Writing a Screenplay

Image result for screenplayI was suddenly struck with an idea this week and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. Any time this happens to me, I know that it’s something I just have to do. So I’m currently working on a screenplay, which perhaps will never see the light of day (although I will certainly try to get it out there), but it’s good practice nonetheless. Turns out, there are quite a lot of rules regarding format for a screenplay. Thankfully, you can figure out how to do ANYTHING with the help of youtube and other bloggers (thank you bloggers!)

As I work on my new project, I’ve enjoyed reading screenplays and watching the show or movie to see how it all turned out. I rarely think about the person who sat down and wrote the script when I’m watching a movie. They’re someone obscure to me because typically the actors and director make the words come alive. Yet that whole production starts with written words and that’s powerful. I want to take part in something creative that way.

If you happen to be reading this and have any experience with screenplays, I’d love to hear from you!

Why I deleted my Twitter account

Image result for twitter symbol

So first of all, I know there are lots of people who enjoy Twitter, so I’m not writing this to convince anyone to stop using the app. I’ve been trying to simplify my life lately, not only by decluttering, as many of us do at the start of a New Year, but also by cutting out time wasters (except for video games because…well, I like video games).

When I looked at my social media accounts, I knew something had to go because it was becoming burdensome to keep up with everything. Here are 5 reasons I got rid of Twitter:

  1. The pace is stressful. Maybe some people like the fast-paced nature of Twitter, but for me it was like an obnoxious neon-flickering sign. I also felt so insignificant posting my little 140-word thread as the other thousands of threads piled on top of it, smothering it out of existence. I know, I know. “You have to post consistently and interact with people.” I’ll get to that later. Twitter for me is like being stuck in rush-hour traffic. It’s much too crowded and everyone’s in a hurry.
  2. The politics. I think on Twitter almost EVERYONE is political. That’s fine. Facebook can be like that as well. I get it. But for me, it’s a drag. I don’t really care about reading someone’s political opinion. In fact, I wish politics never made it into social media.
  3. The 140 word limit. Or is it 280 now? Whatever. Just stop limiting my words! I’m a writer for goodness sake.
  4. The bots. Do I need to explain this one? Why are fake humans following my account??? That’s just weird and scary. Anyway, can I really trust that someone with 20K followers really has that many followers, or did they just buy fake people to make them look popular?
  5. Losing followers without knowing why. This part stressed me out more than anything. I gain three new followers and lose two. Why? Did I post something that offended you? Did I post too infrequently? Did you just follow me so I would follow you back and then you dropped me so it would look like you have more followers than people you are following? Am I overthinking this?

Probably.

But all of this was enough for me to say good bye to Twitter, and you know what? I’m actually relieved now that I got rid of my account. I hadn’t opened the app in months anyway, and felt guilty about neglecting all of my followers (ok, so I didn’t really think about it much).

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as an author, it’s that I care more about the people who have taken the time to read my work and have a conversation with me about the story. I don’t like wasting time with superficial relationships. Maybe I won’t get famous that way, but it’s certainly a more rewarding way to spend my time.

The Reunion: Chapter 3

The dinner lasted much longer than seemed necessary. Unfortunately, I was stuck on campus, since I had taken the shuttle bus over. I grew restless and found myself wandering out of the banquet hall onto the terrace. The evening was relatively warm for a spring night in Western New York.

I leaned against the terrace rail and rested my chin in my hands. There was no moon, but the sky was clear, so the stars shone especially bright that evening. I closed my eyes for a moment and recalled a random memory from my undergraduate days at Lloyd Hastings. My friends and I used to sometimes get in someone’s car on the weekends and go for a nighttime drive on a country road. We’d stop by a field and get out of the car and run through the night. Or sometimes we’d play tag or man hunt in a cornfield.

Richard came up beside me and leaned against the rail. “I haven’t thought about this place much since I left. I guess I didn’t realize how much I missed it,” he said contemplatively.

He stood rather close to me so that I could feel warmth coming from him. I was struck by how much more attractive he had become. His face had developed a manlier look and his eyes possessed more depth.

“I don’t think I’ve missed it exactly. Just the people,” I told him.

Richard nodded. “Yeah. I feel like I don’t really talk to anyone from here much anymore.” He paused and then asked, “Why don’t I ever hear from you?”

