she got big she doesn’t really look like a gerbil anymore. Her tail grew back truthfully. She and I sit looking at each other, “mendacity” between us because how would I explain it to the kids. She ain’t no gerbil. 

        Reply
    • Zoe Beech

      This is so raw and vivid.  Beautifully written.

      Reply
    • Mariaanne

      This is great Suzie.  I love the rhythm of it and the stark images.  I see her own dress that flows around her as blood.  

      Reply
  9. Cole Bradburn

    Here we go (don’t usually post my darker stuff)

    VENDETTA

    Try as you might you cannot win
    There will be no victor on this night
    Reason is lost for emotional protests
    Falling on deaf ears

    Relentlessly condemned to justify
    Your words at any expense
    As past failings are malignantly employed
    To inhibit your efforts at growth

    Stunted by this adolescent feud
    Stealing love’s last breath
    Helpless as your significant other is
    Framing your demise

    Perforated by angry words being
    Shot without discretion
    Bleeding through these bullet holes
    Converted to a sanctuary for infection

    Decaying before her eyes
    You are offered no redemption
    Salvation is lost as it metastasizes
    To your myocardium

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I like it, Cole. It’s like a screamo song. 🙂

      Also, myocardium? Should that be the next word of the week? 🙂

      Reply
      • Cole Bradburn

        Haha, not sure if that is a good or bad thing 😉

        And I think it’s a winner for word of the week.  It would be quite hard to use that over and over again without sounding like Grey’s Anatomy or ER.

        Reply
    • Sophie Novak

      Lovely Cole! Well actually it’s chilly, but the writing makes it beautiful! 

      Reply
    • Zoe Beech

      ‘Perforated by angry words being shot without discretion’ – I love the stucatto of this line, the feel of bullets going off all at once.  And I love how you carry the imagery of infection through.

      Reply
  10. John Fisher

    Leaning back in his chair, he eyed the old Kay standard guitar leaning in the corner.  He knew it had a good strong neck, straight as an arrow, thanks in part to the three bolts that affixed it to the sound box, their heads exposed on its rear face.  He’d been turning this idea over in his head for weeks, always hearing the deep sweet sounds of the steel guitarists he admired — Don Helms of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys, Leon McCaulliffe of the Texas Playboys, Curly Chalker whose playing had such a big, sophisticated sound.   All those sixth chords . . . .

    I can do this.  I NEED  to do this.  I may need some help, but I can do it.  He bounded out of that chair and went into action.

    He enlisted his dad to drill two more holes in the guitar’s headstock (“hafta be careful,” Dad grunted as he pressed the bit ever so carefully to the wood, “or I’ll crack it . . .”.  Two additional machine-heads, scavenged from another guitar, were nailed painstakingly in place with tiny wood nails.  Two more 1/8″ holes were drilled in the chrome tailpiece.  A four-inch length of band- iron a half-inch wide, bent concavely, could have been made expressly for his purpose — eight lateral filed grooves later, he had the bridge.  The silver top half of a ballpoint pen with no taper to its shape — eight closer-spaced grooves, and there was the nut, the smaller bridge at the left end of the fretboard.  An electronic pick-up made to straddle the acoustic sound-hole, also scavenged.  He tuned those eight strings to a D6 chord, plugged it into his amp, held his breath, twisted the Volume knob — IT WORKED!  He ran the bar up and down the strings, exulting in the full-sounding glissando.  He was that much closer to  the dream.

    Reply
    • Bruce Humphrey

      I liked this a lot. Probably the theme of the story ringing a chord in me.
      But… if this is a rough draft… how will the polished version be? I mean, it already looks well written.

      Reply
      • John Fisher

        ………I must admit to a little polishing between my original draft in my word processor and what I posted on the blog.  But I’m sure it could be polished further still………..

        Reply
    • Tom Wideman

      You certainly know your way around a guitar. Such detail. Your second paragraph did raise a question I’ve been meaning to ask. What do you do with someone’s thoughts? I’ve always put them in quotes, but you didn’t. 

      Reply
      • John Fisher

        Thanks, Tom.  I put a person’s thoughts in italics, but Discus doesn’t allow italics.  I guess I picked up my italics practice from my reading of Stephen King et al. 

        Reply
  11. Mariaanne

    This is the kind of thing I love to hear, because  it is the most fun kind of writing for me to do. 

    Reply
  12. Tom Wideman

    “Take me to your leader,” Tommy said as he walked stiff-legged toward his buddy, Dennis. For 6-year-old boys, the only thing more fun than playing with a new toy is playing with the box it came in. Dennis had gotten his dream Christmas gift, a replica of the WWII battleship USS Missouri, but by the first of February it had been broken and fixed, and then stowed away in the attic by his dad.

    The box was long and slender, just the right size for the boys to take turns wearing and walking around like a robot or alien. When it was Tommy’s turn, they laid it on the floor and he crawled in. When he got his head and arms out the one end and his feet dangling out the other, Dennis grabbed his head and hoisted him to his feet like he was raising a fallen statue upright.

    “Take me to your leader,” Tommy repeated in his best alien impression. Dennis giggled as he darted back and forth trying to stay away from the skinny, stiff alien. Tommy started to lunge toward Dennis for effect, but being confined to the narrow box, he was unable to put his foot out in front of him to maintain his balance. As he felt himself helplessly fall beyond the tipping point, Tommy noticed the large broken window leaning against the wall in front of him.

    Reply
    • Katie Axelson

      One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to fit myself in a cardboard box. Even now, I sometimes get the urge to sit in boxes. Although, I’ve never broken a window doing it.

      Reply
      • Tom Wideman

        Nothing better than a refrigerator box. Am I right?!

        Reply
        • Katie Axelson

          When I was a kid, my parents bought an entire new living room and dining room set. My sisters, counsins, neighbors, and I worked together to build a five-bedroom, one-kitchen, one-living room, one-car cardboard house in our basement. It had hallways, closets, doors, and everything. We stopped counting at nine rolls of duck tape. It was awesome!

          Reply
          • Yvette Carol

            Wow, sounds like a child’s wonderland, Katie!

    • Hal

      Tom – I like the story, it paints a picture of childhood that rings familiar to me. However, I think that it’s important to show a lot of what you just give as information. (Where the box had come from, for example). Understandably, this is a short exercise, so some of that will naturally consolidate, but I still think there is much more power in showing rather than telling. Good luck!

      Reply
      • Zoe Beech

        OK, so I’m trying to grasp with the show vs tell in writing, and I was surprised to see you say Tom needed to show more because I thought the scene was a lot of showing.  Now I’m not disagreeing, I’m just curious, and wanting to learn. Hope you don’t mind being the guinea pig here Tom!!

        Reply
        • Tom Wideman

          That’s funny, Zoe. I was just getting ready to ask Hal the same question. I get confused with the show and tell stuff quite often. As I reread my story, I saw that the first paragraph was mainly backstory about the box. I probably could have condensed that  into one sentence such as, “The 6 year-old boys tossed the toy aside and started playing in the box.” Something like that. Then I could have had more space to show more action. 

          Is that what you’re talking about, Hal?

          Reply
          • Hal

            That’s part of it, for sure. Let me throw some examples your way.

