Monday, October 15, 2007

Exercise: Emotion + Character

The exercise this time was to combine an emotional experience with a character trait. We did the "pass to the right" method to generate a starting point: first, everyone wrote down an emotional experience they'd had in the recent past (for example, elation at finding something you'd thought was lost). We passed the index cards to the right, turned over to hide the written part, and each person came up with a character trait to write down (e.g., stubborn). The card was passed once more to the right, and the person receiving it had his assignment.

I got "Pessimism" and "Pleasant surprise at experiencing something familiar done in a new and exceptional fashion." As seems to be usual for these exercises, I've no idea where this one came from. The first line came to me out of a dream or something; I woke up in the middle of the night with it in my head, and thought that something needed to be written around it. It wasn't enough for a story, but it did fill out the scene nicely.

  Satan's girlfriend was dying.
  “What do you want me to do about it?” I said. “This always happens. You know this is going to happen.”
  He was in his all-black form, the one that looks like a negative image of Michaelangelo's “David.” With cute nubbly horns and a beard. It's his “feel sorry for me” form. “This time is different,” he said.
  “You always think that and it never is.” I turned to the minor imp whose one-on-one Satan had interrupted. He was staring at the Prince of Darkness, wide-eyed. “Tony,” I said, “good work this month, but you need to get the new souls worked into the rotation faster. Some of them are getting bored. This isn't Purgatory, it's Hell.”
  “Yes, sir,” he said, and snapped out of existence to the Fourth Circle.
  “Sorry,” Satan said, again.
  I waved a cloven hoof. “You know I'm not going to be able to do anything, right?”
  “This time is different.” He reached out.
  I really prefer to transport myself, and the Dark Lord knows I've been to his office enough times to go myself, but you don't really refuse the Big Boss when he offers you a ride. “What,” I said, to stall. “Is she dissolving into yellow slime instead of black this time?”
  “Just come on,” he said.
  I put my hoof in his hand and winced inwardly as he destroyed my corporeal form and rebuilt it in his office.
  “Why don't you fall in love with a demon, someone who could stand your powerful essence?” I had fingers now instead of hooves. Only nine, too. Plus I was about half a foot shorter and my tail was limp. He always does this when He's depressed. I wouldn't fix it until I was back in my office, though. If I drew attention to it, he'd just get more depressed. Probably start crying. Then we'd have acid tears eating through the floor, Asphodel coming up to see what was the matter, and I did not want to be in the middle of that. My day was bad enough already.
  Not as bad as Lucy's. Satan's latest girlfriend sat crumpled on the floor in a familiar pose, the kind they always get sooner or later. I walked over to look at her. “Or even one of the angels,” I said. “Imagine that. You could pine from afar. Unrequited love. Star-crossed lovers. It'd be beautiful. And far less messy.”
  “I know, you're right,” he said, watching me. “But there's something about these mortal souls. I just can't resist. They're all shining with hope.”
  I snorted, but didn't reply directly to that. The only reason he calls me whenever his girlfriends start to dissolve is because the rest of his executive staff makes fun of him for his mortal girlfriends. I don't see the point in making fun of him. I'd rather just convince him that all love is hopeless so he could get on with the business of running Hell. “I guess this means if I have anything for you to sign, I'd better do it now. Are you going to go into seclusion again when she dies?”
  “Just look at her,” he insisted.
  I knelt down. “What am I supposed to be looking at?”
  “Touch her.”
  Bloody hell. Of all the things. I sighed and reached out with my four-fingered hand and touched her arm, preparing myself. She was probably just one touch away from slime city.
  Unbelievably, my fingers passed through her essence. Not without feeling her, but she felt like she were made of the thick smoke we choke our souls with down in the Industrial Polluters division. No matter how I waved my fingers, though, she didn't disperse.
  “Weird,” I said, and then noticed the position of her hands. I jumped back, holding my four-fingered hand out in front of me. “What. Is. She. Doing.”
  Satan came closer, and his expression softened. “Aw,” he said. “She's praying.” He wiped a tear from his face and shook it to the floor, where it hissed and smoked. And the floor, by the way, is the hardest diamond we can get. My stone floor would've cracked in two.
  “She can' doesn't...He can't hear...” I sputtered, keeping an eye on my hand. If it started to smoke, I would have to get over to Medical right away. It seemed to be fine, though.
  “See what I mean, about hope?” he said. “None of them ever did this before.”
  I shook my head. “It's not the praying,” I said. “It can't be. It's just some...wait, is she a woman or did you just make her a human shape?”
  “What?” He turned to stare at me. The air grew warm.
  “Well, if she's a cat or something, she might be going to—okay, no! Clearly a human! Cats don't know how to pray!” I broke off that line of thought before my skin blistered.
  He turned back to her. “I think she's Ascending,” he said.
  I shook my head again. “No. That's impossible. It...uh...” I had to stop talking then, because Lucy was starting to sparkle. There was no other way to describe it. Small white lights flickered on and off inside her form, more staying on than flickering off. At the same time, her form drifted up toward the ceiling.
  “Hey, stop her!” I said, but Satan put a hand on my arm.
  “Let her go,” he said quietly.
  I looked at the ceiling. “She'll go right through Delipheon's office.”
  He shook his head, eyes fixed on her. “He's one over. That's just a storage closet.”
  I guess he would know. I watched, speechless, as the girl's slight frame straightened until she appeared to be standing in mid-air, hands clasped, eyes closed. Her whole form was shimmering now, the light warm, but not in the same way Satan's glare was. It was more like the warmth of coming in ahead of projections for the year, of having all my managers graded positively, of having Satan or Asmodeus pat me on the wings and say, “Good job.” It was the warmth of the end of the day, the weekend, of the first day of vacation. Of course, my days don't end, and I don't have vacation, and none of that other stuff ever happens. But for a moment, watching her rise through the ceiling, I thought that perhaps it might.
  I'm not sure how long it was we stood there staring up. Satan put a hand on my shoulder and said, “Now you see?”
  “Not really,” I said. “I mean, why remind yourself that there are good things out there that you'll never get to touch? What's the point, just to make yourself more miserable?”
  “That is my job,” he said. “And yours.”
  “Oh,” I said. “I see.” He smiled, a sad smile, but at least he didn't seem about to start crying again.
  “Want me to take you back to your office?”
  “No, no, I can make it,” I said hastily. “Just do me one favor. At least wait a week before falling in love again? I've got reviews coming up that you're going to need to sign off on, and I'd like to get them in before the next eon begins.”
  “Done,” he said. “But I might just take a look at some of your new souls coming in...”
  I groaned and went back to my office, rebuilding my form properly when I did. For a few minutes, I checked in on the numbers in the various divisions to make sure everything was still running smoothly. That settled, I pulled up the torture list and checked “false hope” to see what else we could develop along those lines. When it comes down to it, Satan might be a soft heart, an incurable optimist, and a lousy manager, but he's a brilliant innovator.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Movie Plot: Old Maids