It took me a moment to process his words.

Does he seriously not understand or is he just playing dumb? 

I honestly couldn’t tell.

I decided to play dumb too, assuming that’s what was happening here. I shrugged and sipped my wine. “I’ve never been good with long distance.”

Richard laughed. “Yeah, that does fit your personality.”

I smiled. “Anyway, there’s that saying: ‘it’s a two-way street.’”

Richard nodded in agreement. “Fair enough.” He grew thoughtful for a moment before saying, “It’s just that…I didn’t know if I could contact you…after graduation.”

We stared at each other, as if analyzing our current situation and trying to convey our thoughts without saying them aloud.

I wanted him to know how much I’d agonized over the break in our friendship over the past five years – how many times I almost reached out to him – but pride prevented me from doing so.

Now, to hear that he had been uncertain all along…

Then again, he might be lying.

As much as I wanted to believe he spoke the truth, I was much too cautious to dive back in to the way it had been. In fact, I thought it impossible to re-enter the past. We had both moved on. Life had moved us on.

“Well, there’s always the present. It would be great to hear from you…” he started to say.

I gave Richard a small smile, but didn’t say anything. I knew we wouldn’t be in touch. After all, he was getting married soon.

He changed the subject. “Have you heard about the scavenger hunt tomorrow?”

I nodded. “Mark told me.”

Richard took a sip of his drink. “I’m going back in for a refill. Want anything?”

“I’m fine. Thanks.”

He strolled back into the banquet hall, leaving me to my thoughts once again.

The music inside could be heard faintly in the background, but I began to hear voices murmuring in conversation. They seemed to be coming from below the terrace. I didn’t take much notice until I heard Hector’s name.

“Hector left it here. We got it wrong the first time,” I heard a voice say.

Another voice replied, “Maybe someone else got to it by now. It’s been too long.”

The voices stopped momentarily. I held my breath and tried not to move. Something else was said that I didn’t hear, but then: “We need to find it. Maybe we have the wrong location.”

The voices moved farther off until they could no longer be heard. My heart pounded. It was evident that I had overheard something significant – something that wasn’t meant to be overheard. I spent some time meditating on what was said and who could have possibly been involved in the conversation. I thought of the strange message scrawled in Hector’s memorial journal. Unfortunately, I was so full of alcohol that my thoughts were rather vague and I had difficulty piecing anything coherent together.

I wandered back inside to find that the party seemed to be winding down. The music had ceased and everyone was milling around, using the restroom and gathering their things. It was close to midnight.

Dominique came up beside me. “They’re getting on the bus. Come on. You look a little out of it.” She took my arm and led me into the foyer. I saw Richard briefly in the crowd, but allowed Dominique to pull me away. I don’t even remember getting on the bus. Before I knew it, we were back at the hotel.

My ears were ringing when I finally settled into the quiet of my room. I felt like I was sleepwalking. Dominique was talking, but I didn’t really hear what she said.

“How did it go with Richard?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said.

I pulled off my dress and slipped into shorts and a t-shirt.

“That’s it? You don’t want to give me more details?” She was brushing her hair in the mirror. She stopped to remove her earrings.

I shrugged. “There wasn’t much to say I guess.”

Dominique nodded as she finished brushing her hair.

“I did overhear something odd thought,” I said. “It was about Hector.”

“Oh yeah? What was it?” She came around and stretched out on the bed next to mine.

“I’m not even really sure myself. Did he ever talk about hiding something on campus?”

“Like what?” She gazed at me expectantly.

“I have no idea, that’s the thing. They just said, ‘Hector left it here.’ It was weird.” I flopped onto my bed and pulled the covers up under my arms.

“Who said it?” Dominique looked like she was getting tired.

“I don’t know. But did you see the memorial journal? Someone wrote ‘I will avenge you’ on one of the pages.

Dominique let out a laugh. “Sounds like a regular mystery to me. You sure do have an active imagination. Maybe you should write books instead of editing them.”

I laughed too. “I guess. I’m also kind of drunk. Remind me we had this conversation tomorrow and I’ll decide how seriously to take myself then.”

