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Talespin Tuesday: Writing Drill #3 – Head Hopping

Here’s the drill:

20 minutes. Fresh, free fiction (of the imaginative variety), based on a few preset parameters.

Every Tuesday, I’ll spin you a quick tale and give you something to think about. Call it a writing drill, an exercise in imagination. I spend nearly a year to get a book together, so what better than an opportunity to have something finished by the time I click “save”. Now I like that, and hopefully, so will you.

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Head-hopping in fiction is bad. Any editor will tell you that. Lots of readers will complain. After all, it’s confusing. You have to keep figuring out who’s perspective you’re in, and it gets tiring. But sometimes it works. Again, it’s all about what madness lies behind said method. Well, today I have a particular madness in mind, so let’s see what happens.

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So beautiful. She watched the acorn float along on the rippling water, amidst the shimmering ribbons of red and orange sunlight. It moved slowly, as though the river had turned to honey, cooling with the approaching evening. Darellin watched her quietly from the cover of the glade. How long had it been since he had come to this valley? The mountains, dim blue lines against the tree-studded horizon, reminded him of the time, a thousand years ago, when he thought he’d come here to retire and die in peace. If only I’d known…

“Do you think the Council will be so easy to convince?” Lord Nivellin asked. Only the faintest hint of the dusk snuck through the crack of the door. The other two conspirators were mere outlines of black against the brick wall. Nivellin didn’t know who they were, but one of them, a senator named Markus, knew who both his visitors were. They don’t even see how easily I dangle the puppet strings above them. Fools. They won’t know until it’s too late. Lucellus, who had been quiet for most of the meeting, spoke up. “The Bell of Last Light will toll soon. That will be the signal. We will fight. We will keep the Council safe.” And neither of you will realize I have betrayed you until it is too late. Oh, please, Laura, get out before it’s too late. Save yourself, and our daughter.

The garden was in full bloom, but red and purple and yellow blossoms cowered before the wall of shadow. Night time came quickly, the sun sinking in a golden blur behind Hollin’s Heights. The bell tolled, as it did every night, and Bar T’Dell listened, closing his eyes. I have been here since the beginning of time, and will remain until time is no more. No matter what. He didn’t hear the horses whinnying, nor the swords swishing as the attackers drew them from their scabbards, but Corellin did. He drew his own sword, but not in time to stop the attack. Brandel, his companion, roared with rage as he watched his brother-in-arms fall headless to the ground. He took down the attacker, then felt the bite of steel from behind. Oh.

In their paddle boat, suspended in the middle of the river as they were, the crimson sunset made the water look like blood. Anella did not like being away from shore, but her nanny had insisted. “But it’s bedtime,” she’d protested. “I want a story before daddy comes home.” Anella did not like this night one bit. Not only was her mother gone, but she’d been forced to put on the smelly duster made of oilcloth – the one that stunk like grandpa. Rowen watched her charge, worry wreaking havoc within, like a fist around her heart. “We must keep rowing. Quickly.” She looked at the water, wondering how much of it was the effect of the sun, how much the blood of those who stood and fought. The Garden of Eternity may fall, but we will be remembered before it does. She looked at Anella, into her big innocent eyes. I will make sure the queen is safe. I will be sure her reign begins anew, that the holy bloodline continues.

The Bell stopped. Someone screamed, another man shouted. Everywhere, the sounds of battle. Laura watched the river, flowing so slow. The pinecone was gone, but still she watched it. When she turned her head, she saw the first body, filled with holes, drifting in the current. Hurry Rowan. Oh, please hurry. She whistled sharply, and her fighters slipped from the bushes. Thirty women who would show all the men the proper way to wield a blade. “You know who to kill. There cannot be a single one of them left, or this attack will have been for naught.”

The assassin crept across the lawn, his scimitar drawn, but the monk did not rise from his knees. There was nothing dangerous about him. Why had the prince made him take such precautions? This would be easy, one swing, and the man would be dead. The most important being in the world, gone, and the New Empire would begin. He raised his blade.

“Do what you must, but know that your actions will come back to you.” Bar T’Dellin spoke calmly, keeping his eyes closed. He knew from the moment he’d heard the bells toll so fiercely that something was not right. He knew it was time to pray. Your life will continue no matter what. No matter what.