            Additionally, on rereading, I notice a lot of passive voice (had gotten, had been, was, is playing). This is not a bad thing, but writing actively engages the reader even more.Now. Examples.Dennis had gotten his dream Christmas gift, a replica of the WWII battleship USS Missouri, but by the first of February it had been broken and fixed, and then stowed away in the attic by his dad.Dennis’s fond memories of tearing the colorful paper from the smooth edges of the box, revealing the replica USS Missouri battleship, still felt like a dream. When it was Tommy’s turn, they laid it on the floor and he crawled in.Dennis handed the box to Tommy,  sharing the treasure with his friend. Tommy laid it on the floor and crawled in.While there is definitely action, and movement through the story, I feel like there are times where the action is passive and the narrator has more to do with moving the story along than does the actions or behaviors or choices of the subjects of the story. I hope that helps.Please feel free to ask me more questions if I am not clear, here.  ***For me, it’s hard to criticize (even constructively) people you don’t know over the internet. I read through most of the comments here and find that a lot of times it’s just people pointing out the things they like about a story, or talking about the story itself. While important, I think that it’s also important to hone your criticisms of other’s work, as well as toughening your skin against said criticisms. Thanks for not taking things personally, Tom. 

          • Hal

            Also, sorry for the formatting. The formatting monster ate it all, apparently.

          • Joe Bunting

            I love the back and forth going on here. 

      • Zoe Beech

        That’s GREAT, Hal – I learnt a lot, and I’m going to mull over that.  This kind of feedback is exactly what I want – because it’s where you learn and grow, so feel free to give honest responses like this to my stuff. (open invite!)

        Reply
    • Zoe Beech

      Wow, this leaves me wanting to grab the boy – great ending!  I love this line – ‘raising a fallen statue upright’ – such a great picture.

      Reply
      • Tom Wideman

        I wish you had been there to catch me! Thirty-some-odd stitches in my head and arm. A bloody mess! Thanks for the props.

        Reply
    • Themagicviolinist

      I really liked this story. My brother and I had a huge cardboard box that we played in for days. It was our spaceship and we would stand in it while the other pushed us around and knocked us over. We were very sad when it split in half and were forced to throw it out.

      Reply
      • Tom Wideman

        Yes, it’s always quite sad when the box splits.

        Reply
    • Mariaanne

      Well written Tom but the ending really makes me cringe.  Reminds me of the day my seven year old “kicked” the storm door shut and put her foot through it.  My cats love boxes.  

      Reply
  13. Bruce Humphrey

    I awake covered in sweat and screaming in the night. I shout the name of my most favorite older brother. The same I did yesterday night, and the night before. The same I will do tomorrow, and the night after tomorrow. I manage to fall asleep, after a long time of bad thoughts torturing me.

    Sitting at the table during lunch food seems tasteless, as it has for a long time. I carelessly pour more pepper, but it is hopeless, I’ve lost the will to live, the will to enjoy life. “Mother, Andy is dead,” my words break the deafening silence. “Yes, son. For you, he dies every night. You should be happy for your older brother.” She looks straight into my eyes as she goes on “He ain’t suffering no more, he can’t die again.” That is her wise answer, in her usual broken voice, tears almost coming to her eyes. She is strong, she tries not to show pain, and she does so for me.

    As she lovingly pushes my wheelchair towards the bedroom I think that she is right, as always. Mom is always right. But that does not make me feel any better. I was driving the car. I was the lucky one, I survived and he died.

    Reply
    • Zoe Beech

      This is very powerful.  I especially like the starkness of the first paragraph, and how you keep the wheelchair from us until the end.  

      Reply
  14. Oddznns

    He’s fourteen and like my other children when they were
    fourteen, he knows everything.

                   I flick his
    Justin Bieber fringe across to his right ear to reveal a swollen poppy of an
    eye.

                   “It was
    only for fun.” Don’t ask, don’t tell, his folded arms say.

                   I don’t so
    he doesn’t need to.  “At least sign up
    for martial arts classes at the community centre,” is all I say.

                   “We can’t
    afford it,” he mutters, brushingpast me to retrieve his going out clothes,
    washed and hung out in the wash-deck.

                   I hear the
    soft puffs of the steam iron as he presses the shiny orange shirt he bought
    with his first month’s pay from KFC. I hear him zipping up his pants.

                    “I’m going off to work now then Ma.”

                   His
    voice comes down to me from an unfamiliar height. He smells of soap and
    something else. He’s grown so tall, so suddenly.

                   I look
    up at this face. “You can’t go looking like that.” I trace my finger around his
    bruise.

                   I pull
    him to the dressing table I share with his sisters. We rummage through the
    girls’ bottles and tubes and finally find some flesh coloured cream. I squeeze
    out a blob and begin to dab it around his eye.

                   I catch
    a glimpse of our reflections in the mirror – a middle aged housewife, a slim almost
    pretty white-skinned boy.

                   Don’t
    look, don’t tell. I know.

    Reply
    • Zoe Beech

      This is so good.  You’ve painted so much in such few lines. 

      Reply
      • Oddznns

        thnx Zoe. I think this is a really useful suggestion from Joe. to help us write tight and oomph as it were.

        Reply
    • Themagicviolinist

       I really liked this one. My favorite line was “He’s fourteen and like my other children when they were
      fourteen, he knows everything.”

      Reply
      • Oddznns

        but ur fourteen n seem to know everything!

        Reply
        • Themagicviolinist

           I’m actually twelve and I am positive I don’t know everything. XD

          Reply
          • Yvette Carol

            Just wait a couple of years!

          • Mirelba

            Then I guess you’re smarter than most 😉

    • Tom Wideman

      This is good Oddxnns. I’m intrigued by your use of present tense. It’s common for me, when I start writing a story, to write in present tense, but by the second paragraph I end up back in past tense. I loved the visual image of you flicking his Justin Bieber fringe and discovering his “poppy.” I also LOVED “He smells of soap and something else.” I used to hug my kids when they came home in order to smell them to see if they’ve been smoking. Obviously, you are a fellow suspicious parent.

      Reply
      • Oddznns

        Thanks Tom. This is somethigng I’M working through for a new novel… writing outside my comfort zone so it’s nice you felt the parent like suspicion. I’m actually a very “‘blur”parent according to my kids. As for present tense … Joe says it’s not done to write in first person present… so of course I’m challenging myself doing it. haha. Joe.. why not? I can’T remember the reason now.

        Reply
        • Mirelba

           I’ve been reading up about writing in the present tense, because lately I also find myself doing it all the time.  It seems that many disapprove because they feel it’s “faddy”, but I think the biggest problem is that it is hard to sustain.  Some writers do well with it, however.  In “The Tiger’s Wife” Obreht has segments in the present tense, but most of the novel is in past tense (with one bit even in the future tense!)  BTW, I highly recommend the book.

          Reply
          • Marianne

            I think you can write in the present tense. I missed the post that said we weren’t supposed to. I was told in one of my classes the same thing about second person writing but Lorri Moore has a whole collection I second person. I’m loving “The Tiger’s Wife”. That’s why I’m not writing though, I’m too busy reading that and an awful book about how to use word press. Ugh!

    • Mariaanne

      That’s wonderful Oddznns.  I wonder if you shouldn’t submit that somewhere. It’s subtle enough but touches on bulling and alternative lifestyles which are so hotly discussed right now.  

      Reply
      • Mirelba

         Couldn’t reply below about the present tense, so found you here.  I didn’t say one CAN’T write in the present tense.  I said that many disapprove.  I looked it up on the internet, there’s a whole debate about it.  Some critics say they refuse to read a manuscript in the present tense.  And still, there are many that do it, and successfully too.  I guess there will always be writers venturing “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

        😉

        Reply
        • Mariaanne

          It’s like the creative writer vs. editor battle that most of us do in our heads all the time.  Should I write my story the way I want to or should I succumb to the dictates of the current “style” in writing.  Well I’m writing a short story now in first person and it’s definitely hard but it’s fun and I think the narrator’s voice (a young waitress not educated or even very thoughtful) is easiest for me to write in present tense.  She loses a lot of punch when I go back to past tense.  It really doesn’t matter I won’t finish because of not having a plot.  

