How NOT to Introduce a New Character

by Joe Bunting | 91 comments

How to Introduce by Nasa RobonautLast night, I stayed up way too late finishing Ben Marcus' short story, “What Have You Done,” in the New Yorker. Short stories like this one are studies in brevity. You have a lot to do in just a few pages.

And the first thing that gets cut is usually backstory.

Cut Your Backstory

Backstory is simply what happened before the story. Writers often use backstory to introduce you to new characters. You get to know where they live, what they do, their habits.

Backstory is like a coffee date with your character.

However, backstory doesn't move the plot forward. It doesn't hold any conflict. Basically, backstory is boring.

Here are three reasons why should you cut your backstory.

1. It adds mystery.

Here's an example of how you should be introducing characters from Marcus' “What Have You Done.” Notice how he introduces Andrea:

[Paul's] mother would never, thank God, see him or his abused overfed body for what it was. Even Andrea, at home, had to admit that Paul was not exactly handsome, per se, though when she was being affectionate she told him that he looked serious. He had a fair-minded face, she would say.

Question: Do you think Andrea is important to Paul and, potentially, to the plot of the story?

It sounds like it, right? It sounds like Andrea is his girlfriend or lover or wife. But all we get is clues, hints, like “at home,” or “when she was being affectionate.”

The truth is Andrea is Paul's wife, but we don't find this out for two more pages, when she calls to check in on him. Since we don't know, it becomes a mystery. It makes us want to read on to find out who this Andrea person is.

2. It respects the reader's time and intelligence.

I once read a genre mystery novel where the first fifty pages were backstory. I quit reading. I didn't really care what the protagonist's apartment looked like or what she talked about with her neighbors.

I felt like the author had wasted my time.

Instead of spelling it out for us, Marcus throws us into the story. He doesn't introduce us into the world he's created. He doesn't tell us what everyone's favorite food is or what they like to do on a Saturday night. He lets us figure it out on our own.

You must have conflict, and if your backstory has no conflict, save your reader's precious attention and chuck it.

3. You just don't need it.

Some writers think you can't sympathize with a character until you get to know them intimately. However, short story writers like Ben Marcus have proven that backstory is non-essential.

You do get to know Andrea, but you don't get to know her through boring backstory. Instead, you get to know her through what she does.

In the end, it's the difference between showing and telling. Backstory is telling. Instead, introduce characters by showing what they do.

PRACTICE

Pretend you see five different people you know while shopping at the grocery story. Two are friends, two are former co-workers, and one is your arch-nemesis. You have to introduce each person without giving backstory.

What do you talk about? What do you do? How does your handshake and greeting describe your relationship?

Write for fifteen minutes, and post it in the practice when you're finished.

And if you post, make sure to comment on a few others.

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).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

91 Comments

  1. Beverly Diehl

    We as authors need it – but not necessarily on the page. This is something I frequently have to cut in editing, I want to explain everything, and I should be showing, not telling, what relationships are about.

    In the prompt above, some people would be getting hugs, some handshakes, and the other, perhaps a cold nod.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Very true, Beverly. Our readers don’t need it, but we do. Another reason why editing is so important.

  2. Beverly Diehl

    We as authors need it – but not necessarily on the page. This is something I frequently have to cut in editing, I want to explain everything, and I should be showing, not telling, what relationships are about.

    In the prompt above, some people would be getting hugs, some handshakes, and the other, perhaps a cold nod.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Very true, Beverly. Our readers don’t need it, but we do. Another reason why editing is so important.

  3. Kristentorrestoro

    I fought this for so long. I personally love backstory. Some of my favorite books have HUGE amounts of backstory in them… but it definitely an “older” format for books. At the advice of someone willing to take the time to edit my book, I went through and found ways to add it later–create that mystery and to tell it even better. Once I looked at it as a challenge, I was happy with it… for that particular story. I don’t know… I think there are different types of readers who enjoy different types of stories. But publishers are in the money business and certain storylines don’t appeal to the masses… so it’s that personal question all writers have to ask, “I know I love this, but is it absolutely necessary? Does it feel like I’m killing my first born? Why? How can I make it better? And if I don’t think it can be made better… am I just better off ‘biting my thumb’ at that rule–even if it means it won’t go anywhere? Why am I writing this anyway? And why aren’t ‘tweets’ called ‘twits’?” The old “writing for publication vs writing for self” debate. :0)

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks for sharing this Kristen. I hear you. Hugo, Elliott, and Austen loved their backstory. Of course, that was in a time when novels were one of the only form of story people had. They had more patience for backstory.

      I think television and movies have changed how we look at backstory, too. You can’t get backstory in a film unless you have a flash back scene or a long exposition monologue. After taking it out, we realized we didn’t need it as much as we thought we did.

  4. Kristentorrestoro

    I fought this for so long. I personally love backstory. Some of my favorite books have HUGE amounts of backstory in them… but it definitely an “older” format for books. At the advice of someone willing to take the time to edit my book, I went through and found ways to add it later–create that mystery and to tell it even better. Once I looked at it as a challenge, I was happy with it… for that particular story. I don’t know… I think there are different types of readers who enjoy different types of stories. But publishers are in the money business and certain storylines don’t appeal to the masses… so it’s that personal question all writers have to ask, “I know I love this, but is it absolutely necessary? Does it feel like I’m killing my first born? Why? How can I make it better? And if I don’t think it can be made better… am I just better off ‘biting my thumb’ at that rule–even if it means it won’t go anywhere? Why am I writing this anyway? And why aren’t ‘tweets’ called ‘twits’?” The old “writing for publication vs writing for self” debate. :0)

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks for sharing this Kristen. I hear you. Hugo, Elliott, and Austen loved their backstory. Of course, that was in a time when novels were one of the only form of story people had. They had more patience for backstory.

      I think television and movies have changed how we look at backstory, too. You can’t get backstory in a film unless you have a flash back scene or a long exposition monologue. After taking it out, we realized we didn’t need it as much as we thought we did.

  5. Amanda

    I totally agree with this. I don’t read storie with in-depth description. I’d rather have some room for imagination. It’s alsohow I write. I find it more fun to develop and spring new depth to different characters. And let’s the reader stay puzzled. Because it’s how it is in reality when we meet a new individual.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yep. Very true, Amanda.

  6. Amanda

    I totally agree with this. I don’t read storie with in-depth description. I’d rather have some room for imagination. It’s alsohow I write. I find it more fun to develop and spring new depth to different characters. And let’s the reader stay puzzled. Because it’s how it is in reality when we meet a new individual.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yep. Very true, Amanda.

  7. Robert Datson

    Thanks Joe, I’m in the middle of a short story at the moment, struggling with the middle section that contains back story. You have prompted me to think about how to enhance, remove, or alter this section.

    Reply
  8. Robert Datson

    Thanks Joe, I’m in the middle of a short story at the moment, struggling with the middle section that contains back story. You have prompted me to think about how to enhance, remove, or alter this section.

    Reply
  9. Joe Bunting

    Good for you, Robert. A little bit of backstory is fine, and even necessary in some stories. As you work on your story, you should check out how some other authors use backstory. It’s fascinating to see where they do and don’t use it.

    Reply
  10. Joe Bunting

    Good for you, Robert. A little bit of backstory is fine, and even necessary in some stories. As you work on your story, you should check out how some other authors use backstory. It’s fascinating to see where they do and don’t use it.

    Reply
  11. mari

    Where is the practice section we post in?

    Reply
    • Kati Lane

      hi mari, I’m always on here late so i can answer ya! you just post your practice as a comment — like you just did to ask us this question. we intermix questions, comments and practice (we’re a very flexible group :-)). i guess we all tend to know which ones are practice because they usually go much longer than any other kind of communication! if you want to respond to someone else’s input, you hit the little “Reply” button that’s next to the “Like”.

      i think you’ll find this is a wonderful, warm community. Welcome! We look forward to reading your work!!

    • Joe Bunting

      Mari, what Kati said.

      🙂

  12. mari

    Where is the practice section we post in?

    Reply
    • kati

      hi mari, I’m always on here late so i can answer ya! you just post your practice as a comment — like you just did to ask us this question. we intermix questions, comments and practice (we’re a very flexible group :-)). i guess we all tend to know which ones are practice because they usually go much longer than any other kind of communication! if you want to respond to someone else’s input, you hit the little “Reply” button that’s next to the “Like”.

      i think you’ll find this is a wonderful, warm community. Welcome! We look forward to reading your work!!

    • Joe Bunting

      Mari, what Kati said.

      🙂

  13. Steph

    Friend: Simultaneously wave each other down over the produce. Compare veggies, swap recipes. She just put in her potatoes yesterday, did I want some extras for my garden? She gives a piece of gum to my daughter to keep her occupied while we visit.

    Friend: A hug. It has been too long. We have to stop meeting like this. Coffee, yes, we will try for coffee next week. Or maybe she can hop in on a stroller-push to the park? Oh, wait. Next week she is caring for her in-laws. Well, after that. Soon. Life is bound to slow down, right?

    Former co-worker: I just saw so-and-so and was asking about you, she said the new boss had moved you down the hall. And? How is it going? You did the other job for, what, eight, ten years? When will I be back? Oh, I dunno. Maybe when the baby starts preschool. At least part-time. Sure, it would be good to get out of the house a little then. (I cross my fingers behind my back.)

    Former co-worker: A stiff smile. A curt nod. We both know the board drove her out, though other reasons were made public. Can’t believe she has the nerve to stick around after what she did. She hurries on. Maybe she’s not as proud as she puts on.

    Arch-nemesis: We pretend not to know each other. Not productive, certainly, but better than the swift kick to the shins I’d like to administer.

    Uff! Backstory is a big problem of mine. I see some crept in to my exercise, but my 15 minutes is up. I may adapt this exercise to the first chapter of my book, from my MC’s perspective, and see how it stacks up. Thanks for the idea.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yep, this definitely smells like backstory, “We both know the board drove her out, though other reasons were made public. Can’t believe she has the nerve to stick around after what she did.” Still, the next few sentences don’t.

      I liked the creative way you did this, Steph. Backstory is a hard habit to break. I might have to rethink my stance on it though. I’m reading Dickens right now, and he manages to make backstory so incredibly entertaining it works. Perhaps the problem is not backstory, it’s boring backstory. I’ll get back to you on that.

  14. Steph

    Friend: Simultaneously wave each other down over the produce. Compare veggies, swap recipes. She just put in her potatoes yesterday, did I want some extras for my garden? She gives a piece of gum to my daughter to keep her occupied while we visit.

    Friend: A hug. It has been too long. We have to stop meeting like this. Coffee, yes, we will try for coffee next week. Or maybe she can hop in on a stroller-push to the park? Oh, wait. Next week she is caring for her in-laws. Well, after that. Soon. Life is bound to slow down, right?

    Former co-worker: I just saw so-and-so and was asking about you, she said the new boss had moved you down the hall. And? How is it going? You did the other job for, what, eight, ten years? When will I be back? Oh, I dunno. Maybe when the baby starts preschool. At least part-time. Sure, it would be good to get out of the house a little then. (I cross my fingers behind my back.)

    Former co-worker: A stiff smile. A curt nod. We both know the board drove her out, though other reasons were made public. Can’t believe she has the nerve to stick around after what she did. She hurries on. Maybe she’s not as proud as she puts on.

    Arch-nemesis: We pretend not to know each other. Not productive, certainly, but better than the swift kick to the shins I’d like to administer.

    Uff! Backstory is a big problem of mine. I see some crept in to my exercise, but my 15 minutes is up. I may adapt this exercise to the first chapter of my book, from my MC’s perspective, and see how it stacks up. Thanks for the idea.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yep, this definitely smells like backstory, “We both know the board drove her out, though other reasons were made public. Can’t believe she has the nerve to stick around after what she did.” Still, the next few sentences don’t.

      I liked the creative way you did this, Steph. Backstory is a hard habit to break. I might have to rethink my stance on it though. I’m reading Dickens right now, and he manages to make backstory so incredibly entertaining it works. Perhaps the problem is not backstory, it’s boring backstory. I’ll get back to you on that.

  15. Dawn Hamsher

    Great Practice! This was so much fun! Here’s my go at it:

    FRIEND —

    Jess saw Kara come around the corner, holding a basket filled with fresh veggies and fruit in one arm and a box of Wheaties in her other. She was reading the Nutrition label on the side of the box. She would have run into an old lady pushing a cart if Jess hadn’t linked arms with her and whirled her back into the isle.

    “Girl, you almost ran that lady over!”

    “Oh, sorry. Just reading the label. I can never find a cereal without preservatives.”

    “Kara, you are so weird.”

    Kara elbowed Jess. “Well, I might be weird, but I’m going to live longer than you. Is that a box of donuts I see in your basket?”

    —————————————————————————————————–

    FRIEND/ACQUAINTANCE —

    As Jess rounded the condiment isle, she saw Michael standing in line at the deli. He had one hand in his skinny jean’s pocket and the other on his cellphone at his ear. Jess said hi as she passed him. He looked at her, nodded, and resumed his forward stance. Jess looked back and saw that he ordered his deli meat by pointing and nodding, never once stopping his phone conversation. Jess scrunched her lips together.

    He was cute, but not that cute.

    —————————————————————————————————–

    FORMER CO-WORKER —

    “Oh, hi…um, Jim, right?” Jess said.

    “Yeah, that’s me. Easy to forget, huh?” Jim said.

    As soon as he saw her, she noticed him stiffen. He had been smiling at the little girl by his side, but the smile wiped away instantly when he saw her.

    “So, did you find a new job?”

    “No.”

    “Oh, sorry to hear that.”

    “Well, it doesn’t concern you, does it? You still have a job, don’t you? Come on, Leslie, Daddy’s gotta go.”

    And with that, Jim slammed the soda bottle back on the shelf. The bubbles rose angrily from inside the bottle as Jim stalked off, pulling the little girl behind him.

