Want To Get Published? Write About Death.

by Joe Bunting | 141 comments

Of the thirteen books nominated to the 2011 Booker Prize longlist, every single one involved the theme of death.

Plot Lines of Booker Nominees

Infographic by The Slow Journalism Company. Thanks to @donaldmiller for sharing it.

Of the twenty best short stories in the 2011 Best American Short Stories, half of them involved a character dying.

Think about your favorites novels or films? How many of them involve a death?

If you want to give yourself a better shot not just at being published but at writing a really good story, apparently you should write about death.

Do you write about death in your fiction? Why do you think stories involving death are so popular?


Write a scene where a character dies.

Write for fifteen minutes. When you're finished, post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, please comment on a few other pieces.

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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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  1. Jason Ziebart

    I think it’s important to offer hope along with the pain of death. In college, I wrote a short story that ended with the protagonist’s suicide, which was a mistake. It wasn’t the tragedy I intended because it didn’t leave the reader with any hope. Even _Romeo and Juliet_ ends somewhat peaceably, despite a high body count. One of my favorite short stories, “The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” ends with death, but Hemingway manages it in true Code Hero style.

    • Joe Bunting

      Agreed, Jason.

  2. Themagicviolinist

    I think death is probably so popular because not everyone wants a perfectly happy story with a perfectly happy ending. They want to feel badly for the characters in the book. They want something believable. Anyway, that’s my guess.

    My practice is an excerpt from my story “Fantasya: The Trouble With Trolls.” All you need to know is Clara, Cricket, Clara’s mom, and Hope are unicorns and every other unicorn is trying to fight off evil trolls that are trying to take over the magical land of Fantasya. Clara let Cricket come on her quest to defeat the head troll, Trollatard and his wife Trollina. Hope you like it! 😀

    The scream never left my mouth. Surely not. My best friend couldn’t be dead. I galloped over to Cricket and unstuck the sword protruding from her chest.
    “Cricket,” I whispered, tears burning. “Oh Cricket . . . what’ve I done? I never should’ve let you come.”
    Cricket lifted her head slowly.
    “Clara,” she said quietly. She seemed to have to muster up a lot of energy to say my name. The troll was long gone by now.
    “Promise . . .” she continued. “Promise me . . . something.”
    “Anything,” I choked.
    “Tell . . . tell my mother . . . and my father . . . that I love them.”
    “I promise.”
    “And tell Cedric . . . that I . . . I always admired him. That I’m glad we were friends.”
    “You still are friends, Cricket! You’re not going to die!” I said angrily. “I won’t let you! I’ll take you back! We’ll find some healers . . .”
    Cricket lifted a hoof that silenced me.
    “It’s my time to go, Clara. Life happens this way. It’s natural. The Goddess of unicorns needs another angel and she chose me.”
    Tears started streaming down my cheeks as my legs supported Cricket’s dying body. Blood was gushing from her wound. She was fading, I could feel it. Her head fell gently to the ground, eyes half open.
    “Why’d she have to choose you?” I whispered in a strangled voice. Cricket didn’t hear me.
    “I love you, Clara. I’ll be watching over you. Look for me in the sky.”
    I tried to say something back, but I didn’t trust my voice to produce any sound. I tightened my lips and fought back tears.
    “Good-bye, Clara. Remember me.”
    Cricket’s eyes closed for the last time.
    “Good-bye, Cricket,” I whispered. I laid the sword that had cost Cricket’s life next to her and turned it into a golden flower. I arranged Cricket’s body into a more comfortable position and planted a kiss on her cheek that made her body glow. I stood up.
    Cricket’s body flashed a bright white and disappeared. The Goddess of unicorns had taken her. I looked into the stars; and there was Cricket. Shining bigger and brighter than the rest.
    I blew a kiss in her direction and finally burst into tears.
    Tears flooded out of my eyes until no more could come out; and still I cried. I cried in great shuddering sobs for about half an hour before my breathing steadied. It really hurts when your best friend dies. My dad was already dead and now Cricket was gone. I could only hope now that my mom and Hope would survive.

    • Angelo Dalpiaz

      That scene shows Clara’s emotions very well. I think sometimes writers over-do a death scene, usually by making it last too long. But I think you got it right.

    • Themagicviolinist

      Thanks you! 😀 I hoped it wouldn’t be too over-done. That is one of my biggest worries when I write.

    • Rebekah

      I don’t know a thing about fantasy or what age group you write for so I can’t say too much. I love your phrase “I didn’t trust my voice to produce any sound”. Very evocative.

    • Marianne

      Wow! You are getting better and better. I like this because I can see grief expressed by hoofs and big horse heads. I can picture these unicorns and I can see the personality of Clara. She is very much like the heroine in your story about the land where the children are kept as slaves. I love her pluck. The energy here is high as it should be for this kind of action piece. I also like the fact that you stay with the character and when Cricket becomes a unicorn Clara doesn’t just say, oh good she’s in the sky so she’s safe, Clara still knows that she is earthbound and alone and needs help in her fight.

    • Suzie Gallagher

      I love the sentences:
      Tears flooded out of my eyes until no more could come out; and still I cried. I cried in great shuddering sobs for about half an hour before my breathing steadied.

      Well done.

    • Themagicviolinist

      Thank you! 😀

  3. zo-zo

    Her scrawny body had finally finished. Finished asking for more food, for more love, for less food, for more attention, for a break. She had stopped asking the unyielding mirror for approval.

    Tom looked at her and wondered if she’d noticed the skeleton she’d become. He blinked and swallowed, looking away. He didn’t want this to be the sight etched in his memory.

    She used to have limbs that moved easily, that didn’t poke into things, that didn’t make you sad. She had two full arms that hooked him into her grasp, and made him want to stay there. When she spoke, those arms were always extensions of her words, her fingers wiggling, her elbows tossing here and there like they were controlled by a blast of wind. He loved holding her little finger when they went walking.

    And her hair. The intrusion of that black hair, unapologetic, defiant. He could always pick her out in a crowd – her hair was the darkest. But it had lost it’s shine. Every time he came to visit, he saw pieces of her hair, curled up on a white tile, or lying beside the sink. Sometimes he wondered if she sat on her white wicker chair tugging each strand out and throwing it to the wind. She had hated how much she had. It looked so little like blonde Meg Paisley, who was thin.

    He sighed. Just two days ago, she said she saw fat on her stomach. Finally there will be relief from the massacre of that word.

    • Angelo Dalpiaz

      This is filled with emotion. The part about how he liked to hold her little finger when they went walking was the saddest.

      I was a bit confused at the end when you wrote aboutthe blond Meg Paisley.

    • Bookwoman

      You are right about grief…it is a strong emotion and when we write from it, we ring out our feelings. You have done a nice job with this story. I just love that last poignant sentence!

    • zo-zo


    • zo-zo

      Thank you! I wanted the Meg Paisley to be the character that my girl is comparing herself to, but don’t think that quite came through!

    • Bookwoman

      Powerfully drawn description…makes reader uncomfortable with knowing the outcome of this slow process….

    • Rebekah

      Wow, the part about her sad limbs really gets me. I don’t know if this is an excerpt from a larger piece. I am confused, like Angelo, about the Meg Paisley bit. I also had a little trouble understanding the meaning of “the massacre of that word”. How does one massacre a word?

    • Zo-zo

      Hmm, the Meg Paisley I obviously didn’t expand enough on! – Meg was the blonde ‘thin’ girl she always compared herself to… And as for ‘massacre’ – perhaps it was the wrong choice of words – I wanted to show how the word, and thoughts, of ‘ being fat’ had literally destroyed her…

  4. Angelo Dalpiaz

    I think death is popular among readers is because there are few people in the world that have not experienced grief. It’s an emotion that so many people recognize, understand and experience. And unlike most other emotions it cannot thrive all alone. As an example, love lasts because of the stimulai that nurturs and solidifies. But grief doesn’t last.

    I wrote a story a while ago about a character that has died. I read an article in the newspaper about a fallen soldier who had left a wife and young daughter behind. This story was the result of that article.