          Reply
      • Oddznns

        Glad you got that. Actually there’s a second bit I didn’t post. Turns out he’s not so alternative. Just that he fits the stereotype. The fight was to show the kids at school that he ISN’T.  Yes, I’ve submitted it (after editing) for a flash fiction anthology. For any of you guys who are INTERNATIONAL, the University of Iowa International Writing Programis looking for Flash Fiction submissions. Weblink is -http://iowareview.uiowa.edu/?q=fresh-blog/jul-20-2012/call_for_submissions_flash_fiction_international

        Reply
    • Mirelba

      Comes across very strong!  Great job!  I also like the first line (and the last line)- I guess that’s ’cause I’ve also mothered teenagers…

      Reply
  15. Chihuahua Zero

    I also have trouble with endings. When I manage to get to the end, I have the tendency of rushing them, since it’s the end, but that’s something for revision.

    By the way, I followed your blog.

    Reply
    • Robert

      Thank you … 

      Reply
  16. Rainey

    Her wine glass is empty. 
    Holding it, she stares vacantly through its crystal to the distorted images
    of the photo wall.  She can do nothing
    but cry.

    Reply
    • Mariaanne

      I love that and would love it more if you took out the word “vacantly”.

      Reply
      • Rainey

        I agree.  Upon re-reading it, “vacantly” is just too much.  Thanks for the advice!

        Reply
  17. Hal

    It was pouring again. The wan streetlights intermittently
    cast dull yellow cones of light, made visible by the rain’s thickness. Pausing
    under the protective awning, he eyed the weather and the sky warily, disgustedly.
    Better to endure it, to push through the miasma instead of waiting for it to
    clear, he thought. Another thought, almost not his own, chided him about his
    impatience. The thought was suspiciously like something his mother would say.
    Sighing, he ignored it, pushing it to a dull buzz of subconscious annoyance,
    and walked out into the rain.

    The drops, fat and leaden, slapped ponderously against his jacket,
    drumming a staccato march across his back. Face towards the ground, his vision
    was consumed by the warring splatter of the drops against the stoic and implacable
    front lines of the asphalt. But something caught his attention from the corner
    of his eye. A lone shop window, still bright on the dark street, called to him,
    beckoned him, from across the street. Almost enraptured, a modern rat called by
    the Pied Piper, he stumbled across the street and through the torrents, coming
    to a stop in the center of the window, staring through it at something he
    thought he’d never see again.

    The window gleamed and the view through it distorted from
    rivulets of rain cascading across it. But he saw it.  A cherry red wagon practically glowed in the
    light of that shop window. The light seemed to hold it, to cradle it lovingly,
    warmly. The embrace of summers long remembered; never forgotten. He scarcely
    realized he was smiling. His eyes traced the white lettering, caressing them as
    they passed over each letter of the fine script. He remembered his, and suddenly
    the last time he had seen it. Nicholas had taken it and had raced down the
    hill, careening off of that rock and sailing through the air, the wagon and
    Nicholas both carving beautiful arcs through the air. Nicholas landed with a
    thud and was still. The wagon sailed further, crashing into a tree, metal
    bending and wheels coming off. He had been running towards Nicholas, furious
    that his wagon was broken. Anger turned instantly to terror as realization
    dawned on him that Nicholas was broken, too.

    He had never fixed the wagon. He had been unable to fix
    Nicholas. He had forgotten them both. The rain streamed across his face.

    Reply
  18. RD Meyer

    Best way to become a better writer?  Read.  Then write.  Read some more.  Then write some more.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      That’s fine. But there are a lot of readers out there who can’t write. I would never suggest reading isn’t essential to a writer’s development, and I know that this is what Stephen King himself suggests. But if you look at what he actually did to become a writer, he wrote a ton of short stories.

      Reply
    • Yvette Carol

      Ha! So true, RD. I find I err on the side of writing too often, and try to skip the reading part. However, it’s always better when I do both.

      Reply
  19. Zoe Beech

    His finger pauses in mid-air.  Then he clicks yes and gets another  drink before getting his credit card.  

    Two months later he goes to the airport, carrying his cardboard ‘Welcome Home Honey’ sign under his arm.  Perhaps he wrote ‘honey’ too big, he thinks.  Oh well.  People flow down the airplanes stairs in droves and he looks for her in his binoculars.  He spots her immediately.

    He tries not to run down the stairs towards arrivals.  The waiting lounge smells new, clean. The glass door opens and a crowd of people walk towards him.  A cleaning lady is hoovering the floor and the sound overrides the laughter and tears of reunions all around him.  He tugs his shirt over his belly and then raises his sign high above his head.

    The glass doors swing open yet again and there she is, wearing red like he asked.  His breathing gets faster and he blinks, thinking of his first words to her.  He’d planned it all, but now his mind is clear of everything but her red skirt and that red smile.  The board shakes in his hands, but his eyes are unwavering.  She sees the sign and her eyes travel down it to his face.  Is there a slight, almost imperceptible frown when she sees it?  No, no, she smiles even wider and her pace increases as she sees him.

    The distance between them takes such a short time for her to cross, and she’s in front of him.  He puts the sign down awkwardly and reaches to hug her.  Her bones are tight, tighter than he expected, but it was a long trip.  Such a long, long trip.  She must be tired.  Her perfume smells like a clear lake in summer.  He breathes it in greedily before stepping backwards to look at her.

    ‘So good to have you,’ he shouts, above the noise of the vacuum cleaner. ‘Finally.’

    ‘Finally,’ she repeats, but her accent makes the word tangled and strange.  

    ‘Well,’ he says, looking at her for some direction, but she gives none.  He grabs her one red suitcase in his sweaty palms. ‘Shall we go, Mrs Roberts?’

    She nods her head, not looking below his face. ‘Yes, Mr Roberts.’

    Reply
    • Oddznns

      mail order bride?

      Reply
      • Zoe Beech

        Yup! Whew, maybe a bit too subtle, but glad you got it!!! 🙂

        Reply
        • Missaralee

          That’s what I got too.  It was the line “she was wearing red like I asked” that gave it away. You just don’t tell a lady what to wear, unless you feel like you own her. It gave me an uneasy feeling. Very well written, highlighting the right details. I could see them both and how they felt about the arrangement.

          Reply
          • Zoe Beech

            Thanks Missaralee! 🙂 

    • Hal

      I like your use of description here as opposed to telling “He pulled the shirt over his belly…” instead of “He was a fat man…”. There is definitely some passive voice in here that needs to be obliterated, because as a reader I lose the connection to what is happening. ”
      His breathing gets faster and he blinks” could benefit from this, and word choice, especially. “His breathing quickens, eyes blink, and he …”

      I would personally focus on making everything about this story tighter… claustrophobic, almost. Take the reader into the head of Mr. Roberts and really focus on his thoughts, his fears, his desires.

      One last note: the time lapse is very jarring in the present tense. I am not against using the present tense in this story (in fact, I think that it could be a great tool to improve the immediacy of the situation and to draw the reader in even more), but perhaps instead of running things chronologically, you could easily switch it up and have that bit as a flashback.

