Moving Forwards part 15

The praying mantis rushed towards him and something else reached out above him to meet it. The branches struck the praying mantis in the middle of its dive, knocking it off course. It zoomed up into the air regaining its balance and dived once more. One of the branches reached out and smacked it on the head. Another curled around one of its legs. The praying mantis climbed higher, getting its leg out of harm’s way.

As Rodger blinked, the praying mantis hissed, waved its forelegs at him and buzzed off into the distance.

Rodger lay still staring at the sky, trying to regain control over his breathing.

He was alive.

He was safe. For the moment at least. He sat up. His thigh burned, but it was possible to ignore. He looked behind him. The tree was swimming back through the earth moving to the music. The mermaids were close by. The one with the spiral on its forehead was playing the flute and the other one looked a bit, what? Grumpy? It was difficult to tell with those black eyes.

When the tree was back in place, the Spiral placed the necklace holding the flute around the grumpy one’s neck. They placed their hands on each other’s cheeks and touched foreheads. They stood like that for a while and Rodger felt he was intruding a very intimate moment. He shifted his feet and looked at everything other than the mermaids until they moved apart again.

Rodger cleared his throat.

‘So, err…’

The Flute Bearer turned its back to him and slithered towards the water, but stopped when it saw that the Spiral was not following.

‘I’m really, very sorry,’ said Rodger and looked the Spiral in the eye. Then he remembered that that might be a threat and he looked down at his feet instead. ‘I really need your help.’

The Spiral approached him and touched his cheek with one cold hand. Rodger swallowed. What was he supposed to do? He put his own hand on the Spiral’s cheek. The Flute Bearer gurgled and the Spiral moved away from him towards the water.

‘Waitwaitwait,’ said Rodger and ran between them and the water, ‘I still have to get back.’ He pointed frantically back the way he had come. To them. To himself. Back the way he had come. When the mermaids still hesitated, he pushed the Spiral gently in the direction he meant. The Spiral gurgled and pointed to him, to a tree, to itself, to the water, to itself, to the same tree.

‘You want me to wait for you at that tree?’ Rodger pointed to himself and then the tree.

The Spiral pushed him towards the tree.

‘Alright,’ said Rodger, ‘but you better hurry back.’ He tried to mime them slithering back quickly, but the only answer he got was another push from the Spiral.

Rodger settled himself against the tree and looked at his watch. This was the fourth night since he had left Frederick and the machine. There was still time. If only he could make the mermaids understand. He hoped they would be back soon. And he especially hoped that the Flute Bearer would not convince the Spiral to not come back at all.

 

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Read part one here: https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

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Moving Forwards part 14

Rodger backed away. One step. Two. Three.  And the leash grew taut. The mermaid struggled even more. Rodger glanced at the Spiral. It might be suffocating. He stepped close and fumbled with the safety harness. There seemed to be a low bussing in his ears. The Spiral pulled at the harness around its throat and scratched Rodger in the process.

‘Will you calm down!’ Rodger forced the Spiral’s hands away and loosened the harness to the point that he worried it might slip right off.

The buzzing rapidly grew in volume and made him look up.

‘Get down!’ He threw himself down on top of the Spiral just as the praying mantis swooped down at them. He glanced from the mermaid hyperventilating beneath him to the praying mantis above probably making ready for another swoop.

‘This is just my luck,’ Rodger slipped the safety harness over the Spiral’s head and rolled off it. ‘Run!’ He looked up again to see which way to dodge, but he could not find the praying mantis in the sky. The music stopped. Rodger looked for the flute bearer. It was lying on its side as if it had thrown itself down. The flute was about a metre away on the stones. As he spotted the praying mantis, he picked up a stone. The flute bearer twisted around and made for the trees.

‘Hey!’ shouted Rodger, ‘Hey! Here!’

Either the praying mantis could not hear him or it was ignoring him. Either way it swooped at the flute bearer. Rodger threw the stone with all his strength and hit the wing of the praying mantis. The praying mantis wobbled in the air. Rodger picked up two more stones as it straightened up.

Now at least he had its full attention. It made straight for him. He threw another stone which hit its belly and glanced off. Somewhere the music began again. He threw himself to one side and felt the whoosh of air as the praying mantis dived right past him. He stumbled backwards towards the island keeping his eyes on the praying mantis as it soared again and turned to dive.

He swallowed. Why had he suddenly felt the need to play the hero? Stupid. The praying mantis came for him and he rolled aside, but not quite fast enough. His thigh burned as it ripped through his trousers. He gasped and tried to scramble to his feet, but the praying mantis was already about to dive again. Rodger fell onto his side and watched as it began its descent.

