The stiff wood walls of the kayak felt like a coffin, her black shadow a death shroud preparing to choke the life out of him. The air became icy as she loomed, blocking the crackling sun with a face warped into a murderous scowl. His heart pounded against his chattering rib cage as if desperate to crawl out. His muscles tightened, winding him down into bowels of the kayayk. He was a shaking hermit crab helpless to protect his shell from a vicious stomping. He was a rolled-up hedgehog as an eagle plucked out his quills one by one. He was not long for this kayak. Their craft convulsed when she lunged for them. He released a pitiable shriek as she dug into his arms and wrenched him up. As the kayak trashed, the water whipped over them like razor blades stinging his eyes, swamping his throat. His chest slammed into the metal-capped and shocked his chest. The once crisp, cool, clear lake water looked like a black abyss as she shoved his face into its depths. His lungs compressed against the metal siding and the air trumpeted out of him until the churning water simmered to lifeless percolation. The kayak assumed a slight tilt as his body dangled from the side.
She sat in the center, stiff and unable to acknowledge the origins of that choppy splashing or the thunk against the kayak’s side that reverberated through her body until it gripped her heart. She drifted onward, her breathing hushed, the world around her stunned to silence, her mind howling in its cage of flesh and bone. The surrounding canyon walls glowered down at her with their repulsed rockfaces. She bolted up on legs that quaked with such fury the kayak pitched and seized. With her face turned up to the sunlight biting tears out of her eyes, she let her jaw drop open. She shrieked until her breath was like his.
Why did I choose betrayal?! I’ve been completely stumped on how to present a flash fiction about this picture that creates a betrayed mood. A story of betrayal, maybe, but a betrayed mood? Hopefully I’ve got something here…
The kayak swayed as she rose to her unsteady feet. With one hand on each side to balance herself, she climbed to the bow of the kayak. It rocked when she knelt down to rummage through her rucksack. Where was supply of water he promised to pack? Her throat itched with dehydration further irritated by the sweltering summer sun and the lack of breeze over the canyon lake. Her fingertips scraped along the bottom of the bag, knuckles dinging off everything but a water bottle. Her throat tightened as she gripped the kayak sides and twisted around. He lay along the stern, hat pulled down over his eyes and a smug grin dripping from his lips that looked far from parched. She crawled toward him, nails digging into the kayak’s paint until they stained red. He tilted his head back to digest her poisonous scowl as her unforgiving shadow smothered him.
On the plus side, even if this doesn’t convey betrayal as a mood rather than a plot point, I know what I’m going to write for the next mood of terror.
As her kayak drifted through the stagnant lake water, she caught the sound of another’s boat cutting the surface. The plunk of an oar pulled her attention to the shadows by the canyon walls. A fleet of kayaks fast approached hers. Their oars rose and fell in perfect time as if their rowers shared one mind. Their finely tuned movements directed the current in their favor. The lead rower cut through the water with powerful swipes with each of his kinsman close behind. She watched silently as they passed her by. When her kayak failed to bob in their rhythmic wake, she knew they were just an illusion. Each member of the fleet vanished in the stark light on the lake horizon. With even her thoughts deserting her, silence descended. She waited minutes, hours, days, for a bird to chirp over head, for a fish to nibble the water’s surface, for just a hint that someone else was out there. The whisper of the kayak’s drift quieted until it too died out.
Last night before falling asleep, I had a (hopefully brilliant!) idea. The before-bed hour is prime time for ideas as fantastic as they are inconvenient. My inspiration: write several iterations of the same story each in a different genre! It was brilliant. However, writing in an assortment of genres was daunting. I need to do genre research if I want to reasonably pull off this plan.
So I had another idea to pursue in the meantime (an idea that I’m sure has to be an assignment often given out in creative writing courses). My inspiration #2: write several different iterations of the same scene each conveying a different mood WITHOUT mentioning any direct emotion words (e.g. happy, despair) in that scene. I’m generally decent at showing and not telling when it comes to emotion, so long as I have the space for it (… I think…), but this is definitely an exercise that would help me hone my writing and editing skills as I craft and polish the perfect mood.
Here are the moods I’ve chosen:
GRAB BAG! (I’ll come up with a mood at random! Or if anyone has suggestions.)