      One last one last note: I could see this having a companion piece from the POV of the woman whom becomes Mrs. Roberts.

      Reply
      • Zoe Beech

        Great feedback, really appreciated.  Copied and pasted it and will go through it while I’m tweaking. I’m also going to do some research about active vs passive voice.  I see how when you changed the sentenced, it grabbed me more.  And I love the idea of getting her perspective!!  

        Reply
    • Yvette Carol

      Sorry to pick you out Zoe, but you’re down the end of the line. I just wanted to say, I miss dialogue in these pieces. They’re all inner dialogue, and monologue and description, They almost seem to be devoid of life. I want to hear someone say something to another human being!

      Reply
      • Zoe Beech

        Yvette, I appreciate your honesty, and it’s a very interesting point that dialogue brings life and breath to pieces.  I’m glad to get this kind of feedback, cause that’s where your writing is challenged and you get out of your head and gain some objectivity.  

        Reply
    • Mariaanne

      This is great Zoe.  It could be the start of a book or a short story about a mail order bride.  I think about how odd that must be relative to what we think of as a “normal” marriage.  A guy I worked with her “imported” a wife and she left him after a year or so. She just wanted to become and American citizen is what i heard although I’m not sure what the story really was.   That was just his side of it.  

      Reply
      • Zoe Beech

        Thanks, Marianne – good idea!  I think there’s something here to chase… Man, I also heard of a guy who got a mail order bride gone wrong.  I wonder if they ever go right?!  That’d be a fun story.

        Reply
  20. Wally

         “So how much do you actually weigh?”  Ace asked the big guy that was sitting next to him at the bar.  It was doubtful he’d take offense since the big guy just helped save his life.  But still, don’t press your luck, he thought.

         “Almost 350,” he said, looking straight ahead, elbows on the bar with that ridiculous drink straw between his teeth.

         “Pretty fast.”

         “I practice a lot,” the big guy said, without moving.

         “What’re you doing here?  How’d you find me?” Ace asked swiveling to the right, ready to bolt if need be.

         “She wants to contact you,” the big guy said putting down his drink with the stupid-looking straw.

         The big guy was casually well-dressed, clean-shaven, hair-trimmed and combed with a neat part.  No one could ever guess by looking at him that he’d just thrown a man to his death off the roof of a tall building.  The big guy turned left to look at him.

         “You’re among friends, just contact her.”

         “But, why?”

         “Don’t know, just do it,” the big guy said sitting straight forward again, picking up his glass and sucking on that damned straw.

         It seemed that he didn’t have an option.  After all the events of the day, it didn’t seem likely they’d harm him.  At least not yet.

         “I don’t know.  I’ll think about it,” Ace said, looking around.

         The big guy nodded to the skinny bartender who was nonchalantly drying glasses witin earshot.  He moved to stand in front of Ace,  looked both ways dramatically and said,

         “She wants you to write her,”  he said  “….and to have this.”

         He slid an odd shaped black zippered pouch across the bar.

         “Take it,”  he whispered.

         Ace reached for the pouch, quickly putting it into the right-hand pocket of his leather coat, the big guys body blocking anyones vision.

         “Write her,” the bartender smiled as he moved away.

         “Yeah, write her.”  The big guy said, looking straight forward, still sucking on that ridiculous striped drink straw.

         Ace tossed a five on the bar and walked out.

         “Big spender,”  the bartender chuckled after he’d left.

         “Big something,”  the big guy said, sucking on his straw.

    Reply
  21. Mirelba

    Rose was slowly fading:  Not just her memory, but all of her.  Once she had stood tall and proud; her nails manicured just so, always buffed and polished.   Now once could see her diminished, sagging between her shoulders, hunched under the weight of the eyes in her head which had grown huge and fearful like those of a young child.  Her 
    once immaculate dress now looked faded and worn, her nails chipped and neglected.

    Ben placed his arm protectively around her.  “Look, honey.  It’s your favorite niece, Susie, come for a visit.”  His anguished eyes gave the lie to that chipper voice.

    Rose’s voice said:  “Susie!  How good to see you!” but her eyes asked, “Do I know you?’

    Reply
    • Mariaanne

      Wow.  I can see that having been in nursing homes a lot.  I like the first two sentences best but all of it is well done with good details.  

      Reply
      • Mirelba

         Thanks!  It was hard to write.  I began several times till it began to come together.  Still not satisfied.  But, then Joe said to keep on tweaking…

        Reply
    • Zoe Beech

      Oh you can just see this sad process, Mirelba – very poignant.  And I love what you do with what they say vs what they feel (his anguished eyes gave the lie to that chipper voice).  I’m also going to tweak mine some more, think this is a great exercise.

      Reply
  22. Zoe Beech

    Joe, this is SUCH great advice.  I have been in the ‘writing and writing’ phase about nothing, and I’m sure that’s important, but the idea of honing a short piece hits me.  It’s faster and more do-able than a short story, and I can see how you can get a sense of accomplishment seeing the deeper levels.  

    Reply
  23. Mariaanne

    They began dating when they were fourteen, and her eyes were big and aqua and innocent. They married at nineteen, and he was tall and strong and wanted to protect her.  He worked at the Ford plant and attended college at night. She worked at the bank as a teller. There were no children. He finished college and they moved to the country with it’s green hilly springs and icy stay-by-the-fire winters.  He taught fourth grade math. She worked at the bank as a head teller.  They joined the big white Baptist church.  They taught Sunday School. She baked for the bazaar.  She played Bingo.  He hunted and played poker with the boys.  There were still no children.  

    She had a friend from church who taught with him at the high school. The friend and her children were beaten.  The friend was small and intense, with darting eyes. They let the shifty eyed friend come live with them.  The friend had a child.  It was his.  

    She moved to Florida.  He bought another house for the friend and they live there now.  I went to see his old house, thinking of buying it.  It’s a lovely house, small but cozy with a loft and a cellar full of canning jars.  There’s a sad table there with her dishes on it, and some books, and a picture in a silver frame of a aqua eyed innocent girl, her senior picture. “She was so beautiful” I say to him and he nods with the whole story right there in his eyes.  He can no more speak than he could throw away the dishes, books and the image of her.

    Reply
    • Missaralee

      I found the style of this piece really interesting; the first person narrator who is outside and inside the story. I had to re-read it to sort out the characters and look at “she” and “he” as more than pronouns, but as names really. I’m trying to figure out if the narrator is telling the truth, or if she is just relating the story she saw in the man’s eyes when she went to buy his house. Would that make her an unreliable narrator?

      In any case, a lovely vignette Mariaanne.

      Reply
      • Mariaanne

        I thought the he and she and the friend were going to be a problem but I liked it very plain like that.  I got myself confused at one point you couldn’t tell which woman had the baby. 

        Reply
    • Wallace

      An excellent piece.  I get the distinct impression that the narrator knows more than they’re letting on.  It gets me to wonder why.  And wondering about the narrators  relationship, past and present, to all the characters.  Since we don’t know the narrators gender, it’s sort of a between the lines deal and could go a number of different ways, all of them interesting.  Nice.

      Reply
  24. janet

    They said it was a good idea.  They said I needed to get away for awhile, that it was time. They said I needed to try to begin living my life again, that I needed to move on.  They said I didn’t need to forget, but maybe just not remember so much all the time.  I don’t believe a word of it.  But “they” are my best friends and without them, I wouldn’t be here.  Besides, I think they needed a break from me, and it was easier for them to get me packed and out the door than for the three of them to get away from jobs, husbands, kids to get away from me.   I don’t have any of those things any more.  So really, I couldn’t blame them.  I’d like to take a break from me too.

