There Are No Mistakes In the Writer’s Studio

by Joe Bunting | 72 comments

How long does it take you to write a sentence? Or a paragraph?

If you're like me, you start writing a sentence, pause after a few words, stare at your computer without typing, write a few more words, pause, look around, write a few more words, pause, write, pause, write. Five minutes later, you finally finish writing that one sentence, but then you have to re-read the sentence you just typed and edit it for mistakes for another five minutes.

Perhaps there's a way to write faster, with more joy and fewer pauses.

Jazz

Photo by Kuba Bozanowski

Stefon Harris is a celebrated jazz vibrophonist (the vibrophone is an instrument similar to the xylophone). The Los Angeles Times called him “one of the most important young artists in jazz.” In 2011, Stefon Harris spoke at TED:

Every “mistake” is an opportunity in jazz…. The only mistake lies in not being able to perceive what someone else did.

What if you approached your writing that way? Rather than treating every mistake as something that immediately requires fixing, what if you treated it as an opportunity? As a chance to explore what your stories are saying to you?

Don't Bully Your Stories

Harris says:

It's not about bullying my vision…. It's about being here in the moment, accepting one another and allowing creativity to flow.

I often try to bully my stories into shape, to make them tell the story I want them to tell, to make them sound the way I want them to sound.

It doesn't work like that. “Stories tell you what they are,” says Andrew Stanton.

When you bully your stories, they have a tendency to stop wanting to hang out with you. (share that on Twitter?)

Instead, Listen

Harris says:

If I really want the music to go there, the best way for me to do it is to listen. If I want the music to get to a certain level of intensity, the first step for me is to be patient, to listen to what's going on and pull from something that's going on around me.

Listen to your story. What is it saying to you? Which direction does it want to go? Not you, the story. Ask it. Then be patient, wait, stare off into space if you have to, just listen. Your story will tell you what to do.

Isn't this a better way to write, like jazz. Isn't this preferable to wrestling your stories down so you can steal their lunch money?

This is partnership. This is co-creating. This is breathing.

As Harris says:

[The bandstand] is really a sacred space. And one of the things that is sacred about it is that you have no opportunity to think about the future, or the past. You are alive right here in this moment.

What if you wrote like that? Alive.

What do you think? How do you write with your stories instead of against them?

PRACTICE

Free write. Listen to your story and write for fifteen minutes.

When you're finished, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to leave feedback on a few practices by other writers.

Enjoy your writing time today.

Watch Stefon Harris' full TED talk here.

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

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72 Comments

  1. Sarah Soon

    Thanks Joe for this reminder. I’ve toyed with idea of writing my next novel by listening to the characters. This is just the confirmation I need to pursue this idea. Yes, this would be better than “wrestling your stories down so you can steal their lunch money?” (funny). Well written.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Pursue on. 🙂

  2. Beck Gambill

    Such great advice! After a long absence from my work in progress I’m coming back. Today the story spoke to me, taking a twist I’m really excited about and didn’t anticipate. I’ve learned I end up frustrated and walk away when I attempt to wrestle the words into submission and dishonor the free flow of creativity. I thought the goal was to ‘finish’ a book but I’m learning the goal is to be a part of the journey and enjoy the process. Not that I don’t want to finish and let it free but I need to learn not to rush and turn writing into a drudgery instead of a joy.

    Reply
    • James Hall

      Makes a good mantra.

      I’m doing this for fun.
      I’m doing this for fun.
      I’m doing this for fun.
      I’m doing this for fun.
      I’m doing this for fun.

      It seems like I always start out saying that, then ending up saying.

      Are we there yet?
      Are we there yet?
      Are we there yet?
      Are we there yet?
      Are we there yet?

    • Beck Gambill

      Haha, I totally feel that way sometimes!

    • Margaret Terry

      made me laugh out loud, James. Sooooo perfect…

    • Joe Bunting

      That’s so awesome, Beck. It sounds like a good day.

    • Beck Gambill

      It was a good day Joe! I’m hopeful that I’m on the home stretch with this book but regardless I think I’m a better person for having participated in the birth of the story.

  3. James Hall

    This post is very helpful, thanks! Sometimes I forget how useful just writing can be. I get wrapped up in research and thoughts, and coming up with ideas, that I forget that just writing usually brings forth just as good, if not better ideas. The balance of research and external inspiration and writing and internal inspiration is a hard one to achieve.