The idea for this exercise was to distill a movie plot down to its essence (you may have seen these in the theaters: "A burn victim tries to reconnect with his two children" as "Star Wars" boiled down), then write a scene from that boiled down plot. It was a fun little two-part exercise, but I'll reverse it here: the writing first, then the plot summary, and last, the movie I used as inspiration.

  Victoria's hearing wasn't so good these days, but Madeleine's was, so it was by Madeleine's liver-spotted hand suddenly lifting from her shoulder that Victoria knew that Jerrold had entered the room. She turned to her left and adjusted her wire-rimmed spectacles until the black-and-white skunk came into focus. “I'm leaving,” he said, looking down his long snout at the two humans, which was impressive for a five-foot creature even though Victoria was seated.
  Madeleine had taken a step back and folded her arms, her creased face now blank of emotion. Victoria carefully closed the photo album, keeping her finger on the page of their Bermuda holiday. “What do you mean, “I'm leaving”?” Madeleine's voice tended to shake, so Victoria did the loud talking when loud talking was to be done.
  “Just that,” the skunk said. “I've collected my things. I've cleaned the upstairs this morning and I've just now finished the kitchen. This room,” he waved a paw at the floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with treatises, tomes, trinkets, and tchotchkes, “you can clean yourselves.”
  “Now, see here,” Victoria said, though she'd heard most of her words, “do you mean to say you're just up and leaving, without even the courtesy of giving notice?” She looked to Madeleine, who nodded.
  “This is my notice, and it's more than you deserve.” He smoothed down the wrinkled tan shirt he was wearing. It took Victoria a moment to recognize it as the one he'd been wearing when they'd hired him.
  “Just a moment, just a moment.” She pushed herself to her feet, still keeping her place in the photo album. “We have treated you as well as you could ask for--”
  “Ha!” The vehemence of Jerrold's sharp interruption was like a slap in the face. She recoiled, blinking. “You think I don't know what's going on? The tomato-juice bath oil? The 'special' cleaning products you insist on me using? Your house rules about my friends and family?”
  “What on earth are you talking about?” Madeleine cut in. Victoria wished she hadn't. She sounded like a frightened old woman.
  “I don't know why you're doing it, but I won't have any more of it. I can barely recognize my own scent anymore, there's more and more fur left behind every time I take one of your baths, and I swear my claws are getting softer.”
  “You're imagining things.” Victoria had no trouble hearing him now, his words shrill in the relative quiet of her world. One of the reasons she didn't wear a hearing aid was that she liked the muted quality of the world. Sounds only intruded when nearby, and she was attuned enough to Madeleine that they never had any trouble communicating.
  “Well, then, all the more reason for me to leave. You wouldn't want a delusional skunk in your house, living in your tiny servant's room. Who knows what I might imagine next.” He snorted and turned to leave.
  “Wait, wait!” Victoria lost her place in the photo album in her haste to move forward.
  Jerrold shook his head. “No, I don't think I shall.” He turned in the doorframe.
  “Where will you go?” Victoria called. “Back to the Kennel?”
  “If they'll have me.” Jerrold lowered his head. “That's what you've wanted, isn't it? To tear me away from my people.”
  “To elevate you above your station!” Victoria took another step forward. She lifted her arms as though raising the skunk's body.
  “My station.” Jerrold laughed. “What do you know or care about my station? What would you have me do once I've been 'elevated,' as you put it?”
  “Everyone should aspire to rise above their circumstances,” Victoria fixed his eyes with hers. He wavered; she pressed her advantage. “Think of that gutter where you live, the squalid houses, the filthy streets. Don't you want something better?”