Mavin swung his scimitar, watched with satisfaction as his work was completed. Blood sprayed his arms, as it always did, but that wasn’t the part he hated about this job tonight. As the Holy One’s head fell on the ground, he saw the eyes staring up at him, still blinking, and he couldn’t banish the man’s last words. Your actions will come back to you… He turned and fled.

Bar T’Dellin watched the hunch-back run away, ignoring the pain that throbbed in his head, watching the world evaporate into a blur of red and white and yellow, like a thousand flower buds, and a thousand flames. I cannot die… Anella, no…I cannot…

“Is that a body? Is he dead?” Anella stopped rowing, but Rowan urged her on. “Why are there dead people? No one fights here!”

“Hurry. We need to get out.”

“Where’s grandpa? Where’s mother? We can’t leave them.”

There’re already dead. “Hurry. Row faster.”

 

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Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, coming May 6st.

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Talespin Tuesday: Writing Drill #2 – The Bounds of Planning

Here’s the drill:

20 minutes. Fresh, free fiction (of the imaginative variety), based on a few preset parameters.

Every Tuesday, I’ll spin you a quick tale and give you something to think about. Call it a writing drill, an exercise in imagination. I spend nearly a year to get a book together, so what better than an opportunity to have something finished by the time I click “save”. Now I like that, and hopefully, so will you.

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What is a writer not allowed to do? Some writers would like to tell you they can do whatever they want, but how come it is that so many are careful to capture their story just right? You can plan all you want, but the tale has a mind of it’s own. For twenty minutes today, I’ll tell a story without a plan – a story that has a mind of it’s own from the first sentence – to prove a point: no matter what you set out to write, the story has a way of working out, so long as you know how to run after it.

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“I’m going to the moon!” she demanded.

“That’s impossible,” Jonathan replied. He always stood so tall, it seemed his legs were made of trees. It let him stare down at his sister with that pointy nose of his. “Do your homework.”

“Fine,” Laura said. As soon as the door closed, though, she grinned and put her pencil away.

“Are you ready?” came the whisper. Laura jumped up from her desk, hurried to the closet door.

Ryan and Celia wore their goggles. Raymond had the flashlight turned on, pointing down the long tunnel. They must have been in there all day. “Flight’s at midnight. We have to hurry, or we’ll miss it.”

Laura could barely keep up. She ended up running, trying to stay close enough to Raymond’s flashlight so that she didn’t trip on the uneven gravel. When they emerged into the night, it was cold, like winter, even though it was the middle of July. “Where are we?” Laura asked.

“Somewhere near the north pole. Not sure.” Ryan unfolded a map, pored over it under Raymond’s flashlight. His thumb went over something like a circuit chip. “They will be here. Any minute now.”

“How are we getting to the moon?” Laura asked. She looked up at the sky, but couldn’t see a thing. It was all black, just like the trees surrounding them. On second thought, it was so dark she couldn’t be sure they were trees. No. They’re too tall…

“What is this place?” Laura looked up at those pillars, so tall, they had no end in sight. “I thought we were going in a space ship. I thought we were going to outer space to explore. You told me you built a space ship.”

Ryan quirked a grin. “Not space. Somewhere better, far better. I’ve had this plan for a while, but didn’t want to say too much. People can’t know.”

Laura looked back at the shadow of the tunnel from which they had come. Jonathan waited in their bungalow. Soon, he’d be by to check on her, and he’d come looking. There was no time to hesitate. “Let’s go – wherever that is.”

“Good.” Celia came and took Laura’s hand, leading her with the other boys toward the cover of the towering pillars. They didn’t go far before Raymond stopped them again.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know. This isn’t what was supposed to happen.” For once, Ryan didn’t smirk. He looked confused as he took the flashlight from Raymond, held it high, stepped forward cautiously. “Watch out!”

Laura stopped just in time. The flashlight shone on the edge of the ground, revealing a canyon. Warm air blew up, like heat through a vent. When she squinted, Laura saw the small orb, far below, glowing like a red sun, like hot magma in a pit. “I don’t want to go down there. You’re all crazy.”

But Ryan already stepped over the edge of the pit. His foot fell on some sort of translucent bridge, making it shine red and blue and green when he pressed down with all his weight. “This is the gateway. It’s not what I thought, but it will take us where we need to go.”

The others followed him, leaving Laura alone, staring down into the strange world below. This wasn’t the moon, it wasn’t even outer space. Whatever this place was, she didn’t know if she’d ever come back. But then she thought of Jonathan, knocking at her door, looking down at her with his big pointy nose, and it was enough to push her to take the first step. Once she began to walk, the other steps were easier.