She lounged along the rows of seats, letting her arm dangle off the side of the kayak and her fingertips graze the cool lake water. She closed her eyes to focus on the rhythmic lapping of water against the wooden hull. As she floated along, she felt the protective canyon walls keeping watch over her. Their shadows fell across her body as if Mother Nature herself were laying down a weightless blanket to guide her into sleep. The shade offered her the perfect degree of protection from the blazing sun. Blistering heat gave way to a steady, balanced warmth. The breeze caressing the lake surface carried off the last of the stifling humidity. She breathed in until her lungs could hold no more and breathed out as slowly as her kayak drifted. The rhythmic lapping gradually lessened until she lay in still waters. She made no effort to propel onward, choosing instead to linger in the moment.
Did I succeed in making you feeling my protagonist’s contentment? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Yesterday, I was tapped to do The Book Blogger Test by Jo Marjoribanks at Drifting Pages. Time to sharpen my trusty number two pencils and practice my scantron bubbling skills (it’s that kind of test, right?)! As I said in my previous post, if people ask, I shall answer.
What are your top three book pet hates?
Books that glamorize abuse. I can thank the Twilight series for this one. I only started reading them because I was teaching adolescent girls who were obsessed with the books. Oh my goodness. The tumblr Reasoning with Vampires perfectly encapsulates everything I have to say about those relationships. I’m especially critical of stories that promote or glamorize teenage relational abuse (between friends or romantic partners) because I don’t see a lot of positive relational role models for teenagers in the media and yet the teen years is a critical time when people need to see models of what is healthy and normal and what is harmful and unacceptable (but I’ll get off my psychological soap box now).
When writers don’t take full advantage of the world they created. This probably says more about me/ my own arrogance than the authors, but I get bummed when at the end of a book, I feel like I could’ve thought up a more satisfying and connected story. I first experienced this as a kid reading the Animorphs series. I loved the series but felt like the books didn’t always take full advantage of the universe/technology/characters that were presented. A more recent example (and I realize I’ll ruffle some feathers saying this) is the final Harry Potter book. JK Rowling set up such a wonderful universe and could’ve gone so many directions with the last book using ideas she had already introduced, but instead she throws in not one but two brand new ideas (horcruxes and the deathly hallows). And come on, in the words of A Very Potter Musical‘s Ron Weasley, “When you think about it, horcruxes are just kinda stupid.”
When writers introduce chapters or sections of their stories with poems. Sometimes I do like this because when done right the poetry can prime a reader for what’s to come or create a certain mood. However, it seems like some use more credible writers to elevate their own writing, and the connections between the poems and the subsequent chapter are either weak or so blantantly obvious they’re uninspired. At the end of the day, no riding other people’s coattails!
Describe your perfect reading spot.
Outside where it’s sunny and where I can hear birds. The ocean is an acceptable bird substitute.
Tell us three book confessions.
After joining Goodreads a few months ago, I discovered I haven’t read nearly as many classics as I probably should have for someone who loves to read.
I have a habit of starting books before finishing others. At any given time, I have about five books that I’m reading.
Going along with the above, I will occasionally forget to finish books. Luckily I’ve realized this, so now I’m going back to finish those books that I let fall to the wayside.
When was the last time you cried during a book?
I don’t think I ever have. I’m pretty thick-skinned. The book that most played with my emotions was Night by Elie Wiesel, but even that didn’t make me cry. Now, the book that caused me to have the most extreme reaction while reading was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. A certain scene that shall not be named toward the end of the book definitely got a very loud ‘Holy shit!’ out of me in the middle of my otherwise quiet college dorm hall.
How many books are on your bedside table?
Since I’m currently living in a very small apartment, I don’t have a bedside table. If I had one, I’d probably be my Sherlock Holmes anthology because that’s what I’m currently working on.
What’s your favorite snack to eat while you’re reading?
I actually don’t eat while I read. I get too absorbed into the story to think about my level of hunger.
Name three books you would recommend to everyone.
Night by Elie Wiesel
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (I put this on here because I keep having discussions with people who claim to know what it’s about without actually having read it.)
Show us a picture of your favorite shelf on your bookcase.
In my tiny room, most of my shelf space is dedicated to storage, so my choice was between this one and the one containing my textbooks and reference books.
Write how much books mean to you in three words.
Books are sanity.