  He looked back at them for a long moment. “Better? To sit in this ossified museum—yes, I've picked up some of your words, how could I not?--and hide your feelings under layers of dust and varnish, to pretend you two are only old friends? Is that 'better'?”
  Victoria heard Madeleine's sharp hiss behind her. She ignored it. “Jerrold, these personal insults are better than you, we thought. If you want to leave behind all we have to teach you, then by all means, walk out that door.”
  He hesitated, so that for a moment she thought she'd reached him. “I don't want to know any more of what you think is worth teaching,” he said finally. “I'll miss your money. That's all.”
  “Stop!” Madeleine called, but her voice no longer had the power it once had, something she still hadn't grown used to. Victoria couldn't think of anything more to say, and in the space of her indecision, Jerrold left.
  “Well,” she said, turning to Madeleine. “I think we'll agree that that was inconclusive.”
  “Inconclusive?” hooted the taller woman, her palm out. “Victoria, my darling, he was going back to his wretched hole despite all our efforts to make him completely unsuitable. I believe that means I win.”
  “We didn't finish,” Victoria argued. “You could hardly tell he was losing fur.”
  “He could tell.” Madeleine said. “And he was still going back. Come, come, Victoria, you won the wager on dear old Callahan's consumption. Don't be a poor sport now.”
  “You didn't pay that one until we were at the funeral,” Victoria grumbled, but she dug her small wallet out of her purse.
  Madeleine's wrinkled hand closed over the bill. “Callahan was a trickster. It would be just like you and him to fake his death. I wanted to be sure.”
  Victoria watched the bill disappear into Madeleine's purse. “You know,” she said, “the greengrocer said the apples will be in late this year.”
  Madeleine's bright eyes fixed hers. “How late?”
  “Well,” Victoria said, “he thought September 22nd. But I think it might not be until October.”
  Madeleine smiled. “I trust the grocer,” she said. “Would you like to make a small wager?”
  Victoria sat down in front of the photo album again, and smiled. “Of course, darling.”

Recognize the movie yet? Okay, the plot synopsis was:

A stuffy professor and his live-in colleague decide to ruin a woman's life on a bet and are surprised when she objects.

(I switched the genders around for the story.)

The movie, of course, was "My Fair Lady," though I realized while I was doing this that "Trading Places" has essentially the same plot. Both of them also share the distinction of being terrifically entertaining movies that come slightly unhinged at the end, though in different ways. In "My Fair Lady," I think they found they'd written themselves into a corner and needed the two main characters to get together somehow even though the story basically demands that they don't. In "Trading Places" I think they just got a really good batch of, um, inspiration and snuck the scene past the director by saying "we have two brilliant comedians in this movie, we have to let them Be Funny!"

Regardless, both of them have endings that are better than the previous scene.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Two Scenes - The Promotion

This is my take on the homework exercise, though it's a little late. We were supposed to have one character break the same news to two different audiences, with that informing the way he approached the subject. It's a really great assignment, because it forces you to look at relationships (and thus characters) pretty hard.

I wanted to do something basic, so I went with the idea of a guy getting a promotion and telling his ex-wife and new girlfriend about it. There are so many fun directions that could go, and even though the premise is kind of thin with the right kind of characters both scenes could be really charged.

All things told, I'm pleased with the characters, though they're very rough and slippery at the moment. I kept changing my mind about the way the scene should read, and it shows. So it's exceptionally long, and some things might seem a little odd or out of place, but that's just me throwing stuff at the wall to see what will stick. So, here it is!