She didn’t speak until they reached the bottom. Rather than reaching the glowing sun, the bridge met a ground of white diamond and green, jagged stones. The dim, red light glowed through it, tracing out faint lines in the sky. Ahead of them, the stone reared up into an uneven arch or blue and gray, opening into a dimly lit room. That was where Ryan led them. Only when she stood before it did Laura realize that it wasn’t a room at all.

“What is it?”

“Another world,” Ryan said. “No one’s ever discovered it before. It’s ours. My grandpa told me about it, before he died, said that now is the time. He said…I…I have no choice.”

Intrigued, Laura looked through, into the vast canvas before her. She felt like someone standing before a map, except every detail felt twice as real…like she could reach out and touch it…

“Careful!” Celia warned. “That’s how you travel. We need to stay together, at least for now, until we understand how everything works. Ryan’s explained everything to us, what we’d find when we get here. We have to go to the Heart first, that’s the highest mountain – there, you see?”

Celia pointed to a mountain in the middle of the world, one that stood so high it must have been twenty thousand feet. It poked up like a dagger. She looked around at the other parts – the seas, some of them green, some of them blue – the exotic islands and plains. One place looked like a floating continent, with domes so large they looked like Christmas baubles. She wanted to go, to explore, even if it meant she never came back.

“What is this place called?” she asked.

“Earth,” Ryan said. “It’s my home, or at least, it was, before my people destroyed themselves and fled to this world. Soon, though, we’ll have it back again. And you’re all going to help me. All of you. Are you ready?”

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Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, coming May 1st.

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Talespin Tuesday: Writing Drill #1 – A Solar’s Tale

Here’s the drill:

20 minutes. Fresh, free fiction (of the imaginative variety), based on a few preset parameters.

Every Tuesday, I’ll spin you a quick tale and give you something to think about. Call it a writing drill, an exercise in imagination. I spend nearly a year to get a book together, so what better than an opportunity to have something finished by the time I click “save”. Now I like that, and hopefully, so will you.

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How far can you push POV? What is POV, for that matter? When we write stories, or when we read them, we enter in by getting a hold of something, be it a character or a fly on the wall. But what about the room itself? What about something abstract? Does a story have to be told through a person to be relatable? Let’s see…

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The sidebar clattered every time a servant set the fat, silver goblet on it. Slowly, a red stain expanded across the wall. A mouse started to chew a hole through the plaster, but every time the fat man shouted, other men appeared with knives and the wall grew redder. One night, when the world shook and boomed, and light flashed in through the narrow panes of glass, the servant spilled the goblet on his way to serve the fat man, and his head went through the wall shortly afterward. The fat man shouted, and as soon as the sun shone bright, three short carpenter women boarded up the twin windows, then replaced the wall with bricks. “Leave an alcove. I may need to escape!” the man shouted from his bed, and so they did. They hung a tapestry over it; every time his men appeared with their knives, they piled the dead in the room. One night, the world shook again, a thousand pattering little feet stamped overhead, and three men came through the alcove. Puddles trailed them, sinking between the stones, but they crept quietly. The fat man screamed, but none of his men came.

Twenty spiders came and spun their webs. Big fat flies with shiny green bodies laid their eggs. The fat man’s leg stuck out from the bottom of the tapestry. No one came into the room. Other things came in, though. Vines broke through the stone, a clan of ferns grew between the floor’s cracks; an oak sapling reared it’s head, then spread upward, pushing eager fingers through the ceiling. The ground was white, then it was green, then brown. One time, when it was scattered with a bed of russet leaves, a stone fell from the ceiling and crushed a pile of skulls. A weasel ran for cover, and a raven watched from the branches overhead.

Dirt piled up in the alcove, and more stones fell as the oak forced the ceiling apart. Finally, one sunny morning, a young girl and an older woman came into the room. The girl looked up at the oak, then at the brick wall – what remained of it. She looked confused when she came and stood at the pile of dirt where the bones once had been. “Mother, what was this place?”

The older woman put a hand on each one of her shoulders, steering her away from the wall, looking at it with suspicion. “A place that should be forgotten. Come, we have a long way to go before sunset. There is little time to be troubled by places that exist no more.”

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Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, coming this June.

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Filed under Graeme Brown POV stories, Graeme's World