How to Use Music as Writing Inspiration

by Melissa Tydell | 120 comments

At a wedding reception recently, the DJ played a song that was straight from my high school days. My friends and I danced along and laughed at the lyrics, while the music brought me back in time to all those high school dances.

The guys would come up with elaborate ways to ask their dates to the dance. The girls would shop for the perfect dresses. We’d make plans to get together for a group dinner beforehand. And finally, we’d dance all night long (well, until 11 pm), letting loose with that freedom only 16-year-olds can experience.

So many times, I’ve heard a song on the radio, on a commercial, during a movie, or on my iPod and found myself transported to another place and time. The lyrics and the melody remind me of a moment I’ve experienced, a memory I haven’t recalled for ages, and I’ll feel everything that I felt back then.

Music has the ability to move us—our memories and our imaginations. Here’s how to channel that power into inspiration for your writing:

music, sheet music, song

Photo by martinak15

Play that Song

Turn on music that you love. Listen carefully.

1. How does the song make you feel?

Tap into the emotions the song conjures up. Consider the mood that the song sets. With a focus on that feeling—joy, sadness, triumph, love, regret, whatever it is—write a piece that also conveys the same emotion.

2. What do the lyrics make you think about?

Sometimes the lyrics will tell a story; try to expand on that story by writing it in prose form. Or perhaps the song gives you a portrait of a character; use that description and fill in the blanks to create your own scene. Or finally, the lyrics may take you back to a time in your past; mine that memory for inspiration and write about your own experience.

3. What kind of story would use this song as a soundtrack?

Imagine the story you are about to write will be made into a movie (we can dream, right?) and this song will be on the soundtrack. Use the song to dream up a movie-worthy plot point or to envision a new setting or character.

What type of music inspires you? Is there a specific song that really moves you?


Choose a song to use as your inspiration. Listen to it start-to-finish, while keeping the questions above in mind.

Write for fifteen minutes about whatever the song inspires you to imagine. (You might have to play the song a few times on repeat!)

When you’re finished, please share your practice in the comments section.

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


  1. Ernest

    [ I don’t know how this came, but it did, while listening to “Skyscrapers”- Demi Lovato]

    A cool wind caressed the twin blade of grass, on which the drops of first rain of the season rested calmly.  The air was pregnant with the smell of damp earth. Birds chirped happily, emerging from their hideouts for the rain. Sun broke through the thinning mass of clouds. Crystallized bits of soil broke and sounded “SCRUNCH” under the weight of my feet as I heaved a sigh with every stride I took. 

    ‘Why did she leave me? Why? Why?’ 

    The beauty around me could do nothing to subdue the dread within.

    Having grown up around these parts I knew my way around so, I sauntered on a path that lead into the forest. With my head dug deep into my shoulders and hands limply placed inside the pockets, I walked looking at nothing but the mud below me.

    • Melissa Tydell

       I like how you used isolation (one-line paragraphs) to show the emotional impact and the stark contrast of beauty vs. dread.

    • Ernest

      thanks melissa


  2. Suzie Gallagher

    The atmosphere changed as we crossed the threshold into my bedsit. The electric charges that had been sparking all evening became subdued.

    A kettle boiled

    Tea poured

    On my couch-cum-bed we sat 
    sipping hot drinks

    our exhalations met in the cold air and kissed joining as one in the frozen abyss between us

    nerves jangling I reach, the barest of fingertips rest on your thigh.

    dormant particles in the atmosphere wake up, break up, charged ions zip across unseen lines.

    hormones raised, teenage fumbled, let our bodies twist and shout together in euphoric song

    and afterwards as the long saxophone solo retreats under the bushel, may this night be marked

    the one

    based on “Will You” by Hazel O’Connor –

    • Ernest

      hey Suzie… that’s really good!!!

    • Suzie Gallagher

      thanks Ernest, got asked was it my sermon notes when I posted on FB. Guess that means my hand is slapped. How dare I listen to secular stuff!

    • Ernest


    • Plumjoppa

       Thanks for including the youtube link.  I had to check it out after reading your post!

    • Suzie Gallagher

      It is a very English song from a very English movie “Breaking Glass” the soundtrack of my youth

    • Tom Wideman

      Ooo Suzie, I’m blushing. Seriously, that’s very good.  I like “teenage fumbled.” It’s never like it is in the movies, is it?

    • Suzie Gallagher

      thanks Tom, sorry to make you {**blush**} The movies do fumble so badly. Even when they are trying for it they so miss the mark. Everyone is good looking in Hollollywood

    • Melissa Tydell

       This is like poetry… The rhythm, the syntax, the details all really work well here!

    • Suzie Gallagher

      thanks Melissa, indications are that it has caused problems locally, hey ho

    • Marla4

       I love the “twist and shout” line.  I also like your music, very much.

    • Suzie Gallagher

      thanks Marla, I was trying not to say “let our bodies be twisted but never our minds is this love”

      The song – I sing this – it is my party piece, 

    • Zoe Beech

      love this! …  ‘our exhalations met in the cold air and kissed joining as one in the frozen abyss between us’  

    • Suzie Gallagher

      Zoe, have you ever been so poor that it was warmer outside than inside in winter. This so reminds me of the future.
      We were unable to bring home the turf this year so have depleted stock. 
      I will be making a one sod fire each day!

  3. mollie

    This post is perfect for me today.  I was listening to Sixpence None the Richer’s Top Ten cd and “Kiss Me” brought this end of summer scene to me:

    I stood at the edge of the warm pool of light the hanging lanterns on Rosie’s
    porch cast across the cool green lawn. 
    Aunt Ruby had told me to have a good time, but I couldn’t bring myself
    to dance with any of the boys who asked me. 
    The golden wheat field that sprung up a few feet from the open, grassy
    patio and ran far to the horizon where the trees sprung up was so
    tempting.  The shafts of moonlight that
    played mischievously with the shadows seemed to call as if in a mysterious
    fantastic tongue that only faeries can understand.  I took a breath of the sweet country air and
    just watched as the warm breeze played with the grains and made them ripple
    like an ocean of golden brown waves. 
    Rosie came over and rubbed my arm and said how nice my dress looked and
    how I should really dance for a while. 
    She giggled like only Rosie can and showed me where Frank stood off from
    the crowd, his arms crossed, his eyes watching me. 

    afraid he’s angry.  I promised to dance
    at least two times with him, but I just don’t want to at all.’ 

    smiled and her eyes were bright from the reflection of the lanterns. 

    obviously set on you.  But we’ll keep him
    waiting ‘til we have him around your little finger, won’t we?’  Rose laughed again and walked back into the
    midst of the party. 

    sighed.  I did feel guilty for refusing
    poor Frank; but there was only one person I wanted to dance with.  They said I was silly for waiting, saving my
    love, my dances for a man who everyone said ‘would never come back’.

    took a deep breath and turned back from the crowd, taking a few steps away so
    that the light couldn’t reveal the tears I couldn’t keep back any longer. 

    close my eyes as the scent of apple pie and cinnamon and cider wafts on the
    breeze and remember the first dance I had here at Rosie’s house. 

    look down at my shoes, my dress, and realize that they are the same as those I
    wore on that night.  It was two years ago
    but it feels like a whole lifetime.  And
    yet it feels like yesterday that we stood and swayed in the twilit night, he
    holding me so gently and finally kissing me as if he’d wanted to forever.

    can hear the rustling of grass as someone moves close to me.  Frank, finally attempting to force me to
    dance?  Rosie, to coax me to give

    shadow is cold and I start to turn but he puts his arms around me and I stop

    you dance with me tonight?’  I don’t need
    to turn, don’t need to see those blue eyes, those golden brown curls, that
    square jaw, or the scars that recount childhood adventures.  I just hold his hands and smile.


    • Plumjoppa

       Your post goes so well with the song.  Had to listen to it while reading your post.

    • Melissa Tydell

       The reference to a similar night two years prior adds a great longing/nostalgia. I noticed how many of your sentences start with “I” – not sure if you used the repetition on purpose or if it would be worth switching up some of the sentence structure to add variety. Either way, this scene does a good job of capturing the emotion of the song.

    • Zoe Beech

      Such evocative imagery.  You’ve really set a great atmosphere.  

  4. Plumjoppa

    Love the music idea.  Wrote this while listening to “Mess of Me” by Switchfoot.