he restaurant was perfect. It was a large, open room that had been partitioned into individual tables not by booths or walls, but light and shadow. The overhead lighting was dimmed enough that the plush carpeting between seats was barely visible, and each set of candles at the center of the tables shone like a star in their votives, refracting in the cut crystal, that light caught by crystal wine glasses and bent and intensified further still. Each place setting was a star in a dark ocean, the people seated planets revolving around their twinkling lights. Around one such star Larry was circling with Anne, his girlfriend of eight months.
She was a rabbit, like him, brown in fur with large lovely brown eyes as big as moons over her short, shapely muzzle, a small nose of the palest pink framed by the cutest supernova of whiskers. Her fur was soft and thick, unfortunately like her mind, but you couldn’t have everything you wanted in life, right? She was young and she was pretty, her figure unmolested by time and children, and Larry figured that was enough; he should quit while he was ahead.
Anne’s lunatic eyes caught the dim line flickering from the votive and exploded them into a million stars scattered across the deep black of her pupils, illuminating the dark browns of her irises. She was clearly enthralled with her surroundings, looking at all the pairs of elegant people around her, sipping wine loosely, delicately, and the chandelier that hung huge in the center of the room, glowing softly from the inside, just bright enough to be quietly dazzling but not much more. It was this look that Larry lived and breathed to see, this childish and dumb wonder that kept Anne from eating her creamed spinach puff in a demure and ladylike fashion.
“Wow,” she said, and then thought to swallow the mash of spinach and pastry sprawled across her petite tongue. “This is so fancy, Larry. You’ve never taken me to any place this nice before.”
Larry gazed at her over the lip of his wine glass and grinned. “That’s because I’ve never had an occasion this special.”
Anne’s ears perked then, and her gaze came back from the heavenly chandelier to the earth-colored rabbit seated across from her. “An occasion? What occasion?”
Larry took a sip of his wine, and let the drink expand across his tongue, releasing its scents and flavors up towards his palate, the vapors creeping back towards his throat so that his nose was bombarded with all manner of fermentation from both sides. He savored the moment, closing his eyes to allow the wine full attention, then opening them again to give it to Anne. He drank in her wide, focused eyes, the bit of spinach dangling from her lip, the delicately-nibbled pastry nestled along one rim of the plate.
“Well,” Larry said, after he had taken a deep breath. “I’ve been working pretty hard at the office.”
Anne nodded fervently, “I know, Lar, and the house sure is lonely at night without you.”
“I know, I know. But you know I’ve been doing it for us, right? Putting in all the hours, taking on all those projects… It’s so I can work my way up, get more money, get some…obligations out of the way. Because we can’t be together until I take care of them.”
“Right, Lar. We can’t be together until your obligations are taken care of.” She parroted the phrase perfectly, with the certainty of a schoolgirl who had it drilled into her from August to June.
“Exactly,” Larry said, and she beamed. The candles seemed to darken for it. “Remember when I told you that Mr. Harris had stepped down two months ago?”
Anne frowned. This was a new question, and she wasn’t sure what the answer should be. “No?”
Larry slid his paw across the table, and Anne took it. She relaxed visibly when he squeezed her fingers. “Sure you do. Remember when I was going to that retirement cruise on the Kilateir, and you pouted for two whole days because I couldn’t take you?”
Anne’s whiskers and ears drooped in exact imitation. “Oh yeah, you wouldn’t take me even when I told you how much I loved kelp salad.”
He flicked an ear away from her. She squeezed his hand tighter. “There wasn’t any kelp salad there, I told you that. Anyway, I made it up to you by taking you out to that dinner on the island. Remember that?”
She nodded and her ears flapped gracelessly. “Oh, yeah! There were all those lobsters!”
Larry smiled. His ear resumed its rightful direction. “That’s right. It was all for Mr. Harris’ retirement. It was my big shot, remember? I was going to have to work hard to get that promotion.”
Anne laughed, a bubbly, girlish sound that tinkled musically across the table. “And you did! All those hours, all those projects…”
Larry nodded. “Exactly, all of them, all for you.”
“So you could take care of your obligations.”
“That’s right.”
“So we could have a life together.”
“Just so, kid.”
Anne beamed again, and Larry felt his ears warm. The wine was hitting him especially hard tonight.
“Well, this is because all of that hard work finally paid off. They announced who would fill the position today, and guess who did?”
There was a long silence, as he looked at her expectantly, and she looked a bit startled that something was expected of her. He sat and let her work it through. She would soon enough.
The candlelight reflected in her eyes flashed as the solution came to her. “Lar... Oh, Lar!” She squealed and jumped up in her seat, and he leapt up with her. The restaurant’s peace was shattered by a display of vigorous public affection the likes of which the pais surrounding the rabbits had likely not seen for many years, much less been a part of.
“Larry, that’s wonderful!” She rasped when they came up for air and lowered themselves back into their seats.
The buck grinned widely, his ears flicking to capture those murmurs of jealous conversation. “Isn’t it though? I start next week, and the raise kicks in on the paycheck after that. And it’s a big one too…none of those piffling 5% yearly hikes or anything.” He couldn’t help but puff his chest out, which made his shirt stretch around his pelt. “I’m an executive now.”
“Oh Larry!” Anne exclaimed, and clapped her paws. “Does this mean we can buy a house?”
He nodded. “One down by the sea, where you can dive for kelp every day.”
Anne squirmed in her seat, her glee bordering on ecstasy. “And we can have kits?”
“As many as you want, kid.” Larry grinned until he thought his face would split. He had never seen her this happy. Hell, he had never been this happy. At least, not since…
“But there are a few things I’ve got to take care of first.” He looked sheepish as he mentioned this, unsure of how she’d react.
“Right,” Anne said. “The obligations.” Her excitement faded, only to perk again. “But then…?”
Larry chuckled and squeezed Anne’s hand. “We’re together forever and always. If the conversation goes smoothly with Gina, I could see us getting married by the end of the year.”