    ——————————————

    The company looked out over the grassy knoll shaded by trees. Fields surrounded the knoll where wolverines and badgers, both great and small, toiled in the soil, preparing the ground for a new growing season. The fields dissipated into rolling hills. It would still be several months before that
    time came, since the harvest was now over, but wolverines, especially, were not
    known for being lazy.

    Some homes were set into the hills, other were built atop the ground. Gnomes moved about everywhere in the city, tending crops, fetching water, laying out food as reward to their ground-loving and mutual companions. A huge cathedral blended into the scenery, tucked away just behind the little
    homes that speckled the view.

    The whole company looked on the magnificent city, awestruck. Except Rass, for he lived here, though he wore an approving smile as he noticed their surprise. Wait until they saw the inside of his house! Then, he came to a sudden realization. The humans would have to stoop to fit within his house.

    The company strolled into the village. The little villagers eyed the company with disbelief and suspicion. The village hadn’t had dwarven visitors in hundreds of years. The village, in all its score of hundred years, had never held a human.

    Many of the gnomish villagers looked at the taller humans with fear, but Rass continued to lead his companions through the now quiet streets towards the cathedral.

    Reply
    • Missaralee

      The flow you have here is quite nice, James. I think this exercise has been good for your writing. Small details that delivered a lot of character came out in this piece. For example the wolverines that aren’t known for being lazy, the cathedral tucked behind homes and imagining the humans having to stoop to enter Rass’ home filled out the company arrival scene. Your writing always has a great visual quality, but the ease of reading and the flow really work here.

    • James Hall

      Really. I was winging it, totally thought it felt rough drafty.

      “Your writing always has a great visual quality, but the ease of reading and the flow really work here.”

      I’m so happy. I love your critiques and compliments. I don’t know if you caught some of those other postings, but I think it would be great to trade book critiques with you. I’ve found trading critiques to be very fruitful. Sometimes, as a writer, we can’t see the spots that could be more clear or approached differently. Or, where are details are too much, sometimes.

      Just let me know! I’d love to read some of your stuff anyway. From the little pieces I’ve read, sounds like an awesome and unique novel.

    • Missaralee

      I’d like to share critiques with you, James. My schedule is a bit tight, so I couldn’t do too much, but maybe we could find something that works. I’ve got three WIPs on the go in various states of disarray and at some point I’ll need another set of eyes to see if the parts hang together.

    • James Hall

      you can email me at vozey@yahoo.com

      You can send small chucks, big chunks, or whole pieces, whatever way you want to do it. I’ll trade a roughly same sized piece, though I don’t think I would send less than a chapter at a time.

    • Joe Bunting

      I have a hard time balancing it too, James.

    • Margaret Terry

      nice, James – you painted a strong picture that drew me into the scene right away. Loved the characterization too: “but wolverines, especially, were not known for being lazy” Definitely didn’t feel like a first draft, in fact, I was yearning for a visual of the cathedral so I could see what the company was drawn to…

    • James Hall

      Thank you. I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on my ability to draw in visual details. I think the hardest part with details those, is knowing what to throw away, and what to keep.

      Working on another 3000-5000 word addition to my book for this weekend. I’m glad I’m off to a good start! 45k down, 75k to go!

  4. Lou Knight

    Great article and I liked the quotes featured. Thanks for sharing 🙂 I write from where I left off the day before, take a short break, then edit as I read through it. I work better letting the writing flow and editing afterwards. I find correcting as it is forming on the page too restrictive, though appreciate everyone has to find their own rhythm with the creative process.

    Reply
    • James Hall

      very true

    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Lou. You should watch the TED talk. It’s amazing.

  5. Emily Brown

    There was a point in this piece where i wanted to change a lot of it. But I kept going in the direction it went rather than cutting some out and changing direction. I think i am learning that you have to get the stories out first. Free and un-edited. The hone them into the piece they are meant to be.

    my practice below.

    Standing room only. I watch the suits and the shirts. Crumpled ties and tired eyes. My mouth is sweet with the aftertaste of a mint. If i breath out hard enough i could fill the carriage with a mint breeze and everyone would sigh from its cool freshness. The thought makes me giggle out loud. A man nearby looks up at me.