    He leads her through the
    bone yard, and the story crawls out of his throat like a cancerous
    serpent. Once he starts, he can’t stop telling all of the secrets he
    has hidden for years. His 9 year old sister stands with mouth wide
    open in her white nightgown, alone with him in the forest.

    He starts with the real
    story of the cat with 3 legs. It was an accident, but he was wrong
    to lie, he tells her. He kneels in the wet ferns and rubs his hands
    up and down his legs. He tells her about how Mr. Tucker shot Miss
    Gertrude’s dog for digging in his corn field. He tells her how he
    hid the evidence to protect Mr. Tucker. He is building to the worst
    story of all.

    He is crumpled now, bent
    over like a toddler in the ferns, clutching his knees. She walks
    closer to him and her white nightgown moves in the breeze. She puts
    her tiny hand on his head, and the ruffles on her sleeve make him
    look up. She’s never seen him cry and it scares her. The big
    brother who is always strong, who always has the answers, who always
    comforts her scraped knees. Everything is changing
    this night, but she has no idea what’s coming. She takes off his hat
    and pushes his blonde hair back.

    “Tell me” she says.

    He starts and stops. He
    can’t get the words out. He shouldn’t tell her. Why is he doing this
    to her? Because he knows she will find out. It’s better if he
    explains it to her.

    He starts again, and this
    time the tail of the serpent crawls out of his throat, the whole
    thing, and now it is she who is sitting on the ground crying and
    rocking. The story comes out while the wind kicks up and the leaves
    rustle above and swirl around them. She turns away from him and is
    sick in the ferns.

    • Mollie

       Very good!  So intriguing!…I’m dying to know what this poor boy’s done.

    • Plumjoppa

       Thanks for your comment, Mollie.   I’m glad you see him as a poor boy.  I’m still working on this one. 

    • Zoe Beech

      Yay, another Switchfoot fan!  One of my favourite groups.  Wow.  I really do hope you carry on with this and then share with us… so powerful.  

    • Plumjoppa

      Thanks Zoe! I wonder if the scene would have come out differently if I’d listened to the acoustic version.  More on the music theme.  In the acknowledgments section of her books, Stephanie Meyer always includes a thank you to the various bands that inspire her.  She credits the band Muse, and many others, with banishing writer’s block.  Worth a try, right?

    • Tom Wideman

      This reminds me of Step 9 in the Twelve Steps; “We made a direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” I hated seeing him hurt his little sister with his confession. And yes, I’m dying to know what he did. I love “He leads her through the boneyard, and the story crawls out of his throat like a cancerous serpent.” Great imagery.

    • Plumjoppa

       Thanks Tom.  It was uncomfortable to write this too.  Hopefully he will redeem himself.   

    • Adam Smusch

      This is great. I personally love he/she tags and you rocked it.  The format is cool and it makes me want to try to write something that way.  It reminds me of some of Raymond Carver’s poetry.  Also, you did a good job of creating suspense by building up the stories, slowly breaking away the innocent conceptions that the sister has.  I really want to know what the final blow will be.

    • Plumjoppa

       Thanks for all of the comments.  You reassure me that I’m building suspense as I near the end of this tale. 

    • Juliana Austen

      Oh my goodness – very powerful.

    • Melissa Tydell

       Wow, this is powerful – great juxtaposition of innocence and guilt with the brother/sister pairing.

    • John Fisher

      Strong, strong stuff.

    • Marla4

       Oh my, this is good.  I just shouldn’t have read it right before bed.  Such strong images!

    • Plumjoppa

       Thanks Marla, funny I didn’t mean to write something so creepy, but it seems to be going that way. 

  5. Tom Wideman

    Last Dance (Donna Summers 1978)

    The music pounds, lights pulsate as they move together 
    as one giant well-dressed orgy of forever friendship.

    The perfumed cloud of sweat, cigarettes and beer
    hovers over the dancers as they breathe each other in.

    One last dance.

    Friends, lovers, cohorts for the past four years,
    Celebrating one last night of their glory days.

    Four years of learning to love in tolerance
    and celebration of their many differences.

    Risking vulnerability, exposing their true feelings
    and bodies in uninhibited drunkeness.

    Feelings of regret give way to unbridled forgiveness,
    Belonging and acceptance weaves the common cord.

    Teary eyes meet, smiles exchanged,
    Hugs and back-slaps interspersed with a kiss.

    They have one last night, one last dance of romance
    But their friendship will remain a lifetime.

    • Steve Harz

      love the last line (and i miss donna summer…)

    • Adam Smusch

      It’s funny how ritualistic highschool can be.  It can spawn the same types of feelings and nostalgia no matter what generation.  

    • Adam Smusch

      This is such a great description of highschool  It’s interesting how ritualistic highschool can be and how similar the experience is for so many different people.

    • Adam Smusch

      Sorry for the double post, I didn’t think the first one went up!

    • Melissa Tydell

       I think my favorite line is “Risking vulnerability, exposing their true feelings
      and bodies in uninhibited drunkenness.” Maybe it’s because it addresses both the emotional and physical all at once.

    • Brian_8thdayfiction

      “…one giant well-dressed orgy of forever friendship.” I love that phrase. LOVE it.

    • Marla4

       This is so good.  I think you had to get your cast drunk!  I love this scene.

  6. Steve Harz

    inspired by ‘slow dancing (swaying to the music)’ by johnny rivers

    arms curled around his shoulders and her fingers combed through the back of his
    still damp hair and when she cupped the back of his head in her tiny palm he
    felt protected from anything and everything. as the song played they began to
    move inside its rhythm and its essence poured over them and they were lost to
    the world.


    was one of them – one of his first and hers too. in every life there are a
    handful of quintessential moments and this was one for sure. regardless of
    where things went from here – and as is true with most high school loves this
    would last for only a brief time and then things would change – for this moment
    under a perfect star-filled maryland night things were as they were intended.
    like a gift from above showing them how things could be.


    full and on the verge of tears they listened as the song came to its close.
    this was all very new and very good and like nothing he had known before and
    has experienced rarely since. this night no longer seems like yesterday – too
    much time has passed and the years have faded the colors and blurred the edges
    but he still fights to keep it alive in his memory.


    back in the car he turned off the radio since silence was the only appropriate
    sound and he pulled the car back onto the road and in the direction of her home
    although his home seemed to be right there. no words were spoken because none
    were needed. two hands on the wheel one on his knee the other in her pocket
    with fingers crossed and hoping to God.

    • Tom Wideman

      I really like this, Steve. Brings back memories of my high school dances. I am intrigued by your last line. Her fingers are crossed, not his. My first thought would have been his fingers were crossed hoping to get some action or at least a kiss goodnight, but I’m thinking she’s just hoping he wont break up with her.

    • Steve Harz

      hi tom. no getting lucky was thought of at all.  all about wishing for what they knew probably wouldn’t occur in the ling term.

    • Melissa Tydell

       My favorite part: “once back in the car he turned off the radio since silence was the only appropriate sound and he pulled the car back onto the road and in the direction of her home although his home seemed to be right there.” I like the way your sentences have a rhythm with the repetition of “and” and the linking of clauses.

    • Zoe Beech

      Beautiful.  you have captured the emotions, the images so beautifully.  I love the poetry of this.

  7. Themagicviolinist

    Music has always been a big part of my writing and has helped me write many stories. Thanks for the post! I think it will help me even more. 😀

  8. Chiara Keren Button

     Music is such a powerful writing tool. In fact, I can rarely write without an appropriate playlist for whatever I’m writing. Here’s my practice, inspired by “Remember” by Josh Groban, from the end of the movie “Troy”:

    The streets were quiet, snow-laden. The sleeping windows and hushed breeze belied the dread which built up in him as thoughts of tomorrow crowded his mind.

    “And to think that in twnty-four hours you’ll be half-way across the planet.” Roger’s sigh was heavy behind him. “For what? Patriotism? Vengeance?”

    Nicolaus’s hand tightened on the heavy curtain. He could already imagine the streets black with the final parade of the departing army. The roses that would remain, crushed and trampled, long after the army had left.

    The candles which would be lit by bereaved mothers, sisters, sweethearts. And all because of him.

    “I go for duty, Roger. For the Motherland.”