We turned out the light. Soon after, I could hear Dominique’s slow, deep breathing. I couldn’t sleep. I really wasn’t drunk anyway. My mind was too preoccupied with the conversation I’d overheard. I thought a lot about Hector that night. Why couldn’t I remember more about him? Five years shouldn’t have felt like so long ago, but for some reason it did when I tried to recall any memory of Hector. I’d forgotten about him really. That bothered me.

After some time, I could no longer follow a consistent pattern of thought. I gave up and fell asleep.

My dreams were a jumbled mess that night. I was restless and frustrated as I searched for something I couldn’t find. I was at the banquet again, but the people were featureless and the room kept changing. I passed through hallways and rooms that didn’t seem to belong. The colors were dull and objects blurred together. Richard came up beside me and tried to tell me something I couldn’t understand. Although I tried not to lose sight of him, he did at last disappear.

Abruptly my sleep ended and I was wide-awake. The clock informed me it was much too early to venture out of bed, but my bladder begged to differ. I reluctantly dragged myself to the bathroom, my head still a bit cloudy from exhaustion and alcohol.

As I was preparing to go back to bed, I heard a shuffling noise coming from the hallway. I peeked through the eyehole in the door, but the hall appeared empty. The noise could have been any number of things naturally, but I felt rather restless and decided to go for a walk of my own.

After dressing quickly, I scribbled a quick note to Dominique in case she woke, and opened the door to the hall. There was no sound now. I meandered from hall to hall and found myself near a sort of glass atrium toward the back of the hotel. It showcased an attractive stone garden and sitting area. Two people sat serenely on one of the benches. They looked like they were praying.

I recognized the couple as Greg and Mary Platt. They had started dated each other almost as soon as they arrived at Lloyd Hastings and were known for being rather eccentrically religious. I hadn’t really spent much time getting to know them, as we socialized in different circles.

It wasn’t my intention to disturb them then, but Mary caught my eye and smiled at me. She said something to Greg and stood up, making her way to the atrium door.

“Samantha Fields?” she said softly, as she poked her head around the corner.

“Hi Mary. Sorry for disturbing you,” I replied.

She shook her head. “Not at all. Want to come in? It’s a beautiful little garden.” She motioned with her hand for me to follow her inside.

I hesitated a moment, as she looked at me expectantly. Then I followed her through the glass door.

Greg sat on the bench, scrolling on his phone.

“Greg, remember Samantha?” Greg nodded and stood to greet me. “You were in the English program, right?” she asked me.

I nodded. “And you two were…” I paused.

“Cultural Studies,” Greg finished for me.

“Right,” I said.

“We’ve been in Tibet these last few years as missionaries,” Mary explained.

They were both sort of small and tan and looked as if they lived on vegetables and granola. I could tell they didn’t have much money, based on their clothing and hair, but they seemed content. Oddly, I felt a twinge of envy when I thought about their life together.

Mary sat on the bench beside her husband and I perched on a chair nearby. The garden was quite peaceful. Water gently trickled from a small fountain in the center and various plants and rocks decorated the circular area. The sky could be seen through the glass skylight above, creating a soft aura around us.

Despite the hour, I felt very awake and suddenly conversational. “How did you enjoy the dinner last night?” I asked them.

The two of them looked at each other. Mary replied, “We didn’t stay long. We’re sort of in a different time zone right now. I guess it wasn’t really our kind of party.”

“Oh, I see. Well, you didn’t miss anything. It went on a bit long,” I told them. They both smiled and Greg chuckled. “There was a table for Hector Reyes set up in the corner. Did you see it?”

Mary nodded. “We signed the book. Hector was a good friend of ours.”

I was surprised.

“Biggest shock ever when we heard about his death,” Greg commented, shaking his head. “We knew he struggled with substance abuse, even during his time at Lloyd Hastings. But once Dominique got pregnant, he swore off narcotics. He was serious about it too.” He shook his head again.

Mary nodded sympathetically, but gave me a look, as if she wasn’t shocked by Hector’s cause of death. Then she said, “Hector was acting weird those last weeks before his death. He must have been under a lot of stress.”

“How was he acting weird?” I asked, intrigued.

“Well…” Mary hesitated, glancing at Greg.

“He wasn’t himself, that’s all. I think he was stressed about becoming a father,” Greg suggested.