    “mint?” i ask
    “is that a hint?” he chuckles
    “i just thought if enough of us are breathing out mint air…” my voice tapers off
    “fresh air…ok. I’ll have one”
    I fiddle in my pocket for the crumpled packet. He takes one and i have another.
    I toy with a piece of foil that came from the packet and watch as the man sucks his mint. I look out the window and see the green smear of shrubbery. Beside me i hear a heavy sigh. A waft of mint. I look around and the man is filling his cheeks with air and breathing out heavily.
    “is it working?”
    I smile and turn away. Feeling his minty air blast by again.

    Maybe we will float away. The train stops. And we decant ourselves onto the platform. I turn to watch the train leave. With its minty-breathed man.

    Reply
    • Missaralee

      I love this “we decant ourselves onto the platform.” It says they are pouring themselves out reverently like fine red wine after we’ve let it breathe for a while. I really enjoyed the whole scene, with your character filling the carriage with minty breezes and his child-like wonder infecting a fellow passenger. Very well done, I’m glad you let the story take you where it wanted to float off to.

    • James Hall

      You didn’t do a post. That makes me sad. 🙁

    • Missaralee

      I did the practice, I just forgot to bring it home with me to post on the weekend. It’s here now somewhere.

    • James Hall

      I agree with Miss Sara, the core idea of this piece is painted very well and very beautifully. Even unrefined, it comes out loud and clear. With a little refining, and “mmm, can I have a mint, too?”.

    • Emily Brown

      Thanks. Just getting back into a writing habit after a bit of a break. So all comments and critique is really helpful.

    • R.w. Foster

      Very nice. I like the wonder that your narrator managed to infect the man with. It’s fun.

    • Emily Brown

      Thanks.

    • Margaret Terry

      “Crumpled ties and tired eyes” so powerful. This piece reminds me of a poem with it’s simple language and brevity – well done!

  6. Tyerone Johnson

    The thing I learned is to type fast and not worry about mistakes so your inner editor can’t high jack your train of thought and disrupt your flow.

    Reply
    • James Hall

      My best writing pours out into a journal. Most of the time, I’m riding with my in-laws somewhere on a bouncy dirt road. Or I go to my “soggy alone place”. I have to type the stuff up immediately because the handwriting is horrid and I won’t be able to remember what I wrote if I don’t. It works and I agree.

    • Elise White

      I like journaling, too. I always have an easier time letting the sentences flow when I’m writing the old fashioned way with a notebook and pen.

  7. Elise White

    Enjoyed this post!

    Ainsley rifled through the family’s collection of junk. Drawings she’d made when she was 3, old textbooks, and VHS movies. Her father watched somberly from the back door of the garage.

    “Remember how you used to love watching that?” He asked pointing to a video she’d tossed into the donate pile.

    “Beauty and the Beast,” she read. “Yeah that was my favorite movie for a while.”

    She returned to sorting. She couldn’t get nostalgic about these things. They needed to let go.

    “Your mother bought that video for you as a surprise, remember? You weren’t very old, so maybe you don’t. But you watched that movie at every opportunity. And you made Brian watch with you, too.”

    He laughed, and a glaze of bittersweet emotion washed over his brown eyes.

    Ainsley was staring at the purple sleeve of the movie now. She was remembering how she imagined herself being like Belle one day, in her golden gown, sweet and beautiful and falling in love. But she didn’t want to fall in love with a beast.

    “Have you seen Trent Randall, lately?” Harold asked breaking her thoughts.

    “No.” She said and added to under her breath, “if anyone is a beast, he is.”

    Reply
    • James Hall

      I really liked this. I could feel the emotions between the characters.

    • Elise White

      Thank you, James!

    • R.w. Foster

      Very good. It sounds as if there was a bad break up, or a fight, and she’s running away. Please tell me you are continuing?

    • Elise White

      Thank you! This is part of a WIP I started a few months back and haven’t been adding to lately. After this post I’m motivated again.

    • R.w. Foster

      Yay! Is there some place where I can pest- I mean check in and see how you’re doing, maybe offer some encouragement?