What is your biggest reading secret?
I am a big fan of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, and not to be hipster but was so before they were cool (Rankin and Bass films all the way!). However, my secret is that, *deep breath*, I never finished reading The Two Towers. And never started The Return of the King.
Question: How do you feel about writing in public?
I just realized I hate writing in public. I’ve suspected this before, but my discomfort with public writing was really hammered home today. I’ve been working at my campus library for several hours today. For the first few hours, I was in an otherwise empty corner with my back to the wall. I got up to go to class and when I came back I found myself hoping that the same computer station was open. Because there were two other students sitting around it in my mind it wasn’t really open and I moved on. Ironically, I find myself now sitting at a station with two others around me, typing away on this post.
I am decidedly uncomfortable about this. However, I feel it’s important to work through discomfort, and that’s why I’m forcing myself to write this post.
Why do I have hang ups about writing in public? I don’t know for sure but I have theories. First of all, as I’m mentioned in a previous post, I’m a very private person. The storyteller in me makes it easy to hide that fact. I liberally share stories about myself and my life (and in some situations may even be considered ‘chatty’), but I don’t share a lot of personal details. I know this is problematic so I made a promise that I’ll be reasonably open about my thoughts and feelings so long as people ask.
But if no one’s asking I’d rather keep it to myself. Staying private in public extends beyond writing. I prefer wearing headphones when I listen to music, even if I’m alone, just in case someone might hear what I’m listening to. According to the Liebowitz Social Anxiety scale, it’s not likely that I have a social anxiety disorder, and based on my own knowledge of mental health diagnoses these hangups don’t come close to impeding my life the way they would for someone who actually suffers from SAD. I just have some weird quirks. Somewhat counter-intuitively, if you were to throw an unfamiliar lesson plan for elementary or middle schoolers at me thirty minutes before I was expected to teach the lesson to a class of 30, while being record over CCTV, I can and have done that without a second thought. I feel like a lot of people would be freaked out in that situation.
I’m pretty sure when it comes to writing, I’m not worried about others seeing what I’m writing. I’m about to post this and put it out in the very public interwebs, so why should I care if other people are around me while I writing it?
I dunno. I just do. I’m going to have to write in public more often. It’ll be good for me. I’ve actually already started to feel more comfortable in the time it took me to write this.
So after my last post, I saw a poem, called Shards of Delusion, on the Reader thing WordPress has. The poem’s stanza about “sights of/false belief/deceptions of/truth” and the accompanying photo of a shattered mirror speak to this story. When I saw the photo, the last poem in this story immediately sprung to mind (which is impressive because I’m not usually poetically minded). Not gonna lie, I wrote this entire story just to be able to use that poem. Although with the story as minimal as it is, I kind of feel like I’m playing on stereotypes… Whatever, it’s worth it to use that poem. Enjoy!
Rae-Lynn flung the curtain off of her wall mirror. She glared at her plain jane reflection in the oval pane.
No more of this. If I’m going to be somebody one day, I have to be someone now.
She emptied the contents of her shopping bag onto her desk. Mascara, blush, an eye lash curler, more shades of lipstick than there were colors in the rainbow. She bit her lip, her heart trembling. Without her mother around to teach her about the girly things in life, Rae-Lynn was on her own and up to now she’d barely been passing as a member of the fairer sex. Well, she was tired of barely passing.
Mom, I know you told me this was only for emergencies Rae-Lynn looked up to the heavens where she knew her mother was smiling down at her. Please understand this is an emergency. I know you see how the other girls treat me, like I’m nothing. Like I’m less than nothing. How the boys call me a dog and bark at me when I walk down the hall. How the teachers look through me. This will make things better. I promise, once I learn how to be beautiful on my own, I’ll stop.
Rae-Lynn took a deep breath and looked straight at the mirror.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Show me beauty loved by all
The right half of Rae-Lynn’s reflection began to warp. She gasped. Staring back at her was a face split down the middle. To the left: the pasty skinned, saggy eyed, pizza face she recognized. To the right: a beauty queen worthy of undying adoration. The face was still hers, but it was done up, beautified, made respectable. Rae-Lynn grabbed at the pieces of make-up she’d need to make the false reflection a reality. With the right side as her guide, she sculpted her face into the beauty the mirror promised her.