The conversation with Gina was not going smoothly.
Larry held his head in his paws while the doe slammed pots and pans in the kitchen. Every clang of metal on metal or tile or whatever plywood formed the cabinets and shelves sent his ears twitching, and nearly made him leap out of his fur. In the adjacent living room, six kits sat and pretended to be doing homework, but their ears were perked towards the breakfast room constantly.
When they were together, they could spend an entire day like this; Gina would wander from room to room, looking for new things to slam down, with Larry following a respectful distance behind, waiting for her to tire herself out before trying to pick up the thread again. Towards the end, especially, she found deeper, untapped reserves of anger that let her go for much longer than before. Before they finally divorced, Gina had gone on a week-long tantrum binge, slamming her purse on the stand as she arrived from work or errands, and not letting up until she left the next morning. He knew better than to talk to her when she was like that, because almost invariably whatever she had in her paws would become a projectile aimed straight for his head. By the eighth day of quietly boiling rage and silence, he was ready to acquiesce to any of her demands. It’s the reason why the divorce proceedings went so smoothly.
Now, though, was not the time for silence. This was something that had to be worked out, and he couldn’t wait around to be ground down by Gina’s indomitable will. Even after they parted, she got everything she wanted; the house and cars, the children with no visitation rights for him, her maiden name and his previously spotless reputation. He wasn’t going to give up anything else without at least a token fight.
“What do you want?” he finally snapped at her, in a lull between clanging pots. The response, as he expected, was an explosion of bluster.
“What do I want?” She wheeled on him, her hackles raised, a wok brandished in her paw like a club. “I want you to act like a damned father to those kits in there and make sure they’re taken care of, that’s what! You walk in her with a little bit of money in your pocket and think you can treat us any kind of way. Well I’m not having it!”
“But I told you, the raise isn’t that much…”
“Oh please. It’s enough for you to have that new car sitting in our driveway!”
“That’s the company car—“
“And you expect me to believe they just hand out company cars to snot-nosed junior accountants?”
“Listen. I told you. I got a promotion at work. That promotion means more money, but it’s still not enough to give you what you’re asking for. I have to live too, you know.”
“And while you’re living with damned tramp in your fancy condominium, you got six starving kids—“
“She’s not a fucking tramp, and you know God-damned well your pantry’s full! What about the fucking gardens we planted last year, huh? Are you and your poor starving kids doing anything but wasting all the money I dumped into that fucking thing?” He felt light-headed as he stood up, the chair toppling to the floor next to him. His fur bristled inside his suit, and his limbs felt strange and light. It wouldn’t be anything at all for him to lift his arm and swing for her face…
Gina looked stricken by the sight, and her ears folded before she could stop them. For a moment, she looked cowed, and this made Larry feel almost triumphant. Then her face hardened, and her ears stood up, pointing backwards.
“That ain’t the point. The point is we both know you have more money than you’re telling me about, and you’re just being greedy. I don’t need your help, but I thought you would at least want to be a good father to those children in there, and not think about yourself all the time.” Her voice got low and quick, and she gave a furtive glance towards the living room. Larry checked quickly, and the kits were no longer making a show of studying. Half of them were staring openly towards them.
Larry hissed at her, his face drawing in close. “Don’t you try to make this about them. You know why you really want the money. You miss all the nice things I bought you, all the crap that you insisted on buying, all the jewelery and the clothes and the furniture and you can’t wait to have it all back, can you? God, that’s all you do is just take and take and take…”
Gina slapped him then, and his head rocked back. There was a collective gasp from the kits, and everything went deathly silent. Larry looked back at his ex-wife; she was shaking, her lips drawn tight across her muzzle.
“I saw your picture on your company’s website. Right over the title of Chief Financial Officer. Do you want to come into my house and tell me that a promotion like that only comes with a small raise? Do you want to look me in the eye and tell me you still can’t afford to pay child support? Do you really want to stand here in my kitchen and tell me that I’m being greedy?”
“You won’t even let me see the kids, Gina…”
“Get out of my house. Get out and don’t come back. I don’t want to see you again. Keep your God-damned money.” There wasn’t a trace of anger or indignation in the doe’s voice, just a tired finality.
Larry turned slowly and walked stiffly around the table, through the path that six kits made for him as they stared up at him. He always looked towards the door. When he was outside, he stared straight at the car. In the car, he stared at his steering wheel, his satellite radio, the clear suburban street behind him. Anything but them. His jaw didn’t loosen until he was on the freeway, where, stuck in traffic behind an accident, he let the tears flow, thick and fat, down his cheeks.
The rest of the drive home was a blur of red lights and financial figures. There was a lot of refinancing he would need to do, but he figured he and Anne could do without the nicer things for a while. The kits would be tearing through clothes and school supplies, and Gina would never get all of that on her odd jobs alone.