    • Emily Brown

      There is a really nice build up of scene and emotion in this piece. I liked the movement from “didn’t want to fall in love with a beast” to the query about Trent. I instantly thought “ooh he must be the beast..” (which made me feel very clever). So I was a little disappointed when the main character says it out loud. I want to read more!

    • Elise White

      Thanks for the feedback, Emily. Maybe later when this scene finds its place in the novel I’ll take out the part where Ainsley calls him a beast. I think it would be nice to give the reader the satisfaction of making that connection on their own.

    • Margaret Terry

      loved this Elise! The dialogue was so authentic with an undercurrent of a family secret or loss, that I felt heart tugs. Nice…

  8. R.w. Foster

    Sounds to me like you’re advocating my usual way of writing – seat-of-the-pants…

    I personally think that is the best – nay – only way to write. When you constantly pause, re-read, edit, and daydream, you’re getting in your own way. I read what I wrote the day (or more) before, and let the story pour out of me. When I don’t think about what I’m writing, it flows like water. Like this:

    The young woman, red hair pulled back from her face, pushed through the tavern’s double doors. She was dressed in dark leather armor and carried daggers on her back; a mated pair at her waist, and another set sticking above her shoulders. She strode though the smoky and crowded room, ignoring the smells of stale ale and unwashed bodies. As she walked by, a drunken patron reached for her. Without losing stride, she broke the outstretched wrist, never taking her eyes from the burly orc behind the bar.

    “I’m told Dirge is here,” she said. Her voice was mellifluous.

    “Never heard of him.” In contrast, his was coarse.

    She slipped a hand into a pocket and slid a sliver coin across the counter. A swipe of a rag, and the coin vanished. The barman tilted his head towards the fire. A shadowy figure lounged by the flames. As she watched, a small ember flared. A pipe, or cheroot. The woman walked over without a glance back.

    She reached the leather chair, and stopped in surprise. A shadow was there, moving as if it were a real person, mimicking the act of smoking. A thick hand gripped her by the hair and cold steel kissed the tender flesh of her throat.

    “Why are you asking about me?” A heavy voice growled. It made the orc’s sound musical in comparison. The owner of the voice sniffed her neck. “Not a vampire, nor a thrall.” She was spun roughly.

    She found herself staring up at a rugged, worn and weathered face. Skin the color of new leather with deep lines carved into it gave proof to a harsh life. Dark eyes danced across her face, analyzing her. Oiled black leather covered his wide frame. This must have been how he was able to sneak up on her.

    “You are the vampire hunter known as Dirge?”

    The blade at her throat wiggled, reminding her of its presence. “Answer my question.”

    “My companions and I wish to hire you.” As she said this, she glanced down his
    torso, taking in the broadsword with the onyx grip and ruby pommel sheathed in
    gleaming silver. His eyes automatically followed hers and his estimation of her
    went up a notched when he saw the silver crystal blade pointed at his belly. He
    knew that weapon. “You recognize Killswitch, do you?”

    “I do. It was my brother’s. How did you get it?”

    “It was in the horde of a green dragon that we killed last autumn.”

    Dirge sheathed his knife. “Who are you?”

    “My name is Jennifer. How much will you charge us?”

    He sat in the chair that had been occupied by the shadow. “That all depends on what you’d like to hire me for.”

    She sat in the other chair. The vampire hunter lit his pipe and the pleasant tang of red weed filled the air. “We’d like you to teach us how to effectively combat vampires.”

    “That is easy enough to do. When would you like to begin?” He crossed his ankles as he slouched further into the thick seat. “I warn you: I charge extra for rush jobs.”

    “Immediately.”

    He nodded. “Forty thousand sovereigns. Half upfront, the other half when I feel you’re ready to fight the parasites.”

    “Done.”

    Something about her tone intrigued Dirge. “Care to share why you have this urgent need to learn these tactics?”

    “Vampires are planning on using my sister as a sacrifice to summon their eldest from his slumber.”

    The hunter sat up. “I’ve not heard anything like this. How did you find out?”

    Jennifer rose and paced to a window. She stared out at the snowy darkness. “While on a rescue mission for the Jarl of Windhaven, we managed to capture the ringleader. It turned out that she was a thrall. She asked me how I escaped Scarward Keep.” Dirge half rose from his seat. “Shortly afterwards, we learned the vampire’s plans, and determined to stop them.” Jennifer turned, and froze at the distress on the vampire hunter’s face.