Rae-Lynn sat at her vanity, trying to decide if she wanted to paint her manicured nails Hawaiian orchid or Koala Bear-y. She looked up at the mirror and smiled. Every things was perfection. Her eyes: sultry and smoking. Her hair: effortlessly tussled. Her lips: pert and luscious. She pressed her lips together and jutted them into a pout.
“Rae-Lynn, I’m talking to you.”
She whipped around. Her father stood in her doorway
“Sorry, Daddy, I didn’t hear you.”
He exhaled, his nostrils flaring. In a calm voice he said, “You need to set up for dinner.”
“I thought Cassie was doing that.”
“Your sister is cooking, so you set up for dinner.”
“Don’t ‘But Daddy’ me. Come down and set up.” He started to turn around but thought better. He walked over to Rae-Lynn’s vanity. She instinctively reached for the curtain to cover the mirror but relaxed when she saw his downtrodden expression.
“Rae-Lynn, I’m really trying here,” he sighed. “I know things have been tough without your mom, and I know I’m not a replacement but… Honey, I’m concerned about this new you.”
“But why, Daddy, I’m really happy.”
“The way you dress now, the way you act, your friends… It’s like your not my little girl anymore.”
“It’s fine, Daddy. Little girls grow up.”
He looked like he wanted to say more but again thought better. Rae-Lynn was left alone with her mirror. From its quicksilver surface she heard it hiss.
Little girl, once such a bore
Sold her soul, became a whore
Rae-Lynn’s eyes bugged out as she seethed.
“What do you know?” she hissed. “You never leave my room.”
God forbid Dad sees the harm
That you do to your own arm
Rae-Lynn immediately covered the inside of her left elbow.
“It was only the one time,” she stammered. She could see the track marks. Whatever make-up she applied wouldn’t cover them for long. It wiped off no matter how little she moved her arm. “Lisa was just being stupid. We’re not going to try it again.”
What starts small soon escalates
‘Til your death they celebrate
“What?!” Rae-Lynn jumped up. “Who would celebrate my death? After all the hard work I put into becoming a better me… I can do more. I can be even better.”
She sat back down, straightened her back and focused on the mirror.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Show me one desired by all
Rae-Lynn’s reflection began to change. She smiled and set to work, creating the perfect her.
“Rae, are you in here?”
Rae-Lynn shot up off her bed. Tear stains streaked her face, creating rivers of supposedly waterproof make up down her flawless skin. She trembled, the hospital bracelet on her arm shuddering ominously. Cassie stepped into her room but kept her distance. At first, Rae-Lynn tried to cover her face but gave up and sobbed into her hands.
“I’m glad you’re out of the hospital… I guess,” Cassie murmured.
“You guess? You guess?! What the fuck does that mean?!”
Cassie looked over at her sister’s mirror, her own plain reflection looking back. Her eyes were mourning the sister she had lost long ago.
“Means I guess I expected this.”
Rae-Lynn choked out sounds that weren’t really words. She could barely breath. Cassie stared at her feet.
“You changed, Rae. You stopped caring about the things that used to be important to you, and started caring about…”
“About what? About trying to make people happy? About trying to be a better person?”
“Bullshit,” Cassie shouted, glaring at her sister. Rae-Lynn was silent. “Making other people happy? What about making Dad happy? What about making me happy? What about making yourself happy, Rae? Do you really think you’re a better person? You’re a terrible person now!”
“How can you say that to me,” Rae-Lynn sobbed. “I just got out of the hospital.”
“Well, I wish–I wish you hadn’t gotten hurt.” Cassie looked away, failing to hold back her own tears. “But I wasn’t surprised when I heard you were there. People who don’t even care about themselves don’t have happy lives.”
Cassie stalked out of the room. Rae-Lynn sat on her bed in the darkness of her room. Eventually she found herself lying on the comforter. No one bothered to call her for dinner. She didn’t think she could stomach food anyway. Once her tear ducts were drained and the sting of her sister’s words had subsided, she forced herself up. She glared at the mirror as she approached it.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall
How I wish that you would fall
Silver shards across the floor
Two-faced lies shall be no more
My esteem I will control
Free from your spell, you glass-hole.
The hospital bracelet clattered as Rae-Lynn grabbed the mirror frame. With all her strength, she ripped it from the wall.