    Hi Daddy, taken from WDC on 6/20/11
    My daughter should have been asleep, so when I heard sounds coming from her bedroom I quietly opened the door and stepped into the dark room. Seeing her sitting on the window ledge I almost ran to pull her in, but I quickly realized she was safe. Standing in the quiet darkness, I listened to what I thought was a prayer. I soon learned she wasn’t saying a prayer—she was talking to her father.
    Her small body was edged in silver by the bright moon hanging in the night sky. The air was cool but she wore her warm night shirt, the same one she wore the last night her father was home. The same one she wore every night since then. I held my breath and fought back a tear when I heard my daughter whisper.
    “Hi, Daddy, everyone is asleep and I need to talk to you again.” She looked up into the star-filled sky that had turned grey with the full moon.
    “I know I need to talk to you a lot since you’ve been gone, Daddy, but so many things are happening that I don’t understand.” She pulled her fine blond hair back behind her ears. “I know if anyone can help me, it’s you, Daddy.” She looked down at her folded hands resting on her knees. “I get scared when I see Mommy crying. She’s so sad,” she whispered. “She tries to hide it from me, but I can tell when she’s been crying.” She looked back into her room, but she didn’t see me crying in the shadows.
    “When I see that Mommy has been crying, it makes me so sad. The other day Mommy was talking to Grandma—you know, they get along now—and Grandma visits almost every day. Grandma was telling Mommy about when you were a little boy. She said that you loved to play soldier with your friends.” She looked up into the night sky. “Mommy started to cry, and so did Grandma. Is that what you were doing when you went away, Daddy? If you were just playing soldier, can’t you just come home and make Mommy stop crying?” She took a deep breath.
    “We still go to church every Sunday, and sometimes Mommy talks with Miss Cross, you remember her, she’s the minister’s wife. I heard her tell Mommy that she prays for you every night. Isn’t that nice? I pray for you every night too, Daddy. I pray that you’ll come home soon, but Mommy told me that you are never coming home, that you went to live in Heaven. I learned all about Heaven in Sunday school. Is it as nice as Miss Cross says it is? Do you know any angels?”
    She turned and I saw a small smile on her face. She looked back into the sky and whispered. “I remember you told me that I was your angel, so I know that if you meet an angel, you’ll love her a lot too, just like you love me. I still have the little glass angel you gave me. I’ll have it forever Daddy, because you gave it to me.”
    A single tear slid down her cheek and I watched her brush it away. “I’m sorry, Daddy. I promised I wouldn’t cry, but sometimes I can’t help it. The other day I was thinking about what forever means. I thought it meant a very long time. I asked Mommy and she just looked at me for a long time, then she knelt down and gave me a long hug. I know she was crying, so I let her hug me until she stopped. I think she feels better when she hugs me so I don’t mind. I like when Mommy hugs me, especially since you can’t hug me anymore. I still miss the way you always hugged me at bed time. It always made me feel safe. I remember what you told me when you left that morning. Remember? You said that you would always watch over me no matter what ever happened. And I know you are, Daddy. When I’m scared I remember that you’re there, up in heaven, looking down at your little angel, and you’ll make sure everything is okay.”
    My heart sobbed for my daughter as she began to cry again. Tears spotted her night shirt, she wiped her eyes with her fingers and said, “That’s the reason I wanted to talk to you tonight, Daddy. I hear some people tell Mommy not to worry, that she’ll find someone else one day, and that she’ll be fine. Daddy, I don’t want anyone to try to take your place, no one can. I remember I’m not supposed to argue with grownups, so I just make believe I don’t hear them. But I know what they mean when they tell Mommy that. She just says she doesn’t think she’ll ever meet anyone like you. I know I never will. I wish people would stop saying things like that to Mommy. It makes her sad, and it makes me sad, too. No one else will ever be my daddy, that’s a promise. Someday, I’ll be old enough to tell them to stop saying things like that.”
    My little girl put her hand over her mouth and yawned with a soft sigh. She looked up into the moonlit sky and said, “I better get to bed, Daddy. Tomorrow me and Mommy have to go see the man you worked for at the Army base. Mommy says they are going to give you a medal because you are brave. I already knew that, even without the medal.” She climbed over the pillowed window seat back into her room and turned back to the open window. She looked up into the sky, and with a tear that seemed to sparkle on her cheek, she said, “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Then, with a little giggle, she said, “Good night, Daddy. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
    Standing there in my daughter’s dark bedroom, tears filled my eyes as her words seared into my heart. “I love you, daddy.”
    I never loved her more.

    • Themagicviolinist

      I hate it and love it when stories make me sad. I hate it because I want to feel happy, not sad and then I love it because sometimes you need a little sadness to make the story real. This story was perfect! 😀

    • Angelo Dalpiaz

      I know exactly what you mean.

      And thank you for the kind wods.

    • Themagicviolinist

      You’re welcome! 😀

    • Marianne

      I love the description of her sitting in the moonlight. The idea of watching my child grieve is to me even sadder than death itself. I think what makes this so touching for me it that a mother is watching the grief of her child, and the child is handling it in her own way.

    • Angelo Dalpiaz

      What could be sadder than to watch your child experience a sadness that you can’t help her with?

    • Alison Schultz

      Okay, I’ll admit it. I cried. This was so touching and sweet that I just about lost it.

    • Angelo Dalpiaz

      It is a sad story, and it probably happens more than we like to think. Thanks for reading.

    • RD Meyer

      Having a young daughter, having deployed to a combat theater on multiple occasions, and having known friends of mine who’ve died in war, I can relate to this on several levels. Well done.

    • Angelo Dalpiaz

      Thank you.

      And, thank you for your service.

    • Submissions Kumar

       Get Publisher at http://www.nextpress.in , get published under the name of traditional publisher!

  5. Unisse Chua

    I don’t know if I was being morbid since I wrote about death a lot. One for the flash fiction world entry, another for the previous practice and another for the summer solstice entry. All involved deaths.

    • Joe Bunting

      You’re so morbid.

  6. Chihuahua Zero

    -looks at current story-

    Only one (human) death. And it’s at the 3/4th point.

    Does that mean I’m doomed? ;p

    But really, I’m not the type of writer to strike down characters left or right for no good reason, so I’ll see what death toll feels right for Book Two and Book Three.

    • Joe Bunting

      You’re totally doomed. 🙂

      No of course not. Is the story good? Does the death add meaning? If so you should be fine.

  7. Katie Axelson

    I find it slightly strange that suicide and death are two different categories in that image. I have killed characters. As a writer, it’s an easy way to get the plot going again. As a reader, it feels like a cop-out.


    • Rebekah

      Suicide in itself is the easy way out. It is a cop-out. I think people who have been left behind by someone’s successful suicide attempt do feel cheated. It makes sense that a reader would feel an echo of that by reading through a suicide.

    • Katie Axelson

      Whenever a character dies be it suicide, car accident, naturally, whatever, I always feel cheated as a reader. To me, it’s like the author gave up. (Of course, there are exceptions. Sometimes the death is well set-up or anticipated or done intentionally to end a series).


    • Joe Bunting

      Or to begin a series. Star Wars started with two death scenes: the death of the parent figures and then the death of a mentor.

      Then, of course, it ends with the death of the father and enemy. How families deal with death is fascinating no matter what the genre.

  8. Bookwoman

    I love your egg timer, Joe. I used it and now have to stop. Since I am in my outlaw phase, my death will reflect that! Just want to play today….

    Sam never wanted to rob the bank in the first place. It was J.D.’s idea all the way. While the other boys were still shooting it out, Sam sat in the alley, cradling J.D.’s head on his own bloody lap. The bullets that drove through his brother’s chest in two places, left no doubt death was coming. J.D. was no longer conscious; his breath was shallow. Tears flowed out of Sam’ eyes as he said goodbye to his big brother, the acting father in the Malone family.
    Sobbing loudly kept him from hearing the sheriff and a storekeeper walking up on him, guns drawn and cocked. “Son, it is over,” said the man wearing a star.
    Sam didn’t bother reaching for his weapon. He kissed his brother’s head and wondered how many of his mother’s sons would be left now.

    • Themagicviolinist

      It’s amazing how much emotion you can fit into one paragraph. I love it! 😀

    • Marianne

      I picture that like a black and white movie I guess because of the gangsters. You got a lot of action in a very short space.

    • Joe Bunting

      Play away, Bookwoman. I love play. 🙂

      Beautiful practice.

    • zo-zo

      Succinct and sad! I love the line ‘the bullets that drove through his brother’s chest in two places left no doubt death was coming.’

  9. Bethany Suckrow

    I love this post, Joe! I didn’t do the 15 min. practice, but I shared some thoughts over on my blog today in response to your questions. Thanks for sharing this!

  10. Rebekah

    I think that death is a popular theme for readers and writers because it is the ultimate unsolved mystery. Death is a process we will all have to face and yet we have so little information on the end result. No one has ever returned from it to say how it went.

    I step out of the shower, convinced that I heard her call for me. I rush into my clothes and bound up the rickety stairs to her bedroom, hair still dripping from beneath my towel turban.
    She turns her face away, her eyes are closed. If she did call to me it must have been from the depths of her morphine dreams.

    Her skin is waxy and yellowed. I don’t know if that is another symptom of the cancer eating its way through her body or the two quarts of carrot and wheat grass juice I am told to make for her every day.

    It seems like she’s been sick for two lifetimes. Hers and mine. I remember when she used to take care of me. I figured that one day I would take care of her but I’m not ready yet. I know it must be wrong but I hope she dies soon. This suffering has gone on too long. I’m only a kid. Thirteen year olds are too old to play “house”, too young to play “hospice”.

    • Bookwoman

      This is almost to painful to read…having been there, but not a 13! Great job with the line of playing house and hospice.

    • Themagicviolinist

      I liked the last line especially. My only criticism would be to mention who the girl with cancer is. Is it her mom or her sister? An aunt or a grandmother? Otherwise, nice job! 😀

    • Marianne

      I like the idea that she had been sick for a long time. Death and dying really morph time. I wonder if you could use that theme to make it longer and to look at the idea of what time it is in life for this girl and at what rate that time is passing. I like it.

    • Zo-zo

      Raw and beautifully written. Shows just a fraction of the horror of this.

    • Cassidy

      Even though this was so short I burst into to tears. I hope it was imagination and not experience.

    • rainybrook

      Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. Unfortunately it’s a paraphrase of a snippet from my memoir. I am writing it right now and hope to self publish it within the year.