    “Did you say Scarward Keep?” he asked in a strangled voice.

    “I did. Why?”

    He traced his fingers along a wound that she could not see. “Long ago, the master of that place left his mark on me a few years back.” He motioned for her to follow. “I’m coming with you to the keep. Never mind the training fee. Most of your group won’t be coming back alive.”

    Reply
    • Margaret Terry

      you have such a strong voice here, RW, wow – I am breathless. So visual, great dialogue…

    • R.w. Foster

      Really? Thank you. It is good to hear.

    • Margaret Terry

      you mentioned your way of writing was “seat of the pants” and that’s how this piece made me feel with your vivid descriptions and strong action words!

    • R.w. Foster

      I hope that is a good thing. 🙂

    • James Hall

      I think its great that you can write like that. I write half by the seat of my pants. I have major plot points outlined in my head.

      But I have to edit my work before I move too far onward. I like the refined feel. Yet, I probably have more attachment to what I’ve done, whereas you might feel more flexible with your stuff.

      You’ll have several edit phases when you are done. Me, not quite as much.

      Everyone has their own approach, its just about finding what work best for you.

    • R.w. Foster

      True. I will have several when I’m done. And you won’t. Thing is, yours will come as you work. I find that by pantsing it, that I have more flexibility with making changes. Also, sometimes, I have several sections written out that I get to weave together at a later date.

      But, you are right: It is about finding what works best for you. 🙂

    • Missaralee

      I agree with you R.W., the writing goes where it goes and the story falls out like water when you stop analysing it so closely. I honestly don’t know where half of what I write comes from, it just sort of happens and I sit back and watch. But as James points out, we still have to get our hands dirty editing when the story is done with us. We are the night janitors of our stories.

    • R.w. Foster

      You sit back and watch? That’s how my stories flow! I tend to write what I “see”, kinda like I’m novelizing a movie that I’m “watching” in my mind. 😀

      And, I know all about the edits. I’m going through them now… :'(

    • Missaralee

      The whole watching dynamics means that Netflix has been really bad for my productivity. Why would I need to write new stories to watch when there are so many episodes of Breaking Bad to catch up on?

    • R.w. Foster

      Simple: You can write better stories. The proof is above.

  9. dgk

    The sound was deafening. At first it sounded like a pleasant “white” noise. Almost indiscernible from the gentle roar of the ocean. But as I tried to consciously drown it out, I realized that I could not dismiss it. I feared at one point that it was a sound coming from my own mind. A sound of blood pulsing at too strong of a beat, too intense for my own ears.

    I tried closing the french doors – opened early in the morning to allow the fresh sea breeze to swirl around the mostly unfurnished living room. The white gauzy curtains lifting and lowering like a ghost without much purpose.

    The breeze stopped abruptly but the sound was not even slightly dampened.

    I approached the refrigerator and put my palm to the door feeling for any sign of vibration. Opened and closed the door firmly and then pulled on the freezer drawer and shut it with a slam. I ran down the first flight of stairs to where the furnace is housed but found no sound or vibration coming from there either.

    I started thinking about a movie I had seen as a teenager. The Blob was a horror movie about an amoeba-like alien that comes from outer space to terrorize a small community. I don’t remember if there was a sound associated with it but this sound that I was hearing could realistically have a Blob connected to it.

    The noise was now starting to hurt my ears. I used my hands as a muffle. There was some relief with that but after a few minutes my arms began to ache from holding them up. I stepped back outside through the french doors to see if the noise I heard was louder or quieter on the 2nd story deck. The breeze rushed past me and pushed the door shut. I knew without trying the handle that it was locked. How many times had I inadvertently gotten stuck outside. Fortunately for me we kept a key hidden under a clay pot that previously held a deep purple Hydrangea but was now filled with dried dirt and some leftover roots. I tilted the container and felt underneath. No key.

    My husband wasn’t due home for another hour. I didn’t see any point in yelling from where I was now stranded. There was no one in my neighborhood who had a key to my front door to let me in anyway. I took a

    Reply
    • Jay Warner

      Welcome to the Write Practice. I really like your piece. The suspense builds quickly and makes me want to find out what that noise is and what’s going to happen next. I felt her fear intensify when the key was missing. Your writing style is fluid and easy to read, it lets us in without overwhelming us. Great job! Please finish and post!