Mary nodded in agreement. I thought I detected a slight sigh of relief on her part for Greg’s explanation. I really wanted to continue discussing Hector, but the two of them quickly turned the conversation to me, and my career as an editor. Their questions came almost too quickly, as if they wanted to erase any chance for me to bring up the subject of Hector again. It was baffling and rather frustrating, but I decided to let it go for now.

As soon as I could, I excused myself from the Platts and returned to my hotel room. The hour was somewhat later and Dominique was in the bathroom. My stomach had started growling.

“Samantha?” Dominique said from the bathroom. “Can you get my little purple make up bag for me?”

I found it atop her nightstand and stretched my arm into the bathroom so she could grab it.

“Thanks love,” she said. “How long have you been awake? I just got up like two minutes ago.”

“I don’t know. Almost an hour maybe. Remember the Platts?”

A pause. “The hippie couple that went to live in India?”

“Tibet. Yeah. I had a conversation with them,” I told her.

“They were pretty tight with Hector,” she said, sort of absently.

“They told me. I had no idea. One thing they said I found sort of interesting: they said Hector was acting weird before he died. What do you think about that? Was he?” I had intended to be a little less direct when asking her about it, but it all just sort of tumbled out at once. My curiosity got the better of me.

Dominique didn’t reply. I waited for a moment, until she finished fixing herself up. Then she came out of the bathroom. “Why don’t you get ready and we’ll get some breakfast. I’m too hungry to talk just yet.”

I didn’t argue. I knew she’d heard me, but maybe she needed time to think over Hector’s behavior before answering. I grabbed my things and stepped into the bathroom to take a shower.

We headed toward the dining room a little while later, but Dominique still hadn’t commented on what I’d heard about Hector. She didn’t say much of anything really.

We found a table in the corner of the dining room, after we’d selected from the breakfast buffet. I poured cream into my coffee and sipped it while Dominique spread jam on a piece of toast. We ate in silence for several minutes.

“You know, Hector was nuts toward the end,” Dominique stated, breaking the silence between us. “He used to call me crying. I could hardly understand him. Then he would call back later, screaming at me in Spanish. I thought he was losing it.” She looked into my eyes, her expression serious. “I was relieved when he died Sammy,” she practically whispered.

“You never told me this. I thought you were devastated when he died,” I said, a bit taken aback.

She nodded. “Yeah, but I was still relieved. Something happened to him, but he wouldn’t talk about it. He acted paranoid sometimes. I think he started using again.” She stopped and drank some of her orange juice.

Our conversation was interrupted then as Mark and Richard approached our table with trays of food. “Good morning.” They said. We smiled as they sat with us, Mark next to me, and Richard across, next to Dominique. We all chatted for a few minutes, but then Dominique excused herself and left the room.

“Have you looked at the activities list?” Mark asked me as he stirred his coffee.

“Yeah. Lots to do today I guess. I haven’t really settled on anything quite yet though,” I replied.

The reunion gathering had been set up like something of a convention. Our class’s student council had planned a variety of activities, including team sports, hiking, and several artistic and musical events, all of which took place on the university campus. It wasn’t like any reunion I’d ever heard of, but then our class was unique. We were given a brochure where we could select and sign up for those events we found interesting.

“They set up some exhibits in the art wing you should see,” Richard told me. “I snuck a peek last night.”

Richard had been in the art program for his first two years at Lloyd Hastings, but he switched over to business early in his third year. I’d heard he had started his own real estate company and was doing rather well for himself now.

“Yeah. I’ll check it out. Are you guys signing up for any of the team sports events?” I asked.

Mark looked at Richard. “He was thinking football,” Mark said, nodding to Richard. “I’m probably going to sign up for the hike.”

“He doesn’t want to hurt that pretty lawyer face of his,” Richard smirked.

Mark grinned. “Nah, I just can’t stand to see you make a fool of yourself,” he countered.

I laughed at that comment. Richard did have an unusual way of running when he played football, but he was good at the game.

Richard good-naturedly brushed off Mark’s dig. The two of them often bantered this way. “I suppose you’re going to read poetry in the gazebo or something,” Richard shot at me, in response to my laugh.

“Alone of course. That’s the only way to truly enjoy it,” Mark added.

“That’s the reason she likes to give, but we know it’s really because no one will read their work to her,” Richard laughed.