    • Yvette Carol

      Nicely done. I enjoyed reading your piece very much.

    • RD Meyer

      I like how you intermingle the teenager’s self-centerness with the awfulness of the situation. I’d be interested to see how feelings of guilt would come into play later.

    • rainybrook

      I never did feel guilty about wishing the end would come sooner. You’ll have to read the finished memoir to find out why.

    • Suzie Gallagher

      rainybrook this is nice writing, waxy yellow is very descriptive on the way skin hangs on a wasted body.

  11. Lena

    I have no clue why it is so popular among the readers. I personally don’t like to read about death because such stories upset me.

  12. Wendy Wallace

    I need to vent.

    As someone who aspires to write YA fiction, I’ve read a lot of books within the genre. Death seems to be an extremely common thing to add to a YA story. I get that death, loss, and grief are things we experience and, especially for a teen, the experience of loss can be very painful and confusing. And yes, it’s good to have books that remind us of the depth of emotion we feel when we are faced with death because, often times, in real life, those emotions go unspoken or unrecognized. I acknowledge there is value in writing about death.

    However, I often wonder if choosing to write about death (especially in YA fiction) is a total cop-out. What’s more dramatic than death? What’s a better reasoning for unhappiness, loneliness, impulsive choices, and, reaching a new level of self-awareness than death? It just seems like it’s too easy for writers to give their characters the absolute, most tragic experience to go through–one which the reader will sympathize with completely–in order to justify why and how they maneuver their way through conflict.

    There are very few books I can think of in which I felt death was used well. (In YA, Gayle Foreman’s “If I Stay” is one.) But more often than not, death feels more like an overused device lazy, unimaginative writers rely on because a) the story practically writes itself, and b) obviously, it sells.

    • Wanda Kiernan

      Wendy, couldn’t have said it better myself. There are plenty of other ways for characters to grow and become more self aware. For example, when I was a teenager, I realized I wasn’t being invited to parties anymore, but my twin sister was. Instead of blaming everyone else I decided to look inside myself. It was a life changing moment, and forever changed my perception of the world and others. (P.S. I was invited to more parties:)

    • Joe Bunting

      Good points, Wendy. Since death clearly sells (and I’m assuming we all want to get published), how can we bring more meaning to death and not just use it as a cop-out?

    • RD Meyer

      I think the reason it’s used so often is it’s something so many can relate to on a visceral level. When you go through the death of someone close, it leaves an impression that’s hard to shut down. Yes, it may be a cheap and easy way for a writer to connect, but isn’t that because we all feel it so personally?

  13. Bronson O'Quinn

    Love, Death, and Betrayal by Faim S. Wordsmith

    A boy and a girl grew up together. One day, the girl had to leave. The boy begged and pleaded, but she had no choice.

    The boy went searching for her, but in his haste, died. Then his ghost goes around trying to find her, but she’s moved on. She’s found someone. But her new lover kills her. Ghost boy is excited. Now they can be together! But wait… why isn’t she a ghost, too? Where did she go? Heaven? Hell?

    Dante Alighieri meets Jerry Zucker’s Ghost meets The Lovely Bones.

    I started this as a joke, but I think I’m sitting on a goldmine here.

    • Marianne

      It does sound like a great plot. Now you just have to write it. Seriously good idea.

  14. Marianne

    He would show it to her when she got there he thought. She needed to know about how much money would be left to take care of her mother, his wife. He got the papers out and arranged two chairs in front of the computer desk. Then he took his medicine.
    She came later, around dinner time, with some stinking corn beef and cabbage. She talked to her mother, his wife, and she sat with him, held his hand, but he couldn’t remember what he wanted to tell her. It wasn’t important. They were important, those women of his.
    She told him that she had been sorry all her life for what she did to them, when she ran away. And did he say anything? Did he forgive her? He couldn’t remember.
    They brought the hospice workers in. He didn’t know them so he called his daughter and told her they were there. They were nice but they were black, so why were they in his house? Sometimes robbers are nice aren’t they? Do robbers go to church?
    She came right away and brought some egg nog. She said she put some rum in it but she didn’t. It smelled like nutmeg, too much nutmeg.
    “You can go now Daddy,” she said. “You did a good job. We love you and we’ll miss you but we’ll be okay.”
    “Go where,” he thought. “This is my home.” And he thought he said something that was the right thing.
    They gave him some more medicine, and it got dark again. He couldn’t hear their voices but then there was another one like them. She was behind the dark.

    • John Fisher

      I like the unique standpoint, inside the dying person’s mind. Good portrayal of the perceptions as life ebbs away.

    • Christy Boston


    • Marianne

      Thanks Christy

    • Marianne

      Thanks John

    • RD Meyer


    • zo-zo

      Some great nuances and attention to detail – ‘stinking corn beef and cabbage’, ‘it smelled like nutmeg, too much nutmeg’. Very believable decline and slip into death. Well done!

    • Marianne

      Thanks Zo Zo

    • Angelo Dalpiaz

      This seems surreal to me, like someone is telling it to me from far away. Your use of the sense of smell is very good, and you give the piece a sense of time by referring to the black hospice workers and the father’s attitude about them.

      This is very good Marianne.

      ps Corn(ed) beef and cabbage.

    • Marianne

      Thanks Angelo. I meant to put corned beef but I cannot edit here anymore once it’s posted.

    • Suzie Gallagher

      Marianne, your character has a strong sense of smell, food and drink is important to him, things should be a certain way. I like that in an older man.

      Well done, lovely vignette

    • Marianne

      Thanks for reading so carefully Suzie.

  15. Alison Schultz

    Yes. It’s the Hunger Games. But hey, it involves death. So enjoy, I guess.

    Her eyes were glued to the screen, but not from interest.

    “Fifty-nine, fifty-eight, fifty-seven…”

    A camera from high up showed the scene: 24 teenagers, surrounding a glittering golden shape. They stood at the edge of a cliff, each crouched in a ready position.

    “Forty-six, forty-five, forty-four…”

    The camera panned around the Cornucopia, slowly zooming until it showed the gleaming mass of weapons in the center. Flavia watched as the focus now turned to the tributes, some with confident smirks on their faces, others pale and shaking.

    “Thirty-two, thirty-one, thirty…”

    She recognized a few. The thin, frail one from Seven. The twins from Three. That snarky, rat-faced boy from Ten. And then…

    “Twenty-five, twenty-four, twenty-three…”

    The crowd around her began to murmur. She’d seen him, for however quickly, but her heart began to thud harder. The short sight of him had shown her exactly what she didn’t want to see—a clammy, trembling boy with bloodshot eyes. She’d told him he needed to be strong. And he was strong. But around these bigger kids…. He could still win though! He had to!

    “Ten, nine, eight….”

    The camera shifted to each tribute quickly once more, and Flavia pushed forward, eager to catch a quick glimpse of her brother. She saw both from Four, the fat boy from Nine, her District’s girl tribute, Juno…

    “Five. Four. Three.”

    And there he was, down and ready to sprint.

    “Two. One.”

    And there was the gong. Twenty-four kids broke from their plates in a mad dash for the Cornucopia or anywhere as far away as possible from the fighting. She grabbed Colton’s hand next to her and clung tight.

    So much was going on, and she couldn’t focus on all of it. She just watched the screen for any sights of Fray. Twice she saw him, once scouring the weapons pile for a spear, the second time hurling one at one of the kids from Twelve. But as more and more time passed, and she didn’t see him again, she began to assume the worse. She grabbed Colton’s hand harder. He had come home, so Fray had to. He would! Wouldn’t he?

    And as brave as she was, for how much faith she had in Fray, she was scared for him. Terrified. He had to win….

    What must have been hours later, the final few tributes duking it out had either fled or been killed. The cannon began to boom. One, two, three… Eleven times it rang out, and she could almost hear the Careers whooping. The crowd was eerily silent as they watched the screen, waiting for the dead to appear.

    They waited for days, it seemed.

    And then he was the first to appear.

    She didn’t scream; she didn’t cry. She was dazed, and hardly saw the stunned faces turning her way. What happened? What was going on? She was scared, but didn’t know why.

    And then it hit her.

    She was silent, staring back at each pair of eyes that met hers. She would not react, could not let this hurt her. He was safe now, he was far away…

    And then Colton shifted his grip.

    She pushed away with a scream, pulling her hand away and shoving him to the ground. People around her shot fearful glances her way, and backed away as she made in their direction. And then she was running, running, far away, far from anyone, everyone. Through the streets, into the trees, around boulders and across the streams. Her legs screamed but she would not stop. She pushed on, farther and farther and farther until she reached the fence. Until she couldn’t push on any further.

    And then she began to scream.

    For Fray, the only real friend she had. He understood her most. Three years younger than her but still the most mature kid she knew. He had hugged her tight during Colton’s Games, sharing her fear and just praying Colton would come back. And then Fray had freaked at the Reapings and volunteered. She should have been there with him. He wouldn’t have done anything if she had at least been in the crowd to calm him down. But no, she just HAD to be at home, resting and healing from her latest injury. Why couldn’t she have been less stubborn? She had known something would go wrong. And that one mistake had ended Fray’s life and ruined hers.