    —————————————————————————————————–

    FORMER CO-WORKER —

    Jess saw Mrs. Burns smelling pineapples.

    “I never know how to pick a pineapple,” Jess said to her.

    “Oh, my goodness! Jess. Oh honey, how have you been?”

    Mrs. Burns set the pineapple down and wrapped Jess in a warm embrace.

    “I haven’t been by the planetarium since I retired,” she said. “It’s too sad for me, you know. I worked there for 30 years. So, how has everyone been?”

    “Just fine, Mrs. Burns. We’re teaching kids to love the night sky as much as you do. Did you know that we even picked up your old habit of starting the presentation by singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”? I always thought that was so corny, but we missed it when you left. Now we all sing it.”

    —————————————————————————————————–

    ENEMY —

    All the check-out lines were full, so Jess went to the 10 Items or Less line. She was looking at magazine covers and didn’t notice her cashier till it was too late to back out of the line. It was Analise Watkins.

    “Oh, if it isn’t Jess Reis,” Analise said, thrusting out her boobs and tilting her head down to look at her.

    “Hello, Analise.” I sighed.

    Analise made a haughty noise in her throat and picked up Jess’s bananas. She dropped them on the scale and then punched the code in hard. Then she shoved the bananas down the belt. She turned to the bagger.

    “Bobby, make sure you carefully bag her groceries. She’s my best-est friend.” The words dripped like sickening-sweet acid.

    It was the longest 2 minutes of my life.

    Reply
    • Princessmaja

       I think you mixed “I” and Jesse in the last one 🙂

  16. Dawn Hamsher

    Great Practice! This was so much fun! Here’s my go at it:

    FRIEND —

    Jess saw Kara come around the corner, holding a basket filled with fresh veggies and fruit in one arm and a box of Wheaties in her other. She was reading the Nutrition label on the side of the box. She would have run into an old lady pushing a cart if Jess hadn’t linked arms with her and whirled her back into the isle.

    “Girl, you almost ran that lady over!”

    “Oh, sorry. Just reading the label. I can never find a cereal without preservatives.”

    “Kara, you are so weird.”

    Kara elbowed Jess. “Well, I might be weird, but I’m going to live longer than you. Is that a box of donuts I see in your basket?”

    —————————————————————————————————–

    FRIEND/ACQUAINTANCE —

    As Jess rounded the condiment isle, she saw Michael standing in line at the deli. He had one hand in his skinny jean’s pocket and the other on his cellphone at his ear. Jess said hi as she passed him. He looked at her, nodded, and resumed his forward stance. Jess looked back and saw that he ordered his deli meat by pointing and nodding, never once stopping his phone conversation. Jess scrunched her lips together.

    He was cute, but not that cute.

    —————————————————————————————————–

    FORMER CO-WORKER —

    “Oh, hi…um, Jim, right?” Jess said.

    “Yeah, that’s me. Easy to forget, huh?” Jim said.

    As soon as he saw her, she noticed him stiffen. He had been smiling at the little girl by his side, but the smile wiped away instantly when he saw her.

    “So, did you find a new job?”

    “No.”

    “Oh, sorry to hear that.”

    “Well, it doesn’t concern you, does it? You still have a job, don’t you? Come on, Leslie, Daddy’s gotta go.”

    And with that, Jim slammed the soda bottle back on the shelf. The bubbles rose angrily from inside the bottle as Jim stalked off, pulling the little girl behind him.

    —————————————————————————————————–

    FORMER CO-WORKER —

    Jess saw Mrs. Burns smelling pineapples.

    “I never know how to pick a pineapple,” Jess said to her.

    “Oh, my goodness! Jess. Oh honey, how have you been?”

    Mrs. Burns set the pineapple down and wrapped Jess in a warm embrace.

    “I haven’t been by the planetarium since I retired,” she said. “It’s too sad for me, you know. I worked there for 30 years. So, how has everyone been?”

    “Just fine, Mrs. Burns. We’re teaching kids to love the night sky as much as you do. Did you know that we even picked up your old habit of starting the presentation by singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”? I always thought that was so corny, but we missed it when you left. Now we all sing it.”

    —————————————————————————————————–

    ENEMY —

    All the check-out lines were full, so Jess went to the 10 Items or Less line. She was looking at magazine covers and didn’t notice her cashier till it was too late to back out of the line. It was Analise Watkins.

    “Oh, if it isn’t Jess Reis,” Analise said, thrusting out her boobs and tilting her head down to look at her.

    “Hello, Analise.” I sighed.

    Analise made a haughty noise in her throat and picked up Jess’s bananas. She dropped them on the scale and then punched the code in hard. Then she shoved the bananas down the belt. She turned to the bagger.

    “Bobby, make sure you carefully bag her groceries. She’s my best-est friend.” The words dripped like sickening-sweet acid.

    It was the longest 2 minutes of my life.

    Reply
    • Princessmaja

       I think you mixed “I” and Jesse in the last one 🙂

  17. David Saleeba

    Hope my practice isn’t too late- first time poster, here… be gentle!

    As I turned the corner going from the coffee aisle over to the soft drinks, he was right there. John and I almost played bumper carts since the moron wasn’t looking. Oh, I can’t stand that guy!

    “Hmm, looks like we need to watch where we’re going!” was his snide remark. I didn’t even dignify it with a response. He was the one whose head was turned checking out a lady walking past him. Always has been a moron, that guy.

    I sincerely hoped this grocery trip would get better. I got my diet drink fix and headed over to the frozen foods. Hallelujah! It did get better when I saw Sandy and Steve. We exchanged hugs and talked for a few minutes- it seemed like only a few seconds, though. They were getting supplies for a neighborhood cookout and invited me to come back. I told them I’d have to check it out with the wife, but we’d try.

    As I was wrapping things up in the check-out aisle, Bennie and Rick were there berating their employees- just like the old days. I was glad to be on this side of the exchange. They didn’t see me coming and quickly changed their tone from condescending/ irate to friendly/”let’s get this done as a team”.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Welcome, David! Glad to have you. 🙂

      You did a good job of introducing your characters without giving backstory. The only borderline line was, “Always has been a moron, that guy,” and that wasn’t even that bad, just unnecessary since we can see he’s a pretty lame dude already from the way he’s checking out the woman in the sentence before.

      But you did a great job. I especially liked how you introduced Sandy and Steve. Subtle but perfect.

  18. David Saleeba

    Hope my practice isn’t too late- first time poster, here… be gentle!

    As I turned the corner going from the coffee aisle over to the soft drinks, he was right there. John and I almost played bumper carts since the moron wasn’t looking. Oh, I can’t stand that guy!

    “Hmm, looks like we need to watch where we’re going!” was his snide remark. I didn’t even dignify it with a response. He was the one whose head was turned checking out a lady walking past him. Always has been a moron, that guy.

    I sincerely hoped this grocery trip would get better. I got my diet drink fix and headed over to the frozen foods. Hallelujah! It did get better when I saw Sandy and Steve. We exchanged hugs and talked for a few minutes- it seemed like only a few seconds, though. They were getting supplies for a neighborhood cookout and invited me to come back. I told them I’d have to check it out with the wife, but we’d try.

    As I was wrapping things up in the check-out aisle, Bennie and Rick were there berating their employees- just like the old days. I was glad to be on this side of the exchange. They didn’t see me coming and quickly changed their tone from condescending/ irate to friendly/”let’s get this done as a team”.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Welcome, David! Glad to have you. 🙂

      You did a good job of introducing your characters without giving backstory. The only borderline line was, “Always has been a moron, that guy,” and that wasn’t even that bad, just unnecessary since we can see he’s a pretty lame dude already from the way he’s checking out the woman in the sentence before.

      But you did a great job. I especially liked how you introduced Sandy and Steve. Subtle but perfect.

  19. JP

    I was never much of a beer snob. And the fact that I was standing in the beer aisle at the local KwikeeMart should tell anyone that that my taste in beer ranged from “Less Filling” to “Stay thirsty, my friend”. The beer aisle featured a vast array of industrial lagers that were designed to deliver the biggest bang for the least buck. I had exactly fifteen bucks, and I set about looking for a case of the least expensive gully wash known to this side of my neighborhood’s doublewides.

    That was why the girl’s presence in the aisle made no sense. She was actually more woman than girl. But, I figured she was a shoo-in to get carded. She had very sleek shoulder length blonde hair. And her designer jeans, sandals, and colorful blouse indicated not only that she had excellent tastes but expensive tastes as well. Funny, but I don’t remember seeing any other cars in the parking lot save my own and the cashier’s.

    As I tried to figure out how whether I would buy a case of rot-gut or a case of diet rot-gut, my gaze returned to the girl. The girl was closely reading the packaging information on a 12- pack of lite beer. Good grief, what did she expect the discover? The mysteries of fermented barley and hops (or was it hops and barley) were conquered long ago, and lite beer in many people’s eyes is not beer at all. I was about to grab my sixer of beer when it occured to me what bothered me about this girl’s presence.

    It finally occured to me why this attractive, well dressed girl’s presence bothered me. It wasn’t her clothes, beauty, or taste in clothes that stood out in this bastion of lower class sloth. No, what really shocked me was the simple fact that I was looking at a girl who died some 6 years ago.

    Reply
  20. JP

    I was never much of a beer snob. And the fact that I was standing in the beer aisle at the local KwikeeMart should tell anyone that that my taste in beer ranged from “Less Filling” to “Stay thirsty, my friend”. The beer aisle featured a vast array of industrial lagers that were designed to deliver the biggest bang for the least buck. I had exactly fifteen bucks, and I set about looking for a case of the least expensive gully wash known to this side of my neighborhood’s doublewides.

    That was why the girl’s presence in the aisle made no sense. She was actually more woman than girl. But, I figured she was a shoo-in to get carded. She had very sleek shoulder length blonde hair. And her designer jeans, sandals, and colorful blouse indicated not only that she had excellent tastes but expensive tastes as well. Funny, but I don’t remember seeing any other cars in the parking lot save my own and the cashier’s.

    As I tried to figure out how whether I would buy a case of rot-gut or a case of diet rot-gut, my gaze returned to the girl. The girl was closely reading the packaging information on a 12- pack of lite beer. Good grief, what did she expect the discover? The mysteries of fermented barley and hops (or was it hops and barley) were conquered long ago, and lite beer in many people’s eyes is not beer at all. I was about to grab my sixer of beer when it occured to me what bothered me about this girl’s presence.

    It finally occured to me why this attractive, well dressed girl’s presence bothered me. It wasn’t her clothes, beauty, or taste in clothes that stood out in this bastion of lower class sloth. No, what really shocked me was the simple fact that I was looking at a girl who died some 6 years ago.

    Reply
  21. Princessmaja

    I’ve been struggling with this one for a story I am currently working on. I came to a conclusion that you, as a writer, need to have a full backstory in your head. Everything. Every single detail about the character. Those things than shape your character, make him talk and act in a certain way. When everything is filled out, no need for additional explaining.

    Anyway, here is my try for the assignment. Please note that English is not my native language, so some constructs may sound a little misplaced, and my vocabulary is not that great so I reuse a lot of words (“think”, “smile”, “say”)
    . In my native language, I use some synonyms for those.

    I was overly excited as I put the bag of coffee in my
    shopping cart. New blend of coffee from my favorite coffee manufacturer was one of
    those things that could always make my day better. Happy as a child, I turned around and suddenly
    I was face to face with – him. He acted like he didn’t know me, but honestly, I wouldn’t
    expect him to do otherwise. No coffee would make this day better, I thought as
    I swiftly rushed away. Still, I made a quick glance back, just to see him stopping at the point
    where I was standing a few seconds ago. What was he doing there? He doesn’t even
    drink coffee. But of course, his precious girlfriend does. The image of the two of them made me sick instantly. I just wanted
    to grab some more vegetables for tomorrow’s lunch and get out of here.
    – Fruits, vegetables and coffee – how do you even survive the day? – I heard a voice from
    behind as I was picking out the broccoli. I turned around and saw Damien and
    Alice. I hugged them strongly. Their shopping cart, unlike mine, was filled with stuff, mostly cookies and unhealthy food.
    – Not in a mood for shopping today. I just bumped into… him – my throat became dry and the words stopped in my mouth.
    – Him? – Damien asked a bit surprised.
    – The You-Know-Who – Alice came to my rescue.
    – Oooh, Him – Damien nodded and continued – let the asshole be and don’t get
    upset about it. But don’t let us stop you from fleeing out of here.
    – No problem. It was great seeing you here. Coffee on Saturday is still on?They nodded. I smiled and walked away. The
    counters were already in my line of sight. As I was approaching one, I saw Rick
    and Nick standing in line. – Hi there – I said politely.
    – Look who’s here! Miss Big Shot, Working-As-A-Consultant-In-A-Fancy-Company
    girl! – Rick said smiling. Nick shook hands with me.

    – Good to see the two of you still stuck in that dumphole –
    I smiled back.
    – How are things at The Company? – Nick’s voice was a bit more serious this
    time.
    I told them how happy I was with my current job and they told me of all the
    things that have changed in their firm since I left. The line was long, so we
    had quite some time to chat.
    What a supermarket trip it was, and all I really wanted was a cup of coffee.

    Reply
    • Mirel

       Nice!  Got all 5 in succinctly.  Well-written.  I did this exercise and it turned out into a 1500 word story.  Too long to post!

    • Hannahhoo

      This is really good! The only thing that was wrong (I’m only pointing this out because I’m sorta’ a grammar Nazi) was the speaking punctuation. Use a ” ” around what a character is saying! I am terrible at explain these things so I’ll just link to a website I found very useful. It has random generators, writing tips and some plain hilarious lists: http://www.springhole.net/
      Wow, now I sound like an advert…

    • King Rai

      *explaining*

    • Ana Rey

      I Love this writing! Good use of the prompt! Definitely, while quoting what people say, it’s best to use quotaion marks (” “) instead of (- -) For example, instead of:

      – Good to see the two of you still stuck in that dumphole –
      I smiled back.