‘Oh shit.’

Of Pictures in Writing and Writing in Pictures

Oh, yay! I am finally done writing the story of Moving Forwards, so now I can begin the rewriting/editing phase.

But wait, this would be an opportune moment to throw in some advice on writing, so let’s rewind and change the point of view:

Oh, yay! You are finally done writing your novel/short story/narrative poem… your story. Now all you have to do is send it off to a publishing house, right?

No! First you have to look it through and edit it, tidy it up if you will, because a first draft always has some irregularities. Some things that do not do the story or idea you had justice.

So where to start?

I usually start at the beginning (I am SO original) and read the whole story through looking for:

  • The words or combination of words: ‘a little’, ‘almost’, ‘very’, ‘as if’
  • ‘Began to’
  • Too many adjectives
  • Adverbs
  • Passive sentences
  • Points of view
  • ‘could see’, ‘could feel’, ‘could smell’
  • The pace of the story
  • Interposed sentences
  • Very long sentences
  • Repetition of small words like ‘so’, ‘and’, ‘then’
  • Things that are irrelevant to the story

This may seem like a rather long list, and many of the points will need clarification, but it is a very tangible list, and I recommend making one like it to anyone who wants to edit his/her writing. Of course, the points on this list do not work for all stories. For example, in my story Misfortune I use quite a lot of passive sentences. Can you guess why? 😉

Where do they come from all of these very tangible points?

Well, some of them have to do with pictures.

One should think that writing is about words, but actually it is about pictures. That is, the pictures the readers get in their heads when they read what you have written. The stronger these pictures are the better. Also, if you want to tell a specific story then it is a good idea to give the readers the right pictures or it will not come across as you planned.

For example, if you use the word ‘dog’.

Think about that word: ‘Dog’.

It can bring thousands of different associations with it, both positive and negative, and if you ask different people about the ‘dog in their mind’

Great Danes and Chihuahuas by David Shankbone,...

Great Danes and Chihuahuas by David Shankbone, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

you will get both Chihuahuas and Great Danes.

Now think about the word ‘puppy’. It is still a dog, but most people will here envision a small one of the kind and probably a cute one too.

Deutsch: Ein Wolfspitz-Sibirian Husky Welpe En...

A Keeshond-Sibirian Husky puppy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, if you write ‘flea-bitten hearthrug’ you will give your readers a quite different picture.

Which is the right one to use depends on the situation. You have to know, what you want your readers to ‘see’.

Also, remember that your readers might not always get the same associations as you do when they read a word. If you want other people to read your story, it is best to use the words that will get the right associations and pictures across to the largest number of people.

Let us pretend that you have written a story about a dog. If you have written that it is a ‘small dog’, change it. If you mean that it is a Chihuahua, write ‘Chihuahua’, if the kind of dog is not relevant to the story, but you want people to think of the dog as cute, write ‘puppy’. Both words give stronger pictures to your readers.

I found a new puppy to take pictures of, you'l...

Chihuahua puppy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which leads me to the first point on the list, words like: ‘a little’, ‘almost’, ‘very’, etc.

These words tend to weaken otherwise strong words and pictures.

For example, why write ‘very big’ when you could write ‘enormous’? Do not be afraid to exaggerate. It only improves the reading experience.

If you compare ‘She almost knocked him off his feet’ and ‘She knocked him off his feet’ is the latter not more fun? Or if you do not like the change in meaning how about ‘Her blow made him reel’?

Consider the sentence: ‘His face was a little pale.’ Here ‘a little’ adds nothing new to the sentence. His face was pale, so write it: ‘His face was pale.’

That is it for now. I will save the rest of the list for some other day.

But how about you?

Do you have a ‘watch-list’ for editing your writing? Or are you perhaps going to make one now?

Moving Forwards part 13

The Flute Bearer stopped right in front of the next island. There it turned around and looked Rodger directly in the face.

‘Ah,’ said Rodger, ‘good I knew you couldn’t ignore me forever. We have to go the other way.’ He pointed back over his shoulder. The Flute Bearer turned back towards the island and removed some of the white stones from where they rested against the earth. Rodger moved closer keeping the Spiral in front of him like a shield. The Flute Bearer dug down and cut the net with its claws.

‘What are you doing?’ said Rodger.

The Flute Bearer loosened the earth, moved a bit right cut some more net, loosened the earth.

‘Come on,’ said Rodger, ‘You could at least try to communicate with me.’

The Flute Bearer moved a bit to the left and did the same then took off the necklace carrying the flute.