    They found her in the wee hours of the morning, passed out in a pile of leaves, shaking and sobbing. She started to scream again, thrashing and kicking, but she was restrained and was far too weak to even try to fight them. Instead she wailed as they carried her home, and curled up when they set her down on the couch. They could do nothing for her.

    And when they finally left her alone, she pushed herself off the couch, up the stairs, and into her room with the last bit of energy she had. She locked the door and collapsed in a pile of blankets and leaves in the bathroom. He had kept her alive and well…. Who would she be now that he was gone?

    • Themagicviolinist

      I LOVE the Hunger Games and was glad to see Flavia’s side of the story. Loved it. Thanks! 😀

    • Yvette Carol

      Good job Alison

  16. John Fisher

    Claude was a happy man as he unlocked the barn and cranked his Farm-All tractor to eventual life; things were going really well with the wife. When the marriage is happy the life is happy. Today he had to turn that acre-and-a-half to the south under and get it ready for planting in corn this year. The day was perfect, still just enough of Old Man Winter’s cold breath in it to keep you awake and alert. His down-lined jacket felt good to his skin. He lit an unfiltered Camel and climbed onto the seat; at forty-two years old, he took his habits for granted, didn’t think a cigarette constituted a sin at all. The engine’s chug filled his ears with a comfortable well-known work-sound, and all was right with his world. He drove the short stretch down the road, dismounted, and opened the section of fence where it was anchored to the next fence-post, drove in and set to work, not really thinking of anything but acheiving complete coverage and breakage of the sandy soil. The hours tended to fly when he was so occupied. At his twentieth round, he noticed a slight tinglng in his arm, shrugged it off, lit another cigarette, and kept going. When his jaws and chest began to ache in a completely unaccustomed way, he put the brake on for a moment, but then it seemed to subside, and he chided himself for acting like an old woman. He slipped the engine back in gear and kept plowing, and that’s when he felt a hammer-blow on his chest, a pain like nothing he had ever felt in his four decades of living. Good gosh almighty . . . what the blue devil — OH!! A strangling, choking sensation took over his consciousness, and he struggled to stay upright, but after half a minute he lost the struggle for balance and toppled off the still-moving tractor, turning the steering wheel unawares as he fell from the saddle. He hit the hard ground on his face and front, and waves of blackness as well as the monstrous pain overwhelmed him in a struggle to breathe, to live. The sound of the Farm-All’s engine faded, faded — and then it began to grow graadually louder. Unmanned, it swung around the field in a wide arc and returned inexorably to the prone body of Claude, its erstwhile driver. The plowing discs cut long deep gashes in the skin of his back and buttocks and legs, and his shout was lost in the chug of the engine and the smell of the fumes. Forty-two is too young to die. What will she do without him? He died with her name on his lips.

    • Marianne

      That was a gruesome end. I liked the detail and your writing was self-assured. I would shave left the last three sentences off though. It’s ties it up too neatly for me.

    • Christy Boston

      I like that sad thought at the end. So tender after such a gruesome description of his ironic death. Ironic because he seemed to get so much joy out of working with his tractor and then it runs him over and chops him up!

    • Tom Wideman

      What a way to go. I like how you described his thought process during his heart attack. I have to admit that’s pretty much how my inner voice rationalizes every ache and pain. I’ll just plan on never driving a tractor. Much prefer a heart attack over death by farm equipment. Great job, John!

    • Yvette Carol

      Phew! I was reading the last bit thinking ‘no, no!’ but it did happen! That was a terrifying ride….

    • zo-zo

      Yup, I agree with Marianne – you’ve got a great voice.

  17. Tom Wideman

    Sara mindlessly sorted through the week’s worth of mail her roommate left on the kitchen counter. Bill…bill…junk…another bill…postcard…

    It was from him.

    Sara, having a great time in Costa Rica. Host missionaries are great. Scenery is gorgeous. This would be a great place for a honeymoon. Wink-wink. Love you, Cord.

    “How could you do this to me?” Sara screamed as she threw the stack of mail across the dark galley kitchen. She collapsed on the sofa, burying her face in a throw pillow. She began to sob uncontrollably, releasing sounds so primal, it made her self-conscious. She had always tried to be a considerate neighbor and not make too much noise. But it was no use; her guttural groans of grief would not be silenced.

    As she went to wipe the tears, she realized she was still clutching the postcard. The beautiful couple on horseback at the edge of the rainforest seemed to taunt her as she realized the life she had for so long dreamed about had turned into a living nightmare. She began ripping the postcard into a thousand pieces, until it fully resembled her broken heart.

    Her boyfriend of three-and-a-half years, Cord Elliott, was spending the summer after their college graduation doing mission work in Costa Rica. He had always been one who took his faith seriously, as well as one who thrived on adventure, so a couple of months on the mission field sounded like the perfect plan.

    During their final semester, Sara was starting to get anxious about their future and took every opportunity to talk about engagement and marriage. But it seemed the more she wanted to talk about it, the more he didn’t. She knew he was the one and he felt the same way, but they had dated their entire college experience and, for some reason, he was having a hard time thinking about settling down into marriage and family life. He just wasn’t ready for the whole responsible adult life. Sara blessed his decision to spend the summer in Costa Rica because she thought he’d realize absence did indeed make the heart grow fonder. Plus, she figured a few months roughing it on the mission field would turn him into a reasonably responsible adult.

    From all their correspondence, it seemed to be working. His emails, phone calls and postcards frequently talked about getting engaged or marriage. Sara was pleased and anxiously counting the days of his return.

    She got the call over the weekend. It was from Cord’s parents. There had been an incident in Costa Rica involving Cord. He had been stabbed to death by an intruder while he was sleeping. They were broken-hearted and were so sorry to have to give her this news, but they wanted her to make the trip to their home so she could be a part of the funeral arrangements. They paid for her airfare to St. Louis. The rest of the week had been a blur, with the travel and the funeral arrangements. She could hardly remember which friends actually made it to the memorial service.

    At the St. Louis Airport, on her return home, she recognized the representative from Cord’s mission organization getting on the same flight as her. She approached him in the waiting area.

    “Excuse me, is it Doctor Samson?”

    Dr. Samson turned toward Sara and smiled a serious smile.

    “Yes, it is. And you’re Sara, right? You were Cord’s fiancée,” he replied.

    “Well, not officially, but we were talking about it.” Sara continued. “I just wanted to thank you for the kind words you had to say about Cord.”

    “Thank you, Sara. Cord was a special young man is so many ways. I’m so sorry for your loss.” He replied. “I know it must be so painful for you. And especially considering the circumstances surrounding his death.”

    “That’s what I wanted to ask you about,” Sara responded. “I don’t understand how an intruder got into the mission compound. I thought it was gated and had 24 hour security.”

    “It does, Sara. But he wasn’t in the compound when he was murdered, remember?” Dr. Samson looked very somber and sympathetic.

    “He wasn’t in the compound? His parent’s said he was asleep when he was murdered,” Sara said was a bit of confusion.

    “Oh my, Sara, I thought you knew what happened. I hate to be the one to have to tell you this, but Cord was asleep, just not in his bed.”

    “Then where was he?” Sara said with growing anxiety.

    “He was across town asleep in an old hotel.”

    “Why would he be asleep there instead of the compound?” Sara asked tentatively. Tears were starting to form in her already red eyes.

    “Apparently, this particular hotel is frequented by those involved in prostitution,” Dr. Samson explained.

    “Dr. Samson! Cord would never hire a prostitute! We were both committed to waiting until we were married. I know for a fact that he would never pay for a prostitute!” Sara realized her voice had risen in volume and people were starting to stare.

    “Sara, I don’t know how to say this, except to just come out and say it. Cord wasn’t paying for a prostitute. Apparently Cord was the one getting paid…by the other men.”

    • Marianne

      Wow Tom. That’s adding insult to injury. What a story.

    • Christy Boston

      Wow! That was great. And I hate to say, but quite realistic. These things do actually happen, and you wrote it so well that I wanted to just keep going. Twist after shocking twist, wonderful work!

    • RD Meyer

      Great twist!

    • Suzie Gallagher

      Tom, powerful writing as always, WD

  18. Christy Boston

    Be honest with commenting, I know I need to improve! I went a few minutes over 15 because I had to go back and fix my typos… I hope that’s allowed! Anyway, here is my death story…. hope you like it!

    She had meant to stop. She had good intentions and deep down she believed that someday she would quit… someday when the stress subsided, someday when she started dating again, someday when the bills were paid, someday when there was less pain, less to cope with, more to live for again…

    Ellie wanted to quit smoking, and her financial woes would subside a bit when she did, cigarettes were so expensive nowadays anyway. But she did not want to deal with this just now, just a little while longer so she could get though the heartache and the pain. But someday, someday, things would get better and she would quit, someday…

    After hearing the news from the doctor today, she had taken up drinking again with a vengeance. The smoking would kill her anyway, what had she left now to quit for? To spend the remainder of her days coughing and hacking and withdrawing, she may as well smoke like a chimney and then some in the weeks she had left, enjoy it for all it was. She would have a few drinks tonight to ease the suffering. The drink soothed her more than the empty words of platonic friends ever could, so she indulged with a vengeance, downing a whole bottle of Jack. She would drink it all way just this once, and then…

    But what was this life of hers, what significance did it ever have?