    So here I am, sitting on a park bench staring mindlessly at the lake.  An hour passes, and another.  A little boy bumps into my knee as he retrieves his errant whiffle ball and I notice the water in front of me.  A distant, lone sailboat slowly makes its way westward, searching for wind, searching for warmth, searching for a way to cheat tomorrow.  

    But tomorrow won’t be denied, and the sun deflates into the horizon.  I am left alone on the beachfront, the boy and his parents having left long ago amid happy chatter of ice cream cones.  I used to know about ice cream cones, but no longer.  I used to know about little boys, too.  I sit, staring into the darkness, knowing there is no wind, no warmth, no escape from tomorrow.

    Reply
  25. Sam

    Hi I found it very interesting Looking forward to read more, Sam.

    Reply
  26. Giti

    Loneliness, eats away at my soul.

    Reply
  27. Giti

    Six words, so few, yet powerful!

    Reply
  28. Giti

    Leave, don’t look back. Freedom!

    Reply
  29. amonloves2write

    The flashing cursor calls. Shut up!
    The blank page terrifies me! Write.

    Reply
  30. samra

    I was very young when I lost in the frost. During my walking in the dark and shadow of the trees. I felt scare when i heard a noise of the monkey from every where.

    Reply
  31. Elettra

    Four of us, myself, Sarah, Ellie and Laura, had just been to the seamstress. In Dakar, all women everywhere wore fabrics of yellow and teal and love in brightness on their bodies. We wore our drabbest apparel, which shouted “Hi! This is my first time in Africa!”. Our program had advised we bring them, including the khaki cargo pants. We were led to believe the Senegalese
    wore nothing but colonial safari suits. The seamstress seemed an excellent way to hide our naïveté, so we brought her our new bright fabrics for skillful
    transformation into happy hip-hugging gowns: slimming at the waist, evoking a
    sexy and plump “djai fondé” on our bottoms, and an elegant flare at our feet.

    All the more shocking then, when we emerged onto the main road and were struck in the face with a dying child. She wasn’t dead yet, but she was fast on her way. The man was driving a pick-up truck and couldn’t see his impending collision with a 5-year-old girl running in the street, away from him, and as fast as her little feet could carry. Scared. But it didn’t work. She ran forever and for a second. After that, she was under the front bumper, and then under the front right wheel, and then the back right wheel. She yelped and went silent. Her existence to us expired as quickly as it had emerged. The driver drove on a few feet, stopped, and sat motionless, staring into space forever.

    Reply
  32. Parker

    Work in Progress

    The nerve endings encompassed by my skull were swollen and throbbing. I held onto the railing with one hand as my legs turn into freshly boiled unsalted whole-grain noodles. The liquid debris in my eyes sought the
    attention of my other hand.

    I stood there on the brightly lit porch entranced by the rich aroma of Jasmine flowers with a hint of Citronella in the air as memories of mom traversed through the neurons of my brain. OK, come on Rae Lynn you can do this. The reason you returned to this one-horse town was to carry out your mother’s dying wishes. Your poise instructor always said — Don’t let the book fall from your head. Make your mom proud. I took a deep breath, checked my hair, my
    makeup and admired my red clingy outfit with the matching red spiked 4-inch
    heels.

    Just as my hand and the doorbell connected, the neighborhood barbershop quartet began to harmonize. The singing spurred loud cheering; foot
    stumping and hand clapping that resonated through the air deadening the sound
    of the doorbell. The old heavy Colonial door creaked as I sheepishly opened it causing all eyes to pivot in my direction. Quickly scanning the room, my eyes locked with my ex-spouse, Carol who whispered to my sister-in-law, Alice who whispered to my brother, Jerry who looked at me. Soon, the whispers turned into snickering. Since my hand remained glued to the door, I did a180 and closed the door behind me.

    I attempted to turn my graceful slow strut into a wind sprint, but then I almost twisted my ankle. I had not quite mastered gazelle-like movements in spikes yet. My face chilled slightly from the combination of night air and the moisture from
    my eyes. I swiftly progressed down the street seeking safety from insensitive,
    selfish loved ones. Soon my spirit lifted as I saw Dr. Simpson’s office light still on. When I needed to move back to my hometown, Dr. Simpson had been highly recommended by my then psychiatrist.

    “Hmmm! That car belongs to … I did not know he had an appointment with my psychiatrist.” With shoes in hand, I made my way up the steps of the old southern plantation home renovated as an office/home.

    “Dr. Simpson, can we talk?”

    “Rae Lynn, I’m …”

    Upset, a little incoherent and very impatient, I flung open his office door interrupting the flow of his words. Only to be stunned and almost blinded by the devastating view before my eyes. I began to heave uncontrollably, clutched my
    chest and fell to my knees knocking over and shattering the coffee pot. “Thank
    God, the coffee was cold.”

    Before me, my now ex-fiancé lay nude and entwined with Dr. Simpson on his lime green exam couch. Before me, were the two people whom I had
    exposed all my deep, inner thoughts and freely expressed my feelings of
    physical complexities.

    Unable to run this time, especially with nowhere to run and nowhere to hid or seek safety, I wailed, I moaned, feelings of grief and despair finally took control. I wanted to run into the comforts and peace of my mother’s arms, who loved me unconditionally, but that was now impossible.

    Reply
  33. TrepTiger

    The end, it comes for us all.

    Reply
  34. TrepTiger

    I had been doing 100 word stories, rather trying to write 100 word stories; most of which turned out to be 100 word scenes. Here is one that I think actually came out alright.

    Gabrielle awoke slowly, smiling. The scent of last night’s love
    hung in the air. Wistfully, she looked over at the now empty bed. She
    knew he was going to leave early, still, she felt a twinge.

    She dressed and left for work, smiling over their secret. She
    could feel the warmth of his touch, the heat of his breath on her.

    The elevator doors opened and her blood went cold. Her mouth
    dropped open. The memory of his touch turned to hollow, aching pain.
    He was hanging from the access hatch. Bloodied and mutilated, his
    body swayed and turned slightly.

    Reply
  35. debbi

    I learned to read from the backs of cereal boxes, from looking at the words and pictures in, “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” and especially from the Surreal, “Cat in the Hat,” my favorite book at age three. Dr. Suess mad me want to write and rhyme and my mother was listening. One day she sat on the sidewalk and taught me how to form the letters and write the words; cat, hat, mat, followed by a lesson on the alphabet. My inner world of creativity could,at last, be scrawled on the outside.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Great dive into memory, Debbi. Also, I’m impressed you learned to read at 3!

      Reply
  36. Brianna Worlds

    I was awed, in such a way that only a child can be. I was awed in a way that turned the mortal into immortal, the ordinary into extraordinary, the man into a god.
    I have to say, looking back, it isn’t as far from the truth as one generally tends to realize later on in life. We was godlike in perfection, the day I first saw him, standing atop a crumbling pillar of marbles, in a forgotten ruin. It was a shortcut my mom took to work. But as I stared at the man as he crouched, studious and mysterious, something wondrous happened. My ordinary life suddenly started to glow. It brightened as he stood up with such casualness that it seemed he had forgotten that he was standing very high indeed. Nearly fifty feet in the air he was, standing as if he had nothing to fear. He balanced on one foot, the other dragged on the slanted top of the marble pillar, his red and black clothes hugging his body and obscuring his face.
    The unthinkable happened, then– he jumped. But it wasn’t a suicidal jump, not as if my young mind could have recognized that anyhow. It was a jump of grace, of utmost precision. His body was angled just so as he free fell twenty feet before catching on to a pole that stuck out, slanting from the wall, dented and battered. He swung on it, muscles and clothing rippling as he flipped completely up and over it once to slow his momentum before launching himself through the air again.
    I saw freedom. I saw beauty. I saw light.
    This time, he landed on the pillar in front of me. It was much shorter– only, perhaps, seven feet. He was crouching again, soft, black shoes crunching slightly on the marble.
    He cocked his head at me, and it looked like he was asking me to play.
    I giggled. “Can I learn how to do that?”