‘How about you?’ said Rodger turning to the Spiral, ‘can you try to explain this?’ He pointed to the Flute Bearer and the earth. Scratched his head. The Spiral inclined its head. Rodger pointed again. The Spiral gurgled and gestured towards the island. Rodger shook his head.

‘I don’t understand.’ He pointed to his head.

The Spiral gurgled again and gestured to the Flute Bearer. The Flute Bearer straightened up and gurgled back at the Spiral. Then it put the flute to its mouth.

’Oh no,’ said Rodger as the lovely music flowed towards him, ‘you can’t trick me into the water with that again. I’m awake this time.’

The Spiral struggled and gurgled at him.

‘Heyheyhey,’ said Rodger, ‘stop that. You’ll just end up tightening it around your throat.’

The trees moved. Rodger froze and watched as they uncurled in slow-motion to the music. He gaped like a fish as their branches bent down and reached towards him.

‘Please,’ he said, ‘you can’t…’

The branches were like tentacles creeping towards him. He shook his head. But wait a minute, he was on the path and the closest tree was still quite far away. They could not possibly reach him here. He took a deep breath.

‘Alright, I can see you are just trying to scare me. Why won’t you just give me a -’

One of the trees moved closer. The roots were moving as if swimming through the earth. It was slow, but it was coming closer.

 

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Read part one here: https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

Moving forwards part 12

Rodger spun around. At the edge of the water was another mermaid creature. Its build and face looked exactly like the first one, but the markings on its head were different. Where the first mermaid had a spiral in the middle of its forehead, this one had what might resemble a vine, creeping across the forehead and down one cheek. Also, this one was wearing a necklace with a flute.

It bent down and picked up another stone. Rodger sprang behind the mermaid with the spiral and pulled it close. The other mermaid lowered the stone. Rodger felt a twinge of guilt. He had to make them understand somehow.

The one with the flute said something; a series of gurgling sounds accompanied by violent gesticulation with the hand not holding a stone. The one Rodger had captured replied with more gurgling and much gentler gestures, but still with one hand on the safety harness around its throat.

The Flute Bearer slithered a bit closer, gurgling again, but with less violent gestures. Rodger looked from one to the other.

‘Look,’ he said, ‘I’m sorry it had to be like this.’ He took half a step away from the Spiral. ‘I never meant any harm.’ He showed his empty left hand and turned the palm up in what he hoped was a welcoming gesture.

The Flute Bearer stopped gurgling and stared at him with those pitch black eyes. Rodger swallowed.

‘But please try to understand,’ he said, ‘I just want to get back to the machine,’ he pointed to the sky. The Flute Bearer started and turned its head this way and that as if searching for something in the sky. Rodger looked up.

The clouds still had a little colour from the fading light, but there was nothing else up there. The Flute Bearer seemed to have reached the same conclusion for he turned his eyes on Rodger and gurgled while making curt gestures at him with one hand.

‘It’s not here,’ Rodger shook his head, ‘it’s back there.’ He pointed back to where he had left the hole in the sky and the machine behind. The Flute Bearer stared at him for another couple of seconds then it raised the stone.

‘Don’t throw those at me!’ Rodger jumped back behind the Spiral. Its target in cover, the Flute Bearer said something to the Spiral instead. The Spiral replied and the Flute Bearer dropped the stone on the path.

‘Phew,’ said Rodger, ‘thanks.’

The Flute Bearer slithered over the stones going in the opposite direction of where Rodger had pointed. It paused to gurgle something at the Spiral then slithered on.

‘Hey,’ said Rodger, ‘where are you going?’

There was no reply.

‘Please, you’ve got to help me. Hey!’ Rodger moved to follow then remembered his captive. ‘Err… could you just follow in front,’ he pointed after the Flute Bearer and pushed the Spiral gently in that direction. It did not need any more encouragement than that. It slithered off after the Flute Bearer and Rodger strode behind it trying his best not to let the leash grow taut. His conscience was bad enough already.

 

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Read part 1 here: https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

Moving Forwards part 11

A scaly tail like a snake thrashed and twisted over the stones. The creature scratched his arm, but he gritted his teeth and held his head as far from it as he could, his eyes squinting. Something grazed his jaw and he tightened the safety harness around its throat. It struggled for a few seconds then went completely still.

Rodger opened his eyes properly. The thing was smaller than him. Not only was it shorter when it stood on its tail, its arms and torso were slightly built and gave it an almost child-like appearance.

Its skin was very pale with a bluish tinge and it had strange markings on its bald head which could be tattoos. Its chest expanded and contracted in short pants reminding him of a scared rabbit and as it clutched at the safety harness around its neck it looked very human. Even with the snake tail.

