After three variations I found myself stumped. The third feels right, but is it?
It’s easy to fly through storytelling, getting my readers to The End with the least fuss.
It’s better to make the critical scenes more than simply the conveyance of information. The deeper I dig into the core scenes, those that turn the story’s direction, the more memorable and emotionally fulfilling they are.
I’ve never done that, pushing myself to rewrite a scene multiple ways, looking for the best version. In the past, I’ve been satisfied to note the scene’s purpose, write a direct sequence of actions fulfilling that purpose, and let my editor tidy it up.
If he tidies brass, you get highly polished brass.
I want my books to be solid gold.
“I have money.”
He didn’t reply. She tried again.
“My owner will pay whatever ransom you want.”
“How much am I worth to you?”
“Stop talking. If you were only a possession to barter with you would already have been sold.”
“Then what am I? Why are you taking me?” She suspected an answer but wondered if he would respond.
“Don’t I have a right to —”
He slapped the back of her head. “Stop talking. I won’t say it again.”
She turned. “I will not. If you intend to drag me through the forest you will hear me every step of the way.”
He had stopped a moment after her, one step too close. As he slid his machete from his belt she kicked him, hard, below that belt.
Before the machete dropped from his hands she was holding it.
“Do not follow me.”
He backed away. She stepped closer and flicked the machete in her two hands. The middle of his tunic split; just a small split, but the tip had touched him.
He continued backing away.
She turned and ran without a backward glance.
“Keep moving.” He shoved her.
Stifling rage, she smiled coyly. “I thought this might be a good place.”
As she stepped closer he raised his arms to either attack or defend depending on what she did next. “A good place for what?”
She softened the smile and tilted her head slightly. “Unless you don’t want to . . .”
That was the look she was expecting. All men everywhere were the same.
He lowered his arms.
She stepped closer and raised her bound hands. “Aren’t you going to untie me first?”
His face reddened and he put one hand on his machete. He leaned and stepped at the same time, his nose nearly touching hers.
As he opened his mouth to shout at her no sound came. Her hands were locked behind his neck, the thick rope pressing against the front and sides.
When he was unconscious she let him fall, took the machete, and fled back down the path. Time enough to free her hands when she was out of his earshot.
Her captor was no match for her in the forest. Any opening was enough for her to slip away.
Every few minutes his pace changed; he slowed, to check behind or to rest or simply because it was how he marched.
She started counting.
The third time, it was almost exactly the same count.
The fourth time, she anticipated, quickened her pace, and was hidden among the trees before he could touch her.
She shoved her wadded up sweats and t-shirt into her duffle bag. Down in the yard, a blue jay dove on a squirrel. Hand still in the bag, she imagined a mother bird risking all to protect her young. She’d never know the feeling.
The rest of the house was silent. These big wooden houses, if someone was moving you’d hear it. Sounds carried through the registers in the floor and up wide staircases, down spacious hallways to the small room in the tower at the front of the house.
They’d had a nice dinner at a picnic table in the backyard, her hostess and her 5 boys. Their dad was working late; he wouldn’t be home until after they’d all gone to bed. And now she was leaving before he was up.
She was more comfortable with men, so last night she’d chatted more with the boys than with their mother. The woman kept eyeing her oldest boy, a young man, really. Continue reading “Understaying Your Welcome”
As his quarry stumbled noisily along the path he moved silently on a parallel path through the trees. Occasionally he fell behind; unlike the supermen on film, it took time to move truly silently.
But his quarry was in no hurry, and so with spurts of speed through clear spaces, he kept up.
He carried no weapon; needed none but the one inside his head. He valued life, considered it sacred, and wouldn’t take a life unless it were the last desperate option — and even then, he knew he’d give his own before taking another without good cause.
This quarry was no threat, simply a source of information. He’d noticed the so-called tourist’s familiarity with customs in the market and realized they were the underling he’d been waiting for. Whatever function they performed for their employers, their function to him was simple.
To take him to those employers so he could destroy them.
Every person who signs up for my newsletter gets a personal welcome. Some, it’s just that: a welcome. Others, it’s an excerpt from something I’ve written. Most, though, get a vignette I compose on the spot.
Reviewing them just now, I realized I could rearrange them to make sense as the introduction of a story. Almost.
Continue reading “My fiction newsletter signup — the official handwritten welcome note”
Cold morning. Mist. Garage doors open, close. Lemming boxen off to slave.
Feet stamped awake. Couch cushions put back. Taste of dirt in his mouth.
Unemployment. Self-employment, maybe. Guns and gals and goodness.
Cold tap water. Hands, face, stomach. No breakfast. Coffee. Black.
Out, down, gone. No lemming box. Just feet.
Foot and foot, foot by foot.
Save the world. Save someone.
Nothing moved between the sagebrush and ocotillo below him. Now and then a ripple of wind scattered across the brush but any animal venturing out in the heat of the day was too small at this distance for even his sharp eyes.
The sand was hot under his belly as he lay under a creosote bush at the edge of the mesa. Unarmed, because it was not his task to attack or defend, only to watch and report. Three small, smooth stones in his mouth kept his tongue moist with saliva. Should he have to signal his brothers farther north on the trail, his lips and tongue would have to be ready. A dry tongue made ineffective sounds.
Continue reading “The Stillness of Waiting”
He’d said he’d leave his old life, settle down, marry her. She wanted to believe him, wanted to be his wife.
It had taken time. He’d said it over and over. As they walked in the meadow at the edge of town. As they sat by the fire at Mrs. Wilson’s cafe on damp days. As he’d walked her almost all the way home.
She’d finally believed that he’d changed, that she could marry him and be happy.
Her pa was another matter.
“Men like him don’t change, Lacey.”
“You did.” She didn’t make it a habit to challenge him, but since her mother’s death she’d grown bolder. Her pa pretended not to notice, just went on as if she hadn’t changed.
“I was never like him. And you’ll never marry him, I’ll see to that.”
She had wondered why her pa could change but wouldn’t allow it in another man.
And now, standing at the front of the little church where the town nearly spilled into the meadow, she wondered where he was; where they both were.
# # #
Meanwhile deep in the woods, two men stood, guns drawn, in a level place at the edge of the stream.
Their guns were not aimed at each other.