Writer’s Block

Here I am again staring at the screen. Willing new and interesting words to appear, but where are they? They say the only way to leave writer’s block behind is to write oneself out of it. So here I am. Trying.

If I have a muse, she must have gone on vacation somewhere close to my first exam, and even though I am done, she has not returned. How does one entice a muse to come back to work? Flowers? Chocolate? I am sure some chocolate would help. I had better eat some (says the chocoholic).

mmmm… Lovely. Now where did that muse get to? Perhaps she got lost in the mess on my desk? I suppose I could tidy it up just a little bit…

Done, but there was no muse hiding in the debris. Or wait. What is this? An old scrap of paper with a few scribbled words. It sounds like something from a dream. Or something I wrote in the middle of the night which is basically the same. Hmm… If I have a muse, I think she just gave me a hint.

What do you do when your muse goes away on holiday?

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23 Cat

She stretches. She purrs. She beckons. And he comes to her. Slowly, hesitantly. But he comes. The sofa is red leather. The thick carpet masks his steps. Only her purring and his breathing disturb the air.

Sweat glistens on the back of his neck. The only source of light and warmth is the candles on the table and the windowsill. When he takes off his coat and shirt, goosebumps appear on his arms. She does not seem to feel the cold. He flinches as he notices the wet spots under the arms of his shirt. She only looks at his face. Her green eyes unblinking. His gaze shifts and he blinks several times. Then he takes another step. Her purring grows louder.

He goes down on his knees before the sofa. She sits up. As she strokes his hair with one finger, he trembles. She arranges herself comfortably on the sofa as he unties his shoelaces. His cheeks grow red, his eyes shine. He removes his trousers. His breathing grows ragged as he climbs onto the sofa.

Her purring fills his head. Her claws dig into his back. For a split second a smile finds his lips.

Then the tearing begins.

21 Vacation

I went on a vacation just to try something different, and I found the strangest creatures.

I saw creatures that carried smaller creatures inside themselves. Their main activity seemed to be transporting the smaller creatures from and to various boxes. Except when they made the smaller creatures feed them.

To keep the small creatures in the boxes, there were screens displaying distracting pictures. Mostly the pictures were of other creatures in boxes, sometimes there were pictures of the larger creatures. Once in a while there were even pictures of the rest of the planet. Of the smaller creatures walking freely with no larger creatures nearby and no boxes either.

But they were only pictures. I never saw the small creatures actually running free outside their boxes.

20 Fortitude

I hear them whispering in class. It is about me. But I am wearing my mask. When the bell rings I pack my things slowly. I know they will wait for me. When I get outside, they are not in the schoolyard. For a while I wonder if they got tired of waiting, but as I go through the school gate I see them. All four. One of them is leaning against a tree. Another lights a cigarette. They are all smiling. I turn my head down, check that my mask is firmly in place. It seems secure.

They wait for me. I once tried to cross the street, but they just followed. This time it will be different. I have my mask. Harry steps out in front of me.

‘Got any money on you today?’ he says, ‘did your dear mommy give you any? Or haven’t she had enough customers lately?’

The others laugh.

‘Now that her tits are getting all saggy,’ says Peter, ‘she can’t be getting much.’

They all laugh again. My mask is still in place.

‘Come on then,’ says Harry, ‘hand it over.’

I swallow, but my face does not even twitch and I stand still.

‘I said hand it over!’ Harry pushes me. I stumble backwards. Harry pushes me harder. My elbow strikes against the pavement and the lower part of my arm goes numb. At least my mask is not damaged.

‘Why is he so quiet?’ Theo says to Peter. I do not let myself smile.

‘I don’t care,’ says Peter, ‘just take it from him.’

Harry rips away my rucksack. I sit up, but I do not resist. He zips the rucksack open and thrusts his hand inside. He draws back his hand with a cry. There is blood on his fingers. My mask is etched in stone.

‘What the-’ says Peter.

‘My hand!’ says Harry. Peter grabs the rucksack and looks inside. He takes out the knife. Holding it properly. I stand up.

‘What did you think to do with this,’ says Peter, ‘you sick fuck. Did you think you’d kill us?’

I throw myself at him, grabbing the hand with the knife and forcing it towards him. I only scratch him a bit through his t-shirt. He is stronger than me, but I already knew that. I am not surprised when the knife pieces first my arm and then my side. And my mask does not crack. But I can see the fear in Peter’s eyes as the blood seeps into my jumper. I fall to my knees. Peter drops the knife and I allow myself to smile a little.