      Write

      “Good to see the two of you still stuck in that dump hole!” I smiled back.

      Overall, I think this is really good though.

  22. Princessmaja

    I’ve been struggling with this one for a story I am currently working on. I came to a conclusion that you, as a writer, need to have a full backstory in your head. Everything. Every single detail about the character. Those things than shape your character, make him talk and act in a certain way. When everything is filled out, no need for additional explaining.

    Anyway, here is my try for the assignment. Please note that English is not my native language, so some constructs may sound a little misplaced, and my vocabulary is not that great so I reuse a lot of words (“think”, “smile”, “say”)
    . In my native language, I use some synonyms for those.

    I was overly excited as I put the bag of coffee in my
    shopping cart. New blend of coffee from my favorite coffee manufacturer was one of
    those things that could always make my day better. Happy as a child, I turned around and suddenly
    I was face to face with – him. He acted like he didn’t know me, but honestly, I wouldn’t
    expect him to do otherwise. No coffee would make this day better, I thought as
    I swiftly rushed away. Still, I made a quick glance back, just to see him stopping at the point
    where I was standing a few seconds ago. What was he doing there? He doesn’t even
    drink coffee. But of course, his precious girlfriend does. The image of the two of them made me sick instantly. I just wanted
    to grab some more vegetables for tomorrow’s lunch and get out of here.
    – Fruits, vegetables and coffee – how do you even survive the day? – I heard a voice from
    behind as I was picking out the broccoli. I turned around and saw Damien and
    Alice. I hugged them strongly. Their shopping cart, unlike mine, was filled with stuff, mostly cookies and unhealthy food.
    – Not in a mood for shopping today. I just bumped into… him – my throat became dry and the words stopped in my mouth.
    – Him? – Damien asked a bit surprised.
    – The You-Know-Who – Alice came to my rescue.
    – Oooh, Him – Damien nodded and continued – let the asshole be and don’t get
    upset about it. But don’t let us stop you from fleeing out of here.
    – No problem. It was great seeing you here. Coffee on Saturday is still on?They nodded. I smiled and walked away. The
    counters were already in my line of sight. As I was approaching one, I saw Rick
    and Nick standing in line. – Hi there – I said politely.
    – Look who’s here! Miss Big Shot, Working-As-A-Consultant-In-A-Fancy-Company
    girl! – Rick said smiling. Nick shook hands with me.

    – Good to see the two of you still stuck in that dumphole –
    I smiled back.
    – How are things at The Company? – Nick’s voice was a bit more serious this
    time.
    I told them how happy I was with my current job and they told me of all the
    things that have changed in their firm since I left. The line was long, so we
    had quite some time to chat.
    What a supermarket trip it was, and all I really wanted was a cup of coffee.

    Reply
    • Mirelba

       Nice!  Got all 5 in succinctly.  Well-written.  I did this exercise and it turned out into a 1500 word story.  Too long to post!

  23. Eubanks29

    I don’t agree. How much back story you provide is a matter of judgement. It’s how you present it that makes the difference. Present it in action scenes, and telling/showing the backstory works. On the other hand, it is weak when you provide back story in a narrative sujmary. That’s usually dry, and sound more like a report than a story.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Good distinction, Eubanks. I was talking about presentation here, but backstory itself isn’t the enemy. And if you do want to give backstory, flashbacks are better than, as you said, summary. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

    • MitchellAllen

      I started this assignment and paused, thinking, “This is harder than I thought it would be.”

      Turns out I was using flashbacks. So, they’re okay, eh? I shan’t bore you with my attempt, as it is eerily similar to the one Princessmaja posted.
      Hers is much better!

      Cheers,

      Mitch

    • Brina Brady

      I use flashbacks here and there.

    • Nordlys

      I try to avoid flashbacks if they aren’t relevant for the story

  24. Eubanks29

    I don’t agree. How much back story you provide is a matter of judgement. It’s how you present it that makes the difference. Present it in action scenes, and telling/showing the backstory works. On the other hand, it is weak when you provide back story in a narrative sujmary. That’s usually dry, and sound more like a report than a story.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Good distinction, Eubanks. I was talking about presentation here, but backstory itself isn’t the enemy. And if you do want to give backstory, flashbacks are better than, as you said, summary. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

    • MitchellAllen

      I started this assignment and paused, thinking, “This is harder than I thought it would be.”

      Turns out I was using flashbacks. So, they’re okay, eh? I shan’t bore you with my attempt, as it is eerily similar to the one Princessmaja posted.
      Hers is much better!

      Cheers,

      Mitch

  25. likalaruku

    Good advice. It’s only after you’ve spent time getting to know characters who are mysterious that getting small chunks of backstory in increments feels rewarding.

    Reply
  26. Adelaide

    This is my first time posting – I don’t really know how this works yet! I didn’t include all people either – only arch – nemesis and two co – workers.

    Walking in, I grabbed a cart and ambled through the produce section. Rows of unappetizing green broccoli and campbell’s soup filled my view and suddenly – there she was. Misty. The sight of her empty cerulean eyes brought memories rushing back like the sea, threatening to suck me under with octopus arms. I walked closer, scrutinizing her appearance for signs that she might feel as lost as I did. She had lost weight, and the hollowness of her cheekbones had only been more defined. Her face had been one of my favorite things about her, but looking now at her now, as a stranger in a grocery store, she seemed plain and boring. What was it that I had seen in her, all those years ago? I quickly fled the aisle, hoping that Misty hadn’t seen me. Walking past the frozen food section, I spotted Harry and Nick, bickering over something silly probably. Admiring them from afar, I passed, wondering how their lives had been since I saw them last. It was a rare sight, those two. Both of them were so dedicated to doing the best job they could back at RedLine, they hardly had time off these days. It was nice to see them out and about, considering I had been wondering if they ever got out of the house lately.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Great job, Adelaide. Thanks for jumping in! I like how natural you made this feel. I know space is an issue with this exercise, but Misty was obviously an intriguing character. I wonder where you’re going with her. Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

  27. Denice

    Go easy on me (laughing out loud), I change the grocery story to a Mall.
    Red Bird Mall was the place to shop! I walked into Old Navy
    to get my flip flops. I saw the cutest sun dress that I had to try on. Walking
    into the dressing room I bumped into a familiar face. I could not believe I was
    standing in front of this “Skeezer”. She looked at me and quickly dropped her
    head and rushed out the store. I had a mind to rush right behind her. I turned
    around put the dress back and purchased the flips. I was not going to let that
    ruin my day. I walked pass the food court and as I passed by one of the tables
    I saw Kim and Angela as I approached the table they both had this weird look on
    their faces. Angela spoke first, “Hey girl what’s up?” she said. Kim spoke
    nervously, “Hey what’s up girl?” They both was looking in a direction behind
    me. As I turned around, Chris and Todd was walking up eagerly. You have been
    wanting to meet my wife for the longest! As I turned towards the other
    direction that Chris was looking into. I was looking at the “Skeezer” coming our
    way, then she stopped beside Chris. I could not say a word I just walked away
    screaming inside I cannot believe she was the one that made those delicious
    cookies!

    Reply
    • Jon Class

      I liked how you began. In your first line I can picture that the author A loves shopping and B is excited about Red bird Mall. Your writting has awesome description and straight to the point.

  28. Sydney

    I’m creating a characters that have backstories that ate involved on the present happenings. Their backstory is part of the plot. Is that good?

    Reply
    • Nick

      Yeah it’s good to have that

  29. Jon Class

    Captain crunch or Life cereal the decision couldn’t be any
    harder. Choosing between the two was harder than I thought it would be. There
    you are Noah! Jason grabs the captain crunch out of my hand and places it
    inside the green hand basket which is filled with apples and oranges and
    various organic fruits. Don’t’ hurt your small pea’s size brain thinking too hard
    bro. Well at least its organic I shoot back. Whoa shots fired he says with a
    fake smile on his face. He has been in a prissy mood since we got through the
    supermarket doors so I ignore his backward hand comment .You juicing tonight
    green giant I ask? The question draws the response that I wanted He looks
    annoyed .What gave it away Einstein he says with a sarcastic tone. Two
    boxes of cereal fall down as I place the box of life in a random spot in the
    aisle. I swear you’re worse than Asher
    bro he says while he places the box of life in the proper spot and pulls two
    extra boxes forward. What do you work here now I ask? He looks at his watch
    ignoring my question 20 minutes smart ass and you only picked out a box of
    cereal no milk. Whoa first lady
    Hamilton I didn’t know you knew that type of language. He looks around to check
    to see if anyone heard him swear. Two grades school looking kids look over to
    us averting their attention from the box of honey combs they were arguing over
    who gets the superman toy. As if on cue Asher comes around the corner of the
    aisle in a motorized handicap wheel chair. A dozen of organic cage free eggs,
    Almond vanilla flavored milk, and 100% wheat bread sit on a 24 pack of Jay’s
    spring water. The only thing you’re missing is the diet water fatty; you can
    find it in the organic aisle. Asher pulls up his white and shows off his six
    pack who you calling fatty? I can’t take you two anywhere a five minute
    shopping trip just turned into a 30 minute waste of time. Can you ladies meet me at checkout; I just
    have to stop to get some? Let me guess I interrupt Midol. Asher burst out
    laughing good one bro he says as he reverses the cart almost crashing into a middle
    age woman. Sorry ma’am my bad he says with his pearl white perfect smile and
    winks at her. She smiles and walks by us we watch as she grabs Asher’s favorite
    granola. Jason pushes past me hitting me with his shoulder as he storms by.
    What’s wrong with Princess Asher asks? Who knows I know the cereal isn’t just
    bothering him. A box of Apple jacks
    flies past me just missing my head as I duck.
    I thought I heard you Asher. Drew and Derrick stand on opposite sides of the
    aisle. Sorry didn’t see you there Noah I’m surprised you haven’t grown in the
    last year since summer camp. We actually got year round jobs awesome benefits you
    know just 2 weekends out of the month with salary. I wanted to wipe the smug
    smile off of Drew’s face. Asher shakes both of their hands well congrats man
    you know we are always glad to see the both of you. I didn’t know why it
    bothered me so much that he was still cordial with them. Everything OK Asher asks as Drew and Derrick
    grab some pop tarts. If looks could kill they would both be in ICU I focus on
    their backs as they leave the aisle. Asher waves his hand in front of my face
    is everything alright .I force a smile to my face everything’s perfect. He shakes
    his head I’m not even going to ask. Almond butter I say trying to change the
    subject. You know it he drops the grocery list on the ground.

    Reply
  30. Nordlys

    I agree. When I write, i cut things at minimum. I DO create back stories for my characters, because past shapes personality, but I try to imagine a way to make know my character through their actions right now, not by telling their past.

    Reply
  31. Bridget Monk

    Radishes. That’s what was on my mind, those red crisp orbs
    with a little tail that hide just enough of a kick inside to prove that what
    you see outside isn’t always what you get – and it isn’t like not judging a
    book by its cover, because you can’t change the salad ingredient’s graphic
    designer.

    But it was radishes that brought me, a newcomer into that
    particular grocery store, acting not on impulse, but on Angie’s advice. She was
    good at that: knew everything about where you could get the most unlikely
    things. I’d made a game over the years of trying to find her unfindables. Angie didn’t have any. Radishes had been another fail on my part.

    I smiled as I noticed her over in the corner up close and impersonal
    with an array of strange-looking produce. Finding new game-winners, probably,
    and giving Jason, like always a step behind her, another moment or two to
    wonder why it was he had been hanging around for years, waiting for her to toss
    more than a snippet of information in his direction. Or hand him more than another cold cup at the water fountain at work, which I am sure he still does, even though I have moved on to greener fountains.

    I left them to their endless relationship dance and turned
    down a different aisle – no point in chatting to her till I found the radishes.
    Where on earth were they? Not something that was emblazoned on the notice
    boards or written in light.

    Maybe down this aisle? Looks promising… But no, I see her from
    the back: her tight butt straining at the base of her rod-like spine as she bends
    forward over the powerless tomatoes, her manicured hands reaching to touch
    their shining bodies as though they too will let her down and not live up to
    her expectations regarding firmness, texture and colour. That sensation starts
    in my gut that takes away the forgiving vision I give myself from the inside
    and sets me right down in my mirror reflection . I just know I’m about to drop something, knock
    over a pile of cans or fall flat on my face…

    So I back out of the aisle, a quick plea to all gods of
    groceries to keep me clutz-free for just a few moments and almost get away with
    it till I back right into Jean and Tanya, except I don’t know it’s them until I
    am grabbed in hug by big Tanya, my neck cricking as I gasp for breath face deep
    in her chest.

    As my head emerges with beetroot face over her shoulder, I
    catch a glimpse of Jean, a blush tingeing her cheeks as she stands waits for
    Tanya’s greeting to pass, and extends her hand to butterfly touch mine.

    Radishes be damned. I don’t even like them that much… These
    two are the real deal. In them you see what you get.

    Reply
    • Candace

      This is so great! I love it! Your unusual start had me intrigued and didn’t disappoint. I love the way you describe this mysterious corporate brat hunched over the tomatoes. As the reader I instantly am most curious about her.

  32. Dominique

    I’d have to give points to Avatar: The Legend of Aang for this. Evert piece of backstory has an effect on them sooner or later, and you only get bits and pieces of it throughout the show.

    Reply
  33. Nick

    Ok ima try this I’m a young writer tho
    And not that skilled but here we go.

    I had just woke up one morning when suddenly my phone rang. I looked at it like it was the stupidest thing on earth ( because I was half asleep ) then I remembered to answer it. When I did I found it was one of the many people I hated the most.. Luke he had almost killed me last week when we were at his house. Anyway here’s what he said “hello?” He said.
    “What do you want” I replied
    “I just wanted to apologize .. Ya know for last week ”
    “Forget it” I said ” I’ll never forgive you for almost shooting me over a freaking girl” and with that I hung up the phone. That conversation didint help when I saw him with Anna the girl of my dreams…..
    Any ideas anyone?