They were referring to my reputation in the English program of ripping my peers’ writing apart. We had this one editing class in which all we did was read each other’s writing and give feedback. I guess I was kind of merciless; I had little tolerance for poor sentence structure and clichés.

“I’ve already reserved the gazebo for several hours, naturally,” I returned. “Oh, but I will most certainly make time to watch you fumble during football,” I said, to Richard, with a grin.

He met my eyes with a shining look. I held his gaze for a moment. This had often happened with Richard before. That look he gave me led me to believe he felt more for me than he would ever actually admit. I made myself break eye contact and the three of us continued to tease each other as we brought up fond memories of our days at Lloyd Hastings.

The dining room was beginning to empty. Mark and Richard were engaged in a debate over something that had happened years ago. They couldn’t seem to agree on some of the details. I listened and laughed with them now and then, but then my phone buzzed with a text message. The number was unknown and the message read: “Forget what you heard about Hector.”

The Reunion: Chapter 2

Dominique and I had returned to our room to get ourselves ready for the reunion dinner at the college. The hotel we were staying at was within five minutes of the campus, so it was selected for our party. Arrangements had been made for a shuttle bus to take everyone to campus at 6:30 pm. Dinner was at 7:00 pm.

I found that as the time drew near, I felt increasingly jittery. I’m pretty sure I put much more effort into getting ready than I usually would for an evening out, although consciously, I denied this. We’d been told the dinner was a semi-formal one. I had packed a classic black cocktail dress and heels. After dressing, I pulled my long, dark hair into a sleek pony tail.

Dominique took even longer than I did to get ready, but it had more to do with a lengthy phone call with Paul than primping. He had questions for her, as he was taking care of the kids in her absence. I got tired of waiting and stepped out into the hall.

I could hear more activity now in our wing of the hotel, signaling that more people from our party had arrived. I had mixed feelings then, unsure if I were more nervous or excited to see these people in person after five years. Even though many of us kept up with each other on social media, I was aware of how little I really knew of their lives.

“Samantha.”

Mark strolled toward me from the other end of the hall. As he approached, I could smell his cologne. “How have you been?” he asked, smiling. He pulled me into a friendly embrace. With my heels, we were of equal height.

“Great,” I said, returning his smile. I gave him a quick once over. “Sharp suit.”

He looked down at himself. “Yeah. I guess Westchester lawyers don’t usually wear old t-shirts and torn up jeans.”

I laughed. “Oh no? Where’s that awful beanie you used to wear? They didn’t make you get rid of that too, did they?”

Mark smiled. “How’s editing?”

I shrugged. “It suits me fine, and I like the city.”

We strolled down the hall together.

“Where’s Dominique? Aren’t you two sharing a room?” he asked.

“She’s on the phone with Paul. Are you sharing a room with anyone?”

“No. I didn’t want to get stuck with a snorer. Richard wanted his own room too,” he explained.

Mark was one of the first friends I made on campus. He and Richard had been roommates during freshmen year, and each subsequent year at Lloyd Hastings. Since my friendship with Mark had always been platonic, it didn’t take long for me to begin noticing his tall, dark-haired roommate.

“Is Richard here yet?” I asked.

“He’s on his way. He got caught in traffic.”

We were both silent for a moment.

Mark had known about my interest in Richard, but he never said much to me about it. I felt like he used to try not to notice, even when I brought it up to him in conversation. In fact, it had always been somewhat of an awkward topic between us, although I was never exactly sure why. Dominique was convinced that Mark had feelings for me. I really couldn’t tell.

“The bus is probably leaving soon,” Mark said as we made our way toward the lobby.

We were met by a bit of a crowd. I scanned the room briefly, noting who had arrived and taking an interest in the way these people had changed in five years. Mark was greeting and shaking hands with some of his old buddies. I sort of smiled and nodded to those I knew well enough to acknowledge.

It wasn’t long before we boarded the bus and were on our way to the college campus for dinner. I sat next to Dominique, but my seat was by the window. Dominique was half in the aisle as she laughed and chatted with other people. It was noisy. I decided to wait until we got to the campus before trying to have a real conversation.

We pulled up to the university and some people cheered. I’ll admit I wasn’t one of them. Somehow being there just didn’t seem so exciting, and I sort of wished I’d skipped the reunion altogether. The whole thing was really just an excuse to relive “the good old days.”