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Interesting character, Brianna! This was fun to read!

      Reply
  37. AnnM

    I actually have never thought of myself as a writer. Though looking back on my life I have always written. My mother has always been a great letter writer and since we have lived far apart much of my life and until recent years talking for long periods of time on the telephone was so costly it was prohibitive, letters were the mainstay of our relationship and our sharing of information.

    A few years ago I had the urge to write some of my early experiences as an immigrant and when I shared them with some friends they enjoyed the accounts but also my telling of it. Then I shared them with a young friend who is a published writer. She insisted I should write a book as to her I am indeed a writer. Hundreds of pages, with a storyline to carry the reader through with interest seemed too daunting for me to begin.

    Then one night I had an idea for a letter. One that would have been written long ago by a character in a book I had read. As the thoughts came I wrote them down. Then a reply had to be made to it, and so it began. From one letter a storyline emerged that could be brought forward by each letter sent and received until a conclusion would be found. In fact the conclusion came to me early on in the process. Then the steps to that conclusion just had to be filled in.

    I’m still working on the middle and editing the rest. Somehow along life’s way perhapsmy letters were all a practice for this main stage for which I still feel unprepared. Stage fright, being published and a reading public getting to say their yays or nays, is with me each step of the way. Though I’m past the point of no return and the ‘show’ must go on.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      I love that idea, Ann. Some very good books were written as letters, including Frankenstein, The Color Purple, and one of my favorites, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Here’s a whole list of “epistolary novels”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistolary_novel

      Reply
      • AnnM

        Thanks for the link Joe. I had no idea there were so many. I knew much of Jane Austen’s works were from her correspondence, and I have read the Guernsey literary and potato peel pie club. And at first I found it a little confusing but then got into the “swing” of it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoy all the interesting tidbits of info. for us newbies and it helps to keep thinking creatively, thank you. Ann-Marie

        Reply
  38. Arlen Miller

    Mr. Joe, Thanks for writing a hopeful and encouraging piece.

    Along the same line as this post… What secret might you have for a non-editor to become a great editor? Any people we know as case studies?

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You bet, Arlen! Glad you enjoyed it. Hmm… good question. Editors are not celebritized like writers are, and so I don’t know as much about the great ones. Some ideas though: read a lot of everything, learn to help the author accomplish their goals instead of trying to “fix” their problems, uncomplicate things (often authors will try to have too much, so part of an editor’s job is cutting characters, cutting scenes, cutting complicated prose, etc). I’m sure there are more secrets out there, but that’s a start. And the best way to learn is just to… edit! For example, you could give feedback to all the writers practicing here at The Write Practice. 🙂

      Reply
      • Arlen Miller

        How cool is that! Lovin’ it. Thanks for your most helpful reply and for sending me in the right direction. That’s excellent.

        Help me out—how do you mean give feedback to all the writers practicing here at The Write Practice? 🙂 Maybe it’s a joke. 🙂 Just wanted to make sure I got it right.

        I like your writing, Sir. Thanks for writing human. Or, restated—thanks for having an interesting life then wrapping words around it.

        Reply
        • Joe Bunting

          Good question Arlen. As you’ve probably seen, people post their practices right here in the comments section. To give feedback, just read what they write, and mention one or two things you liked and one or two things that could be improved. Does that make sense?

          Reply
          • Arlen Miller

            Totally cool. I like that a lot. Thank you so much for the invite, Sir.

          • Arlen Miller

            Totally makes sense, Mr. Joe. Thanks for the invite. Let me see what I can do. 🙂 I hope you’re enjoying your escapade.

  39. wendy2020

    Sale: King Bed, Half like new

    Reply
  40. wendy2020

    Exterminated wanted. Tuffet infested with spiders.

    Reply
  41. wendy2020

    The writer never finished anything she

    Reply
    • Sandra D

      lo

      Reply
  42. wendy2020

    Time traveller gets divorced, then married.

    Reply
    • Sandra D

      lol, yeah that didn’t work the first time, let’s do this again. Yes if only…

      Reply
  43. Kevin Josef

    Not sure if anyone is still engaged in these comments, but here is my rough draft of a quick story I’m working on:

    Did I meet my future husband this past Christmas?

    A young man walks tentatively through the narrow, dimly lit alleyway. Everyone at Playa Del Carmen’s “Playa 69” gay dance club is sitting out front on the steps talking… all 5 of us. Upon his arrival, intrigue stirs through the air like a cool breeze at the end of a long, hot and humid day. One of the gays quickly pounces on this freshly arrived, dreamy young Mexican with sultry, yet shy eyes. Names were politely exchanged in rapid fire before my future husband was whisked away by my competition.

    That left me sitting on the hard cement steps with an almost empty beer in my hands and 3 others who were absolutely delightful, yet couldn’t hold my wandering attention anymore. Who was this young man named Fernando I wondered? Will I have a chance to flirt with him, or has the other guy stolen the opportunity from me? Well ‘Merry Christmas’ to him… it was the night of December 25th and I wasn’t looking to
    make any enemies. I snapped back into things and re-joined the conversation with my 3 other delightful new friends.

    I love Mexico, everything about it energizes me and brings me to life as if new electricity is running through my veins! I love the people, the culture, the food, the music, the weather and the laid back, easy-going lifestyle. My newfound friends tried to convince me of how easy and possible it would be for me to move to Mexico if I really wanted to. Little did I know that 6 months later I’d be planning my move to Mexico to pursue a relationship with that dreamy young Mexican with the sultry, yet shy eyes named Fernando.

    Reply
    • Sandra D

      I was captivated by this in the first two paragraphs. Really intense and in the moment. I was a little saddened by the last one as it didn’t seem to hold the same intensity. All in all a great piece of writing.

      Reply
  44. Sean Lance

    Dark and gritty, the coffee swirled at the bottom of the nearly empty mug. The bitter liquid, once jolting, only mocked my too tired body.

    I bought this mug from a vender at an out door art show in that quaint little sea side village…..shit. Now I feel like a damn cliche. Cute this and quaint that. Hand in hand, lost in the fathoms of your eyes. Blah, blah, blah the fuck blah.

    The mug exploded when it hit the bricks over the fire place. Shards of fine hand crafted artisan pottery flew back into my sneering smirk.

    Now that is how coffee should make you feel.

    Reply
    • Emilie Guillet

      I love the violence of this story and the questions it brings up. Where is the anger coming from? Why is the character too tired? The voice is intimate and drew me in like it was my own.

      Reply
  45. Yousuf Ismail Nooh

    How about this one?
    Call dropped. Phone dead. Cries silenced.