    Reply
    • Jolumo

      If I were you, I’d read some books myself before attempting to write a story. It’ll boost your way of expressing yourself. Right now you sound like you’re in a rush, dictating a shopping list..

  34. DFWDFW

    Here goes nothing:

    “Hey, Davey. This is my buddy, Jim. We went to college together. He played guitar in Common Ground.” Jim stood there, with an even stance , and smiled at Davey with a warm, genuine smile.
    “Nice to meet you, dude.”
    “And Davey is the drummer in my band and the head engineer at the studio.” Davey had a quieter posture than Nick but he was still calm and relatively cheerful. In comparison to Jim’s, Davey’s smile seemed a bit more forced…not to say that it was less genuine. It just may have been harder for him to do. His usual, cool, don’t-give-a-f**** attitude always shifted to slight anxiety when he met new people.
    Suddenly, I spotted my mother walking toward me. She joyfully and excitedly hugged me around the neck. It was the type of gladness only distance and time could create.

    “Davey, Jim, this is my mom.” My mother’s voice was high pitched, not in a screechy way, but her voice was certainly thinner than I expected.
    “Hi, boys.” she said, and Davey and Jim both stood a little bit taller. Their voices deepened (not terribly noticeably) as they greeted her.
    “Hi Mrs. DFW.” Just as the words left their mouth, my old pal, Sadie walked up to me with her young-looking face shining reflectively in the fluorescent lights.
    My mother greeted her with a similar excitement to which she greeted me.

    “Davey, Jim, this is Sadie. We went to summer camp together when we were little kids.”

    Sadie, in a relaxed, happy, possibly stoned demeanor said, “Whatsss up?” Jim’s face started to wrinkle out of his eyes with warm salutation. Davey started to shuffle his legs at the knee, putting more weight on his left foot and relaxing the other and then putting more weight on his right foot and relaxing the other, while nervously folding his arms.

    My attention started to shift like clockwork, trying to prevent an awkward silence among this very diverse group of mutual others in my life.
    Suddenly, my gaze started to avert to the next aisle where I knew I would find my favorite candy bar.
    “Sorry guys, I gotta run. Nice to see you!” And off I go.

    Reply
  35. Perpecede_Celequex

    My Saturdays back are always the same, going food shopping, doing laundry, cleaning my room (the last one I wasn’t too fond of doing, though I do consider myself considerably tidy)
    So, there I was going to the cereal aisle where I saw Martha.
    “Martha!” I yelled rushing over, her doing the same.
    We hugged for a moment, trying to make sure our hand baskets didn’t accidentally hit each other.
    “Naia, it has been so long. I don’t know how you can travel so much.” she stated, “And since when did you come back? You were supposed to call me the moment you landed.”
    “Sorry, David and I came in early this morning and I was kind of tired from the jet lag.” I told her scratching the back of my neck.
    “Well me and Sarah are having our movie night later, she’s picking out the ice-cream right now.” She told me and I licked my lips.
    “You going to have Fish Food?” I asked and she laughed.
    “Well you are definitely going to get some, I don’t care if I have to drag you over, you are joining us.
    Then all of a sudden I heard a squeal and someone tackled me from behind.
    “Naia! Oh my gosh I thought I wouldn’t see you in forever!”
    “Sarah, I was only gone for a week, David got all the pictures for his showing and I can’t wait to see them all.” I told her as she came to where I could see her.
    “He hasn’t shown them to you yet?” Sarah asked and I shook my head.
    “You ditz, don’t you remember? David likes them to be a surprise.” Martha reminded her and she nodded.
    “Yeah, I kind of forgot.” She confessed and I laughed.
    “Kind of like you are forgetting the ice-cream in your basket.” I added and she looked wide eyed in her basket.
    “Shoot, Martha come on! Before we’re having ice-cream soup for movie night!” She yelled dragging Martha off with her.
    I shook my head and yelled to them, “I’ll see you tonight!”
    I continued on my way shaking my head in amusement before I heard two voices behind me.
    “No! The cauliflower is better!” One yelled.
    “No! The broccoli is!” The other yelled.
    I followed the yelling to see Jack and Harriet at the end of the frozen isle, fighting over what to buy.
    “Now listen here Jack-” She paused when she saw me and waved, “Hello Naia!”
    “Oh, Naia…” Jack, her husband, replied.
    “Oh shush Jack, I know you are getting old but that’s no excuse for being rude to our old book shelver.” Harriet scolded and he laughed.
    “By the way you speak about it, you would think you thought you owned the Library.”
    “I do, just because some higher ups have the deed don’t mean they make the building what it ought to be. Who places the heart in the place, that’s who I say runs the building.
    “Now Jack, don’t be mad that I shelved faster than you, it’s understandable.” I told him and he hmfed and Harriet giggled.
    “You are the same Naia, glad traveling hasn’t changed you.” She told me.
    “Yeah, thought that David of yours would have taught you how to speak to your elders.” Jack added and Harriet hit him lightly on the arm.
    “Now, now, you make it sound like he rules her life, she is her own person Jack, her boyfriend doesn’t rule her life.” Harriet informed him.
    “Actually Harriet, he’s my fiancée now.” I informed her and her face lit up.
    “Oh! That is fantastic! He really is the right man for you Naia, make sure he treats you right, ok?” She told me winking and I laughed.
    “I will Harriet, now if you don’t mind me I have to get David something to munch on as he develops the photos.” I told her and she nodded.
    “Of course Naia, and make sure you say high to that man for me.”
    “I will!” I told her and I left with a final wave.
    I continued to the cold cut section and searched for David’s favorite cold cut, salami. I looked around and found the last one in the bunch. ‘Lucky me’ I thought to myself as I placed it in my basket.
    “Oh you have to be kidding me!” A distasteful voice hollered and I cringed. I turned to see Wendy, all dolled up as usual with her hand accessory Teacup Yorkie in her little purse.
    “Can I help you Wendy?” I asked and she sighed.
    “Not unless you can hand over that salami you just picked up.” She said and I shook my head.
    “David wants his salami, I’m not going to just give it to you.” I told her and she rudely sighed.
    “David, still dragging you around with his foolish ambitions? Just like you to settle down with a man who doesn’t want to settle down.” She said with a sly grin and I grinned back.
    “He proposed to me so I think that is proof enough that he does, now scram Wendy, I have a fiancée to get home to.” I told her and she stormed off and I shrugged.
    Some people just don’t grow up.

    Reply
  36. ClockworkKnight

    I toss a couple of oranges into my basket. I was hoping this trip would be brief, since i had a whole season of Sherlock that I was saving to binge-watch tonight. Even with only three episodes, a project at work was keeping me Netflix-insufficient.
    “Hey Laurie!” I turn to see Andrea at the checkpoint, she has a huge butternut squash in her hand.
    “Andrea!” I say, walking over to her, and she looks flustered.
    “Um,” She lowers her voice. “Do you have a ten to lend me?”
    “Sure!” I juggle the basket and fish out a bill from my pocket. “You don’t need to pay me back, Andrea.”
    She clasps her hands in thanks. “What would I do without you? Sherlock tonight?”
    “Yep!” I say happily, as she secures a place in the snail’s-pace line. Then she beckons me closer, and I scurry to join her.
    “Look who it is,” Disdain is evident in her voice, as she points out a person just ahead of us.
    I sigh, “You just can’t handle working with him, can’t you?”
    “You’re lucky, you moved jobs, but I get stuck with this idiot!” She whispers furiously. “He can’t do anything! He’s as helpless as a baby!”
    I give her a sympathizing look, a wave, and I continue into the ice cream aisle, and I have a great time picking out a pint for this evening, until I turn, and I spy her.
    She was in the aisle next to mine, and from the swagger of her hips, and the long fancy nails like jaguar’s claws, I could tell she hasn’t changed a bit. Her long ponytail of hair swishes like a curtain.
    I make a small noise of disgust, and I hear another small noise next to me.
    I turn and am pleasantly surprised. “Chris!”
    He gives me a smile, “Laurie! Fancy seeing you here!”
    I return the smile,”And the two years in the States haven’t changed your accent, posh as always.”
    “So, how’s things?” He asks, while turning a box of chocolate over in his hands.
    “Good,” I see the chocolates. “Who are they for?”
    Chris throws a look over my shoulder, and I look too.
    “Laurie!” The woman gives me a crushing hug, and I smile.
    “Is it some kind of reunion, Marceline?” i ask, and hug her back. “So how’s everything in your new business? Good?”
    “Immensely good,” She gives me a dimpled smile, “And I’ve guessed you missed it, I’m getting married!” She flashes a ring on her hand.
    “Oh!” I gasp. “To whom?”
    Now it’s Chris’ turn to flash the ring on his hand.
    I feel like I can’t grin any bigger as I congratulate the happy couple.

    Reply
  37. Nely

    I think that backstory is important. You need to know as much as you can about your character. It doesn’t mean you should write a 50-page backstory because it would be boring, but it makes the character more ‘imaginable’ and realistic if you put some short backstories for example in the dialogues. I try to make up the whole lifestory of my characters because then I know about them more and I can predict what would they do in each situation, cause everything that happens also create us and our behaviour. You don’t have to tell everything, you just need to know. So, I think that backstory is very good but not if it’s written in one place as a separate issue.
    Sorry for my English, I suppose I’ve made lots of mistakes, but I don’t speak this language properly. Hope it’s possible to understand what I mean.

    Reply
    • Nova

      I agree. Backstory is important if we want to create a character. it kinda add that element of mystery in our story like to introduce some character that will or will not appear in the future event. it also may ‘trigger’ the thing that will happen next in the character’s life. Without backstory we will not know who our character is. and if we don’t know who our character is we don’t have a plot. and without a plot what story are we going to tell. Basically, a simple, straight to the point and clear backstory is better than long, unrelated and boring backstory. it will not waste the reader’s time as the articles stated above. and beside i will immediately lost interest in stories that talk about what happen in past life that go on like 10 pages and so on. at least that’s what i think

  38. Karley

    I tightly jail my lips together in a desperate attempt to regain
    self-control. My composure is crucial at this moment; I know she won’t go
    through with the prank if I lose it too soon. The plan sets into motion as I struggle
    to sustain. Selena menacingly sneaks forward a few deliberate steps before abruptly
    whipping back to flash me a devilish grin. Very similar to the way a rotten but
    adorable child forewarns a heinous act with a smug, little-shit like smile. The
    difference being Selena’s shenanigans were always good humored and taken
    lightly by her ‘victims’. Right on schedule, her telltale eyebrow gesture
    follows suit. It being my personal favorite part of the show, I play along and
    cover my mouth with horror at the monstrous crime she is about to commit. I jokingly
    beg her to reconsider as the overemphasized urgency flowing from my eyes only compels
    her forward inch by mischievous inch. At the very peak of my anticipation and
    not a moment too soon- she extends her arm and tightly pinches the haunches of
    the man waiting in line directly in front of us.

    Apparently, this wasn’t a regularly occurring event at this
    particular Walmart because everybody within a two-aisle radius of us was either
    audibly or visibly shocked. Both the man and his burly mustache whirled around
    with a mean intensity that all in the same movement transformed into a mild
    annoyance. And his accusing stare was pointed directly towards me.

    This wasn’t Selena’s first rodeo; she had long since mastered
    the art of fleeing the crime scene and leaving me to deal with the aftermath. I
    attempted to gather an alibi as I took a long inhale in a pathetic attempt to
    buy myself more thinking time. Right about the time my lungs were on the verge
    of collapsing, I hear my name called in the distance. My gaze darts from the
    cashier’s frozen wide eyes to the man awaiting some sort of explanation. The
    sound of his impatient foot tapping to the beat of my racing heart caused my
    stomach to leap into my throat. I gulped, flashed a quick ‘sorry’ smile, and
    took off running fast as I could towards the general vicinity my name was just
    called. I didn’t dare look back.

    As directionally challenged as I am, I end up in the wrong
    place. Go figure. I then wander strategically to the ice cream aisle for a
    two-in-one stop shop. I open the frosted door and let myself lean in as far as
    the freezer would allow me. I close my eyes indulging in the way the chill of
    the ice soothes both the redness of my out-of-shape face and my nerves. Who
    knows how long I stood inside that ice box before I felt the tender, light tapping
    on my shoulder.

    Much to my surprise, I turn and see Riley standing before me
    with a bottle of wine in hand, and what-the-Hell-are-you-doing written across her
    pretty face.

    “I can explain,” I begin, as my eyes widen with guilt.

    She chuckles to herself as she shakes her head slowly,
    waving off my explanation. I graciously accept Riley’s dismissal of the chore
    with a sigh of relief. It was so nice to not be obligated to justify myself or
    my actions to her; she always just knew. I transpose Selena’s little-shit grin as
    I finally am allotted the opportunity to laugh at the shenanigan that had taken
    place just moments before.

    “You weirdo,” Riley playfully scoffs back at me. We stand
    there for a few seconds allowing the depth of the peculiar situation to fully
    sink in. Both our eyes lock on the wine bottle cusped to her hip like a baby.
    We nod in agreeance and head for the wine aisle so that I may obtain my own
    little darling. Words weren’t necessary.

    Along our sweet-spirited venture, a recognizable voice seizes
    our attention. We immediately change course in pursuit of the echoes that we
    know belong to Selena. We, of course, find her on the toy aisle which is brightly
    littered with fun toys, a few small pieces of trash, and two people. As the
    figures are just starting to become more distinct with nearness, Riley’s hand
    takes hold of my wrist. She quickly and subtly flashes caution with her eyes
    and then resumes walking normally. I realize seconds later who the people sword
    fighting with Selena are.