    “The Motherland needs you to kill a few hundred thousand innocent foreigners so her unscrupulous rulers can have a few more acres?”

    Answers jostled each other in his head. Balance of power, the way of the world, men have been doing this for centuries…

    Nicolaus turned abruptly, letting the curtain fall over the window, hiding the city. “Everything’s merely a matter of perspective, cousin. Innocent people, or Barbarians in the way of peace, who can say what they really are? Every government has to sacrifice somewhere.”

    “You don’t have to sacrifice yourself, Nicolaus.”

    “Forget the philosophy, Roger. I know what I’m doing.”

    He knew what he was doing. Too well. But he was too far gone to give in to his conscience now.

    “If we don’t manage to talk tomorrow, Roger…”

    Roger managed a smile. “I know.”

    “I wish you did.”

    • Melissa Tydell

       The first paragraph really sets the pensive tone, especially with the word choice: quiet, sleeping, hushed.

    • John Fisher

      This does a good job of showing both Nicholaus’ torn-ness, and his stubborn unwillingness to show it.  Has the feel of an historical novel.  Good writing!

    • Chiara Keren Button

       Thanks! It’s actually futuristic/speculative, but the historical feel is to be expected…it had it’s earliest beginnings in inspiration from “War and Peace” and other classics which I used to read when I was more disciplined! Thanks for the comment.

    • Sarah Hood

      This is good. I’d love to read more of it! 

  9. Themagicviolinist

    This is my practice. I listened to “Eyes Open” by Taylor Swift. (This is also an excerpt of a book I am writing called “The Sorceress.”

    Ronald was dueling a boy slightly taller than him. Beads of sweat were visible on both of their faces in the hot sun as they twisted and turned, trying to disarm their opponent.

              Anya stepped next to a boy about her age and fingered her sword, itching to take one of the boys, any of the boys on with one of those wooden swords.

              Ronald’s sword work was remarkable for only having a few day’s training.

              “Well, well, well,” someone whispered. “What do we have here?”

              Anya looked at the boy next to her. He was grinning maliciously, as if to taunt her.

              “You think you’re really something, dressing in boys’ clothing and sneaking into training, don’t you?”

              Anya bared her teeth at the burly boy. He laughed.

              “I bet you aren’t so tough on the inside.”

              Anya grasped her sword hilt instinctively. The boy’s blue eyes that matched his blonde hair perfectly flickered to the sword.

              “A sword. Very nice.”

              He snatched the weapon up and examined it.

              “Give it back,” Anya hissed.

              “I bet you can’t handle this thing. You’re much to small and delicate to be able to fight with it.”

              Suddenly, the crowd of teenage boys cheered as Ronald held his disarmed opponent’s sword high in the air.

              The training instructor clapped his hands loudly.

              “Very good, Ronald! Very good. Now who volunteers to take this young man on?”

              Just then, the burly boy stomped on Anya’s foot and she yelped loudly.

              The instructor looked where Anya was standing. The boy sneered.

              “You there, in the back!”

              Anya stood, frozen.

              “Don’t be shy, come on up.”

              Anya stumbled forward as the boy pushed her. Half of the crowd gasped and whispered. A few boys guffawed. Ronald stared in confusion.

              “A girl? How did you get in? You weren’t on the list.”

              “There was a mistake, sir,” Anya explained. “I’m not-!”

              “No matter,” the instructor said, cutting her off. “This should be entertaining. Let’s see what she can do.”

              Anya’s face flushed red in fury. The amusement in his voice made her sick.

              Anya strode down the field purposefully, ignoring the stares from the boys. She snatched the wooden sword from the boy that Ronald had disarmed, who was so overcome with laughter he could barely stand. She would show these ignorant sexists.

              “I bet there’s an explanation for this,” Ronald whispered in a knowing voice as they shook out their arms and legs.

              “There is,” Anya whispered back. “And don’t go easy on me.”

              Ronald smiled.

              “Don’t worry, I won’t. I don’t have to for you to win.”

              “Assume your positions,” the training instructor ordered.

              Anya and Ronald bowed to each other and lifted their swords up.


              Anya and Ronald circled each other, Anya ignoring the jeers and boos directed at her.

              Ronald feinted left and attacked her right side. She blocked and continued to circle Ronald.

              “Beginners’ luck,” Anya heard someone say.

              Ronald attacked again and Anya twisted away.

              Wear out your enemy and save your energy for the end.

              Anya repeated the strategy in her head as she parried and dodged Ronald’s attacks.

              “Quit blockin’ and get attackin’!” Someone yelled. Anya ignored him and kept circling her opponent.

              Anya noticed Ronald’s face was covered in sweat and the sword hung loosely from his hand. Anya gripped her sword more tightly and began to match each of his attacks with one of her own.

              As the action picked up, the booing died down. Now the boys watched intently as if it were a real battle and not a joke.

              “You’re doing very well,” Ronald said in between gasps of breath. Anya knew he was sincere, but she knew not to think about the compliment just then and get distracted.

              Ronald raised his sword for an attack, giving Anya just enough time to jab Ronald in the stomach. He jumped back in surprise and fought to catch his breath. Anya twisted her sword around his sword arm and with a flick of her wrist, she sent his weapon into the air and caught it.

              Ronald stared at her for a split second and then broke into a smile. He shook her hand (a sign of good sportsmanship) and Anya tossed the swords aside.

              Anya marched passed the gaping crowd. She held her hand out to the boy who had picked on her.

              “I’ll thank you to give me my sword back.”


    • Themagicviolinist

       Sorry for the strange formatting. 😛

    • Mirelba

       Hi MV, your Anya makes me think of George RR Martin’s Arya.  Nice writing, but I think your parenthetical remark isn’t necessary.  (a sign of good sportsmanship).  If you want to add that, then do, but slip it in without the parentheses. Also, he should probably do the hand shaking after she gets rid of the swords, else it would probably be a bit awkward. Maybe something along the lines of”  Anya tossed the swords aside, and Ronald shook her hand in a sign of good sportsmanship.  Or … and Ronald, ever the good sport, shook her hand, whatever.

    • Themagicviolinist

       Thanks for the advice, Mirelba! 😀

    • Mirelba

      Welcome! I think you do a great job, but I guess we all have room for improvement, and constructive criticism helps us get there faster.

    • Kate

      Great writing! I love the energy of this. 
      You maybe have too many Ronalds in this sentence ‘Ronald feinted left and attacked her right side. She blocked and continued to circle Ronald.’ – maybe she blocked and continued to circle HIM?
      I enjoyed reading this, look forward to the book. Will listen to the song at some point too!

    • Melissa Tydell

       I’m glad Anya showed those boys that she could hang with the best of them 🙂 And I liked that Ronald shows respect for her… perhaps they have a special friendship/relationship developing?  Thanks for sharing!

  10. Mirelba

    There’s no way I can listen to music and type, it’s distracting.  I have to hear the words in my head.  Although I liked the ideas expressed here.  Unfortunately, between work and the holidays no time.  Will have to devote to this later.  I’ve had a lot of fun though listening to your songs and reading your works.  Awesome!

  11. Adam Smusch

    Song: Poor Atlas by Dessa

    It’s raining outside and every drop can be seen in the pumpkin-orange streetlights. He’s on the bed with the girl. He has his arms around her, but he isn’t looking at her. He’s looking at one of the walls. He can’t stop staring at the walls. He stares at them like he is trying to see through them. But he isn’t. All he sees are blurred walls.

    Her head is in her shoulder. She is weeping. She won’t look up at him and when she moves away she hides her eyes with her hair.

    There’s nothing you can do, he says. Your parents can handle it. They’re there with him, it will be ok.

    She doesn’t say anything. She pulls her knees up and hugs them.

    It’ll be ok. They found him before he did it. ‘It,’ he thought, what kind of word is ‘it’ to describe something. It could mean anything, but all it means is this one thing. ‘It’ could mean he just won the lottery. Or he finally got all the way through a college course without giving up. ‘It’ could mean that instead of doing all those drugs, all that oxy, all that Ritalin, all that shit, ‘it’ could actually mean that those voices stopped talking to him and he stopped seeing all those faces and people and that he finally became himself again. But, ‘it’ doesn’t mean any of that. ‘It’ doesn’t mean anything that he didn’t do, and only everything he did do.