    Reply
  46. BookWriter2

    The idea of writing short pieces is a great idea. It was a technique we used when I was at university and whenever I’m stuck for ideas I give it a go. Great fun, but very difficult and hugely rewarding. Thanks for a great article.
    http://www.thedonotpress.co.uk

    Reply
  47. Sandra D

    The world seized up around her. Her vision grew tight and small. She squeezed with a bloated breath that wouldn’t come out, and inhaled harshly. Though only the tiniest sliver of air came through. As she breathed, her voice like a siren wailed in the background. She put her hands on her knees. The world seemed to be tipping back. She saw the silhouettes of legs running towards her. A hand placed on her back.

    “Are you alright?” It cried, the panick in the voice scared her even more and fat tears rolled down reddened cheeks. Sweat poking from her forehead. She said nothing and then she blacked out.

    The man grabbed her behind the knees and the arch of her back and lay her on the floor. Then he opened her mouth and looked for obstacles but found none. Then he tilted her head back, pinched her nose and breathed in deep successful breaths and placed his large mouth over her letting the air roll into hers. He kept doing this for over a minute. And she lay still. Then she gasped a long line of air, and began choking. She looked around and saw the man above her, his eyes filled with concern and his face just feet from hers. She smiled and a tear streamed down. Thank you she tried to say, but all she could get out was a choked whisper.

    He let out a sigh of relief. “You had us scared. Just stay there for a bit and rest k. I think you’ll be okay.”

    Reply
  48. sunny

    It’s really amusing to know that still there are some people who always seem making efforts to change this planet into heaven. I think you are one of those,

    Reply
  49. Agatha

    There was,Perfection.In his,ugliness

    Reply
  50. Agatha

    There laid.Her body.Rejected

    Reply
  51. Lisa Van Ahn

    It’s never too late to learn.
    *thanks to all the commenters that came before me and offered such great inspiration!

    Reply
  52. Sam

    Here’s a rough draft :). It’s the first bit of creative writing I’ve ever done, so be forgiving (yet do not spare me any critical remarks that might occur to you 🙂 )

    He checked his watch. It read, 21.34.The bus was late. On this cold, December evening, he wanted nothing more than to collapse into his armchair and lean over the novel that had dominated his thoughts the past days while cradling a warm cup of tea. It would be near midnight when the bus returned to his small room in the city, and each moment it delayed, his evening fantasy felt increasingly remote. The street was busy and bustling even at this time, in stark contrast to the stale air that awaited him in his cloister.

    There were others waiting at the
    stop, though he was too absorbed in private reflections to pay them
    much attention. The city was a milieu of miscellaneous bodies,
    industrially packaged to fester in close quarters, but conditioned to
    regard one another a little more than bodies, not unlike telephone
    poles. Looking from right to left, he surveyed the figures grumbling
    about the cold around him. He was about to return his eyes to their
    original position, fixed on the spot of pavement a few paces in
    front of his feet, when one of the figures caused him to stop. No, it
    wasn’t merely a figure, it was a woman, a young woman, chatting
    jovially with someone beside her; the precise identity of her lucky
    interlocutor was of little consequence to him, he was too absorbed
    in the woman to spare a passing thought on anyone else. Her voice was
    light, her eyes were bright, her smile was warm. He was decidedly in
    love. Of course, this wasn’t a unique encounter, by any means. In
    fact, if he were questioned on the matter, he would have difficulty
    recalling a bus ride which hadn’t been the birthplace of some romantic
    fantasy or another. But, as matters currently stood, there was only
    this fantasy, only this lovely face and graceful figure.

    These were his ruminations when
    the bus finally arrived. He glanced once again at the young woman to
    see if she would be accompanying him on his happy chariot-ride; but
    when his eyes accidentally caught hers, he looked away, embarrassed at
    being caught, before he could see what kind of a response his gesture
    had evoked. However, to his disappointment, when he stared out of the
    window from the seat on which he finally established himself, he saw
    that his precious nymph had not moved from her original position on
    the pavement. As the bus drove off, he continue to steal unnoticed
    glances to her rosy cheeks and silvery eyes, gleaming in the
    excitement of whatever fascinating subject she and her partner were
    discussing. Seconds later, she was out of sight. He sighed. Thoughts
    of this young enchantress lingered for a few moments, until he
    finally noticed the elderly woman sitting beside him. She appeared
    friendly enough to him. He gave her a polite, but distant not of
    acknowledgement, to which she returned an undeservedly cheery smile.
    “Cold night, huh?” she began, with a chuckle.

    Reply
  53. Mark

    There are three types of people!

    Reply
  54. Mark

    Live today like your last day.

    Reply
  55. colleenmcconnell

    Soooooo…went to the cardiologist with my husband today, who has recently had a stroke.
    The last time i saw you was innovember before your operation. What happened?
    No response from Gerry
    Me.. After a while…he had a quarter of his lung removed.
    Is you smojing?
    No response from Gerry
    No, he hasn’t for about a year, really.
    Drinking?
    Gerrry…only two
    Since the steoke? 
    Yes
    And before the stroke?
    I didn’t say anything…let him deal with it.
    Gerry…more.
    So you have heart problems and you haven’t been taking care of yourself?
    No response from Gerry.
    Medication?
    Me….here is a list from pharmacy.
    This doesn’t do me any good!
    You were told to being all medication.
    Yes, well..
    No wells, if you want it to get around hamilton that you have the worst doctor, don’t bring the medication. How am i supposed to my job, if you don’t bring what is required.
    Oh, sorry,,,i didn’t
    Get up on table.
    He hooks gerry toeeg machine.
    So how much were you drinking?
    Silence.
    I guess your wife has given up?
    I’ve given up.
    Does stuff with machine.
    His heart beat is really low…have to take him off some medication.
    Writes script
    Gerr, now that we are here do you think you can give up drinking?
    Oh, don’t bother. I don’t have any influence over him.
    But over the past 20 years he has been sober for about ten.
    Isn’t working now is it?
    Writes another script
    I will see you in 2 weeks.

    Reply
  56. Md Tousifullah

    The boss gave the go.

    They held my arms and legs together while they slit my
    throat.

    It was not until I felt the sharp blade against my
    throat that I struggled violently.

    But it was of little use.

    Blood gushed
    out of my jugulars in all gore and glory.

    I was dumped into
    a deep dark place and left to die.

    Then all of a sudden while there was still breathe in
    my body, I was taken out of the dark pit.

    My legs and arms were chopped off.

    I was skinned off
    entirely in a few violent attempts.

    It was at this point that I pooped.

    My body was no longer under any control.

    I lay dying upon the cold metal floor, my exposed tissues
    glistened in the morning sun.

    The last thing I heard subconsciously was the grumpy shout
    of my killer

    “You’re chicken is ready, sir. It’ll be 200 rupees.”

    Reply
  57. Zackymas

    Hello hello 😀 I’m new here but I’d like you guys to see this very short thing I wrote to practice this article 😉

    “Marcus saw the moon. Michelle looked at the moon. In that moment they knew, a life had to be taken.”

    Reply
  58. Diamond Fox

    Distance sought. He killed a cheater.

    Reply
  59. Emilie Guillet

    «I’m going to walk around and try to see some birds», I called to Guillaume. He answered that it was fine with him from under the the tarp. «Do you need some help?» He insisted he needed none. From inside my bag I pulled out my brand new binoculars. It was his birthday gift to me. So far, I had only used them from my balcony to watch the sparrows play around in the bushes across the alley.

    Eagerly, I set out from our campsite towards the excited chirps in the distance. The sky was of the pale, see-through blue of evening. I walked gingerly down the path, uncapping my binoculars. A movement in the trees to my left caught my eye. I turned and saw the shape of a medium sized bird through the branches. Adjusting the lenses, I managed to get a clear image of a handsome robin.