    “Welcome to the battle!” Selena yells in our general direction.
    Riley and I giggle. My giggle is cut short by a nasty look fired by the girl who’s
    watching the boy and Selena sword fight. Her arms are crossed tightly like a
    scorpion preparing to strike. I lean over toward Riley and whisper my newest
    observation, which was that Scorpion Woman seemed to be a bit constipated. Her
    face turns red, but she laughs. We gather back to catch only the end of Selena’s
    victory dance. She won the battle.

    Apparently Scorpion had slithered away to another aisle, or
    perhaps back to the underworld where she had slithered out from. The boy that
    lost the sword fight turns to leave as I catch his familiar eye.

    “I know you…” his voice trails off as he scratches his head
    in an attempt to recall from where.

    “I think we used to work together,” I reply friendly.

    He snaps his fingers and nods his head as he recalls.

    “Yeah well it was good to see you,” I conclude quickly as I herd
    my friends towards the parking lot door. Scorpion was surely lurking nearby and
    I didn’t intend on giving her any reason to return.

    Reply
  39. Hopelessromantic

    This is my first ever attempt at writing fiction. Please critique as much as possible. I have thick skin online so don’t worry. Its not perfect and I only managed to flesh out two characters (two ex coworkers) and greatly surpassed my time limit but it was fun. Hope this post isn’t dead yet! Please critique! PS this might occur in two posts if its too long. Here goes nothing.
    “Rough night?”
    It took me a few tries before I successfully detached my forehead from the shelf. Nauseatingly bright colors bloomed as the neurons in my brain started hyperventilating. I grasped for purchase on the edge of the cheap shelf. The world tilted, but terrifying reds and peacock greens managed to swirl into recognizable shapes. A tight fitting dress was attempting a conversation with me. Or perhaps it was the slim figure next to it. I couldn’t remember which one was supposed to be wearing which. I groaned and turned back to the shelf. My hand was halfway towards the box of alka seltzer before it was accosted by skinny, scarlet- tipped fingers.
    “Oh… Hello Becca”
    “You just look terrible dear” she tsked through painted lips. “I haven’t seen you this hungover since those days when we were having fun and catching the big fishes” She winked suggestively at me but couldn’t quite manage one eye so stuck to squeezing both.
    My heart rate jumped up a few notches.
    “Oh how I just miss those nights. The glamour of it all. Like Marilyn, it was like that. Although we did end up getting all dressed up for hours just to take it all off again”
    At these words, I broke out in cold sweat. She tittered on and strutted around ferociously on ridiculous heels.
    “- you remember that client. Oh what was his name dear? Mr. Dali-moustache! Goodness. the BULGE on that one!”
    She rubbed the tips of her fingers together and hovered her other hand vaguely around the front of her nether regions. She pointedly thrusted her hips. Then suddenly, as if she made the most hilarious joke in the world, she broke into a tremendous cackle. I shifted uneasily from one foot to the other and nervously glanced around, thanking my lucky stars that not many people choose to hang out at 3 am in a sad little supermarket.
    Becca’s explosive laughter melted into little chuckles of “oh dear” and “those were the days”. Suddenly she perked up with an indistinguishable glint in her eye. I swallowed hard.
    ” Say, Jennifer, you’re still young” she counted her fingers. “23? 21?”
    “25 in fact”
    She tittered. “Oh honey, you are still a flower in its prime! If only I was ten years younger! Surely you’ve considered going back? The money to be made. They’ll take you back I’m more than sure. Besides they’re the best, they are!” She fanned her arms out in a dramatic if not clumsy arc. “Just imagine. Once again. YOU can be part of the Scintillating Sinn–”
    “Becca that is quite enough!”
    Slowly her glittering, wistful expression sobered up. Her face unfamiliar as the shadow of something unsure tainted the goofy grin. Her expression wavered as she looked towards me.
    “I’ve gone and done something not good again have I?”
    I nodded cautiously.
    She seemed to wither.
    “I tend to do that much too often. Perhaps that is why Hubby is in Spain instead of with me here in dumb Dallas. I am so dependent on others Jenn ” she looked at me with tearful eyes. “You’re always so strong. That’s why you left. I didn’t walk out like I’ve told everyone. They sacked me. Said I was too incompetent for the business”
    “Oh Becca” I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of pity. “I’m sorry for snapping. It’s just- just that I am desperate to tear away that chapter of my life. You’re not as bad as you make yourself out to be. Besides”
    I made sure there were no eavesdroppers and leaned in close, ” you were the best Marilyn there was. The men had no chance.”
    At this remark, she brightened. Her Scarlet lips widened to flash blinding teeth.
    ” that’s the truth isn’t it? They didn’t even knew what hit them!”
    My head hurt.
    “Yeah” I mumbled “they were too busy trying to hit on every moving thing in the building”
    To my annoyance, Becca either didn’t hear or didn’t get it. She preened herself with reassurances and then with her thin hands. She smoothed down her skintight frock and patted her belly lightly.
    “Well I must go. I’ve got to buy some milk. For my little darlings at home that is. Not me. I’m watching my figure”
    I made a noncommittal sound and shut my eyes. She didn’t hear. When I opened my eyes again, she was down the aisle waving her arms with each bounce in her hip.
    “Well its nice to meet you again. Ta darling!”
    I groaned into the palm of my hand and my cheek against the cardboard boxes. There seems to be something not quite right with my life…

    Ah that’s right. The dress goes ON the figure.

    “Good 3:33 AM Jennifer”
    I startled out of my nap on the shelf.
    “Ms. Gourd! Why are you here?” I attempted to reqroup my thoughts and tried again. ” I mean, I never expected you to be here. Especially at this ungodly hour” I hesitated. “Ma’am” I added uncertainly.
    I tried to wipe drool from my face.
    Ms. Gourd grimaced at the drool mark, took out a handkerchief and wiped her own face.
    ” and I you Jennifer. Why are you here?”
    I tried to change the subject.
    “How is the firm going? I’m pretty confident that the accountants are still world class at typing into calculators under your persistent eye.”
    She straightened her impossibly straight back.
    ” Yes, but I’ve managed to get them to type on computers now. You know, I’m trying out the new age and all. Infinitely more precise and efficient” she eyed me strangely.
    “You know, its a shame that you left. You were quite fast not to mention accurate in your work. It was a pity to lose an accountant like you. ”
    I rubbed my neck.
    ” Ah. There were some extenuating circumstances. ”
    In other words… Five years ago, I walked into the office of our firm’s CEO for a commendation for expert accounting (if such a thing existed) and had promptly left the building after glimpsing a Dali-like moustache perked over a threatening grin.

    Against the piercing gaze of Ms. Gourd (and no help from my injured good judgment) I crumbled.
    “To tell you the truth, Ms. Gourd, it’s been pretty hard after I quit. I miss the honest pay. For a long while now, I’ve been craving for a bit of order in my life. Being a bartender isn’t much to live for ”
    My mouth betrayed me before i could rein in the words. I sneaked a glance. She looked exactly the same. From her sensible haircut to her quiet little dress down to her no-nonsense-kitten heels. Affirmative. Precise. Unchangeable. However, Ms. Gourd softened in a way I never saw before. She gave me a stiff smile.
    ” Jennifer, you are a strange one. I’m sure you can push out of this rut seeing as people aren’t set in stone. You’re welcome back anytime. And if it makes it any more bearable ” she gripped my shoulder. Her smile revealed that she knew more than she lets on.
    “I respect you Jennifer Stickley. You and your decisions both”
    As she turned to leave, she glanced back as an afterthought.
    “By the way, it’s Mrs. Gourd now” she held up a pregnancy test. ” It’s quite funny how much people can change”

    There’s so much to improve on! Have fun picking at it!

    Reply
    • Candace

      The intro is fantastic! You have a powerful way of describing a scene, of showing the interaction between people and the emotions they have. The only thing I’d work on is stronger dialog. Maybe everyone in Dallas talks that way, but some of the characters seemed to speak in a sort of stuffy proper way. They seem like interesting characters but the dialog drags on a little. Other than that, I thought this was an interesting read and a great start!!

    • Joel Wright

      Good try! The intro is good and the character is alright. The dialogue needs some work though. I felt kind of like I was at a 17th century teaparty rather than a (I assume) 21st century place. (Said like the side-effects on a commercial) My advice is nowhere near professional, and should not be taken if you are writing or planning to write professionally. But on a serious note, this could be interesting if you just worked on that dialogue a little more.

  40. Hopelessromantic

    Second part of my story. I swear that I don’t hate almod joys. Almond joy bars belong to almond joys incorporated. I’ve got nothing to do with them. I just eat them
    Part dos of the supermarket guerilla attacks. Friends and foes:

    4 AM. What a strange time of night. It’s meant to be morning but half the city is still asleep. If only more people in this checkout line could be asleep, I lamented silently. Snoring gently in their beds and not existing here. In front of me. With carts stocked full of toilet paper. In an express lane for goodness sake! I tapped the box of medicine against my thighs. I need a pick me up, I decided, and immediately made a beeline for the candy aisle.
    Yes. They have them. almond joys. Also universally known as America’s most hated form of chocolate bar. There’s just something about disproportionate amounts of coconut to chocolate that makes any chocolate lover feel cheated. But I love them. And hate them at the same time ( I’m still an American after all). it’s something with the texture. They were placed a bit further than my arms could go ( obviously an unconscious effort of the staff who knew even subconsciously that these bars should be kept out of reach in order to protect the common good from coconut overload and/or chocolate flavored disappointment. ) A long arm and enormous hand shot over me and spirited my target away. I blinked and then a stupid big grin ran across my face.
    Only one person I know can like the demonic bars as much as I do.
    “Hulk!” I spun around and punched him the gut ( that’s for taking my almond joy!). “When did you get back? I missed you so much”
    “Monday night. And stop calling me Hulk, Michael Jackson! I’m sensitive about my height.”
    Gabe Newburt ( for indeed that is his name. Who in their right minds will name their child Hulk? Then again with a name like Newburt…) stuck his tongue out at me.
    “Don’t you dare. I grew out of that phase twenty years ago ” I warned.
    “And I stopped growing last year. It’s about time we act like adults. ”
    We looked at each other with tight expressions, and ended up making it to the third Mississippi before exploding with laughter. That’s three more than we’ve ever got to.
    I sighed contently. How did I ever live without him these past three months? Suddenly, a flashback of awkwardness flooded me in a second. Of tangled limbs and heated cheeks. Oh right, That.
    Gabe threw his arm around my shoulder and I easily tucked myself around his waist. It was a comfortable, familiar gesture although the slight brush of his fingers against my neck reminded me that there had been a time when we were more than just best friends. But the past is past and I’m more than content to allow myself to lean against his massive weight while I support his as we ambled towards the checkout line like some freaky conjoined Siamese twins. Needless to say, the wait wasn’t too bad after that.

    Finally we meet the arch nemesis. I wonder who it will be?

    There wasn’t much to take back into the house. A cardboard box and some candy wrappers. Gabe had given me a large tea set that he picked up from his trip to China. Its to remind you of our tea parties. He had said. I chuckled fondly at the memory and shook my head. Always the romantic, my Gabe. In a burst of curiosity I took a cup out to examine it. I lifted the cup up towards my nose and froze when I saw who was behind that delicate curve of ceramic- HIM!
    It! Spawn of the demon! As far as I’m concerned, it is genderless. An evil entity personally sent by Hell to curse me at the most unexpected times. Hair standing stark black against the white of my front door. Dark eyes glaring at me with hate. Sharp scowl that is so mean it could be spitting poison.
    Mmmmmeeeooorrwwwhhhhhhhsssssss!!!!!
    Help! SOS!911! I screamed as the cat lunged forward. Behind the curtain of the sound of blood rushing through my veins, I heard the tinkling of shattering ceramic. Hurryhurryhurry I screamed to no one in particular. Hiking the tea set up to my armpits and clutching my now shredded grocery bag, I sprinted for the backdoor. The cat gains fast and determined. Why is he so set on hurting me?! I open the screen door and my dog met me with joyful kisses. I sighed in relief. I sat my dog in front of the door and pointed at the quickly gaining cat. ” go get him Buster!”. Buster blinked at the cat and then up at me. Sent a bark in my direction and promptly went to sleep. I lifted my eyes towards the sky. Dear Lord, ill see you in heaven soon.
    The cat sprinted forward and leapt right at me. I slammed the glass door before it mauled me and the cat slammed into the screen in a whirlwind of claws and fur. Meorrrrrrwwww. He/she/it/the spawn of demons hissed. And shooting me a cutting scowl as if to say: I’ll get you next time, I could almost see it shaking its tiny metaphorical fists at me as it slinks away. What… was that? I pressed my back against the door and slid down. Hysterical laughter crawled out of my throat. Suddenly I came to my senses and checked my watch. 7 AM. I knocked my head against the door. Time to wake up darling.

    Reply
  41. Kristina Colson

    Okay, this took longer than 15 minutes, but was really fun. I love it when writers don’t do back story. Steven Erikson is one of my idols for that.