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A Third Introduction

Hello! I am David, and I'm a writer. I'm a part of this New Fables group, though I have to admit I don't write nearly as often or as well as many of the group's members. Hopefully as ever, though, this will change in the near future.

I was most recently published in the Summer 2007 issue of the anthology New Fables, though I've also been published by Sofawolf Press in Historimorphs and Breaking the Ice: Stories from New Tibet. My poetry has appeared in Reed Magazine, Poesia Quarterly and The Avatar of St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Now that the excessively dry list of credentials are out of the way, I'm very interested in telling stories, in a variety of ways. I love the episodic nature of television, which lets you tell self-contained stories fit neatly within the context of a much broader arc, and I also adore the quick and dirty style of short stories and films. The ability to distill so many ideas, emotions and themes into a perfect line of dialogue or description endlessly fascinates me.

With genres, I wander around a lot but I certainly have my favorites. I prefer fantasy (both medieval and modern) to sci-fi, and almost anything apocalyptic and beyond has my number. I blame this on my proper Christian upbringing.

Despite the fact that I've been doing this for a while, I'm still green. With practice, there should be visible improvement. I hope.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Two Scenes - The Hunt

Here's my take on the two scenes exercise. I'm not sure where this came from apart from a desire not to do what we'd talked about as an example in the workshop: guy acting different with his wife than with his friends. So I started thinking of what the conflict could be that the guy was dealing with, and I got a couple germs of ideas and they all came together.

  He'd run those rooftops a hundred times, a thousand, even, and never slipped before. Whatever god had possessed him to come out for one more hunt on a rainy night must have been looking out for him, though. He stepped back from the crumpled form of the antelope and stared at its companion, willing his features into a snarl. “What're you looking at?” he growled, claws flexing in and out of his paws. “You want to be number two?”
  The antelope didn't move. His nose told him that it was female, so probably he'd just killed her husband. “You know how the hunt works, right?”
  She nodded, slowly, and whispered, “If they catch you, they'll kill you, too.”
  He thought about his wife, a spotted pelt on some antelope's wall now. “They haven't caught me yet, not in twenty years.”
  “You fell.” He could hear her voice over the rain without straining, now. She held a purse, but wasn't reaching for it; the confidence came from within.“I saw you land.”
  “I broke his neck. You should thank me. It was quick and painless.”
  In her eyes, he could see his own reflection, dripping fur, yellow eyes shining with the reflected streetlight. “You won't take him.”
  “Lady,” he laughed, tasting rain on his tongue, “you don't know the rules.”
  “I know enough.” The street was empty, but he would have to get going soon. The patrols would come by, or someone else would raise the alarm. “Haven't you lost someone? Wouldn't you rather they were buried on your land?”
  “We don't care,” he growled. “To die in the hunt is honorable.” But the image of her lovely fur, stretched out, gnawed at him. He shook his head, spraying water. “My family has to eat.”
  “My family had to live,” she said. “Little enough that mattered.”
  “Stupid woman,” he said, and took a step toward her. His arms were heavy with more than water. He remembered every antelope he'd ever killed.
  When they'd hunted together and brought down a couple, it always made her happier. One of them doesn't have to go on without the other, she'd say. He took another step, nearly in claw's reach of the antelope's throat now, and his foot skidded on the sidewalk.
  She watched, impassive, as he regained his balance. They stared at each other again through the hissing rain. “If you were going to kill me,” she said, “you would've done it. Just go. Leave me my husband.”
  He hated them, in all their trappings and clothing, with weapons and vehicles, the city an affront to God and nature. But he could not kill her. The energy of the hunt had left him, and he had made the mistake of talking to her, a cub's mistake. Hunt with your heart, not with your head.
  He picked up the antelope's body—her husband's body. His arms were tired, his back straining under the weight he'd lifted so easily in years past. He looked up at her again, and let the body slip to the dirt.
  Engines sounded through the rain, but by the time they came into view, he had made his way up the side of the building to crouch huddled on the roof, looking up at the moon through the veil of rain and fog.

  And the second version...