    She thought then she heard the phone. Who would be calling her now? Only she and the doctor knew her diagnosis, no one else. She was lucky if her phone rang more than once or twice a week, and it was usually just a telemarketer anyway. But maybe, she hoped, just maybe this one time it would be worth answering and she jumped up to answer the call.

    Ellie plunged down the stairs but it did not end there. Before crashing against the table, her back twisted and made a sickening crunch. Knocking into the table with her full weight had sent the candles tumbling, all alight, and soon the flames found the flimsy gauze curtain on which to feed.

    Ellie no longer felt her legs and wondered if they were even still there. Though she tried to fumble her way to the phone, she could only fling her arms wildly about from her place on the floor. The flames now blazed up the wall and were soon roaring quickly across the ceiling, and she wondered how much it would hurt before she died. When would the firemen come, and would they be in time to save her? It was ironic should they risk their lives to try, she only had a few months left anyway, but she did not want to go like this.

    As she lay under the inferno that her lonely home was becoming, Ellie thought back on her life as the sweat began to drench her body. Where had it all gone so wrong? Through the rumbling of the fire she heard the phone ringing again…. once, twice, then nothing the frightening scream of the smoke alarm drowning out that last little ring of hope before she slipped into unconsciousness.

    • Tom Wideman

      Christy, what a great story. It was very effective how you gave so many different trick clues as to how she was going to die. I assumed I was going to read about a slow painful death from cancer. No, wait, she’s going to drink herself to death, but wait, there’s more! The twists keep on coming. And I almost found myself hoping that she would be put out of her misery since she was so prone to destructive behavior. It’s quite a motivator to live with purpose. Good job!

    • Christy Boston

      Thanks! I read about today’s practice before leaving work today, and thought about writing of a slow death from cancer filled with regrets and lamenting, but I did not know how I could make it an exciting read. On the drive home however I saw firemen, and alas, along came the idea that became this story.

    • Marianne

      What a horrible death. I like how you handle all the action here. What is happening is clear throughout.

    • Christy Boston

      Thanks so much! I have often struggled with the problem of being excessively wordy to the point of muddying up the plot, so your compliment helps me see that I am improving. Thank you!

  19. Juliana Austen

    The knock on the door was loud, even so Carrie barely heard it. In front of the fire the boys were fighting, rolling over each other on the floor like puppies. The baby was crying – she was teething and inconsolable. Granny Anne was kneading the bread dough on the kitchen table and remonstrating with the lads – she knew about boys – she had raised six herself, Arthur her youngest was practising the piano in the front room. He was the one who opened the door and brought death and destruction and the end to all happiness into the house.
    Arthur, his bright young face, shadowed and serious, handed her the telegram. She stared at it blankly, unable to take in what the black border meant. She sat down and looked up at Anne who took the telegram from her trembling fingers. She opened it and started reading aloud in a firm voice
    “We regret to inform you that John James Austen corporal in the 9th coy has been killed in action…
    She stopped and the paper fell to the floor. Carrie stared at it, such an ephemeral thing to bring the end of all that was good and gay in her life.
    Her eyes remained dry, she thought of Isabel next door when her sweetheart had died at Messines – she said she had “known”, known the moment of his death, a sudden tearing pain in her head and heart. Carrie had not known, she had continued with her children and the daily business of life, unaware that all the while her love lay cold and lifeless so far away. She stared at her now fatherless children and wondered how she could go on. The baby cried fretfully and leaned toward her – she took her in her arms and held her tight.

    • Katie Axelson

      This scene is so sad and so familiar to so many! Thank you for sharing!


    • zo-zo

      I love the contrast between the boisterous action in the beginning and the stillness after she has gotten the news. Also, I love the line ‘he was the one who brought death and destruction’.

  20. Beth Zimmerman

    Yay! My current WIP (which I am writing the rough draft for on my blog … may be crazy but it keeps me going because my readers want more) begins with a death. Here’s the first segment:

    It wasn’t the first time that anger had woken Allie. She heard the slamming doors, the loud voices, and she slipped out of her bed, grabbed her blanket and her doll, and tiptoed to her closet. Closing the door behind her, she wedged her way deep into the closet, behind clothes and toys, into her safe place. There was an empty spot, just her size, in the back, for she had slept here often. She wrapped herself into her blanket, whispered quiet assurances to her doll, and fell back asleep.

    Mercifully, Allie slept as the anger escalated. She didn’t hear the shots. Didn’t see the red and blue lights flashing in the night. Didn’t hear the old woman next door screaming at the police to look for the child. She slept peacefully unaware as police swarmed through the house trying to find her. She didn’t wake until a bright light invaded her safe place followed by a friendly voice, “Hey Allie, we’ve been looking for you. Can you come out here?”

    She shook her head in a silent negative and tried to shrink deeper into the closet. The light didn’t insist. It asked gently if it could join her in the closet. She considered that for a minute. The voice sounded like it belonged to a nice man. Maybe if she let him in he could help keep her safe. She beckoned him in and told him he had to be very quiet.

    He moved a few toys out of the way and settled onto the closet floor beside her. His flashlight was pointing the other way now and she could see bottom parts of the clothing hanging in her closet and bits and pieces of brightly colored toys. She whispered to him to turn the light off so they couldn’t be found as she snuggled closer to his scratchy shirt.

    He told her that it was safe now. No one was going to hurt her and she needed to come out of the closet. She whispered, “no,” and fell back to sleep. She was still sleeping when he moved some things out of the closet so he could reach her better, gently picked her up, and cradled her against his chest. She slept as he brushed her tangled hair away from her tear-stained face. She didn’t wake when he cringed as he caught sight of her bruised cheek and black eye. She didn’t hear him say, “I’m so sorry little one.”

    Allie startled awake as he buckled her into a car seat. Tears started fresh she saw the waves of colored light sweeping across the front of her house. She fought against the belts holding her in the seat but the man, that she now knew was a policeman, held her firmly in place and told her to sit still.

    Allie was afraid.

    Want to read more? http://www.bethszimmerman.com/fiction/allies-story/

    • Christy Boston

      Oh my! That was so very well done. I like the part how you said ‘the light didn’t insist’ and asked to join her in the closet.

    • Suzie Gallagher

      Well done Beth, lovely writing, harsh subject.

    • Marianne

      This is good Beth very intense, very easy to “see”. The only problem I have with it is that they child slept through it. I can’t imagine her being able to sleep even in the closet.

    • Beth Zimmerman

      I guess my thought was that it had happened often so she had learned to sleep through it. Besides which I am a deep sleeper which probably affects my perception. Thank you for the comment.

  21. rainybrook

    Thanks for all the comments and suggestions! Unfortunately it’s a paraphrase of a snipit from my memoir. I’m in the process of writing it and hope to self publish it within the year. I really need to get it out of my head so I can do the fiction and essay writing I have always dreamed of doing.

    • Katie Axelson

      I’ve learned that blog-reading is just not the same on any device that’s not a computer. 🙁

  22. Yvette Carol

    Personally I’ve always been fascinated by the topic. What is more primal, more basic in life than the subject of death?
    I never intended to write about it in my fiction though! Hadn’t thought about it….
    When I was pouring out the rough draft of my WIP, I so cared for all my characters (and still do) that I didn’t want to think of any of them ever dying. I would keep them alive in my books!
    But one of them did die on me. Can I say I didn’t intend it to happen? He just died on me anyway. I still feel terrible about it.
    I was really looking forward to writing about him some more too…as with all young people, his possibilities seemed positively endless. Then some bastard killed him

    • Marianne

      I was talking about that to my writing partner last night. I don’t even like to have animals die. They become so real and we feel so responsible for them. I think that’s a good thing though in a way.

    • Yvette Carol

      Yeah it shows you’re invested in your story. As they say, if they matter to you they’ll matter to other people too!
      I still suffer regret that I ‘let’ that character die…seems like there should have been a way to stop it. Why, I’ll just wade back in there and rewrite it! But if I do then all the other ripple effects that carried on outward from that one event would need to be changed also. I realized it just couldn’t be done without altering the integrity of the entire piece. Besides, who am I to argue with the muse?

      Tell me Marianne, a ‘writing partner’, that sounds fascinating. How does that work?

    • Marianne

      I just don’t know what else to call her. She’s a very good friend too, but we’ve never seen each other. We met in a Gotham online workshop and emailed a bit and then she asked me to look over some of her manuscript and I did and I sent her some stories, so now we just send each other what we have each week. It’s sort of like we do here but on a more personal scale (and we write a lot more). It helps with my own writing to critique hers even when I don’t have anything to send her. I’m not a very fast writer and I can get in the doldrums but she encourages me. I wish there were a blog for things like that like an eharmony for writers. I have even thought about starting one. It helps to have similar literary tastes and similar views on life in general which is why I think it would be good to have a hub to match people up. I don’t know how to blog or anything though.