    How many different types of cereal do we actually need? This is insane. Every time I head to the shop to get a handful of things it takes me an hour to end up with a cart full of stuff I don’t need. I half-heartedly grab a box with some pink swirls on it, thinking it probably supports breast cancer awareness. Or something.
    I turn down the next aisle, following my instincts towards the equally ridiculous wealth of bread options, when something makes me stop mid-stride. I look up and there they are. Ben and Sue. Or Bensue, as I dubbed them. They spot me and come right over, Sue has her hand extended from about half-way down the aisle. I prepare for the handshake that will no-doubt turn into a hug. Unless I resist.
    “Kris!” she squeeks. I keep my cart in front of me, figuring that should do to block her body from touching mine. She arrives at my barricade and awkwardly tries to step around it for a couple of seconds before she pushes it out of the way.
    “Oh, these things are so clunky! Come here, you!” and there it is. The hug. I smell her overly sweet perfume, which I’m sure she wears to mask her completely contradictory personality. She lightly pushes me away, now gripping my shoulders.
    “Look at you!”
    Then she actually looks at me, her eyes scanning my unwashed t-shirt and yoga pants. “Well, you must have a killer workout behind you, you look so exhausted. Are you eating alright? Ben, look at her skin. What should she take for that?”
    I quirk an eyebrow, Ben looks up from the two jars of peanut butter he’s examining. I use the opportunity to twist out of her grip and step away, back behind my cart fort.
    “I don’t know. Probably something with Silica.”
    “Thanks, honey! He’s amazing, isn’t he?” she turns back to where I stood a second ago and then turns some more to find me a few paces further down the aisle. And I think ‘yeah, he’s absolutely gorgeous, you bitch. And you know that because I told you I liked him, just before you started flirting with him.’
    “Oh you must be in a rush.”
    I turn away and walk past the bread. Who needs bread anyway? For a few moments I’m bracing for a goodbye-hug from behind, but all I hear is “We should catch up soon! It’s been such a long time!”
    I keep walking without answering, finally reaching the end of the aisle.
    “I can’t believe you didn’t scratch her face off,” I hear a familiar voice say, just to my left.
    I look up and can’t help but smile at her impression of a rabid cat, tearing into a packet of ground beef. I walk over and squeeze her tightly.
    “Jen,” I mumble into her jacket. “You’re back! Don’t you dare leave me alone like this again.”
    “I’m sorry,” she says, giving me another squeeze before slowly disengaging.
    “TV dinner on Friday?”
    “Yep. I got drinks.”
    “Snacks.”
    “See you then.” We low-five as we part ways.
    I turn back into the bread aisle, judging it safe after a quick glance ahead. I pick a bread without much deliberation, something with grains in it. As I make my way to the check-out I see Bensue on the left and head right. The lines are moving quickly and as I hand my items to the cashier I see Frank and Hilary leaving the store.
    “Frank!” I yell, hoping he hears me over the noise of the PA. He does turn and taps Hilary on the shoulder when he sees me, gesturing for her to follow him towards me.
    I pay the cashier and wait for him to finish packing the bags.
    “Hey, what you got?” he asks, peering into my bags.
    “Oh just the usual stuff. Some fancy cereal. Hi Hilary,” I wave at her and she waves back with a smile.
    “You guys ready for that presentation tomorrow?
    “Yeah,” Frank says, although it sounds like he isn’t. “Gotta go over some stuff, but I’ll be spot-on by 11.00.”
    “It’s at 10.00.”
    “Right,” he pauses, then smiles. “I’ll be almost spot-on by 10.00.”
    “Sounds about right,” I say as I take my bags and we head out of the store together.
    “Catch-ya!” he winks as we part ways and I wave ‘bye’ to Hilary too.

    Reply
  42. Kat Person

    I agree you shouldn’t start out with backstory or overwhelm the reader with it, but I do count backstory as one of the most important things to a main character. At least, if it’s relevant to the story. I feel like many people nowadays are too afraid of being called out and don’t put in what’s needed. And it really is needed many times.

    Lady, I get someone’s mad at this girl. Why? Okay, a bit…simplified, but okay. How did she get there? You don’t know? You’re not going to say? You have enough there? You don’t want to go overboard? Well, you don’t want to go underboard either.

    Reply
  43. Ally Gorgeous

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t follow the practice exactly how it’s supposed to be, but here is my post:

    OK, so what do I need? I thought as I walked through the dairy isle. I remembered that I needed cheese, and at the same time, I saw two very familiar people. Then it clicked.

    “Hey! Don’t I know you guys from somewhere?” I questioned playfully, and they walked over, smiling.

    “Yeah, didn’t you use to work at the textile department over on Fourth Street?” Asked Sally, one of my coworkers. She was accompanied by my other coworker, Marshall.

    We talked for a while until they excused themselves. We said our goodbyes and just as I turned around, I bumped into someone.

    “Oops! Sorry, didn’t mean to drop your groceries. Like seriously, who do you think you are?” After picking up my things, I looked up at Natasha. She, as usual, smirked at me with her arms crossed. I rolled my eyes.

    “Ugh, don’t you have something else to do other than bug Lily?” I swirled around, surprised to see Ashton and Patricia backing me up. I smiled, relieved, and looked back at Natasha.

    “OMG, don’t you know how to take a joke,” Natasha said, and bumped into my shoulder as she walked past me and my group. When she left, I turned back around to my friends and gave them each a hug.

    “Thanks, you guys. What would I do without you?” I said.

    We all smiled at each other and talked for a while. Finally, I thanked them, and they left. I resumed with my shopping, and after a few minutes, left as well.

    Reply
  44. Victoria Collins

    Feedback please!!! I am trying to work on my writing skills.

    Most weeks grocery shopping is my oasis. I take my headphones and my list and just meander around the store looking at all the pretty things, stopping to check labels and putting things that meet my standards in the cart. Cody hates shopping, so he commits to vacuuming and cleaning the kitchen up instead. It’s a trade I am all too happy to make. Like I said, I love grocery shopping.

    This week grocery shopping is not my oasis. Due to a surprise visit from Cody’s parents and absolutely bare cabinets I was forced to go on a Sunday afternoon. Have you ever been grocery shopping on a Sunday afternoon? Everyone in the city of Lexington is out grocery shopping. Shopping on Sunday means parking in the very back of the lot, long lines in the deli and the bakery, waiting for people to move out of the way so you can grab whatever it is that you need, and checkout lines that stretch all the way into the isles. As if all of that isn’t bad enough the shelves are practically empty. I am the kind of woman who likes options. I want the choice between chocolate flavored yogurt and strawberry shortcake. I don’t want to settle for my second (or third) choice just because the store is short staffed and there is no one to replenish stock. That’s 4 more grams of sugar for something that doesn’t taste nearly as good.

    As stressful as long lines and limited options are to me, the real reason I don’t grocery shop on Sunday afternoons is something else entirely. I don’t shop on Sunday afternoons because you never know who you might run into. This Sunday was no exception.

    I turn the corner and take my place in line for the deli counter. I count 7 people ahead of me. I pull my iPod out of my pocket and turn the Pandora station to something more upbeat. My usual enchanting, relaxing Spanish guitar music is not doing the trick today. I can feel the stress and frustration pulsing through me as the bass comes alive in my earbuds. Suddenly there’s a sharp pain in my ankle and I turn around to see that someone has rammed their cart right into me. I start to say something but meet eyes with this person and realize I am looking back at Mike Borealis, the Principal of the school that I work for. From the look on his face, I can tell that he didn’t even notice he bumped into me.

    “Miss Chambers, how are you?”

    I reach up and remove my earbuds, suddenly embarrassed at the heavy bass pouring out of them. “Mr. Borealis, it’s nice to see you sir. Are you enjoying your weekend?” I was aware of how painfully formal I sounded, especially since I was talking to my boss, but I couldn’t seem to find a different tone or more casual words.

    “Yes, it’s a beautiful Sunday. Shame we have to head indoors tomorrow with weather like this. I have a feeling the kids are going to be restless.”

    Thankfully I was spared from any awkward reply I might have come up with when Emma, another teacher from our school, spotted us and drove her cart up next to mine.

    “Mike! Sutton! It’s nice to see a few friendly faces in this crazy place. It seems like half of Lexington is here!”

    My thought exactly. I noticed how natural she sounded when she spoke and admired the informality of her words. Of course she called me by my first name but I was surprised to hear her call Mr. Borealis by his. I felt a ping of jealousy along with admiration. Mr. Borealis didn’t like many people but it was obvious that Emma was an exception.

    “Good to see you Emma,” Mr. Borealis said. “Congratulate Ted on his big promotion for me! I saw his picture on the news this morning!”

    “I didn’t know Ted got a promotion, Emma. That’s great!”

    “He’s been doing really well at the police station. He brought in a few drug dealers that were selling to high school students a couple of weeks ago and has been getting a lot of attention for it. I guess the right people finally noticed.”

    “That’s awesome. You guys deserve it!”

    We chatted for a couple more minutes about her husband’s promotion and Mr. Borealis chipped in to talk about the upcoming school track season. It was the first conversation I had ever had with him where we weren’t talking about test scores or after school detentions. It was nice. I hoped that it would help me venture over to his good side. My review was coming up and so far I didn’t have any indicator as to how it would go.

    “Next!” The lady at the counter waved me over. I hadn’t been paying attention and the line had moved on without me.

    I turned around to give Emma a hug and shake Mr. Borealis’ hand. “I’ll see you both tomorrow! Good luck with the craziness in here!”

    Twenty minutes later I had a full cart and was ready to head to the checkout line when I remembered we were out of toilet paper. I pushed my cart into isle 22, ready to just grab whatever was closest to me instead of taking my usual time to look for the best deal and saw yet another person I knew. And another.

    “Well hey strangers!” I called to my best friends Christine and Amber. “What are you ladies doing here in this madness?” I knew from the many years I’d known them both that they would rather die than be caught at the grocery store during peak hours. Amber liked to shop at night and Christine usually just sent her husband in after things.

    Amber smiled and nudged Christine. “Hey Emma!”

    I got a whopping hug from Amber and Christine gave me a nod and a smile before saying, “He’s here.”

    Amber elbowed her. Hard.

    I could feel the smile drop of my face and hit the floor. “Where?”

    Christine tilted her head and pointed to the isle next to us. “We just saw him. He’s with someone.”

    My stomach dropped and I bit my bottom lip. That’s Christine for you, always getting right to the point. And that’s him alright, always showing up the moment I forget he exists. In that moment I didn’t know whether to turn and run or to strut right by him and act as if I didn’t have a care in the world. I was wearing a cute little sundress and I looked great. My hair was done and my makeup was fresh and I was wearing that perfume he liked. Maybe he would smell me and feel instant regret for what he had done. My thoughts must have been written all over my face because Amber interjected.

    “Don’t. If you go that way you can avoid him completely.” She pointed.

    Christine looked at Amber and then back at me. “I say do. You look great and if you run away you’re just admitting defeat. Don’t give him the power of knowing he hurt you.”

    We all knew that he was aware of how much he had hurt me. I hadn’t exactly left that relationship with my dignity intact. It had been three years and I still cried over him every once in a while. I pulled my shoulders back and nervously ran my fingers through my hair. “I’m going over there.”

    Amber started to argue but Christine gave Amber a look and me a push. “Good luck.”

    Six isles later I found him in the pasta section examining a jar of marinara sauce.

    “I’ve always preferred the vodka sauce, myself.” I gave myself a mental pat on the back for my calm and casual opening line. I am in control – I told myself mentally.

    The corners of his mouth raised into a smile as he turned around to look at me. “You always did love anything with alcohol in it.”

    I winked and looked away. “Any woman who puts up with you has got to have a drink in her hand.” I pretended to compare two different brands of vodka sauce.

    “Ouch. Come on, that can’t be how you really feel.”

    I could feel the blood rushing to my cheeks and my heart doing somersaults. I love him, I hate him. My body couldn’t distinguish the difference.

    A hand came out of nowhere and slid around his waist and he reached back to put his arm around the woman with long legs and annoyingly perfect teeth. “Sarah, this is Sutton. Sutton, Sarah.”

    The woman clutched my hand with her icy grip and smiled a tight, tense smile with her perfect teeth. “It’s nice to meet you.”

    I decided right then and there that this had been a terrible idea. What good was going to come out of this? I handed Brian the jar of sauce. “This is the one you want. It was great running into you.” I look over to Sarah, “It was lovely meeting you. I hope we can do it again.” And with that I strutted off to the checkout line, making sure to toss my hair in his direction so he would get a whiff of the perfume I had sprayed in it this morning.

    Reply
  45. Lele Lele

    He wasn’t looking at where he was going, running, skimping, rushing as the tick tick tick of his watch counted down.

    “Aw,” he said as fell down. He had bumped into someone and his grocery bags lying strewn on the floor.

    It was her, sneering at him. She was blinking and smiling oh oh so politely and he had clenched his teeth.

    “Well, well, well.” She said as she leaned down to help him up. “Nice to see you dear.”

    He looked at her offered hand. Slowly he reached for it but she jerked it away.

    “You’ve been shopping, sweetie.” She leaned down to pick up one of the grocery bags, one containing the vegetables. “Fitting for a, dear, like yourself.”

    He glared at her back as he stood up. She was examining an apple then she took a bite.

    “What the-?” he said wide-eyed. He reached for the apple but she stood up and moved quickly away. She was chewing and she closed her eyes.

    “Crunchy,” she said. “And delicious. Kind of surprised you can afford it.”

    “What do you want?” he said as he picked up the rest of his groceries. He grabbed the one with soap and detergent as he glared at her sneering face. “Are you following me?”

    Quickly her grin dropped and she frowned. “Don’t flatter yourself.”

    He opened his mouth but-

    “Oh, free stuff.” One guy said from his back.

    “I don’t think that’s safe. Also can you see the grocery bag. It looks like a hobo bought it.” A woman said.

    He looked back at them. It was a guy and a girl looking at them.

    “Hey,” the woman said. “Nice to see you guys here.”

    “Dear,” his enemy said. “Who are these people? Why do they know you?”

    The guy blinked. “Ah,” he said. “We’re friends of ‘dear’ here. We know him from college. Well, we used to know him is more accurate.”

    The woman nodded smiling. “Nice to see you already have a girlfriend, buddy. Though I don’t think the middle of the mall is the place for public affection.”

    “I don’t think,” the guy said. “Are they really? I mean it’s just the mall, they could be strangers. Hey buddy, are you and that woman there dating?”

    He glared at both of them as he grabbed his bags. “She’s not- wait, you guys have the gall to talk.” He pointed a finger at them as he clutched the bag to his chest. “You two have been attached at the hip since 3rd year. Don’t project at me.”

    The guy and the woman both blinked at the same time. Then they turned to each other and laughed.

    “Me and him?” she said pointing fingers between them.

    “She and me? he said. “Why didn’t I think of that? I’m certainly handsome enough for the both of us.” He was grinning.

    The woman tapped him lightly on the shoulders. “Come on now.”