We’d taken two buses from the hotel and it took a while for everyone to get off and gather in the courtyard.

We moved into the banquet hall. Little had changed really, so far as I could tell. They’d done a nice job of setting the place up with big, round tables and a rather fancy motif. I appreciated that whoever had decorated the place had gone less high school prom and more sophisticated; soft candle light glowed around the room and the muted color scheme managed to tastefully incorporate the university’s deep purple. Even the music playing was more than mere throwback songs or trashy trend music. It was rather impressive. I began to have hope that the evening might even be a little pleasant.

My eyes drifted around the room as I sought other familiar faces.

Then I saw Richard.

He stood not far away, talking and laughing with several other people. From where I stood, he didn’t notice me. I grabbed a glass of wine from the table beside me and took a gulp. I told myself after each successive sip that I’d approach him, until I finished the glass and was still standing in the same spot.

Before I knew it, it was time to be seated for dinner. I still hadn’t spoken to Richard, as he sat way across the room, surrounded by his friends from college. I ended up at a table with Dominique and several others she had known better than I. We ate salmon, drank wine, and reminisced. I began to enjoy it a little more after a while. Some people started to dance.

“Let’s hit the ladies room,” Dominique said to me after we’d eaten dinner.

As we stood to our feet, I suddenly became aware of the amount of wine I’d consumed. We wove our way carefully through the tables as we headed toward the ladies room. Richard noticed me when we passed his table. His eyes followed me for a moment, and then he went back to his conversation.

“Have you talked to him yet?” Dominique asked from inside the stall.

“No,” I answered. “I haven’t had the chance yet.”

Dominique didn’t reply. I heard a flush and the stall door opened. She ran the water. “I’d say you should just enjoy yourself and stay away, but I know it won’t happen.”

“He already saw me before we went to the bathroom,” I told her.

He’s going to seek me out now.

It had always been that way with Richard. The less interest I showed, the more he did. But as soon as I started to bite again, he backed off and I was left to scratch my head and wonder what I’d done wrong this time. It was maddening.

“Just be careful around him. He’s engaged now.”

“Yeah. I haven’t forgotten,” I assured her.

Somehow the music sounded louder once we re-entered the room. More people were dancing. Dominique headed straight for the dance floor where she joined the other ladies from our table. I hung back and watched Mark interact with Claire Friedman. She was still as attractive and sweet looking as she had been five years ago. Mark was standing rather close to her so he could be heard and was making her laugh about something.

From the corner of my eye, I saw someone tall and dark approaching. I knew it was Richard, even without turning. I kept my attention fixed on Mark and allowed my eyes to wander about the room. But I pretended I didn’t see Richard coming.

“Samantha. I thought I saw you earlier,” he greeted me.

I smiled. “Hi Richard.”

He slipped an arm around me and gave me a squeeze. I came up to his shoulder, even with the heels.

“Some event, huh? I’m sure you’re loving it so far.” He grinned at me.

I grinned back and rolled my eyes.

Richard always seemed to know what I was thinking.

“Caught up with everyone already?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I’ve been around the room several times,” I quipped. “I was saving you for last, naturally.”

He laughed and shook his head. “Still as anti-social as ever. You look good. The publishing world must be treating you well.” His tone was cordial and warm, as if he’d forgotten we hadn’t spoken in nearly five years. I expected nothing less.

“I hear you’re engaged. Congratulations,” I said.

What followed was an almost painfully banal conversation about the mundane details of our lives. Naturally, there was little mention of the past, aside from typical reminiscing.

After a little while, we parted, and I returned to my empty table to observe people. Some coffee cups and cake had been distributed. I nibbled on the dessert and helped myself to the hot beverage. My eyes drifted around the room.

Mark made his way over to me and sat beside me.

“Enjoying yourself?” he asked.

I sighed. “Is it over yet?” I gave him a mock, pleading look.

“There’s plenty more on the agenda this weekend. You’re bound to have fun at some point.” He laughed.

“I spoke to Richard,” I told him. “He seems to be doing well.”

“Most of the people here are,” Mark commented. “But I guess our class was always full of ambition. That’s why we had so many troublemakers.”

He’d removed his suit jacket so that he was wearing just the vest. I decided then that Mark had nice taste in clothing.