    • dgk

      Thanks Jay Watner. And I like your comment. It’s great to get instant feedback from another writer. My husband thinks everything I write is great so it’s nice to have an unbiased opinion. I too am interested in what happens next. Who knows??

    • Joe Bunting

      Welcome DGK. Yeah, that red underline is a pest, isn’t it? I turn it off, which is a good thing for my writing, but a bad thing when I forget to run spell check and send a piece full of typos off to a magazine or something. :/

      Good practice. Interesting mystery. I want to know what’s going on!

    • James Hall

      You don’t have to stop at the time limit. (Psst! Actually, I completely ignore them.) eh hem! I mean I abhor them, keys getting lost anyway. Do carry on!

  10. Charmaine Clancy

    Free-writing is a brilliant way to unlock ideas. I try to do this first thing every morning, but have slacked off lately with lots of techie jobs to do instead – thanks for the kick-in-the-pants — I’ve got to get back into this!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Indeed it is, Charmaine. Pants = kicked. 🙂

  11. Margaret Terry

    Such a timely post for me, Joe – thank you! I think I do most of my plotting and dialogue in my head for a few years before I set to write. This WIP, my first foray into fiction has been in my head for 5 years – I have been struggling with the flaw of a secondary character and used this practice to free think/write without any idea or plan….such FUN. And a lovely surprise…

    Something was wrong with Megan. Julia wondered if she had always known but had refused to see it because she loved Megan so much. Megan had been her best friend for thirty years. They had stuck to the pact they’d made after the senior Christmas dance and too many shots of Southern Comfort. It felt like yesterday when they had lain side by side in the old claw foot tub and cut the same two words into their left shoulders. Megan roared with laughter when she noticed the fuzzy hairs on the blade pilfered from Julia’s younger brother’s razor. She wiped them off on her skirt and went first. Julia remembered cringing at the droplets of blood and wishing they had selected one word. Or a number. But they had agreed on the two words that would bind them forever. Two words that were a promise.

    “Show up.”

    For thirty years, they had shown up for each other no matter where they lived. Julia’s miscarriage. Megan’s abortion. Bankruptcy, the Betty Ford Clinic, two car accidents and winning the National Poetry Competition. And now, Megan needed her to show up again. But, Julia didn’t think she could this time.

    Reply
    • James Hall

      Vivid. The razor, cutting the words in. Your details are great. I can feel the friendship between these two characters. They aren’t just friends, they are best friends.

      Makes me wonder what will happen if Julia shows up or if she doesn’t show up. Both outcomes could be very interesting.

    • Margaret Terry

      thx, James. The best part of these exercises is in the actual doing – no matter how much doubt tries to prevent me from trying something new, when I’m done, it feels good to say “hey, you can do this…”
      PS – I am wondering as well whether Julia shows up AND what happened that could make her change her mind – haven’t a clue. Yet. Still listening.

  12. Claire

    I’m a newbie at this site, so this will be my first official
    post. I love the idea of writing prompts since it really motivates me to put my
    imagination to work, and so—I did. My story is as follows:

    Angelia’s sleep had been restless, and she had woken up in a daze. What her husband Mason had said to her last night kept resonating in her head, “I wish you were different . . .”
    She was stunned, and the only thing she remembered having retorted was “Oh,
    now it’s my fault?”
    She went downstairs and prepared breakfast. They both sat and ate without saying a word, as usual. She was hurt and needed to get out of the house. The walls were beginning to close in on her.
    She went into the study and found him working at the computer. He was so predictable. “I’m going to the bookstore. I’ll be back later.”
    “OK,” he said without looking up. Seeing this, she bent and kissed him lightly on the cheek somewhat unwillingly.
    She headed out with no preconceived notion of where she was going, fully acknowledging that she had lied to Mason. She then quickly decided to just walk around in the shopping center near her home.
    Fifteen minutes later, she found herself walking aimlessly in the mall. She suddenly stopped in front of a display window featuring women’s
    shoes when her eyes zoomed in on a pair of red high-heel shoes and thought; I wonder how they would look on me . . .
    She went inside and started to look around. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone approaching her. “May I help you find something you like?” He said in a deep, virile voice.
    As she turned to answer him, she was face-to-face with a smiling
    salesman who had the most piercing green eyes. His dark hair was slicked back,
    and he was wearing a dark blue suit and what appeared to be sapphire cufflinks
    on his French cuff shirt. He exuded classiness, and he was most definitely—handsome.
    Miranda thought, he certainly is put together quite well . . .