    “I’m kidding,” the guy said. “I’m kidding.”

    “Well that’s more ‘fun’ than I could have in a while.” he said as he turned around. “Wait- where is she?”

    “You’re girlfriend left while you were monologue-ing.” the woman said.

    He faced them. “Why didn’t you dumbasses tell me? She has my stuff”

    The guy shrugged. “Well we thought she’d just be going home to your apartment.”

    He left them without saying good bye. They looked at each other with confused eyes and sad smiles.

    He went for the food court and sunk down in his seat. The grocery bags lay at the table.

    He sighed. “Damn, what a morning.”

    “I agree,’ she said as she sipped her coffee.

    “Uh, hey.” he said. “Do I know you?”

    She took another sip. “You don’t. But he does.” She pointed at a man who recognized them and made a beeline for their table.

    “Hey guys,” the man said. “You never said we had a reunion.”

    She blew at her coffee and the aroma went to his nose. “We don’t. How can we, when this guy can’t even remember me.”

    He narrowed his eyes. “Look whatever this is, I’m not paying-” he leaned forward and looked at both of them. “Wait, you two?”

    He leaned back in his seat and looked up. “I keep bumping into weirdos.”

    “Hmm,” she said. “Have you tried to coffee here?”

    “Nice to see again,” the man said. “Nah, the coffee here’s not my style. I’m more of the tea guy myself. How’s the kids?”

    She turned to the man and shook her head. “I don’t have kids. I never got married, remember?”

    The man laughed. “Oh right, I remember now. Haha.”

    She slowly massaged her temples. “You guys are the worst. You haven’t seen my beautiful face in a year and you forget everything we’ve been through.”

    He counted the fans in the high ceiling. “You mean everything you’ve put us through.” He looked back in front and glared. “The dental doesn’t cover that whole lab mess.”

    She smiled into her coffee.

    The man cleared her throat. “About that whole, non-married thing.”

    She slowly looked at the man. She tilted her head.

    “Maybe, maybe,” the man said. “I could help?”

    He looked at both of them and clenched his teeth. “Somebody kill me now.”

    Reply
  46. Tobi

    I know this is quite late to be joining this discussion but I do hope for some constructive criticism. Here goes:
    The tangy scent of tangerines envelope me in this warm aroma of fruit which makes up for the fact that although grocery shopping can be a bore, it’s one of those things that make me feel my age. I am bout to put another watermelon in my basket when I see them. Shock courses through me because it is weird to still see them together, I always think their relationship would never make it. I know they probably think I still have something against them like everyone else still believes but I don’t . I walk up to them although it is something I will never do. “Sasha and Tom, it’s been ages”, Tom just waves to me although I am right in front of him making the situation ten times more tense while I stoop to kiss Sasha on the cheek, I never notice the wheel chair until I almost hit it. Then I take a good look at Sasha and I realize I kind of feel guilty because the wheel chair must have taken her life path of its usual path. It’s terrible because I know it destroyed her career.
    I try to play joyful host for a while before I feel arms wrap around my waist and kiss me in my hair, I already know it’s Karma. I see her already feeling in the blanks about who they are and I know she is trying to liven up the atmosphere between us. Kayla just hugs me really hard, but she knows I don’t really like the contact which must mean something has to be wrong, I firstly introduce her to Sasha and Tom as Karma and Kayla take over my host position. Typical of them to overbear me always but I know they don’t want me to remember the pain.
    We all go to pay for our stuff at the counter I even roll Sasha’s wheel chair because I still feel like I owe it to her because of our team bond , I see Tom looking at me curiously as if I might push her off at any time, as someone I worked closely with he should be ashamed of his thoughts.i guess that is what happened when people leave on a bad foot.I offer to pay for everyone until I see the person who is the cashier. Adam. You McLaughlin so hard cause I can’t control myself, I pay in excess and when he offers to give me the change I say”you can keep it, you obviously need it more than I do”. I know this is a new low even for me but what shocks me the most is the fact that Adam didn’t reply. He just smiles and says”Thanks for shopping”.

    Reply
  47. Joel Wright

    As I entered Dale’s Grocery store I headed straight up to the counter.

    “Can I have three six packs of beer please?”

    The two men standing at the counter burst out laughing.

    “Nice try Kyle. Even if you did used to work here I wouldn’t sell it to you,” Dwayne said.

    “Worth a shot,” I said.

    “Maybe if you came back to work…” Daniel said

    “Maybe if you ever get a girl…” I quipped.

    “Ooo, low blow buddy,” he said.

    It was then that I saw him. Tyler Lodge the current pain in my you-know-what. He sat there at the end of an aisle looking completely bored as his dad shopped around him, throwing things into the buggy.

    “I have to go guys. Places to go, people to avoid, the usual,” I said grasping their hands firmly.

    “See ya later kid.”

    “Bye.”

    I headed toward the candy isle of Dale’s Grocery Store, searching for something that looked good, when I saw him again. I turned around and walked the other way, pretending I hadn’t seen him.

    “Kyle,” someone said.

    I turned around, praying that it wasn’t him. My prayers must have been answered, because standing a few feet away, were my buddies Mark and Zach. I walked over to them relieved. “Hey guys,” I said, shaking both of their hands lightly. “ You have no idea how glad I am to see you.”

    “I’ll bet,” said Mark. “I see you almost ran into your old pal over there.”

    “Yeah. That would’ve been a nightmare.” We wandered around the next isle.

    “He’s been acting crazy lately, said Zach. “I don’t know what he’s been doing, but the guy is acting like he’s high as f-”

    “Hey! Kyle,” said a rough voice. Tyler’s father waved at the end of the aisle with Tyler at his side.

    “Busted,” snickered Zach.

    “I have to go,” I said, turning to Mr. Lodge. “Hi Mr. Lodge how are you?”

    “I’m fine thanks.” He turned to Tyler. “Well?”

    “Huh?”

    “Shake his hand!” He slapped Tyler in the back of the head. “That’s the problem with this kid. He doesn’t get anything unless ya hit him. If only he could be more like you” He slapped him again.

    Tyler stuck out his hand, with eyes brimming with angry tears. As I grasped his hand he dug his nails into my palm, yanking me closer, he leaned to my ear and whispered “Give them to me, or you’re going to suffer.”

    I looked Tyler in his eyes, angrily. Some people never changed. I squeezed his hand knowing that I could, and probably would break his bones, but I didn’t care. He took the pain surprisingly well, as his bones cracked and shifted. “Over my dead body.”

    He grinned. “That can be arranged.”

    Reply
    • Larry Crutchfield

      I liked it, the intro was really good. In that very short dialog you painted the main character’s personality very vividly. My favorite line was “I have to go guys. Places to go, people to avoid, the usual,”. Good Job!

  48. Forrest

    As i entered the shopping center i picked up a basket and glanced down at the small list i scribbled onto the back of an old envelope. All i needed were eggs, bananas, and coconut oil. I went to the fresh produce section first and tore off a bag as i carefully chose my bananas. I had just picked some up when i heard somebody call my name, i turned around and was delighted to see Danielle standing over by the Tomatoes. I gracefully walked over to her and we greeted each other with a hug. “How are you?” I asked gently. “I’ve been better but im ever so glad to see you” she said with a smile. “I feel like i haven’t see you in 12 years” As she spoke she pulled a piece of dried clay out of my long messy hair. “I see you’ve been busy creating in your studio again, is that why i haven’t seen you all week?” I dreaded to tell Danielle the real reason i had been lying low all week, it is true i’ve been locked up in my studio creating, but if it hadn’t been because of him i would i met up with Danielle on Thursday like we’d planned. “You know me, when inspiration hits i must create” I tried my best to put on a brave face and even though she laughed i could tell she knew something wasn’t quite right, Danielle knew me too well and always knew when i was lying. “I’m just glad to see you out in civilization again, i must go because Josh is waiting for me in the car, but are you still coming to Dads birthday party this Sunday?” “Of course, i wouldn’t miss it for the world” I gave her a hug and we went our separate ways. I knew at some stage i had to tell her, but i would like to allow myself time to process the happenings of my week.

    I had everything on my list and was standing at the checkout when i saw him. My throat closed up and felt as if my legs were going to give way. I tried my best to look as if i hadn’t noticed him, but he was heading straight for me. I looked around longing to somehow make an escape but it was too late.. “Lunah” Our eyes met and just seeing his face up close make my heart immediately collapsed. I had never met another soul like his, it was if we were bound together, an invisible force driving us towards each other. For a moment i didn’t think i could say anything but i managed to say “Hi Jasper” His kind eyes stared at me with such admiration, they made seem as if this week hadn’t happened. “I see you’ve been in the studio again, what amazing piece are you creating this time?” he smiled. Jasper had always respected my art and he was the one who convinced me to auction some of my best pieces. “Oh you know just another clay priestess statue” i lied. “Brilliant, i’ll have to come see it when its complete” he replied with a tone of warmth. “I have to get going, but i’ll call you later in the week..if that’s alright?” he questioned carefully. “Sure” i said simply. He gave me once last smile walked towards the shopping center entrance.

    I payed for my shopping and walked to my car, i was just about to leave when i saw him sitting in the cafe with her. I didn’t realize how long i’d been sitting there staring at them until the car waiting for me to reverse beeped. The beep shook me back to reality and i began to reverse. I looked back in his direction for a split second and saw that he was looking towards me with a look of sorrow on his face. As i drove home his face kept replaying in my minds eye, i couldn’t understand why he would look like this i mean he wasn’t the one who accidentally kissed and declared their love for him. I felt more foolish now than i did when everything happened. I pulled into the driveway, grabbed the shopping and went inside. The fire was still burning and the pizza from last night was still on the coffee table. I put all the shopping on the kitchen bench and collapsed onto the couch. Why had i been so stupid? Our relationship was perfect until i had to go and kiss him and destroy everything. Why couldn’t i of just continued suffering silently as i watched him get married. Why did i have to destroy our friendship? We had been friends for 15 years and yes i had been in love with him for 14 of those years but that’s no excuse to through i lifetime of friendship out the window all because i have no idea how to control my heart. Why did he look at me the way he did? As i lay in a heap of misery on my lounge room floor the only possible solution i could think of was that he too had feeling that he had never shared because we respected our friendship too much and were both afraid that we would jeopardise it if we were to let slip the true nature of our feelings..

    Hey Everyone!
    This is an extremely rough story that i quickly jotted down before work this morning 🙂 I would love to know your thoughts, though please be kind as i am an extremely inexperienced writer and can honestly say that this is the first time i’ve written a story…
    THANK YOU!

    Reply
  49. Candace

    May or may not have pooped out after writing 4 rather than 5 characters, but meh, thought I’d post anyway. 🙂

    I recognized her even from the back.
    At first I thought I was mistaken. She didn’t seem the type to shop at places like this. Then I saw the unmistakably tattered sweats and long ringlets of brown hair.
    “Holly!”
    She turned with wide brown eyes scanning. She was wearing her familiar cardinals t-shirt and flip flops that looked to be older than her.
    Her mouth opened in an over exaggerated smile when she spotted me and her arms shot up as if to hug me from there. She did a sort of high knees bounce over to me where she wrapped me in an overly enthusiastic hug, her head barely coming to my chin. It was a long tight hug cut short as she jerked abruptly away.
    “Sorry, I just got my ear pierced.” She showed me the new piercing on the upper corner of her ear, still red and swollen. “With most people I just suck it up but I knew I could tell you.”
    Her ancient flip phone started buzzing an obnoxious little tune. “Hush!” she said seeing my expression. “I don’t want to hear any more crap about this phone.”
    I shrugged innocently as she flipped it open.
    “Gotta take this. But I’ll see you around!”
    I nodded and left, making my way towards the baked goods aisle.
    “Ah! Is this where you go when you’re slacking off at the gym?”
    The sarcasm could belong to only one person.
    Turning, I found a man my height with arms folded over his broad chest studying me behind his glasses in a calculating way. To say he was well built would have been an understatement. He was perhaps the strongest man I had seen in person. He had the type of muscles you’d expect of the heroes of old.
    I punched him lightly in the shoulder. “You wished I were slacking. Maybe then you’d be able to beat me in a pull up competition.”
    His brow shot up, his mocha face restraining doubt or a laugh, I couldn’t decide.
    “Yeah, yeah. See ya around.” Before I could say more, he was gone, leaving me baffled per usual.
    I went down the next aisle and found my shopping companion again. She was wandering toward me holding a stuffed panda. Her features were all bold- everything from her short cropped fluorescent red hair, to her prominent nose, wide jaw and huge eyes with thick eyeliner. She would have looked severe, intimidating even if it weren’t for the giant smile that took up half her face. She wiggled the panda in my face. “Look what I found.”
    “Did you get the eggs and carrots?”
    Her face fell but only for a moment. “No. But I couldn’t resist. Look at him! He’s adorable!” She spun a happy circle with him, her purple polka dotted dress swirling around her. She reminded me of a little kid in grown up shoes and lipstick.
    As I rounded the corner my gut clenched. Two rows over turned sideways to me I saw him. His beer belly stuck out more prominent at this angle, his starched collared shirt coming untucked. Despite this, he stood tall and authoritative. He was squinting at a shelf with wire-rimmed glasses in a way I knew all too well. I shuddered.
    Eva and the panda bumped into me as I stopped in my tracks.
    “Other way,” I instructed doing an about face.
    That was the last we saw of him.