  He'd run those rooftops a hundred times, a thousand, even, and never slipped before. Whatever god had possessed him to come out for one more hunt on a rainy night must have been looking out for him, though. He stepped back from the crumpled form of the antelope as his granddaughter landed beside him, sinking her teeth into the throat of the fallen creature.
  “It's dead,” he told the cub. “You can let go.”
  “You were good,” his granddaughter said. She stood, all lithe muscle and grace, her tail lashing through the rain. “I hate this weather.”
  “Years of practice,” he told her. “Now let's get the clothes off. Quickly, quickly, before a patrol shows up. They haven't caught me yet, not in twenty years, and I don't mean for this to be the night.”
  He ripped the garments from the cooling body, tearing along seams to save energy. The cub, more energetic and less experienced, just shredded until they came easily away. He smiled. Once he'd had that energy, and that hatred for the antelopes and their industry that polluted the landscape and the waters. But the clothes made them run slower, so there was that, at least.
  He hefted the body over his shoulder. As it came away from the sidewalk, a small cloth wallet fell to the ground, open to a picture of two antelopes and a young fawn. His granddaughter picked it up.
  “Look, 'pa,” she said. “He has a family too.”
  “Course,” he said gruffly. “What did you think?”
  “We-ell...” She held the wallet. “What will his wife think?”
  “She knows the rules.” The weight of the body came up with him, heavier than he'd remembered. He should make her carry it, but no, it was the job of the hunter to carry his or her quarry. She was along to learn, too young to hunt on her own yet.
  “What rules?”
  “We hunt them. They kill us if they catch us.” He grunted with the effort.
  She swung up beside him easily. “Will his family know what happened?”
  “They'll figure it out.” He got to the roof, threw the body over it, and followed it, panting.
  She crouched beside him, yellow eyes reflecting the moon. “Like we did with 'ma?”
  “Yes.” He stared back at her and cuffed her suddenly. She fell back on her haunches, staring resentfully, tail lashing. “Never think about that,” he told her. “Hunt with your heart. If you start thinking about their families, or getting revenge for our lost ones, you'll be caught as sure as night after day. You understand?”
  “Yes, pa.” She shook herself, spraying him with water.
  “Right, then.” He looked up at the moon and stretched, thankful for the light even through the driving rain. “Next one's yours.”

I still think it's a little too easy, for lack of a better word--of course he's going to act differently when confronted with the wife of his victim rather than his granddaughter. But maybe that's the whole point. I dunno. In any event, I feel like I want to make something more out of these scenes, maybe a slightly longer short story. Anyway, it was a lot of fun to do, and people seemed to like it.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Two Scenes - Micah's Proclivities

In our writing group, we try to do some sort of exercise for every meeting, whether it's during our meet-up or done as some sort of between-class assignment. Most recently, our exercise was of the latter variety, where the goal was to showcase a character's personality by writing two scenes involving the same situation, but with a different character with whom to interact.

I think the idea was a very good one, and I think that the lot of us did a very good job. Here are the scenes that I wrote. They're a bit on the racy side, but I like how they came out.

Micah swirled his straw through his iced tea. The halfway-melted ice circled around and around without even the fainted of clinks. The otter let his gaze fix on the small wedge of lemon that bobbed along as his straw cut through.

Jarvis, the fox sitting across from him, cleared his throat. Micah looked up and blinked a few times, pretending that he hadn't heard the previous question. “Huh?” he said, scooching back upright. The look in the fox's eyes, though, told Micah that he wasn't fooling anyone.

“I said, what's this I hear about you on Saturday night?”

“What, you mean Trevor's party?” Micah asked. “Yeah, I was there. Weren't you invited?”

The fox sighed. “You know I don't care for Trevor's crowd,” he said. “And you know that's not what I'm asking. What's this I hear about you and Tommy?”

Micah tried not to clearly envision the raccoon's face. “Yeah, he was there, too,” the otter said.

“From what I hear, you two were definitely keen on one another's presence.”

The otter withheld a sigh. “Look, is there something you're trying to get at?”

Jarvis' face was blank. “Does Jason know?”

“Does Jason know what?”

“Does Jason know that you spent Saturday night making out with some other guy?”

Micah looked back into his iced tea. “What business is it of yours?”

“It's my business because I don't think he should hear it from one of the other several people who witnessed said make-out session.”

This time, the otter didn't even try to hold in his sigh. “And what if he does hear about it?” he mumbled. “It's not like he's my boyfriend or anything.”

“Try telling him that,” the fox replied. He looked sad, now. “Come on, Micah, you know how he's going to take that.”

“Yeah? So then why don't you tell him?” The otter almost knocked his glass over as he continued to fidget with it. He puffed out his chest and pulled himself back out of the slouch he'd slunk into. “What's the big deal, anyway?” he added before Jarvis could say anything. “All we did was kiss.”

“Kiss with your hand down his pants?” Jarvis asked. “Seriously, man, you and Tommy were the big gossip point of the week. And you know how Trevor's gang is; you're not going to be able to escape notoriety from this one.”

Micah dropped his straw into his glass of iced tea and pushed his chair back. “Well, if Jason wants to buy into town gossip, who am I to tell him what to believe?”