    I watched him for a few moments before moving on. Robins are common in the city too. I was hoping to see a few colorful warblers. I could still hear them but I did not seem to be getting much closer. I continued on, stopping occasionally, but never seeing any other birds. I walked back to camp, somewhat disappointed, I must admit. Bird are fickle with their movements and are hard to glimpse.

    From a clearing, I noticed a robin, maybe the same one, fly out of a large gazebo. Curious, I approached. Carefully, I observed the inside. I found what I thought I would, a small nest in a corner with three beautiful blue eggs. I left quickly to not scare the robin too long and thanked it silently for the gift it had shared with me.

    Tomorrow, I would bird watch again and perhaps observe other lovely creatures celebrating spring.

    Reply
  60. drjeane

    Struggling with writing six word memory.

    My brother dead. Still asking why.

    Great mountain walk. Knee surgery soon.

    In love again – forty two years together.

    Reply
  61. drjeane

    Now for three paragraphs.

    The officer on the phone asks for Stella Davis, my mother. “She is napping, can I help you?” Is Donald Davis your brother, she asks calmly. I say yes, but am already trembling. We have been out of touch for five years. The officer continues, “Your brother is dead.” My breath stops, but the questions are spoken anyway, “Why? How?” “His wife reported to a neighbor that he wasn’t breathing. They called 911. She said he had gone out alone and returned badly injured. She said she tried CPR, but couldn’t rouse him.

    His wife is arrested. Because they live across the country from us, we are keeping up with news reports online. He was beaten to death with a hammer and she did this to him. Why? He did everything she wanted over the 30 years of their marriage – giving up friends, buying new houses because the old one wasn’t good enough, and finally cutting off communication with his family. She is found incompetent to stand trial. We will have no answers.

    When mom finally asks too many questions after we tell her he is gone, we describe what really happened. She says, “Was she mad at him?” My sister and I exchange glances – we are all just trying to accept that this is really happening. “I don’t know mom, it doesn’t make any sense.” After seven years it still doesn’t make any sense.

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  62. collie

    The air was warm as he walked into the kitchen, all the windows in the apartment were open and the sun had just risen. Silence stalked the still sleeping city. He boiled the water for instant coffee and scratched his chest and head and yawned and stretched. He rubbed two bunched fists into his eyes as if beating the sleep out of them. He looked around at nothing in particular and wondered if the neighbours across the way could see into his kitchen. Would they be bothered by the naked man standing in his kitchen if they saw him? Would they stare and drink him in with their eyes as fantasies ran through their minds avert their eyes and run away in shame a fear?

    He watched as the water poured over the soluble coffee melting it. He could hear it. It made a light bubbling sound similar to one he had already heard a few hours previously, hot liquid pouring, dissolving transforming. He watched the steam rise up and allowed it kiss his still sleeping face. It might well be the only kiss he would get for a while. He picked up the hot cup feeling the skin on his hand protest and smiled. He was master of himself. He was the master of everything.

    He padded softly through the apartment back to the bed room. He sipped his coffee allowing it to burn his tongue and slide down his throat. The sensation brought tears to his eyes. How Ironic he thought to himself. He threw back the duvet and climbed back into the still warm bed. The sticky patch of liquid from the night before had grown cold and was in stark contrast to the everything else he was feeling. He grabbed a pillow and put it behind him so he could read. He would solve the problem of the cold dead girl beside him later. He looked at the knife protruding from her chest and thought about using it to stir his coffee and then decided it looked fine where it was. He sipped from his cup again, smiled and picked up his book.

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  63. Geoff Lange

    Crayola on my shelf

    You have been barley dressed anymore. Time has worn you and your clothing down. Remember the days that you were fully dressed and beautiful. We had such fun times together. We were both young and free. The details did not matter. All we did was see the world through brand new eyes. We held onto each other tight, looking for the next adventure.

    How did we grow apart? When did we lose our sense of wonder? Why do things have to be perfect and neat? Why do the details matter? Looking closer at our life together we can see the flaws. The missed opportunities. We used to not worry about those. It was all about the feeling and joy of exploring.

    The wonder of our life together is just a page away. All it takes is a moment to be free. Step back from our confinement and look with our young eyes. Adventures are still there. Chances to be free with our imagination together. Let us build the world we dreamed about. The world where all is possible. It is just a journey together.

    First draft. I will take a look at changes in few days.

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  64. Stanley Twain

    Tried it; did they work? Please judge 🙂

    Challenging Death, I became a freakshow.

    Drained. Filled me up. Drained again.

    The word “love” prevails until “bills”.

    Worth it? Losing everything for love?

    Suicidal thoughts, ruling my life perfectly.

    I reached the cliff. I flew.

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  65. Geh

    The stars are bright, the trees are alive. Young couples peruse the streets, full of light.
    But as you know I’m only footsteps away from my grave. But keep me inside, and I’ll always be footsteps behind you.
    So this will be my last excuse, for our last correspondence.

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  66. Julie J Horn

    Even with the soles of her tiny feet calloused by the constant contact with concrete and hot sand, the quick bite of the burning embers brought tears to her eyes. She hadn’t noticed the butt still smoldering. The crowds of tourists on the boardwalk made it difficult to see much further ahead than a few inches and she had to keep her eyes up to avoid being mowed down by the sea of giants around her. occasionally her eyes would meet level with another child and they would quickly pass unspoken questions and then be gone. She brushed the tears away with the back of her hand and resumed her mission, swinging her arms widely, head held high with the confidence and determination of one who knew her surroundings well, and knew her place and position. The boardwalk belonged to her. She would allow others to enjoy it, she had been taught to share, but this was her world and they were only visitors.

    Smiling a sunny hello to the grandpas seated in front of chess games at the rough hewn tables that lined the boardwalk she stepped out of the flow of pedestrian traffic and glanced southward. Still no sight of the tram. Insinuating herself back into the northbound stream she made her way past the snow cone vendor and the pigeon feeders, past all the regulars likely to report her. She would have to time it perfectly. Far enough away from her familiar borders yet still within the crowded tourist area where she could easily blend in. It was risky, she knew, and the consequences sure, but thrill was worth both, the risk and the paddling. She stopped behind a noisy pod of pink skinned sight-seers, gazes set well above her, large enough to not notice one more child. As the blue and white tram squeaked to a stop she hoped on the back end and settled onto the hard bench where she could watch her world grow smaller as she made her escape.

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  67. Phyllis Chubb

    Porch Climber Begone
    An invitation, nailed on the dock, greeted the three-man crew as they stepped off the tug. They’d been at sea for the last 4 days so the invitation was a welcome promise for party time. The weather had been good, giving time to reminisce about four crew members who went down with their boat, the week before. Burial at sea was a benefit of employment more common than most land-lubbers realize.
    Tom went easy on the porch-climber being offered, his mates Gerry and Ian, weren’t as moderate. By 10 pm Ian headed back to the boat, he wasn’t feeling so good. Beside the community graveyard Ian had to lay down. Minutes behind him, Tom and Gerry followed. On their way, they watched as a cow delivered a loving kiss up the side of Ian’s face.
    Their shipmate, yelling at the top of his lungs, got up and ran to the boat. The pair of the them weren’t walking the straightest lines but eventually arrived aboard. They found Ian curled up and shaking in the wheelhouse. Seeing Tom and Gerry, Ian yelled, “I saw a ghost”. That was the last time Ian indulged in porch climber, or any other type of alcohol.

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