    Reply
    • James Hall

      I felt the details at the end helped pull me in. While I feel like I have good understanding with what is going on in the story upfront, I think a little reflection on Angelia’s part would help show what significance the fighting at home was to her. I feel like the character is thinking of cheating on her husband or something, but I’m still not quite sure or if that even matters to the character.

      Other than that, it was well-written.

  13. Emily

    Hi, Joe Bunting. I found your site and you give a lot of tips. I’m just a fifteen year old who likes to write. This is an excerpt from a story of mine:

    “B-brother are you okay?” asked a person from the door. Hugh turned to face his little sister. The tears were sliding down his cheeks as he slowly wiped them. “Damn it!” he shouted. His little sister flinched.

    “Sorry, Hana,” he said. “I’m just overreacting over something stupid like this,” Hugh said. He tried to wipe his tears but they wouldn’t leave. Hana walked into his room.

    “Please go outside right now,” Hugh said.

    “No,” Hana said firmly.

    “I wonder what I can do for brother who done a lot for me,” Hana said. “If brother wants me to do something for him, I would,” Hana said as she went up to her big brother.

    The little seven year old hugged her brother in comfort. “Damn it, just thinking about Mei hurts!” Hugh finally shouted out. “Every god damn thing that’s related to her hurts like hell, it’s so natural to not stop this pain!” Hugh cried out.

    Hana hugged her brother tighter.

    “Hey, brother, we were suppose to visit her today, right?” Hana asked.

    Hugh let go of Hana and wiped his tears to answer her question. “I don’t think she wants to see me,” Hugh answered.

    “Come on, let’s go, even Mom and Dad said to go,” Hana exclaimed happily.

    “What are you so happy about?” Hugh asked.

    “Because I want to see how the person my brother likes,” Hana said happily. Hugh clicked his tongue but nevertheless he stood up and put on a black jacket and a pair of thermal jeans.

    “Come on, let’s go,” Hugh said.

    “Yay!” Hana exclaimed happily.

    “Hey Mei, I came even though you told me not to,” Hugh said as he sat down and looked at the grave with Mei’s name, birthday, and everything inscripted in it. “You could blame it on these three,” Hugh pointed at his parents and Hana.

    Hugh put down the stone on the grave. “You said that some day you wanted to pluck those stars in the galaxy, right?” Hugh asked. “Well, I have one right here, it’s for you,” Hugh said. Hugh held back his tears.

    “You’re Hugh, right?” suddenly asked a voice and both of them turned to see a man with black hair and blue eyes, just like Mei. She must have been Mei’s father.

    Hugh stood up and bowed. “Yes,” he answered and the man sighed in relief as he suddenly shuffled through his bag. He finally took something from his bag and placed the wrapped piece of item on Hugh’s hand. “This was something from my daughter that I found when cleaning the room and when I heard from my wife about you and my daughter, I want to thank you,” he said as he bowed.

    “Thank you for spending your time with Mei in her final moments,” he said.

    “Stand up,” Hugh said and the man did as he was told. “I didn’t do anything. I wanted to be there for her,” Hugh said.

    The man smiled slightly before he turned around and left. Hugh gently tore off the wrapping paper to reveal a book. Hugh’s eyes widen as he flipped through the pages and it seemed like Mei was doing the same thing Hugh was doing. He gently closed the dairy and kissed it, knowing that Mei’s soul was in her words.

    As they left, Hugh walked a bit slower and felt a powerful wind. He could feel Mei’s presence and turned around but saw nothing. He heard a small laugh and felt a small kiss on his cheek. “Hugh, I love you too,” Mei answered before the wind blew again.

    Reply
    • Missaralee

      Hi Emily, glad to have you here practicing with us! I really liked the piece you shared, it has good bones. I admit you got me a little choked up with the end bit about the wind. I hope you’ll keep coming back and using the prompts and practices to polish your storytelling skills along with the rest of us.