    It’ll be ok, he says and looks at her, but she doesn’t look up. Please, he says but she doesn’t move.

    They have him, he says. It’s going to be alright.

    They’ve had him before, she says. Her voice is shaky and weak. They’ve had him before. They’ve stopped him before and then they put him back out and he just did it again. He just tried to do it again.

    He looks at her like he wants to try to say something. To say anything. But he doesn’t. He hasn’t the faintest idea what to say.

    The doctors are going to just give him the same drugs so he can’t even think right and after a week, let him out. My parents are going to go home and cry and fight. My dad doesn’t want to be apart of it anymore. He wants to leave and my mom can’t.

    She pauses and catches her breath. He came home one Christmas, you know. He came home and tried to burn down the tree. He broke in through the window to his childhood room. The one we slept in together when we were little. He’s not him anymore. He’s been gone for so long; I haven’t seen him for so long.

    • Brian_8thdayfiction

      That last line is really effective. Heartbreaking.

  12. Adam Smusch

    Song: Poor Atlas

    It’s raining outside and every drop can be see in the pumpkin-orange streetlights. He’s on the bed with the girl. He has his arms around her, but he isn’t looking at her. He’s looking at one of the walls. He can’t stop staring at the walls. He stares at them like he is trying to see through them. But he isn’t. All he sees are blurred walls.

    Her head is in his shoulder. She is weeping. She won’t look up at him and when she moves away she hides her eyes with her hair.

    There’s nothing you can do, he says. Your parents can handle it. They’re there with him, it will be ok.

    She doesn’t say anything. She pulls her knees up and hugs them.

    It’ll be ok. They found him before he did it. ‘It,’ he thought, what kind of word is ‘it’ to describe something. It could mean anything, but all it means is this one thing. ‘It’ could mean he just won the lottery. Or he finally got all the way through a college course without giving up. ‘It’ could mean that instead of doing all those drugs, all that oxy, all that Ritalin, all that shit, ‘it’ could actually mean that those voices stopped talking to him and he stopped seeing all those faces and people and that he finally became himself again. But, ‘it’ doesn’t mean any of that. ‘It’ doesn’t mean anything that he didn’t do, and only everything he did do.

    It’ll be ok, he says and looks at her, but she doesn’t look up. Please, he says but she doesn’t move.

    They have him, he says. It’s going to be alright.

    They’ve had him before, she says. Her voice is shaky and weak. They’ve had him before. They’ve stopped him before and then they put him back out and he just did it again. He just tried to do it again.

    He looks at her like he wants to try to say something. To say anything. But he doesn’t. He hasn’t the faintest idea what to say.

    The doctors are going to just give him the same drugs so he can’t even think right and after a week, let him out. My parents are going to go home and cry and fight. My dad doesn’t want to be a part of it anymore. He wants to leave and my mom can’t.

    She pauses and catches her breath. He came home one Christmas, you know. He came home and tried to burn down the tree. He broke in through the window to his childhood room. The one we slept in together when we were little. He’s not him anymore. He’s been gone for so long; I haven’t seen him for so long.

    • Adam Smusch

      Ohhh no! Sorry for double posting!

    • Melissa Tydell

      The pain and emotions are so strong here.  I got a little confused here and there – it might help to add in quotation marks for the spoken dialogue and to distinguish the “he” who is the main character of this scene and the “he” who the man and woman are talking about (sounds like it’s her brother). Great dark and dramatic scene!

    • John Fisher

      Whoo.   This is good!  I like the almost-non-use of quotation marks; it gives a stark unsparing energy to it.  Leaves me wanting to know more about all of these people.

    • Kate

      I like this! And I do like the lack of quotation marks, but at the same time you lose the benefit of separating what they think and what they say. But maybe that was your aim? 

    • Zoe Beech

      Wow.  This absolutely blew me away.  I’d agree with the others that sometimes you don’t know who’s talking, but the message is still really strong.

    • Adam Smusch

      Thanks all for replying. The thinking portion is supposed to be in italics, but I don’t know how to enable that on here.  I’ll work on making it easier to distinguish speakers though, thanks for pointing that out.  

  13. John Fisher

    (I’m thunder-shy about quoting other people’s song-lyrics, so I’ll just go ahead and tell you that the song inspiring this piece is “I Can’t Escape From You” by Hank Williams, Sr., a song he never recorded in the studio with his band — just made a simple home recording of it not long before he died.  It’s  on You-Tube.)

    He threaded the tape through the little tape recorder with hands that shook slightly.  

    Can’t Escape.

    Whether he was at home or, as now, in some motel room on the road, this was standard procedure with all his new songs.  He sniffed back the tears he’d shed in the writing of the lyrics, which touched his life with a frankness not revealed in any of his previous songs.  

    Can’t Escape.  From You.

    Who had the heart of stone?  Her — or was it him?  Was he writing to her, to the bottle, or to himself?  What the hell had happened to them, to himself, to the world in three or four short years?  There didn’t seem to be any rules for the territory they’d entered — he acted the fool on the road, she acted the fool back home, in some crazy contest that just kept gettin’ uglier all the time– ’til finally she served the papers on him.  He didn’t care, he’d signed on the dotted line, let her have the house and the money and —

    God, not his son!  He squeezed his eyes tight shut against fresh tears.

    Can’t Escape.  From You.  The sinking feeling he got from thinking of the future threatened to pull him completely under.  Would he even be alive in a year?

    He took a good hit off the bottle.  Cleared his throat.  Pressed the PLAY button and strummed a D chord.

    • Melissa Tydell

       Very cool how you incorporated the song as part of your practice and explored the meaning behind the lyrics. Thanks for sharing!

    • Brian_8thdayfiction

      I dig Hank Williams, so this really resonated with me. Nice job. Well-written, too, even without the Williams factor.

    • John Fisher

      Thanks all.  I’ve been a Hank nut ever since I saw Junior live in my hometown in about 1970 with three of his dad’s band playing for him.  What a story without end, with Hank III  now!

    • Brian_8thdayfiction

      I’m not real familiar with Hank Jr.’s or Hank III’s music, but I heard Hank III on the radio for the first time the other week, and darned if he doesn’t sound a lot like his grandfather. It was kind of eerie.

    • Marla4

       Brilliant!  I love how you take us behind the scenes of a song.  The line about his son is heartbreaking.

    • Mirelba

       Great job!  very powerful.

    • Zoe Beech

      This writing feels so alive, with so much behind it.  I love the lines ‘Who had the heart of stone? Her – or was it him? Was he writing to her, to the bottle, or to himself?’ – amazing.

  14. Jack Dowden

    I don’t know, I have a love/hate relationship with music when I write. Of course, that has more to do with being a metal head and blasting the music really loud than anything else. It’s hard to write when someone is screaming in your ear.

    • Melissa Tydell

       Haha, true!  It does depend on the type of music and your personal preferences, but inspiration can come from anything and everything.

  15. Juliana Austen

    Bright Eyes 

    My sister Cathie was always the outgoing one, the pretty one, the popular one. She was the apple of my daddy’s eye. Her eyes shone with mischief, the brightest of bright blue. She married young, of course, and moved far away with her little family.
    Now she is ill, dangerously ill, my parents have flown to be at her bedside, my fatehr is distraught. I buy flowers, spending more than I can afford for them to be delivered to her hospital room in an Intensive Care Unit.
    I wait to hear, there is nothing I can do. The only death I have ever faced was my cat – he was old, bedraggled, he slipped away. She is not old – don’t slip away.
    I clean the house, I wait, I listen to the radio. Art Garfunkle’s ‘Bright eyes’ is played so often.”Bright eyes how can you close and fail….. suddenly burn so pale”.
    Bright blue eyes.

    • Melissa Tydell

       I like that you wrote this in the present tense (aside from the first paragraph which reflects on the past), as it brings an urgency to the piece. The idea of sibling jealousy/comparison adds another layer of tension as well.

    • Zoe Beech

      Wow, there is so much emotion in this piece, Juliana – it really grabbed me.  The only thing I’d suggest is to start the piece with her eyes, so that there’s a full circle in the story.  

  16. Katie Axelson

    Teacher, I did the practice! But I’m gonna be that kid who posts a link to a blog rather than posting it here. And I’m not gonna do it today because of this thing called foreshadowing…


    • Melissa Tydell

       Haha… can’t wait!