    • Yvette Carol

      Well Marianne maybe you should find out how to start one, because I’m sure there are a lot of writers out there who would appreciate it! Eharmony for writers…I love that!! It’s a great idea.
      I can’t help re the blog side of things. I’m so slow on all this myself. However I did take a little leap of my own just recently which is why I encourage you to do the same. Kristen Lamb launched WANAtribe (stands for we are not alone). I joined & saw right away there was no tribe for children’s writers so I started one. Never done anything like that before. Now there are other similar tribes as well but mine is up to about 18 writers I think so far, and the running conversation each day has been amazing!!!
      If you do follow up on your idea, let me know, I’ll join for a start 🙂

    • Marianne

      Yvette – It won’t let me reply under your post now. I might try to do it. I’m going to think it through and then I’ll let people know. It would be a lot of work for me but it is really helpful to have somebody to write with. I think this blog is great but the writing is short and if it were any longer no one would be able to read the other people’s stuff. That’s why a partner is good. Matching people would be the trick. I’ll get back to you all on this.

  23. RD Meyer

    OK, I ran out of time, but I got 665 words. Maybe I’ll try to finish the story one day.

    The last thing that went through my head before I died was a chunk of concrete. Of course, that was after the windshield did the same thing.

    I should’ve known better, but I reasoned that I wasn’t going far. It was less than three miles to the store for the things my mother asked me to pick up. She’d always pounded the seatbelt rule into my head, but dad and I were known to ignore it in a pinch.

    I picked myself up off the road and didn’t even know I was dead yet. Luckily there wasn’t any traffic, so I limped back to what was left of the pickup truck and started to assess the damage. The jerk that crossed the line was stumbling out of his own car – one of those God-awful Chevy Outbacks – and wiping blood from his forehead. A stunned kid on a bike stood motionless in the other lane.

    “You OK kid?” the man called out, his hand pressed to the cut on his head.

    When the boy didn’t answer, the man repeated the question. “I asked if you were OK.”

    “Y-yeah,” the boy replied. “I didn’t…I mean, I just…damn, man, you could’ve plastered me.”

    The man straightened up and looked at the boy, trying hard to keep the glare out of his eyes. Finally, he said, “Do you always ride down the wrong side of the road?”

    “I thought you’d move,” stammered the boy.

    “I had the right of way, son,” the man said, anxious to chew out this kid. However, tossed the boy a cell phone and said, “Call 911. I’m going to check on the other guy.”

    The boy caught the phone can punched in 911. I was about to tell the guy that I was shaken up a little but otherwise alright when he blew past me. I turned around and saw him kneeling over what looked like a broken piece of driftwood.

    The rational part of my mind knew what he was looking at, but I didn’t want to see it myself. Still, I edged over to the shoulder of the road and saw what was left of my body laying at grotesque angles. My leg shouldn’t have been able to bend that way, and my right hand looked like ground up hamburger. It was then that I did something that dad would’ve gotten on me about if he’d heard it.

    I shrieked.

    In my mind, the sound shook the ground, but neither of the other two reacted to my screams. I could’ve sworn I felt my heart trying to beat its way out of my chest, like it was trying to will itself back to life. However, I gradually came to understand what was going on – I’d died, and my heart could no more beat again than it could dance a rumba.

    “Hey!” the man kneeling beside me shouted. He shook me vigorously and yelled again, “HEY!”

    “I don’t know how bad he’s hurt,” the boy jabbered into the cell phone. “Just send somebody quick.” He paused. “Where are we? Damn, I don’t know. I think we’re about halfway up Collins road, not far from Safeway. Can’t you track us through GPS or something?”

    The man ran over and snatched the phone from the boy. “This is Sean Johnson. The accident is on Collins road just prior to the Juniper turnoff. We’re about half a mile from the Rolling Hills Shopping Center. Send paramedics quick – there’s a boy who’s been hurt bad and he ain’t gonna make it if you don’t get here soon.”

    The man put his phone back in his pocket and raced to the trunk of what was left of his car. I bent over my body and tried to get a good look at the damage. Hair covered the side of my face, so I couldn’t tell if my eyes were open or closed, but the blood running into the dirt told me all I needed to know.

    • zo-zo

      Wow. The beginning was so intense that it made my stomach turn. Like someone else said about another piece, almost too hard to read. The beginning reminded me of Tinkers – have you read it?

    • Marianne

      Interesting story. You are good with action and you can really write quickly and cleanly. That’s more than I can get down in an hour.

    • Guest

      Wow, and you didn’t even edit or anything?

    • Sarah W

      this was 6 years ago but this piece is great

  24. Suzie Gallagher

    They woke together on Saturday as the sun spilt in through the gap in the curtains. “Mmm, she slept all night,” Carys whispered smiling as Jake, her husband planted fairy kisses all over her head and shoulders. Kisses that barely became kisses before floating to another area.

    “Will I go check on her?” He asked Carys whilst continuing down her body.

    “No, leave her, she will cry when she’s ready. When was the last time we got a Saturday morning love-in? Must’ve been four months at least.”

    Carys and Jake made slow, lovers love to each other, they were still young, still in love, still passionate. Jake slipped out of bed, padded across the room and into the bathroom. Carys heard him start the shower, she slipped out of bed, thought about joining him but decided they had already had bonus sex. She went into the nursery.

    Wee Charlotte was lying in her cot, waiting for her mammy patiently, too patiently and as Carys got closer she could see there was no breath in the body of her little angel. She knelt down, surprised by how calm she was, cried silent tears and prayed. Jake found her there ten minutes later, kneeling, crying and praying.

    Jake immediately thought of their early morning romp and felt guilty, if he had only checked on the baby first, if he had only… He did not go to Carys.

    Carys moved through the funeral serenely, Jake was a mess. Their lives became more disparate and in time they separated and divorced. Charlotte was laid to rest after a brief autopsy, sudden infant death, being the cause on the death certificate.

    Carys moved on, grieving was seen as textbook for a grieving mother. Jake in comparison, his life fell apart, he lost his job, he began to drink heavily. After many years of dereliction he sought out Carys.

    Jake appeared on her doorstep one day in November, it was just beginning to get colder. “I’m sorry,” he said as she warily opened the door.

    “Jake, is that you?”

    “Um, yeah it’s me, I guess I don’t look how I useta.”

    “No, I mean, yes, no. What I mean is I recognised your eyes and the way you said sorry. You had a special way of saying it. What are you sorry for?”

    Jake explained briefly and then walked away leaving Carys on her knees praying, but this time her wracking sobs were violent, loud with edges and sharp pointy bits.

    Charlotte was exhumed a few months later and the cause of death changed. A warrant for Jake’s arrest was made. He was not found and Carys felt vindicated.

    Jake jumped from a bridge into freezing water in December calling Charlotte’s name as he did. He couldn’t live with what he had done. Intentional methadone overdose was the amended cause of death, Jake just wanted one night of peace, one night of sleep, one night without Charlotte. He didn’t bargain for what he got; a lifetime without her.

    • Marianne

      OMG Suzie. That gave me the chills. How horrible and I’ll be it happens more often than we like to think. Well done.

    • Ash P.

      Hurt my mommy heart! But very well done. Seems like the sadness of loss overhangs the entire story and makes the details fuzzy–but in a good way. (Does that make sense?)

    • Beck Gambill

      Painful, powerful, and terribly realistic!

  25. Catherine Wrigley

    “Mrs. G?” Laila opened the screen to pound directly on the back door. “Hey, Mrs. G, are you in there?” She wasn’t really expecting an answer. The gas man hadn’t gotten one, there were three newspapers shoved into the box up front, and a Jehovah’s Witness had even knocked and slipped some literature under the door and gotten away unmolested. “Oh, come on now…” Laila said under her breath.

    She stood on the porch another minute or two in case Mrs. G was watching TV or up in the bathroom or something. She could see a faint flicker on the living room blinds, but she also figured that didn’t mean a thing one way or the other since as far as she knew that TV never was off.

    Not once in her seventeen years had Laila seen her neighbor use the front door for anything other than chasing off Witnesses, but she figured it was worth giving it a try. She leaned on the bell and banged a couple times, hoping it would tick her neighbor off enough to answer it.

    “Hey,” she said, maybe too softly. “It’s Laila, from next door.” Her voice broke a little on her name. Why didn’t she come over after the first paper didn’t get retrieved?

    “Mrs G?” This one was loud. She spun her cell phone between her fingers.

    “I’m going to…I’m going to the store.” She was crying a little. “Do you want anything?” Why did her parents think it was okay to leave her for the weekend?

    “Mrs. G?” Too quiet now to be heard. “Do you want me to feed the cat?” She was crying for real now, as she dialed 911.

    • Christy Boston

      Nice suspense here. And I can’t help but think, I hope the cat didn’t die too!