Rodger cleared his throat.

‘Err… I,’ he cleared his throat again, ‘I thought you were… I’m sorry I had to… I didn’t know how to contact you. Do you understand what I’m saying?’

The creature was still panting. Maybe hyperventilating.

‘No, of course you don’t,’ Rodger sighed, ‘how could you.’ He had not even expected to catch something, or perhaps it was rather someone, whom he would want to just talk to. Someone who was perhaps just as afraid of him at he had been of it. He loosened the safety harness a little. ‘Now, please don’t escape.’ He tried to keep his voice soft and calm and hoped the creature would catch some of the meaning.

It breathed a bit more slowly, but he did not know if it was because of his voice or because he had loosened the safety harness. It still seemed most likely that it would flee to the water as soon as he let go of it.

He fastened part of the safety harness around its neck as a collar and held the end tightly like a leash.

‘I’m really sorry, but I have to make you understand,’ he said, ‘and I don’t have time for you to run away.’ He turned the creature gently to look it in the face.

Even when he saw it from the front he had no idea of the sex. It had no breasts and he did not want to make it even worse for the creature by examining it too obviously. Its eyes were large and completely black. They made him feel rather uncomfortable when he looked into them. But that might just be his guilt working on him.

It still clutched the safety harness with both hands. The black nails on its fingers looked like claws. He glanced at his arm. His sleeve was torn and there was a thin line of blood where it had scratched him. He could not really blame it.

‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘I won’t tighten it.’ He reached out slowly and gently removed one of its hands from the safety harness. ‘Please,’ he said, ‘I won’t hurt you.’ He waited a few seconds then he reached out for its other hand.

There was a sharp pain in his shoulder as the stone connected.

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Read part 1 here: https://abolg.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/moving-forwards-part-1/

I’m done!

With exams.

For now at least.

So I’ll publish part 11 of Moving Forwards in 10 seconds time, and hurry off to write some more 🙂

I hope you’ll enjoy!

Hear Ye, Hear Ye!

The exams are marching ever closer, and time is running faster each day.

So it is with a heavy heart that I must tell you that there will be no more updates until Friday the 13th (And what a lovely date to begin again).

By then I should be done with all this exam-type-reading.

I hope you will all be able to read Mervyn Peake, Neil Gaiman or Joseph Heller in stead…

18 Rainbow

She dances on air. Colours swirling beneath her. Above her. In her head. She is in a tunnel of light of a million wavelengths.

She had spent a hundred years crying. And another hundred years in a dark room with no exits. Every day she could hear the villagers’ voices from outside.

She burst out of her confinement in a frenzy, froth and blood dripping from her mouth. Her nails ripping and tearing everything within reach. Including herself. Her strength spent, she lapsed into forgetfulness and went somewhere else for a while. Somewhere with green grass and a warm summer sun. A place where there was always enough to eat and where the water was clean.

But then one day she was back at the village, and the wells were polluted with corpses.

The smell reached out for her. Grabbed her by the throat and made her eyes water. Faces surrounded her. Faces of strangers, although some seemed vaguely familiar. She clawed at them, threatened them, implored them to leave her be. She tried to run, but every time she slept, she was brought back to the very same place. Every day it looked the same, smelled the same and there was no one alive but her.

Then the colours raced across the sky and she had somewhere to go again. The colours led her away and after a while they came down from the sky to her. She mounted her Bifrost carefully. Perhaps she was too slow. Before she got far something gripped her, and her path was changed once more. She ended up in another village, this time with live people. And the colours followed her there.

She congratulated the villagers for their luck to have such wonderful colours lighting up their village. And also for their clean wells. And their life.

After a while the colours seemed to dim. She rushed around the village, trying to find out where they were going. Then she found out. They were rising into the air again. She climbed onto a roof. Something tried to tug her down, but she made it let go, and there was a thump somewhere below her. Then the villagers shouted at her and at once she was back in the dark room.

It felt even darker now that she had seen the colours. She banged at the walls and asked the colours to come back. Just for a little while.

After millennia, she saw the sun again. It glinted through the branches of a tree, and there was a rope.

Then at last the colours returned to her.

She dances on air.

Colours swirling.

Exams

Some of you might have noticed that I missed my publishing deadline last Wednesday.

Also the post for this Wednesday is rather late, but at least it will be here in half a minute.

As the title suggests, I am quite busy with my exams. When they are finally over and done with, I have promised myself to write as if there were no tomorrow and finish Moving Forwards. But right now, I have to pay attention to my maths book… And you’ll all have to make do with Rainbow.

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