‘You’re fucking mad!’ says Peter. Harry whimpers over his hand. Then they run. My fingers are clumsy, but they can still dial 911 on my phone. And I can still give them the address. And a few names. Then I let myself fall back. I might convince them that it was attempted murder. Then I let my mask crumble.

19 Black Out, part 2

‘What’re you playing at?’ I say. He turns to me, still clutching the bird. I notice her sleeve is torn, and a bruise might be forming under one eye.

‘Fuck off,’ he says, ‘it’s got nothing to do with you.’

He might be younger, but I’m wider, and it’s not all fat. Not yet.

‘Let go of her,’ I say.

‘What you gonna do?’ he says.

I punch him in the face. He lets go of her and crumples. I think I broke his nose. He’s bleeding all over the place and whimpering. She leans herself against a wall, still crying.

‘Want me to call the police?’ I ask.

She shakes her head.

‘Want me to call an ambulance?’

She shakes her head.

‘Want me to take you home?’

She nods, slowly. I offer her my arm and she leans against it. She doesn’t seem too steady on her feet, so I put my arm around her as we walk out of the ally.

 

Now the pub is just between the grocery store and my home. And of course, just as we come out onto the main street, I see my wife hurrying along, a bag of groceries in each hand. And I’m thinking… shit. I just know she’s going to misunderstand everything. But what do I do? Let go of the girl and let her fall to the ground? That would make just as bad as the other bloke. But by now it’s too late. She’s seen me. And she’s making a bee-line for me. But when she’s about five meters from me, she freezes. She stares at the girl. She probably noticed the bruises. Then she avoids us and continues her way home in a half trot. Seems we’ll take it when I get home.

 

As the bird guides me the rest of the way to her nest, my mind is racing. How will I make my wife believe me? I say goodbye to the bird at the door.

‘Thanks,’ she whispers before going in.

‘You’re welcome,’ I say.

 

Then I go home. Slowly. I pause in front of my door. I know that she’s in there, fuming. Perhaps if I didn’t come home until tomorrow, she would forget about it? No, I know that would only make her madder. So I go inside.

 

As I take off my boots, I can hear her washing up in the kitchen. I take a deep breath and walk into the kitchen. She is washing up the frying pan. The smell of bacon fat still lingers in the air. I clear my throat. She spins around.

‘There you are!’ her cheeks are flushed. ‘What the hell do you think you were doing with that girl?’ her voice is shrill.

‘It’s all a misunderstanding,’ I begin.

‘Did you rape her?’

Her comment slaps me in the face and I take a step back.

‘What?’

‘Don’t you think I saw her?’

‘I didn’t do anything to her,’ I say, ‘it was the young bloke.’

‘What bloke?’

‘The bloke she was with,’ I say, ‘he was being rough to her, so I hit him and helped the girl out of the ally.’

‘And why didn’t you call an ambulance?’

‘The girl said she didn’t want me to.’

‘So now you’re talking to the dead!’ she screams, ‘how stupid do you think I am?’

I blink a couple of times.

‘You’re talking nonsense,’ I say, ‘I’m going to bed.’ I turn my back to her and move towards the door.

‘Murderer!’ she comes up behind me and smashes the frying pan right into the back of my head.

And that’s where I black out.

And when I come to, I can’t find my wife.

19 Black Out, part 1

Have you ever blacked out?

I mean completely blacked out?

Because of booze?

Because of some weird illness?

Because your wife hit you on the head with a frying pan?

I have.

The last one.

It hurt like hell.

And I didn’t even deserve it.

 

It begins down at the pub. I am having a few drinks with my mates when in comes this nice little bird. She must have been in her twenties. She goes up to the bar, buys a bottle of sparkly water and sits down in an empty corner.

We stare of course. Women are scarce enough at the pub. And I don’t think I ever saw someone younger than forty. Except her.

So the shock dies down. We continue our drinks. And the bird sits in the corner, not even touching her water.

After about twenty minutes, I glance around the pub and notice that she’s still alone. So I tell the mates that I’ll just go see if she’s all right. And of course they misunderstand me and chuckle into their drinks. Come on, I think, I’m no fool. She’s in her twenties, I’ll be in my fifties in a couple of years. I have a daughter about her age. It’s not as if I thought she wanted to come home with me or anything. And anyway, I could never take her home; I have a wife, remember?