    Reply
  50. Larry Crutchfield

    I could feel my heart hammering in my chest as I ran through the sliding glass doors on my way to the grocery carts. It was only fifteen after five but between the rush hour traffic and mob of pre-diner shoppers finding a parking spot had been a nightmare.
    My heart skipped a beat as my phone began vibrating like an angry hornet in my breast pocket. Grabbing a basket I began making my way towards the produce isle, all the while fumbling open the text messaging app one handedly.
    No sooner had I finished deciphering the concatenated hodgepodge of text ‘Tomato paste carrots small round cheese sliced pickles peach cobbler’ when my phone went off again. ‘DON’T BE LATE!’ The words glared angrily from the screen.
    “Sweet mother of ‘Hey-Zeus’” I grumbled gritting my teeth while trying to choke the phone, giving it a good shake “Stop adding to the list then!” I protested.
    “Oh, somebodies having a bad day.” A woman’s voice chuckled from across a small mountain of apples.
    Glancing at the speaker I was mildly surprised to see Danna’s short cropped straight black hair and almond shaped brown eyes smiling at me over a stack of golden delicious.
    “Danna!” I shouted enthusiastically “Oh my God, how have you been, how’s John?”
    “Hey stranger, long time no see.” John’s deep gravelly voice boomed as if on que, from behind. “What have you been up to?”
    “Eh, you know,” I began shrugging my shoulders, “can’t complain.” I finished watching as John unceremoniously dropped a bag of celery in Danna’s basket.
    “Careful!” Danna chided, frowning in John’s direction, “You could have broken the eggs.”
    “Anyway.” Danna smiled turning her attention back to me “What brings you to our little neck of the woods, did change jobs again, working nearby?”
    Danna’s last query snapped me back to the task at hand. “Oh, hey guys, I am sorry to do this, but I’ve got to dash. Megan’s boss is coming over for dinner and I’ve got to finish up and get home.” I said apologetically.
    “Nuff said,” John replied waving me on, “I’ll give you a call later. It’s been too long, it would be nice to catch up.”
    Nodding my head in agreement and saying my good byes I headed for the butchers section in the back of the store, pausing to check a couple of items off my list, here and there as I stumbled across them.
    After a lot of hunting and backtracking I finally managed to find the last item on my list. The entire shopping process having taken way longer than expected. “She’s going to F’ing kill me”, I thought pulling into the checkout line and emptying the contents of my basket onto the conveyer.
    Swiping my ‘Super Shopper Savings” card in the terminal I looked up to greet the cashier and froze in place, an icy chill running down my spine. I had been in such a hurry that I had opted for what appeared to be the shortest looking line and subsequently now found myself enduring the contemptuous gaze of Deloris Smith.
    “Paper or plastic?” she sneered in slow breathy drawl, her cold hard blue eyes brimming with murderous intent.
    “P-papers fine, thank you” I replied nervously, flashing what I hoped would be perceived as a friendly smile.
    Deloris didn’t seem to be buying it, the slight flaring of her nostrils actually seemed to indicate that the opposite had taken place and that I had inadvertently made an uncomfortable situation worse.
    I groaned inwardly as I watch her begin ringing up each item, one by one with purposeful slow methodical movements. It was like watching a tree sloth trying to feed itself, going just slow enough to be frustrating, but not so much as to constitute complaining to the store management.
    As each item made the laborious trek into the bag, I could feel my blood pressure rising, ears radiating with heat. Why didn’t I just use the damn self-checkout lane?
    At long last, the last item, a bag of aroma tomatoes where placed on the scale. It was at this moment that I noticed Deloris smirking mischievously before picking up the intercom and announcing in a long drawn out tone, one that would have made the drawl of a southern gentleman envious. “Price check on aroma tomatoes. Price check on aroma tomatoes.”
    Closing my eyes, I allowed my shoulders to slump. Why does this woman hate me so much? I pondered, pinching the bridge of my nose. Truth be told, I knew the answer, and ultimately there would be no fixing it…or her for that matter.
    After a long uncomfortable silence one of the box boys ran up and handed Deloris a slip of paper. Fumbling with her reading glasses, which coincidently she hadn’t seem to need, in anyway shape of form prior to receiving the note, she carefully read, then entered the code on the register’s keypad, preformed a not so quick double checked her work…several times, before finally hitting the enter key on the register.
    I paid as quickly as I could, grabbed my bags and made a dash for the exit, leaving Deloris, still holding the receipt behind.
    I was halfway to the car when my phone began another tirade of angry buzzing. “For the love of God, give me a break. I’m going as fast as I can.”

    Reply
  51. bernadette

    thank you for using “What Have You Done” to illustrate your points. It make understanding your suggestions so Easy having the concrete example to compare it. I’ve been trying this technique, just trying to stay Very Present, as the story unfolds in my brain, as I type. ;~)

    Reply
  52. aimie

    so this is something I did for a story and I wanna know if this is good enough its just a little introduction for the character I’m doing for a just writing for fun, I wanted to know if this is ok

    hi , my names alena i’m a girl i live in fortoome a city which only keeps kids who gets straight A’s or at least one B if we get lower then that we have to survive a death sentence or live in a torter school i know it sounds bad but, i’ve got all A’s no friends though. Life for me will die soon so far my grades have been dropping i’ve gotten stressed after my sister died from a death sentence, she had been getting F’s but she was only 6 of course she wasn’t gonna do anything bad to the world. Thought of course they don’t care.

    Reply
  53. Naveen

    I was alone at the beach. I was doing nothing but constantly watching the sun, which is just going to sleep to awake somewhere else. Birds started to go to their nest. The sun and birds along with sea were giving me a great pleasure. There was no one in the beach and that was the time when you can find yourself. You can hear your own inner voice. I have some difficulties. Every day when I wake up,I start to do fight with me. But here I become friend of me. Here I can feel my existence. I can feel my soul. And there are no difficulties around me. There are no problems.There is no more pain.

    I were lost in my thoughts when I saw her. I was so deep in my thoughts that I didn’t realize when she came. She was looking a little bit upset but that expression on her making her more beautiful. She sat down near the sea and started to write something on sand.

    Because of my shy nature I can hardly manage guts to talk to girls. But I thought I should talk to her . After all now, we both have same thing in common,”LONELINESS”.

    I went near to her. She didn’t see me. She was lost in her thoughts. I saw toward the sand. There was a quote, and that was the best quote I have ever read.

    “Hi”, she said.
    I didn’t know when she noticed me.
    “Hi”,I said.
    “What are you doing here?”, she asked.
    “I was just standing there.I saw you and……”. I couldn’t complete my sentence and she said with a smile,”NO,NO. I mean what are you doing here?On the beach.”
    That conversation is making me a little nervous.
    “I come here everyday”, I said. “Almost”, I added.
    I was feeling a kind of rudeness in my voice.
    “And u come here alone”, she asked.
    “Yes. I love to spend more time alone.”, I answered.”What happened to you?” I asked.
    “what happened to me?”, she asked surprisingly.
    “Yes. You are looking sad.” I said.
    “Nothing. I just broke up with my boyfriend.”, she said.
    “Oh…”, I didn’t know how to react on it so I said.
    “Just joking”, she said. “I think this is the craziest topic in the world. First two persons feel attraction toward each other and then they say it’s not working out and report love as a spam.”
    Right now I was just enjoying her words.
    “Do you ever fell in love”, she asked with a smile.
    “Actually I never found a girl to……”,it was the second time when I was interrupted by her.”Arey Yaar, who says you can only love a person with opposite gender? I asked you a question. Why do you come here ‘almost’ everyday?”,she asked.
    “Because it gives me relief”, I answered.”I can find myself when i lost in nature.”
    “And what do you think what love is? You are in love with nature. And you know what, your love is pure because you will never going to breakup with nature.”,she said.
    I was losing my heart.It was becoming the best chat of life. I had never got a company of such person.
    “So what is your love”, I asked.
    “Acting. I am crazy about it.”, she replied.
    I could see her excitement for acting in her voice.
    “This quote is great”, I said by pointing the finger to that quote written on sand.
    “Rumi”, she replied.
    And for next few minutes, we were just staring at the sun which was almost set.
    But that sun made me burn with the fire of love.

    Reply
  54. Jack SADLER

    My 1st attempt. Please don’t hold back with the constructive criticism.
    The patterns from the dark shadows only added to the eeriness of his demeanour. His toenails collected the rich, forest soil. The trees told him to continue. They were curious of him, but they just wanted him out of their forest. The trees did not like the supernatural; they liked running their own existence at their own speed. Edging out their lives on a completely different time scale. The hunched figure, however, needed something done now. He could not wait. His predator eyes darted in every direction even though he walked straight forwards. He knew where he wanted to go. The shack was waiting for him.
    “Where are you going?” The strange creature spoke to the hunched figure only minutes before. “Where are your clothes? Speak.”
    The figure straightened to meet the gaze of the strange creature. The predator eyes searched for contact amongst the black pits of the owl-like face. “I’ve got to do it.”
    His white teeth glinted a soft pink as the setting sun cast the lake into a peach-coloured haven. The creature bowed her head and retreated slowly into the bushes, watching but not interfering. As the hunched figure clambered out of the cold lake, the trees saw him coming to them. They were disgusted at the prospect of him tainting their trunks and fresh flowers. The flowers retracted from him and the branches coiled away as he left the lake, pushing through he rushes to stand on the shore. The owl creature trotted away to nicer thoughts. The aura of the figure’s sincere demeanour desecrated the peace of the natural forest and lake scene. The figure’s dwindling wisdom fought with his conscience. He told himself that it was wrong, but his conscience strove to insist that justice must be served.
    He started at a lumbering jog. The hunter’s steps pounding the Earth like a running horse, but treading lighter than a wolf’s. His misty breath that hung in the air smelt of the fish he had lived with for so long in the lake. He still dripped with water, and his long curly hair was straight and black from being wet. His eyes were wide with madness. His jog surged into a frenzied sprint. The peachy sun was almost set now, providing him with just enough light to make it through the forest. He had lost all sense of self in order to be ready for what he was about to do.
    All around him disapproved, but they knew it would be coming eventually. They did not stop him- nothing could now.
    He slowed to a long-stepped run, his body relaxed but his mind discharging all emotions at once. His face could not express it all, so displayed the foremost feeling- determination.
    The soil became dryer the further he got from the lake. So did his strength. He had never gone this far from it. He looked almost with desperation for the shack now. Unyielding canopies and prominent trunks blocked out almost all light now. He almost missed it.
    The small wooden structure loomed past his left. He turned on the spot and ran at it without missing a beat. He watched it with relief. His ferocious eyes studying/remembering all the cracks and mould that made it what it was.
    At that moment, when all in the forest were sure that nothing would stop him, he froze. His movements stunted until he was walking jerkily. His predator grace had left him, and he limped to the house now. Determination was sunken in sadness and nostalgia. Fascination. It all seemed so familiar, but he had never been here before. Yet he knew it so well, in spite of his long life with the fishes. He climbed the front steps slowly and paused at the front door. There was a light on inside. He knew there would be.
    The stained-glass window could be looked through. He saw the table that he knew would be there, laden with the food he expected. The armchair, the bed, the lamp and the kitchen bench. It confirmed his memories/guesses. It was like seeing a friend after a long time.
    However, this place was not a friend to him. No, this was his Ragnarok; it was where all of his life’s punishment would be re-administered. Nevertheless, it was necessary. He wanted it, needed it. He collected the energy to twist the knob, and the room opened to his view. He could see it clear as day now, without the warping effect of the stained glass.
    He touch the loose door handle, hoping it would open without effort. He could not bring himself to fight to get into the house. He wanted to get it finished.
    He took the faithful step into the house. “Hello.” He heard. His shaking gaze moved slowly towards the woman in the corner. She repeated in the eerie tone. “Hello, did you bring the children?”
    “No.” The man replied weakly, rocking back and forth. “I came instead.”

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  55. v.2.Midashimasu mörder Ψ( ̄∀ ̄)Ψ

    This is my first time I’m posting a work of mine online, and I’m still new to writing so please bear with me. English isn’t my first language, but I’m diligently learning the ropes. I hope you have a good day ahead of you, whoever you are.

    I don’t belong here. I want to go home. But there’s no denying my empty cupboards. I should also remember to pick up a new B-string for my guitar.
    Passing through the security guard was harder than I remembered, and it made me think about how socially inept I’ve become. He looks at me with suspicion, and I hurry to get out of his field of view into the fast-food aisle—
    —and run into Ruby and Mike. Ruby is picking up sour rainbow candy, with Mike pushing the trolley around. Quickly pulling my shopping cart out of the way, I hide myself. I examine them both lightly, just to remind myself of who they are, while still hiding behind the corner. Ruby’s eyes are still dappled with what seems like makeup from an all-night shift. He must’ve fooled around with some guys this time, judging from his ruined lipstick.
    Mike, on the other hand is looking rather tense. And somewhat tired. This pretty boy has a mask on his face… and latex shorts. As he pulls out an apple from his pocket, he slightly lifts his mask to bite, revealing a tattoo of crossbows—violin bows—and a thug-looking skull on his left jaw.
    I approach the opposite shelf after the pair have left to take a pack of noodles, and in their wake I smell the bastards’ perfume. My nose can’t take the smell of gayness. I leave immediately without bothering to choose my grocery properly.
    As it’s still 4 am, I’m surprised by the arrival of Grace and her three-year old son strapped to her chest. She has a packed bag on her back and left hand. Even from afar, I take note of her misty eyes and deathly pallor. Must have argued with her husband again.
    I liked Drake. Loved picking him up from daycare whenever Grace was busy at school. He’s been pacified with a pacifier, and is dozing peacefully, head on Grace’s shoulder.
    I want to talk to her. I’ve missed talking to Grace, hearing her stupid, contagious laughter over the most trivial jokes. It seems I won’t be hearing her laugh today.
    But, what’s keeping me from heading to her is my greatest arch-nemesis of all—anxiety. It doesn’t make sense, and frankly unless I conquer it now, which I highly doubt, I should just go home.
    And home I go. Troubled. I see an angry, grunting, drunk man striding past me into the grocery store behind me, but I don’t bother looking at his face. I’ve bought what I needed to get me through a week of holing up in my apartment.
    Languidly, I place the bags of grocery beside the driver’s seat, going out of the parking lot, just as a woman and her child run out of the store. I fix my eyes on the road, troubling myself with none other than the minimal traffic that’s to be expected at four in the morning.

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