    • Melissa Tydell

       Very nice! I like how the sentences build off each other as you read, showing the progression of life and time.

    • Katie Axelson

      Thanks! It was different than I’d ordinarily write but I like the way it turned out.

  17. J.D. Meier

    Musicals like Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera get me thinking, feeling, dreaming, and drifting. 

    The actual Phantom of the Opera song is pretty intense.

    • Melissa Tydell

       Oh yes, I used to listen to “Phantom of the Opera” and try to sing along myself.  It is a powerful song!

  18. Brian_8thdayfiction

    [I love this; I had to post something. That said, the something I came up with is something I just wrote now, right here in the comment box, so it’s a first draft and decidedly rough.]

    *music: “Song For The Dumped” by Ben Folds Five*

    I thought I was heartbroken. I was, I guess.

    No, I was–I know I was. It’s why I slept away the summer, when I wasn’t at work or watching TV. It’s why I ate way too many Stouffer’s french bread pizzas.

    Those things aren’t even good. And it’s not like there aren’t fifty pizza places around here. French bread pizzas are for people too weighed down by ennui to place an order for delivery. Food for sad people. Sad as in the emotion, and as in the first part of “sad sack”.

    So I was heartbroken (although I still think that sounds too melodramatic), or sad, or out of sorts, or…I don’t know. Not so much heartbroken as just broken, maybe.

    Like I had a malfunction. A blown-out self-esteem. Not worth trying to fix. The unit would have to be replaced.

    But now? Now, I’m just angry.

    I kind of hate you.

    You have humiliated me in front of my friends. They all knew what you were up to before I did. They were too nice to say anything, or it was too awkward, or something.

    What I’m trying to say is, you messed up my relationships with all of my friends. ALL of them. They’re still my friends I guess, but I’m not their friend any more.

    I’m their sad sack friend. Their clueless friend. The chump.

    And that doesn’t make me sad. It did, but not now. Now, I’m livid.

    And yeah, I want my money back. Bitch.

    • Marla4

       Love, love, love the pizza story.  What a way to describe being heartbroken.

    • Brian_8thdayfiction

      Thank you!

    • A Gentleman's Rapier

      I love that song. I can also sympathise!

      Thank God, those times seem to be over!

      I really do like what you said about Stouffer’s. It brings back the taste and the texture for me, and if anyone has ever tasted a Stouffer’s it would be easy to equate it with your feelings. Sort of damp, sad, and given up.

    • Brian_8thdayfiction

      Yeah…this is (very) slightly autobiographical, and boy, do I not miss those times.

    • Zoe Beech

      This is great, Brian, don’t think you need too much work on it.  

    • Brian_8thdayfiction

      Hey, thanks!

    • Kate

      I LOVE this! I love ‘I kind of hate you’, and I love all the last few lines ESPECIALLY “And yeah, I want my money back. Bitch.” – awesome!

    • Brian_8thdayfiction

      Thank you…although I can’t take too much credit for the ending. That’s just a paraphrasing of the song’s lyrics.

  19. Marla4

    (James Taylor “I Don’t Want To Be Lonely Tonight)

    I would not go to Zane’s  house. 
    I would not drive by or walk by or bike by.  Because that’s how much I didn’t trust
    myself.  I could imagine him inside,
    sitting at the kitchen table, eating something from the deli at Walmart,
    because he didn’t cook, or at least he didn’t when we were together.  He would raise his hand to brush his black
    hair off his face, because his hair was always falling in his eyes.

    The route I take winds around the high school, where
    his house is hidden by the new auditorium. 
    I stopped once.  I went right up
    to the doorway of Mrs. Adelmeyer’s room, where he pulled me to him, between
    classes when anyone could have seen, and relived the minutes when he hitched up
    my pleated skirt and I rock stone still while he roamed, and I was alive as I
    have ever been.

    What you have to know about me is that I am faithful,
    at least since I’ve been married.  I come
    from a long line of faithful women who suck in air and look the other way when
    their men come in late – or don’t come in at all.  I come from women who quell boredom with good
    works.  No telling how many orphans have
    benefitted from my family’s boredom.  We
    don’t divorce, my mother told me once, the Hadleys persevere.

    But at night, when my husband sleeps beside me, I think
    of Zane.  He wore jeans worn thin, ripped
    at the knee, ragged at the hem.  He had
    the kind of body you dreamt of.  Muscled,
    but not freakishly so.  So tall that even
    in heels, he’d lift me up to kiss him.

    He married a mediocre woman the year after I married.
    The kind of skinny blond you see and wonder if she does drugs.  He left her last spring, just as the Easter
    flowers bloomed.  And now he is in that
    house, alone as far as I know, and the thought of it is wrecking me.

    The last time I saw Zane, I was engaged to my
    husband.  I’d been drinking, White Zin
    and Sprite, and he showed up at the Branding Iron, where I’d stopped after work
    on a Friday.  He asked me to dance and I
    said yes.  When he pulled me to him, I
    could smell him.  I read once that scent
    is the thing that draws us together, that we don’t know it but that’s what
    makes us desire another person.  But I
    knew.  I’d known it as a
    seventeen-year-old and I knew it then. 
    What did he smell like?  Pine
    needles and wood smoke and the sea.

    “What’s that rock you’re wearing?” Zane asked.

    I felt the heat rise.  “This old thing?” I said.  Shameful I know, but that’s what I said, and
    then I turned my engagement ring around, so that the diamond cut into me when I
    made a fist.

    “So you’re getting married,” Zane said, and I
    couldn’t answer him.

    He didn’t ask another question.  He looked me in the eye. He traced the curve
    of my jaw, and then on my collarbone. 
    The strap of my blouse had fallen off my shoulder and he traced where it
    should have been.

    I didn’t once try to stop him.

    We drove out to Lost Beach, which is not a beach at
    all, but a lake where a city developer brought in a bunch of sand and set up a
    tiki hut where beer costs eight dollars a pop. Zane parked the truck and
    grabbed a quilt he had stashed in the tool box. 
    We found a spot where a sand dune rose high enough to hide us.

    Clouds rippled across the night sky, the stars
    moving in and out of sight. The moon looked as if it had been cut in half, a
    vertical slash like a heart cut in two. 
    We lay beneath it, dressed and then not dressed, wild from want.  His hands were hard on me, and I thought I
    might be bruised the next day.  I didn’t
    care. His fingers were lost in my hair, and I moved on top of him, my eyes wide
    open. I wanted to watch him; I didn’t want to miss a thing.

    “Leave him,” Zane said.

    “And be with you?” I asked.

    The night grew quiet for just a moment. And then I
    could hear another couple laugh, and farther away a fight was starting, the
    shrill sound of accusations sharp in the air. 
    “Sure,” he said, finally.  “Be
    with me.”

    There was so much in that pause.  There was every bit of trouble that drove us
    apart.  I pushed off of him, my face
    hidden by my hair.  I ran my fingers
    across his thighs, strong as stone.  I
    kissed his chest, I touched his eyebrows. 
    There was an ache to it, there was a letting go that left me hollow.

    “I don’t think I can,” I said, as soon as I could

    “No,” he said, a bit of relief in that word, I
    thought. “I didn’t think so.”

    He held me then, our skin damp against, our legs
    tangled.  I was pale against him.  He kissed my forehead. He sat up and kissed
    my knees.  He kissed my fingers, one
    after the other.  He was blessing me, I
    think, or that’s what I like to tell myself.

    I’d like to blame the alcohol, but I would have
    taken Zane stone sober.

    I married my husband four weeks later, on a perfect
    fall night. I walked straight to him, my lace covering everything dark inside
    me.  I gave it my all that night, I
    really did, and then I fell into a deep sorrow that sank into my bones.

    Tonight I am driving the black roads – I’m supposed
    to be Christmas shopping.  The high
    school is decked out in giant candy canes and dancing wooden elves, courtesy of
    the shop students.  Zane is not far away,
    in his house that I could see if I walked to the football field and climbed the
    bleachers and stood in the press box. I can feel him.  You might say I’m crazy, but I can. If I rang
    the doorbell, he would answer.  I’d say,
    “I’m lonely tonight,” and he’d step aside, he’d let me walk in. We would start
    something, I know we would.  It would go
    wrong eventually, I can’t pretend it wouldn’t. But tonight it wouldn’t matter.


