 

Well, I go over in her corner and I ask her:

‘What’s a pretty bird like you doing in a place like this?’

She must have misunderstood me because she gave me this icy look.

‘I’m waiting for someone,’ she said and turned her head away from me.

‘But you’ve been waiting rather long, haven’t you?’ I say.

She shrugs her shoulders.

‘Is it a boyfriend?’ I ask.

‘Will you leave me alone?’ she snaps.

‘All right all right,’ I say, ‘no need to get angry. A nice evening to you.’ I go back to my mates. She stares into the wall.

 

After about another ten to fifteen minutes a bloke comes in. I don’t know him, but I don’t like him. It’s something about his face. His eyes perhaps.

He sits down with the bird, and for a while I get this picture in my head of a bird and a cat sitting on each their side of the table. And him licking his lips. I almost go over there again, but I’m thinking the bird will misunderstand me again.

They sit in the corner for about half an hour, speaking in low voices. Then they leave.

 

I finish my beer and look at the watch. It’s still rather early, but I’m thinking it’s probably time to get home to the missus. She said something about a nice dinner this morning. So I say goodbye to my mates and get going. It’s chilly outside so I put my hands in my pockets and hunch my shoulders. Then I walk down the road.

When I get close to the next side street, I hear voices. Loud voices. I look down the side street and it’s the bird and the cat. And he’s clutching her arm. And she seems to be crying. And trying to get away. Now that makes me angry. Him getting violent towards the bird like that. So I stride down the street.

About First Drafts and More of the List

When writing the first draft, give your subconscious free rein. When editing, be conscious of EVERYTHING.

Consciousness Awakening on Vimeo by Ralph Buckley

Consciousness (Photo credit: Ralph Buckley)

When you reread your novel/poem/short story, read every sentence with this question in mind:

“Why is this sentence in my story(or poem)?”

And for each word:

“Why is this word in my sentence?”

Describing a scene or a person can be a reason for a sentence to be there, but if you have two sentences which essentially only describes a person’s hair, consider if they are both necessary. If the second only repeats the first, delete it.

Unless you have some very special reason for focusing on the hair of this person. Your protagonist might have a hair obsession and stare at everybody’s hair, but if that is the case, at least make it interesting for the reader, or the text as a whole will not work.

Of course, it is a very difficult task to be conscious of everything which is why getting a writing/critique group or at least a critique-person is a great idea. An extra pair of eyes might see things which one does not see oneself.

Reading the texts of other people can also be a great exercise. It is often easier to find out what one likes and why in a text written by someone else.

Another great help is lists.

You might recall the list I wrote for “About Pictures in Writing and Writing in Pictures

  • 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

I’ll jump right to the last point of the list which is often one of the most difficult ones to spot.

Imagine we have a story about a Chihuahua puppy who falls in love with a Great Dane.

Great Dane and Chihuahua mixed-breed

Great Dane and Chihuahua. It was love at first sight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the first page we are introduced to the black bird who lives in the tree in the puppy’s garden.

Blackbird (Turdus merula), singing male. Bogen...

Blackbird (Turdus merula), singing male. One day he will be a famous slayer of snakes! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once in a while during the story, we hear of how the black bird dreams of becoming a slayer of snakes.

This is not one story. It is two; One about a puppy and another about a blackbird. If the two stories do not influence each other then perhaps they would be better off as two independent stories.

There are always exceptions of course, but in general try to stay with the story you want to tell the most and tell the other stories some other time.

And always, always, always when you edit, be conscious of which story you want to tell.

So tell me, have you tried telling several stories at once? Did it work?

I wish you all good writing 🙂

During a Storm

Round. Perfect. He caressed them and enjoyed their smooth surface.

‘So young,’ he said, and the rain pelted against the glass roof and walls. ‘Don’t worry, my pretty ones, it won’t get in here. I’ll protect you.’

A flash of light and he threw up his arms to protect his identity from any pictures taken. It was followed by a loud rumble and he snickered.

‘They won’t fool me my pretties.’

Then something smashed through the roof and they were showered with clear razor shards. He covered the plant with his body, shielding it from the worst assault. When only ordinary rain fell, he staggered. Giggled. Held up a red hand in front of the tomatoes.

‘Look,’ he fell to his knees, ‘my hands are of your colour.’

Then his face connected with the flagstones.

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