“You know there’s going to be a scavenger hunt tomorrow night,” he informed me.

“You’re kidding. That wasn’t on the agenda they sent us,” I said, a little baffled.

“I’m not sure who set it up, but the news has been circulating. People are already getting excited about it.”

We let a couple of minutes pass in silence as we finished our dessert and coffee.

“Mark, do you remember Hector Reyes?” I asked suddenly.

Mark thought for a moment. “The guy who overdosed? Wasn’t he dating Dominique?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you see the memorial table they set up for him?” Mark asked.

“Where is it?”

We got up and Mark walked me to a corner of the room with a small table. Some candles were burning and a photo of Hector in a frame was sitting in the middle. Someone had brought other photos of him and people had written messages in a journal-type book.

As I began reading through some of the messages, I was reminded of how many people knew and liked Hector. He could be a bit rough around the edges, but the general feeling was that he had a good heart.

“A lot of people signed the book,” Mark commented quietly. “I never spent much time with Hector, but he seemed to know everyone.”

As Mark spoke, I continued to peruse the pages of the journal, carefully reading through each entry. Most of the messages contained similar sentiments, about how much Hector was loved and missed. And then I saw one that struck me as especially unusual. It was scrawled in a rather sloppy manner, yet that wasn’t what had caught my eye. It was the nature of the note, and it was unsigned. It read: “I will avenge you.”

Read Chapter 3

How to finish writing a book

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A while ago I wrote about how to start writing a book. I figured it was time to write about the rest of the process. I’m sure this looks a little different for everyone, but I think the same elements are necessary for success. Here’s my take:

  1. Perseverance. It makes sense to start here I think. Once you get yourself started, you really need to force yourself to write. That sounds painful, and sometimes it is, but from my experience, once I make a habit of writing everyday, I begin to look forward to it. In fact, when I don’t write consistently, I feel frustrated. Maybe the best comparison is exercise or running with a goal in mind. Writing is very much that way.
  2. Patience. You can’t rush something creative if you want it to be really good. Rushed writing often equals bad writing. Usually the first time through is a bit rough, and that’s ok. I wrote my first novel once and then went back and rewrote the whole thing until I was satisfied with the story. It took a lot of patience.
  3. Optimism. If you’re hypercritical of your work (like I am), you need this to keep you motivated. I’ve learned not to tell myself “I’m writing a bestseller,” but instead to say to myself “I’m writing a good story.” “I want to finish that story. The characters needs to see it through and someone will enjoy this book!”
  4. Objectivity. This one sort of balances the optimism for me. I don’t think anyone can be completely objective with their writing because it’s very personal. However, I do try to look at my project and imagine what it would be like to be the reader. This is also why it’s important to have other people read for you. They can help identify things that don’t work and highlight things that do.

However you get yourself to write, be sure to enjoy the process. I’m amazed at how my stories will unfold themselves while I’m writing. It’s almost like watching a movie for the first time. And the feeling of accomplishment that follows finishing a book is certainly worth the time spent.

How do you finish writing books?

 

5 Fantasy Cliches I’m NOT Using

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This week I found myself researching and reading about the most common cliches found in YA fiction (especially fantasy). As a writer, I like to think that I have some original ideas, but I was beginning to feel like everything I wrote lately has been done before. The more I researched, the more I realized that I wasn’t using ANY of the YA/fantasy cliches I read about, and that made me wonder if I can even claim to be writing a “proper fantasy!”

The main fantasy element in my current story is a portal to another world and some amount of world building, but even that isn’t very much (I don’t like spending too much time on detail). Anyway, here are five cliches’ I am NOT using:

  1. The Chosen One: My protagonist happens to get lost playing manhunt, and falls into a glowing white pool which transports her to another world. But so far, she isn’t “chosen” to do anything (and likely won’t be). She just wants to find a way home. Now while I know the plot I’m using isn’t new, I am trying to make it happen in a different kind of way in the story telling. The land of Verdant isn’t on the verge of destruction anyway, although there are lots of other weird things going on…
  2. The Magical Artifact: Ok, so I wasn’t sure if trying to find a glowing white pool that is really a portal home counted. My characters aren’t trying to find this pool so they can have powers to save the world, so I think I’m in the clear. In my fantasy world, magic itself is almost non-existent. There may be a little, but certainly no magic system or magic weapons.
  3. The Love Triangle: I will admit, I did use this one before in my other novel. But it seemed to work then and I wasn’t really aware that it was a “standard YA” cliche. I have gone back and forth with adding romance in my current story and I think I won’t this time around. That doesn’t mean my characters won’t flirt with each other though…cause teenagers do that – A LOT.
  4. The Evil Villain: My story has a sorceress surrounded by rumors and superstition. But the sorceress (so far) really hasn’t done anything evil. I have some ideas about her and none of them include taking over the world. But initially, the characters do see her as a threat, and it isn’t like she couldn’t have some kind of evil plan if she wanted to…
  5. Medieval Setting: There are parts of the land of Verdant that feel European, but not really Medieval necessarily. I actually like the idea of Verdant having advanced technology and weapons development, so perhaps I’m mixing some sci-fi into the story. There is no kingdom, but there is a big city with a government, which has certainly been done before.

What are some more overused cliches I might have missed? Comment below!

Excerpt from White Tunnel: Ran’s Job

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As he approached the ravine, he dismounted a short distance from it and made the rest of the journey on foot. It was unnaturally quiet today. No breeze stirred the branches and the smaller, harmless wood creatures were still. Ran’s hands began to sweat. He might be used to clearing vermin, but it still got his blood pumping, every time he snuck up on one.

He approached the ravine and peered down. Mist covered the ground, making it impossible to tell how many of the vermin infested the place. Ran sighed. He pulled out his gun and tread cautiously to the edge. He lifted a large rock from the ground and tossed it down, then waited.

Come on you little nasties.

Nothing happened. The mist had enveloped the tossed rock without giving anything back. Ran’s grip on his weapon tightened.

“What the hell?” he muttered. Then he fired off a shot blindly into the clouded ravine.

The ground trembled.

Up out of the misted floor rose a shadow, slight at first, but then hulking and misshapen, rolling and roaring as it awoke from sleep.

Ran froze for a moment, astonished at the size of the vermin. But then instinct kicked in and Ran immediately lifted his weapon and began his attack. The first few shots smacked the monster hard, and sent pieces of it flying. Ran was surprised at how easily he managed to damage the beast. He moved in closer, using the advantage he’d created, firing continuously.

The enemy fell into the mist, which had already dispersed quite a bit so that the ground was visible beneath it. Ran stopped firing and waited for the beast to make its move again. It lay still for a moment. Then several spiders scurried toward him and he watched as the beast literally fell apart into a hoard of spider-like vermin, all moving quickly toward him.

Ran’s heart nearly punched a hole through his chest as he turned and raced back toward his bike. He needed to come up with a strategy fast, before the spiders could overtake him. They moved swiftly now, enraged by Ran’s attack. Driven to crush him in a wave of black poison.

Ran sped away from the ravine at first, but then turned abruptly, making a wide turn back in the direction of the threat. It wouldn’t do to lead the creatures back toward the village. His bike squashed several vermin as he made his path around the bulk of the hoard. Then one leapt from the ground and attached itself to Ran’s leg. The creature wasted no time inserting its poison into Ran. He winced and used the butt of his weapon to smack the black invader several times where he thought its head might be. It fell off just as Ran reached the incline of the ravine. He was already dizzy from the effect of the poison, as his overworked heart pumped it throughout his body.

Ran braced himself as he sped downward toward the bottom of the ravine, then opened the throttle on his bike and ascended the other side. He remembered there being an unused field nearby. A glance behind him showed that the spiders continued their chase, closer behind than expected.

Pain spiked in Ran’s head. He grabbed an antidote vial from a side pocket in his pack and gulped its contents as the deserted field came into view. Time and precision were essential now. Ran slowed as he approached the field, using one hand to unhook a blow-torch attachment from his bike. He stopped fully and connected this piece to his usual weapon.

The spiders were close now, but Ran wasn’t going to let his opportunity pass. He was moving again, already scorching his opponent, creating a blazing wall around the field. The vermin screeched in pain as Ran surrounded them in flames.

One last time, the enemy tried to merge, and for a moment rose as a fiery tower of a beast. But then crashed down again, falling apart as they did.

Ran stopped circling and watched the field burn, spotted with black lumps, no longer moving.

Someone’s gonna be mad.