    • Mirelba

       Beautiful, as always.  Not gonna pick a favorite line, since your lines tend to flow one into another beautifully.  One line that doesn’t, IMHO and which I’d tweak is:  (The route I take winds around the high school, where
      his house is hidden by the new auditorium. )
      I stopped once.

      Although it gets clarified, when you read this, it’s not quite clear where she stopped.  And I’m not sure I like the stopped. 

    • Marla4

       Thank you Mirelba.  Very good point.

    • Kate

      Well I AM going to pick a favourite line and this is it   “he hitched up
      my pleated skirt and I rock stone still while he roamed, and I was alive as I have ever been. ” – whoa. You are one seriously sexy writer, Marla. I’m jealous and in awe at once. I hope you are writing a book.

    • Marla4

       Thank you thank you thank you.  No book yet.  Still mastering short stories!

    • Zoe Beech

      This is amazing, Marla!  I listened to the song while I read it.  So many good lines… ‘no telling how many orphans have benefited from my family’s boredom’ , the diamond cutting into her, the pause that had ‘every bit of trouble that drove us apart’, ‘my lace covering everything dark inside me’… 

    • Marla4


      Thank you so much.  I love James Taylor. He makes me swoon.


    • Melissa Tydell

       Wow! I love how you conveyed all the mixed emotions, passion, longing, etc and it came across effortlessly.

  20. A Gentleman's Rapier

    Needs a lot of editing, but here goes:

    The Church – Under the Milky Way

    The life of a radio dj can be both lonely and full. 

    When I ended up in college, going to the concrete campus downtown, a new chapter in my life began. 

    I had listened to the radio station there since I was about 13, and I rarely listened to anything else. I was determined to have the coveted post of radio dj on my favourite station. When I went on a tour of the station with other interested students, the assistant programming director, who was responsible for hiring, said that only the most persistent applicants would be considered. 

    So I would drop a note in his mailbox once a week, every week, until I was hired in January of my freshman year. I was the youngest person on staff at the time, having just turned 18, many of my colleagues being grad students who had been around for ages.

    The new guy always starts with a shift in the middle of the night, starting at 2 am. There are a couple of training sessions with the person who comes on between 10 and 2.

    The overnight rotation has a different flavour to the daytime rotation. The programming director picks the tracks from the alternative albums of the week and decides which songs get played when and how often. There was an interesting formula to it.

    And there are songs and albums more suited to the night time.

    At the same time I began to dj, my horizons were beginning to expand and my haunts were becoming less and less suburban and more city-based. I found myself at house parties in houses built in the 20s and 30s close to downtown, the usual haunts of twenty-somethings. There is a certain smell to these houses compared to the new-built suburban sprawl that I lived in. Sort of a musty lived-in-ness that I’ve come to appreciate here in Blighty now that I’ve lived in houses that are even older.

    But I equate my nights as a radio dj with that period when my horizons expanded and I became aware of more than just the limitations of my suburban sprawl. 

    When I started dj-ing, the album Starfish by The Church was in the rotation. “Under the Milky Way” was the tune that we played in the middle of the night. And when I hear that song now, it brings me back to the station studio in the middle of the night, and old houses with wooden floorboards, and college girls with a completely different aesthetic from the big-haired girls I knew in high school…

    • Kate

      Nice! i like the line ‘there are songs and albums more suited to the night time’. 

  21. Zoe Beech

    I love this prompt, Melissa.  My piece is inspired by Jon Foreman, Behind your Eyes.

    He tried to kiss her, but Layla turned away.  The excess of brandy and love on his lips scared her.

    ‘I want to stand on one of those,’ she said, pointing to the rock formation poised under the midnight sky.

    Layla ran ahead of him, laughing at the curses bestowed on her.  The sand was cold under her heels.  And the tide was going out.  She watched the rim of white try and catch her feet as she ran, but always she was too high for the sea to reach her.

    ‘Danny, wait for me!’  Patrick shouted.

    ‘Come catch me, you ou dronkie,’ she said to the stumbling black figure.  He started to run but this unhinged his balance and he fell over, thudding onto the soft sand. She bent over laughing.

    ‘Get up you idiot!’ 

    ‘I can’t.’  

    Layla put her hands against the rock, and let them slide through the grooves and cuts.  The sound of the sea, so alive and pure, surrounded her.  She walked towards Patrick.

    ‘You’re pathetic.’

    He groaned, his hands on his head.  She grabbed them and tried to pull him up, but he pulled harder and soon she was on top of him.  He tried to kiss her again.  And because they were between sand and  black sky, and in the sea’s song, she momentarily relented.  Then she rolled away and found her own patch of sand.

    They lay beside each other, gazing into the darkness.

    ‘Why do you love this place?’  He asked, reaching his hand out.  She held it loosely.

    She thought of the jaggedness of the rocks, and how comforting it was to touch their brokenness, and she thought of the roar of the sea, and how strong it made her, and how the sun made everything crisp and clear again, after the shadows of night.

    She shrugged. ‘Dunno.’

    He sat up and looked at her.  She’d spread out like a starfish, her fingers, which he’d only ever known limp, were taut.  They pointed in all directions.

    ‘That’s OK,’ he said. ‘Maybe one day we’ll figure it out.’

    • Marla4

       Gorgeous.  This is my favorite line: And because they were between sand and  black sky, and in the sea’s song, she momentarily relented.

    • Kate

      Ahh, this is great Zoe! I love ‘the excess of brandy and love on her lips’ and i loved that whole paragraph where she is thinking poetically, why she loves that beach, and then she just shrugs and says ‘dunno’. Ha. Great writing.
      I’m having trouble getting the comma split thing…do you think you need a comma between ‘he started to run’ and ‘but’? He started to run but this…he started to run, but this…I dunno. The comma thing is confusing me so much i think i might be taking out ones that are needed now.

  22. Kate

    I know I am late with this, but I was so busy yesterday, and
    this is such an awesome ‘practice’ I had to join in. I wrote a creative piece
    when I was a teenager to ‘This city never sleeps’ by The Eurythmics. My English
    teacher didn’t think much to it. Maybe I can do the song better justice now.


    Another tube train rattles past, shaking the old house with
    its crumbling plaster and loose fitting, mildew stained windows. I ram my
    pillow over my head trying to drown out the noise.

    It’s 2am. Hopefully that was the last train tonight. Not
    that I will sleep any better, not in this apartment.

    I’d only been living here a couple of weeks. It was all I
    could afford with my tin pot wages. Moving to the city was not as glamorous as
    I had imagined.

    This house, divided as it was into too many dwellings,
    heaved with damp, fetid, crawling life.

     I haven’t got used to
    the endless cacophony – the barely muffled talking, laughing, shouting,
    smacking, sucking, barking, clicking, switching, ticking I can hear behind the
    paper thin walls. I can hear people BREATH. I can hear them sweat. I can hear
    them moan and move against each other.

    The pillow isn’t helping. I get up and walk to the bathroom.
    With the dull light from the flickering bulb I can see my reflection in the mirror
    above the sink. My eyes peer back at me from dark rims, my skin grey and
    breaking out in places. I splash my face with cold water, and watch the drips
    slide down my cheeks and drop from my chin.

    Leaving the bathroom, I take a slurp of vodka from the
    bottle on my bed side table, light a cigarette and lay back on my pillow. Smoking
    has replaced sleeping, for me. I watch a moth flutter against the curtainless
    window, trying to get out into the darkness, and I listen to the people, whose
    names I do not know, struggling to survive in a city that never sleeps.

    • Marla4

       Wow!  This is fantastic.  I love “smoking has replaced sleeping, for me.”  So, so good.

    • Kate

      Awww, thanks Marla! You’ve made my day!

  23. Sarah Hood

    I had to laugh when I came to number three. I was thinking of two songs as I read this article, and both are already movie soundtracks (“May it Be” and “Into the West” from Lord of th Rings). 
    Anyway, here’s my practice. I wrote it after listening to “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North.

    The door slammed so forcefully the walls shook. A picture fell off the wall, others rattled, barely managing to hang on. Michael didn’t bother to turn on the light. What was the point? Every light in his life had gone out, every picture had crashed and shattered on the ground.