    • James Hall

      I can tell that the plot and characters are well-developed. Keep working on snappier dialog. Great details and intrigue.

  14. Missaralee

    Lindy stared up at the white plaster ceiling of her bunk. It was midnight and her candle still burned. She didn’t need to worry about saving it, she would be leaving soon enough. Let the next guest worry about light, Lindy had important matters to work out. Normally she would bring her deliberations and worries to the Lights. In warm months she used to lie along the roof rail and converse with Aurora shinning in a blue and green smudge through the poly of the dome. In colder weather she was confined to her room, but Aurora was there too. She had painted the dancing colours on her ceiling and walls, a pan-o-rama paying homage to the Lady of Lights. But Lindy didn’t have her lights or her paintings to guide her troubled mind. She was alone. A city of thousands was far lonelier to her than all the long years spent with her catatonic grandmother in a dome far to the north. If she saves the town and figures out how to bring back the settlements, the north would be a warmer place, for some. Not for Lindy. If she simply went home and left these people to whatever frozen fate Aurora had for them, she would continue as she always had, tending animals, growing crops and dreaming of a home among the warm fingers of Light caressing the firmament.

    This would never do, she had to be outside, she had to hear the voices of the Lights. She snuffed the candle and slid into her boots. She opened the door into the hallway. It was dark as winter night. No candles burned under the doors lining the hall. She donned her jacket and gloves and stepped out into the hall, closing the door silently behind her. A few more unlocked doors and she was in the street. The orange lamps lighting the streets obscured her view of the sky through the domed roof, ten stories above the street. She would have to find someplace higher up, closer to the poly and without the flooding of the safety lamps devouring her stars. Near the east entrance she spotted her target. A support post had been erected to prevent the collapse of the dome where the gate had weakened it. Such temporary repairs had sprung up in every corner of the dome, but above this particular support the lights were out. With great effort she climbed the timber structure and perched on a cross beam near the top. The poly of this dome was much hazier than her own. The Lights were more smudged and blurred than she was used to seeing them.
    “Aurora” she called softly, “this daughter asks for your guidance. What should I do?”

    The green tails swam towards her and blue sparks errupted from their centers. The movement grabbed her eye and wouldn’t let it go. A picture formed in the misty lights. An arrow shot out of a light tail curved like a dome. The arrow circled a second tail of domed light and two arrows emerged chasing the first back to the largest dome. The lights then exploded in triumphant arcs and resettled into their shifting dance against the inky sky.

    Lindy shook her head, clearing away the after image of the bright lights. What had she just seen? A sign surely, but what was it’s meaning? Was the first dome her home or the town? Was she to travel home and find someone there or were the lights sending her elsewhere? The vision made no sense and deepened Lindy’s frustration. Not only did she not know what to do, but she felt a clear direction had been given. If she disobeyed would the Lights forever desert her? Would she be truly alone in the dark, where no light could give her warmth?
    “Aurora please” she breathed, “I don’t understand. What would you have me do?”

    “Protect us. Keep us from harm. Save us.” The soft voice, like the tinkling of bells sprang from within Lindy’s own chest.

    “Save you? Save you from what? How can any harm come to a spirit, how can any force turn it back?”

    The night sky went on with its silent dance.

    Reply
    • James Hall

      The candle is an excellent detail. “Piss on the next guest, I have important things to worry about”, very human. Poly? Polyester? I love the reflections of the character, very informative of her current
      position without her grandma.

      I’m guessing they are in domes meant to keep out freezing weather. Domes covered in polyester? This is very interesting.

      I feel compelled to know more. I really like the symbolism or signs. I do that kind of stuff in my book, I love it.

      Very interesting ending to this excerpt. I feel for Lindy, who now has more questions that she did originally.

    • Missaralee

      Thanks for your comments James. Poly is polyethylene, a clear plastic tarping for greenhouses. These domes aren’t exactly sheathed in the same stuff we use in southern greenhouses today, but the slang has stuck. You better believe it’s freezing in the high arctic! The symbolism came out of the free writing exercise and I confess I was influenced by the write for movies post from a few days ago.

    • R.w. Foster

      This is very good. I like how you’ve stuck with the tradition of the spirits only telling so much and leaving the rest for their followers to figure out.

      I wonder how frustrated Lindy will be now…

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