“Wait, so you're really not going to tell him.”

The otter was already on his feet, fishing through his wallet to find some bills to drop on the table. “If he finds out about it, and he still wants to be my boyfriend, he'll forgive me,” he said, before turning to walk out.

And here's the second:

Micah stared into his Long Island Iced Tea. The colors were separating, so the otter gave it a swirl to mix it all back together. Nothing was worse than a badly-mixed Long Island. Well, at least as far as trips to bars went.

“Come on, spill it,” Trevor said, the skunk's snout twisted up into a huge grin.

“Spill what?” the otter asked. He chuckled preemptively.

The skunk kicked Micah's shin under the table. “You know what I mean,” he said. “You and Tommy at my party. What's the deal?”

“You were there,” Micah said, his thick tail brushing against the floor as it gave a flick. “We were, ah, attracting quite the little audience, too.” The smile on Trevor's face made the otter feel a flush of pride.

“Oh, please, you know how shitfaced I got,” the skunk said. “If I was watching, I sure as hell don't remember any of it. Details, man, details.”

Micah shrugged it off modestly. “There's not much to tell, really,” he said. “I didn't get as far as I wanted, but that's mostly just because by the end of the night, Tommy was on the verge of passing out.”

“You didn't blow him on the couch again like you did with Ken, did you?” Trevor asked. He had this look of worry on his face, but Micah surmised that the skunk was more concerned with the prospect of having missed a free show.

The otter shook his head, though. “Nah. Just most of a hand job,” he said. “Actually, given how much he was drinking, I'm impressed he was even able to stay hard as long as he did.”

“How much of it do you think he remembers?” Trevor asked.

“Probably enough that he wouldn't hesitate to let me into his pants again,” Micah replied with a flick of his tongue. “Not that it was all that difficult to get in there in the first place.”

“You don't really seem to have that problem with anyone,” the skunk pointed out before taking a sip of his own drink.

Micah chuckled. “Well, except with Jason,” he said. “You figure after four months, he wouldn't still be so prudish about going all the way.”

“He probably feels intimidated,” the skunk said. “I mean, given all the action you get, he might just expect that he'd be inadequate.”

“Are you kidding?” Micah asked. “You don't honestly think he knows about all that, do you?”

Trevor chuckled again. “Okay, I think you must be joking, here,” he said. “You think your reputation doesn't proceed you far enough that Jason doesn't already know?”

“He sure as hell doesn't act like he knows,” Micah replied. “Given his general attitude towards sex in general, I think he'd run for the hills if he knew what I slut I was.”

“Hey, you're not just a slut,” Trevor said, poking a finger at the otter's snout. “You're everybody's favorite slut.”

Micah preened. “Flatterer,” he said.

“As if I need flattery to get anywhere,” the skunk said with a wink, and all Micah could do was grin again.

I tend not to make my stuff quite so, well, overt when it comes to the workshop itself, but for whatever reason, this situation just kind of called for that level of bluntness, and that's how the character was coming together in my head, so I just went ahead and wrote him as I saw him.

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A Quick Introduction

So, as Tim has already mentioned, we've got a writing group that meets on a regular basis. This group is also strongly connected to the New Fables project. I myself have a story in the Summer '07 anthology, entitled "Changes for the Better," which takes place in a fantasy world that I've been piecing together over the last couple of years.

I've got my own writing blog linked here, so I won't go on and on too much about myself, but I will say that I've been writing for almost my entire life, and I've been writing seriously for the last seven or eight years or so. It's only just recently that Ive begun getting my stories put into print, and I find that sort of exciting. I'm very happy to get to share my work with others, and I'm flattered to think that people want to go and read it.

There's not much to say about me other than the fact that I'm a writer, first and foremost, and that writing is what I'm most passionate about doing. I tend to mostly write about anthropomorphic animal characters. Also, very frequently (though certainly not exclusively), I write about gay themes and/or gay characters. For whatever reason, my tone tends to be either rather dark or rather lighthearted, and I don't seem to do a good job of hitting the middle ground; that's something I'd probably ought to work on.

I look forward to seeing how things go with this, and I'm glad to have the chance to share my writing and thoughts with people out there!

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Saturday, August 25, 2007


This is the blog for the New Fables writing group, writers of fabulist stories in the Bay Area, with a strong preference for the animal and anthropormophic animal themes. We'll also be posting news about the New Fables journal, published yearly (for now) by Sofawolf Press.

I'll let the others write their own introductions, but here's mine: I've been writing for years, and blogging about it for months. I help publish as well, through Sofawolf Press (and I contribute to their journal). Though I do enjoy the publishing side of it, writing remains my first passion. I recently released my first novel, Common and Precious, through Sofawolf, which was a very exciting process, especially since selling the novel to my editor was easy.

The New Fables project--both the writing group and the journal--is near and dear to me, and I look forward to having some fun writing in this blog. Hope all you readers like it too!

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