    He threw himself onto his bed and let the tears stream from his eyes. Now that he was alone. All the tears held back from a lifetime of shame and brokenness. His arm, plastered from shoulder to wrist, pulsed throbbing pain with every heartbeat. The physical kind of pain. It was bad enough, but it was only the beginning.

    His father seemed to think the broken arm was Micael’s fault. As if he didn’t care that his senior season of football, his hopes for college, everything–was all gone forever. His father cared too much. They’d just finished screaming at each other about it. About his failure as a quarterback, his failure at football in general, his failure at life. Only his father could be heartless enough to mention the fire. The fire that had killed his little brother ten years ago. It had been Michael’s idea to play with the matches. His father had never forgiven him. Never would. That’s why he pushed him so hard in football. As if winning a scholarship would ever pay for little Adam’s life.

    Now, Michael had failed at even that. He’d never play football again. His father hated him for it. Hated him for everything.

    The tears soaked his pillow as everything but the pain poured out. But he felt no better. He was worthless. He why was he still here, anyway? Living, but not alive. Not even surviving. Just existing. He couldn’t take it anymore.

    “God,” he cried, not caring if his father heard him, “God, I don’t know if you’re out there somewhere, but I’m just worn out. When is this all going to end? My life is nothing. I need you to show me if I can be saved. That something good can come from the wreck I am. Or I’m going to end it all right now.”

    He shoved his hand into his jeans pocket and found his knife. Flipped out the blade, held it above his chest, closed his eyes.

    At that moment, his phone rang.

  24. Allison Janes

    Serendipitous that this topic came up this week.  I have just recently started writing short stories as practice and had always wanted to put on paper a storyline that came to mind anytime I listened to “Rain Down On Me” by Blue Rodeo.  It is a first draft but I thought I would post it anyway. 

    Raid Down On Me

    I’d watched Annabelle ever since we were kids.  She lived 2 doors down and was 2 grades below me in school.  I’d see her leave her house each morning, closing the door on the hollering that was still loud enough to reach my bedroom window.  She did her best to hide her injuries, baseball cap pulled down over black eyes, long sleeved shirts to cover the bruises on her upper arms and wrists from being grabbed and yanked around.  And yet, somehow, the sparkle never seemed to leave her eyes.  I knew what went on behind that closing door each afternoon as she came home from school, and yet if I hadn’t known, I never would have guessed.  She laughed and played with the other little girls as if her life at home weren’t a nightmare.  Everybody loved her, it was impossible not to love her. 
    We became friends, just friends, at the beginning of high school.  She’d come to my house after school and we’d stay up in my room talking for as long as she felt she could safely get away with.  Eventually, at the end of each evening, she’d tell me she had to go home. “Why?” I’d say.  “Stay here with us.  Mom and Dad won’t care.  You can sleep in Mikey’s old room.”  “It’ll be worse if I don’t go home” she’d say.  “Your house is too close.  He’d find me here.  If I’m going to go, I have to go farther than here.”  And I’d let her walk out the door and into the madness for another night.  Cursing myself, I’d promise that tomorrow night I wouldn’t let her leave, but even though I hated myself for being such a coward, I always did let her leave.  My disgust with myself would only increase the next day at school when I’d see the evidence of what she’d walked into. 
    One morning, when we were seventeen, and I was so in love with her it made me sore with the ache of it, she came to school with her backpack so full the seams were stretched to bursting.  “What’s with your bag?” I asked her, not expecting the answer to change my entire life.  “I’m leaving,” she had replied, so matter-of-fact, and the words were like a punch in the gut, because I knew that this was it.  She’d been talking with more conviction these days about getting out, getting away from the horror that was her home life.  She had to leave, I knew she couldn’t stay there but the selfish part of me wanted to keep her here.  To keep the joy, that was her very existence, in my life.  I wanted to see the sparkle in her eyes, the glory of her smile as it flashed with mischief.  But with each passing day, her father was dulling the flame inside her and I knew that if I wanted the beautiful enigma that was her soul to continue to exist, I had to let her go.  She stayed at school that day right until the last bell.  I’m not sure why.  My guess is that she didn’t want to tarnish her last day with the teachers she loved, the friends she cared about by skipping out early.  She wanted a clean break.  The last bell rang and she chatted with her girl friends as she walked out of the classroom ahead of me.  Laughing and giggling like nothing was different about this day.  No one noticed her bulging backpack, or that fact that she turned right when she left the school grounds instead of the left turn that would have led her home, but I did.  I stood on the steps of the school, leaning against the concrete wall for support and watched her walk out of my life. 
    Her father had raged for days after she’d left.  All the anger and meanness he usually funneled into Annabelle had no outlet and so things got broken.  I could hear him tearing the house apart from the inside out.  He came over to our place a couple of times, accusing my parents of hiding her and demanding to come inside and get her.  He called her all sorts of names that I’d heard him hurl at her before.  At least she couldn’t hear him anymore.  One night, 5 days after Annabelle left, her Dad got drunker than usual and in the haze decided that Annabelle must be in our house somewhere.  He got the gun she’d told me he kept in his nightstand.  The one he’d pointed in her face on more than one occasion and he staggered into our yard.  I awoke to his slurred hollering and I came to my second story window just in time to see him fire through into the living room, just below me.  It was late enough that all of us were upstairs and no one was hurt but the potential for danger coupled with the fresh realization that Annabelle had lived with that madness for so long made me shake so hard I had to sit back down on my bed.  The relief I felt that she was somewhere, anywhere else made me almost high.  My father called the police and Mick was so drunk that he was still on our front lawn when they arrived.  He was taken away and I heard a little bit over the next six months about prior convictions and assaults and DUIs and what shook out of the whole thing was jail for Mick.  I didn’t really care.  All I cared about, even after all this time, was Annabelle. 
    I graduated high school and used the money I’d made pumping gas for the last three years to buy a used Corolla.  I told my parents I needed a break before I started college and was going on a road trip for the summer.  What I didn’t tell them was that I was going to find Annabelle.  I’d seen her picture a month before in a magazine at the dentist’s office.  I almost hadn’t recognized her, her hair was cropped much shorter than she’d always worn it (she didn’t need it to cover the bruises around her neck, anymore, I thought) and it was no longer blonde but dyed a deep mahogany.  I had almost flipped the page, oblivious, when the spark in her eyes had almost jumped off the page and grabbed me.  Those eyes pierced through me in print the same as they would have if she had been sitting beside me.  So she was a model now.  It made perfect sense, of course.  Her beauty was universal. 
    I did some research over the next couple of weeks and managed to find out which modelling agency was representing her.  They were based in LA and even though I couldn’t get them to give me her contact information, I decided to drive out there and find her anyway. 
    I got to Los Angeles after 6 days of driving and, like an omen, as I took the ramp off the highway that lead into the city I was greeted by a billboard.  Twenty-five feet of Annabelle, wearing nothing but flowers in her hair.  She was as beautiful as ever but her eyes were what shocked me.  They were flat, almost dead.  Something was wrong, I could tell even from a photograph.  I had to find her. 
    After exhaustive searching over the course of more than a week, my finding her ended up being a coincidence.  As I left a diner after lunch one day, I walked past a beautifully dressed woman deep in discussion with a homeless man.  She was sitting on the curb beside him as he ate what looked like turkey and stuffing out of a Tupperware container balanced on his lap.  At first I paid no attention, but as I walked past the man said something and the woman threw her head back and laughed.  The sound filled my heart with love and nostalgia and I knew that I had found her. 
    “Annabelle?” I asked.  “Yes,” she replied politely, looking up, clearly not recognizing me at first but then she jumped to her feet.  “Billy!” she cried as she threw her arms around me and hugged me in a way that soothed my very soul.  As close as we’d gotten back home, as many times as I’d wanted to touch her, I’d always known that if I pushed too hard she’d push me away and so I’d always kept my distance.  How long I had waited for this contact.  And yet, instead of enjoying it, I found myself noticing how thin she’d become.  Even through her clothes I could feel every rib against my chest.  “Come home with me,” she said, grabbing my hand.  Without a word, I followed her, knowing I’d follow her anywhere.  “Hey,” the man still sitting at our feet called out as we went to walk away.  “All done.” He said, and he handed her the container.  She took it from him, telling him she’d bring it back again tomorrow, and led me home. 
    The next few months were a hazy blur.  It didn’t take long to see how good, and how bad her life had gotten.  Clearly her look was what the modelling world was after and work was coming in from all directions.  She modelled all day, living on cigarettes and compliments and partied all night.  I tried to keep up with her at first but I couldn’t stand the lifestyle, moreover, I couldn’t stand watching her live it.  Night after night she’d come home, drunk, high, malnourished and still emotionally damaged from the childhood she’d never dealt with.  She’d stumble through the door and I’d jump up to help her with whatever she needed, whether it was a shoulder to cry on, someone to hold her hair or someone to haul her nearly unconscious form into bed and remove her shoes.  I hated myself for doing nothing positive to help her but I loved her too much to care.  Some nights, she’d come home lucid and I wouldn’t be able to help myself.  I’d unload all the hurt and the hate and the anger I was feeling toward this life she was living and what she had become when she was so very special, so innately beautiful inside and out.  How could she destroy herself, when her very being was my entire world?   I’d yell myself hoarse, telling her that she’d let her Daddy win by finally managing to escape the horror, only to create a new one.  And then I’d sit with my head in my hands and cry.  She’d wait, propped in the door frame watching me, until I’d exhausted myself with words and tears.  Then, slowly, she would come to me.  She’d kneel down in front of me and lift my chin to force me to look into her eyes.  In these moments, I’d see just a hint of the kindness in her eyes that had always made me love her so painfully.  She’d smile, just a little, and say “Thank you. For caring so much about me.” And she’d kiss me, just lightly, on the lips, knowing that no matter what I’d just said, my need for her could not be denied.  And in that moment, my ability to be rational, to be in control would always leave me and I would channel all the passion that I had churning inside me into desperately making love to her.  All the while thinking, stupidly, that if I loved her enough I could fix her.
    One night, as the rain poured down on the city, beating on the windows of our apartment like it was trying to break its way in, she didn’t come home.  There was a chill in the air that made the rain feel icy.  As I waited, my emotions shifted from annoyance into anger which finally slid into panic.    
    And so I pulled on a hooded sweatshirt and headed out into the rain.  I walked the city, talking to anyone who might know where she is.  Strangers, people I would never talk to if I were living my normal life, I walked up to, because I knew they might know her.  These days, Annabelle spent all her time with strangers.  I spoke to the homeless man I had seen her giving food to as I walked by him, huddled in a storefront to keep most of his gaunt, shivering body out of the rain.  He’d seen her go by at some point in the evening but his perception of time and even the date or the year he was living in was shaky, so I couldn’t depend on the answers he gave me.  I walked until my clothes were soaked through, my shoes were heavy with water.  I walked until I was exhausted and freezing and out of options, and then I turned back to the apartment, afraid that this was it, that she was dead somewhere and I’d have no way to find her because nobody would know, or care enough, to call me. 
    As I rounded the corner and turned onto our block, I stopped dead in my tracks.  A cab was parked in front of our building, one of the back doors wide open.  Annabelle was standing outside of the cab but leaning completely into the backseat, talking to whoever was still inside.  She was swaying slightly with the intoxication of whatever substance she had been presented with on this particular evening and  I could hear her beautiful, voice, slurred slightly as she tried to make some nonsensical point to whatever friends she’d made that evening.  It was just another night in her world.  Nothing was wrong.  She hadn’t overdosed or been raped or any of the other horrors I spent my evenings trying not to imagine.  And so she went about her frivolous activities while I ached and I staggered under the weight of her life, which she refused to carry.  As I stood there, Annabelle made to take a step back from the cab, staggered and fell.  She lay there in the rain, laughing sloppily and not even attempting to right herself again.  A pull from within made me start to move toward her, to help her, to save her, to fight for all the beauty that was within her.  And then a voice in my head asked me, when had I last seen that beauty?  I thought back to the kindness I used to see in her eyes.  I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen anything but my own tired, haggard reflection when I’d looked into her eyes.  Why was I still fighting for her?  What was I even fighting for?  I used to think I knew, and yet, in that moment in the rain, I realized that I don’t think that anymore. 
    The rain started to pour down harder, obscuring my view of Annabelle.  None of her friends in the cab had come to her aid and now she was trying, clumsily, to get herself up, without much success.  And I realized that it wasn’t my job to keep her standing, it was hers.  I wanted to be with her, I wanted to love her with every ounce of who I was, but not at the sacrifice of my soul.  As the rain beat down, I imagined the chains that had shackled me to Annabelle and all of her childhood baggage starting to dissolve, as if they’d been made of sugar.  It was if I’d been dragging the weight of Annabelle around by those chains for a lifetime, and once they were lifted, I felt light and free. 
    I turned around and walked back in the direction from which I had come.  I didn’t know where I was going as the rain poured down on me, except that it was away from Annabelle.  It felt as though each rain drop were cleansing me of the burden I had been carrying for Annabelle, as if the cold water were absorbing the agony I had been experiencing on her behalf for so long and carrying it in rivulets down the city street, through the gutters to where she lay in a heap of oblivious denial.  I hoped that this action, my leaving, would cause her to wake up, see herself for what she’d become and start to do the work to bring her back to the precious girl that I once knew, that I still loved.  I know that this is what I had been waiting for.  I may always hope, but I won’t wait anymore.            