  26. Ash P.

    One minute the king was laughing with his best knights and courtiers and the next minute he clutched at his throat gurgling in his own blood. He tossed forward in his chair, his head hitting the table with a resounding thud as he struggled to take a breath. The Duke of Benair rose, immediately on the look-out for the assassin. “Was it poison?” he shouted down at the knight who had succeeded in prying his master’s fingers away from the wound.
    “No!” came the reply. “Some kind of projectile. Buried deep in His Majesty’s neck. I cannot see it.”
    The Duke scanned the upper galleries of the Great Hall, knowing there had to be an assassin present, and spied a figure darting away through a curtain. He leapt into the mass of people who were beginning to panic as they realized their ways out were limited. “Out of the way, out of the way!” his voice cut through the noise and a few soldiers began to help part the crowd for him. The Duke skidded into the hallway just in time to see the same figure disappear at the end of a long corridor towards the castle gates.
    “Halt in the name of the king!” he shouted as he again caught sight of the flurry of robes and possibly a cape. Knowing the cry was futile, he redoubled his speed, grinning to himself as he saw the figure vanish into a room that had only one entrance and exit. Clearly this assassin did not know the castle well. The Duke charged into the room, and the door slammed shut behind him, plunging him into complete darkness. Never one to be taken by surprise, he allowed twin blades to fall into his hand from their concealed sheaths on his forearms. “I can hear you breathe,” he said to the darkness. “I know you’re there.”
    The room was absolutely silent, which was unnerving for the Duke. He moved silently to the right and forward three steps to keep himself invisible to his possible attacker. He moved again in the same pattern, which, if memory served, moved him closer to the windows with their thick drapes. He could open one and flood the room with light. His hand found the velvet, heavy and soft beneath his touch and he yanked hard to the left.
    Just then he felt the blood bubble up in his mouth and felt the excruciating pain of the sword that had been jammed through his torso from behind. He looked down in shock at the tip poking through his waistcoat and an odd fascination came over him. His one consuming desire now was to see who could have done this to him and to his king. He turned, staggeringly, and spat the blood that had filled his mouth. The enormous red drops landed at the feet of Her Majesty the Queen.
    “I knew it was you the moment I saw you,” she hissed. “I knew you’d try to pin it on me, you fhealltóir. He took you in and treated you as a son. He made you a Duke, gave you the title of Heir Apparent when we did not have children. I have conceived, and you are but an inconvenience to me now. Scotland will have a proper monarch on its throne!“

    • Beck Gambill

      Nice action! Did the Queen kill the King or did the Duke? The Duke’s perspective of dieing was really intricate and a great description!

  27. Beck Gambill

    I love writing about death! Even better death and rebirth or redemption. If a story doesn’t have some sort of death in it I’m disappointed. I have two deaths in my work in progress. I thought I’d share one here. It’s the day after the funeral of the main character’s surrogate grandmother. (She’s a young southern woman expecting her first child.)
    In the morning I sit at the kitchen table, wrapped in a robe of fluffy pink. Spread before me are the contents of a small box, along with the remnants of morning tea. From the cd player on the counter the brilliant strains of Nigel Hess’ Ladies in Lavender float and dance around me.
    The morning Mr. Belvadere read Maw-Maw’s will he had handed each of us an envelope. Tucked inside was a note listing items for each of her dearest friends, mementos of her love. As well as a personal letter of encouragement and affection. Her goodbye.
    I fingered the letter again, words scrawled in her old-fashioned script across creamy paper.
    “My dearest Vi,
    Your reading this means I have shaken the dust of this world off my weary old feet and have gone home. Being an old woman I wanted to make sure I had the chance to say my goodbyes.
    You have been the granddaughter I never had of my own. It has been my privilege to watch the moments of your childhood, to listen to your stories, and to pray over your life. Now you’re a woman. I couldn’t be more proud of you even if you were my own. I see the love of Jesus shining in your eyes. You’ve come so far from the impetuous days of youth. I remember when you were a child hearing your feet clattering across my front porch hurrying to tell me some news or show me a treasure. I was pleased that even as a teenager and young woman you still sought me out to share your life with me. I’ve treasured all of those moments shared together my dear.
    Now, don’t you fret at my passing or sorrow for long We will meet again before you know it. And nothing delights my heart more than the thought of seeing my Jesus’ face. Oh, the very idea takes my breath away.
    And now I have one last thought to share and prayer to pray for you my dear. Hebrews 12:12-14 holds a challenge I pass on to you. “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” You are a strong woman my dear and people watch your walk with Jesus. I pray over you power to walk well, his strength when you are week, and a holy heart that sees him everywhere.
    All my love,
    I wipe a stray tear away with the back of my hand as I fold up the letter and gently place it back in it’s envelop. Oh how I’ll miss her in my life. My fingers stretch across the grain of the table top to finger the edge of the porcelain teacup. White adorned with a spray of pale pink cherry blossoms. How many times have I sipped tea cradling it’s curve in my hands, sharing a warm moment at her kitchen table? She had left each of us a tea cup from her set, dispersing the love and memories.
    Beside the teacup, folded in a perfect square, lays the spidery lace of a delicately hand crocheted table cloth. Crafted by Maw-Maw in her youth the fibers have taken on the cream of age. A cracked leather volume of Emily Dickenson’s poems, small and worn and familiar to my hands, is resting beside them. I would often sit on the broad porch of Maw-Maw’s big white lady of a house reading Ms. Dickenson’s words of beauty. It touched my heart that she had remembered. The last of the items was a gold broach in the shape of a sunburst, amethyst at it’s heart encircled by diamonds. Her note said that her husband, Walter, had given her the broach as an anniversary gift years ago. It had been his mother’s.

    • Ash P.

      This is a very compelling short! I can definitely hear Maw-Maw’s voice in the letter, and your imagery is simple but evocative. I can hear and see everything the narrator can hear and see–love it!
      Also, it is very nice to see a Christian reference and excerpt from Holy Scripture. 🙂

    • Beck Gambill

      Thank you so much for your kind words! Maw-Maw has become my favorite character in my novel and I questioned allowing her to die. But I’ve decided I can weave her into the story through memories and items of hers left behind. I’m so glad you enjoyed the feel of the piece!

  28. Kiya

    My little brother died 5 years ago, the summer before I went to school to study creative writing. Not surprisingly, a lot of my stories & poems from that time delt with death. Although it doesn’t come up much in polite conversation, I think that many people have delt with death or loss at some point, and literature about the subject speaks to them on various levels. The first fact about the Booker Prize is crazy though. ALL of them? Will have to get on the computer and view that graphic larger.

  29. hesthermay

    Fifteen minutes go by so… quickly! Be gracious – I’m new around here.

    “Hailey, stop!” he gasped desperately. But
    it was too late and Zahra turned to evade the dagger’s fatal strike. It only
    pierced her shoulder and she was free to turn and she did. She held her sword
    and while Léumas scrambled to get to his feet again, thrust it into the
    princess’ stomach.

    “No!” Léumas yelled and lunged Zahra. She
    had drawn her weapon from Hailey’s body that crumpled silently to the floor.
    There was blood flowing from Zahra’s shoulder when Léumas pinned her to the
    ground and knocked her unconscious.

    “Hailey,” Léumas pushed Zahra’s limp body
    aside and crawled over to Hailey. “Hailey.” He knelt next to her and laid a
    hand over the wound, trying to stop the blood. “Oh, Hailey, what have you
    done?” he whispered withdrawing his hand, dripping with blood. He leaned
    forward and touched her face. “Hailey, everything’s going to be all right.” Her
    eyes fluttered. “Hailey, please.”

    Hailey’s eyes opened and a faint smile appeared
    but her face grew paler with every moment.

    “Hailey, you have to be strong this one
    more time,” Léumas pleaded. “You can’t give up. I need you, Hailey. I am so
    sorry – Hailey, no.”

    She tried to keep her eyes open, tried to
    speak, tried to breathe. But she couldn’t – anymore.

  30. Carol

    I wrote this in 12 minutes.

    Sharon climbed over the railings of the ship. She looked
    down at the choppy water. It’ll be quick. She paused. ‘Oh God, forgive me for
    what I’m about to do.’ She touched her stomach. I can’t bring a child up
    without a father. I’ll be an outcast in society and so will it. I don’t know
    why I got mixed up with a married man. I’ve betrayed my best friend. This is
    the only way out. Her grip on the railing loosened and she slipped into the
    water below.
    A man saw her fall and gave the alarm, but it was too late, the sea had covered all traces of her existence.
    Carol Kanthan

  31. Daphnee Kwong Waye

    That’s interesting and great because I love writing about death 🙂 It’s just a theme which has so much impact on us because it’s a mystery… a fear… but one which is inevitable and very much real!


  32. Ramon

    This was all I could write in 15 minutes…

    His steps echoed through the empty corridor as he walked straight ahead without bothering to take in the sight. Though there’s not much to see. He paused as he looked up at the stairs leading to the top. ‘One, two, three.’ He counted the numbers of steps he took in his head till he reached the top. His breath came out shaky as he reached to open the rusted door, it opened with a creak and he took one step in and another. The land breeze blew from behind, making his neatly combed hair fly wildly. The railings were unstable but still he could get to the other side with one last breath he said goodbye and took his final step. The waves crash against the shore while the currents pulled his body away.
    “And today on the breaking news, the body of a young renowned doctor who goes by the name of Ramon.K was found washed along the shores. It is suspected that he had ended his life due to his recent operation which caused the life of a young boy.”

  33. Cheetahsfetch

    The sun shined down on the beautiful lake, as Flub drank the rather odd-tasting water they had relied on for so long.
    “Don’t you want any water?” Foo asked Jonas.
    “I don’t need-”
    His words were cut off as a wild dog pounced on him and bit his forearm with such force that Flub thought she heard the bone crack.
    Jonas let out an ear-splitting shriek of agonizing pain and lay there, unable to move.
    Without hesitation, Flub leaped, claws outstretched and raked the dog’s muzzle.
    The dog yelped and Flub could see it’s fire-lit gaze as it grabbed Flub and shook her like a peice of prey.
    She saw Foo rush twards Jonas.
    “Are you okay? Do you need help? Can you move your arm?” she unleashed a series of questions at him.
    Jonas weakly clutched his arm, and croaked,
    “Just don’t let me get hurt anymore.”
    But that couldn’t happen, because as soon as he said that, seven more wild dogs appeared.
    The six friends were outnumbered.
    Flub snapped back to the battle and faced the same dog that shook her.
    The dog lashed a paw at her cheek, but Flub swiftly dodged to one side and slashed deep claw marks on the dog’s flank.
    Before the dog could react, she had her teeth clamped on one of it’s ears.
    The dog soon pelted away, yowling in pain.
    She turned, looking for anyone to help, when she saw Foo hissing at two dogs.
    Flub aimed a well bite in the dog’s hing leg, but the dog swiftly ducked under her and raked it’s thorn-sharp claws into her belly.
    Searing pain engulfed her and she felt anger like no other she’d ever felt before.
    Flub lashed out her hind leg, sending the dog flying and as Flub watched, it got up dizzly and limped away.
    “Help me!” Foo screeched, as she tried to scrape the dog’s muzzle.
    But the dog dodged, and it quickly grabbed Jonas and flung him into the river.
    “Nooooooooooooo!”Flub screeched, as Jonas hit a larged shaped stone with a sickening thud and splashed into the river.
    His screams were muffled as he sank under like a deadweight.
    Flub rushed to the river, and managed to fasten her teeth in his shirt, but the weight was too heavy.
    As Flub thought she was going to slip and drown beside him, Foo came, and the weight lightened a little.
    The two best friends managed to drag Jonas onto the shore of rocks where he layed motionless.
    But as Flub’s last spark of hope faded, Jonas’ eyes flickered open.
    “Goodbye.” he whispered.
    “No! You can’t leave, not after all you have done for us! You said that yourself!” Flub said angrily.
    “I am sorry, but you will see me in the stars every time you look up.”
    “I will never forget you.” was all Flub could manage to say.
    “One last thing. Could you tell my parents that I loved them, and will watch over them in the stars?”
    “Of course. Foo replied.
    “Thank you all. I too, will never forget you.” and those were his last words, as a long sigh came out of him.
    Flub strained her ears for the next breath.
    It didn’t come.

  34. Cheetahsfetch

    Sorry, but I wrote a lot and I actually took about 20 minutes instead of 15.
    Hope you enjoy(Not that death is great) and give me some advice on how to improve!

  35. Kobi


    Their was red blood everywhere…

    It was painting her light grey t-shirt and was covering the floor of the bland floor of the jail cell. The blood was painting my hands when I touched her injury, but I didn’t care.

    “Who did this to you?” I asked her, my voice coming out as a croak. My eyes were beggining to water, but I didn’t care.

    “I did…I did,” she answered, which came out more like a gasp. She was trying her best to keep breathing but we knew at any moment she was going to stop breathing.

    “I’m a murderer, I killed someone, I killed the mayor because he caused so much suffering to you that I…” and she broke down, sobbing quietly. She never cried like this. She never cried at all.

    “Your not a murderer Kobi! You did the right thing, anyone in your shoes would have done the same thing, Dally Winston from ‘The Outsiders’ would have done the same thing! Heck, even I would have done the same thing!”

    “No! I didn’t do the right thing! I let my anger cloud my judgment! I murdered the mayor! When I killed him, something flickered in his eyes! It was fear! Fear of dying and leaving behind a family!”

    “That’s what your doing! That’s what your doing!” I screamed, my voice quivering!

    “He could have changed his horrible ways, if I hadn’t killed him! He wouldn’t have been like….” and before she could continue, she stopped, her faint breathing fading away very quickly, like the smoke of a train.

    “Kobi?” I asked. She looked dead, her eyes red from crying and her face pale as a ghost.

    That’s when I realized, she was gone…

    My twin sister…
    My best friend…
    My other half…

    Was dead…

    And all I could do was let out a heart-wrenching sob.

  36. Kobishaa

    I don’t know, I posted this before, but, I’ll post it again, since I can’t see my comment:


    Their was red blood everywhere…

    It was painting her light grey t-shirt and was covering the floor of the bland floor of the jail cell. The blood was painting my hands when I touched her injury, but I didn’t care.

    “Who did this to you?” I asked her, my voice coming out as a croak. My eyes were beggining to water, but I didn’t care.

    “I did…I did,” she answered, which came out more like a gasp. She was trying her best to keep breathing but we knew at any moment she was going to stop breathing.

    “I’m a murderer, I killed someone, I killed the mayor because he caused so much suffering to you that I…” and she broke down, sobbing quietly. She never cried like this. She never cried at all.

    “Your not a murderer Kobi! You did the right thing, anyone in your shoes would have done the same thing, Dally Winston from ‘The Outsiders’ would have done the same thing! Heck, even I would have done the same thing!”

    “No! I didn’t do the right thing! I let my anger cloud my judgment! I murdered the mayor! When I killed him, something flickered in his eyes! It was fear! Fear of dying and leaving behind a family!”

    “That’s what your doing! That’s what your doing!” I screamed, my voice quivering!

    “He could have changed his horrible ways, if I hadn’t killed him! He wouldn’t have been like….” and before she could continue, she stopped, her faint breathing fading away very quickly, like the smoke of a train running againtist the track.

    “Kobi?” I asked. She looked dead, her eyes red from crying and her face pale as a ghost.

    That’s when I realized, she was gone…

    My twin sister…

    My best friend…

    My other half…

    Was dead…

    And all I could do was let out a heart-wrenching sob.

  37. Fernando Sucre

    I think its really bad, but it is all I could come up with in 15 minutes

  38. Fernando Sucre

    Making a big change in life is scary, but do you know what’s scarier? Regret.
    Fear is temporary, regret is forever…
    It happened two years ago, yet it feels like it was just yesterday. I hear those ear piercing screams and that sadistic laugh. That very laugh that had me refrained from my sleep for the past two years, sleep was like a luxury that I was longing to get. Every time I shut my eyes, I see those menacing, blood-curdling visions. If you knew what had been troubling me for the past years, you’d understand. You’d understand why I’m in a vast amount of pain right now and not all pain is afflicted physically. You can be hurt mentally, those of which haunt you everlastingly, trying to end you. You may think you can fight it off, but no, this isn’t a game that you can win. You can never win. In fact, I’m not entirely sure why I’m still here. I should’ve been perished along with my family a while ago, it’s not like I have anything to live for anymore. How do you live with someone else’s blood on your pale, lifeless hands?
    It’s been a while since I’ve properly cleaned myself up, I probably looked a mess but, who cares? I got up from the uncomfortable crouched position I was in and stumbled my way over to the shattered mirror on the ground, leaning onto the old, stained walls to help me reach my destination as I was drastically dizzy, due to the lack of rest I take in.
    Cautiously, I bent down, picking up a segment of the shattered mirror, gazing helplessly at the colourless girl staring back at me. Her face was as pale as a corpse; she had huge bags under her eyes which made her once bright, emerald pupils look dark and dull like the mould upon a skull. Her extended, raven hair was cascading down her slim body, ending at the small of her back. She sported a simple, threadbare shirt which was stained with blotches of a thick, dark red liquid and a pair of dusty, enduring jeans that had thread hanging loose. Her bony feet were bare while her nails had dirt trapped in between them. This girl seemed rather unfamiliar and distant to me. I let the fragment fall defencelessly out of my shaking hands and onto the concrete ground, making it SMASH into smithereens. Carelessly, strolling past the pieces, I arrived at the small, inadequate table. There laid a lone photograph of the most cheery, sarcastic girl in the world, her huge grin could light up anyone’s day and her eyes were large, bright and full of mirth. She looked like she was at peace with herself. She looked as innocent as a new born, like no-one was ever going to hurt her.
    She was me.

    Nothing good lasts forever, that goodness was just a made up lie to cover up the ugly truth. It pains me to think I actually believed that I would be successful in life without a single issue heading my way. It pains me to think that I was so positive about growing older and getting married happily without a single care in the world. I guess you don’t always get what you want in life. Sometimes I just wish that once I shut my eyes and then reopen them, I’ll be at my real home in the arms of my loving mother. However now, what you like to call home I call Hell. I’m used to this now. I deserve it. I deserve everything that happens to me, because whatever happens to me will never compare to what I did to them; I let anger get the better of me, like I always do.
    I used be one of the kids who believed that there were monsters underneath my bed, haunting me, but only now have I realised that I am that monster, I am the thing that haunted me at night, every night. I wasn’t always like this. I used to be the ideal daughter, cheerful and bright. My face never held a frown, but this was all before my mother died. She wasn’t only my mother, but she was also my best friend. She was someone who knew when I was lost and scared, she was someone I could count on and was beside me wherever I went. I’d look up to her. We promised that we’d never leave each other, but lies are like scars on your soul. They destroy you. She broke that promise. She left me. Losing someone hurts, missing them hurts more, but wanting them back just kills you. I guess, sometimes you have to accept that some people can only be in your heart, but not in your life.

  39. Fernando Sucre

    dont hate

  40. 0xblood

    f f

  41. sdxczx


  42. one piece

    any1 knows one piece im bored or Naruto



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