  25. Leelee

    I don’t know if this particular post is still open, but I stumbled upon it while doing some research for story ideas and tried out this method. Here’s what I wrote while listening to Haley Reinhart’s rendition of “Creep”.

    Catherine peeked around the corner of the hallway
    swinging doors to watch the rare spectacle before her. It wasn’t everyday a
    member of the royal family visited her humble woodland town after all. It was a
    once in a lifetime chance for her to catch a glimpse of one of the revered
    militant princes.

    she caught sight of her father, a smile on his
    face as he conversed quietly with the small group of men in military wear. Two
    of the men were without a doubt twins. They stood together a little distance
    back. Both had blonde hair cropped short and dark green eyes that calmly
    surveyed the inn. The one closest to the bar had a small copper cuff in his
    ear, signifying his rank as a lieutenant. Her father, being a tall and heavy
    muscled guy, blocked her line of sight on the third soldier, no doubt the
    prince, so Catherine leaned out a bit more. She had just got a glimpse of hair
    the color of ink and a tanned ear when the blonde with the copper cuffed ear
    caught sight of her.

    She sucked in a breath, quickly ducking back behind
    the kitchen wall, but not before the blonde male smirked in her direction. She
    remained with her back pressed against the wall for a moment. She counted
    slowly under her breath before attempting to look once again. A broad chest blocked
    her line of sight over the swinging doors causing Catherine to freeze.

    “Curiosity killed the cat, y’know” A deep timbre rumbled
    from the chest.

    Catherine raised her gaze to the man’s face, her dark
    eyes connecting with mirth-filled green. The copper cuff on the lieutenant’s
    ear glinted in the nearby lantern light as he crossed his arms and stepped
    aside to reveal the other occupants who were all now looking her way.

    The man’s twin was frowning slightly, and Catherine could
    see that he possessed a silver cuff on his ear. Her father wore a similar
    expression upon his face, his usually kind eyes narrowed in disapproval, and
    Catherine knew she would be in trouble after their guests were no longer in

    On the bright side, she finally had a clear view of
    the prince. He stood half a head taller than the blonde twins with wavy hair
    that was indeed as black as ink. His tan skin seemed bronze under the low
    lighting of the inn and his eyes…dear gods, his eyes were lavender. She’d never
    seen a person with lavender eyes before. It was quite a sight to behold. The
    prince looked at her in mild curiosity. A muffled chuckle came from her left,
    snapping Catherine from her reverie. Geez, had she been staring? She felt her
    face go warm from embarrassment and was glad for the low lighting. She returned
    her gaze to the blonde who had ousted her. A slim brow was raised as he looked
    at her and she squared her shoulders at him.

    “I-I wasn’t spying! I just came to fetch my father on
    mother’s behalf…” She trailed off, the look on the blonde’s face showing he
    didn’t believe her. Not entirely at least. “Um…sorry…”

    “I’ll be there in a
    bit, Catherine” her father’s voice reverberated around the quiet room. His
    stern expression told her it was time to leave. she nodded once and turned to
    make her way back towards the kitchens, completely ignoring the blonde
    lieutenant as she went. Her feet were silent on the floorboards as she entered
    the warm room.


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