Being in the middle of technical editing on my manuscript, has left me a little starved for some creative freedom. On top of the editing, and beta reading for others, I’ve missed two of my favourite, weekly free-writes. So, I’ve decided to make today’s post all about creativity, and inspiration.
My Writer’s Craft instructor had several fabulous exercises for stretching the “creative muscle”. I’m going to share one with you today, and the resulting piece of writing. The instructor’s favourite tool for this exercise was a set of children’s alphabet cue cards. Another method was to have each student write something random on a slip of paper, and draw several from a hat, writing them on the blackboard.
Having neither a set of cue cards, nor a class to draw from, I went instead to one of the many Facebook writing groups I participate in occasionally. I asked them several questions to get the elements of a story. Here are the questions:
What would you name a child, if you could choose the name? — What age would you pick to remain at forever? — Give me a place you could find in any town. — A colour, a shape and a time of day? — Three emotional states of being? — (And since one of the answers contained a dog, specifically a Collie): a name for the dog?
April & Shelby — 32 & 26 — a park fountain on Main St. & a puppy park with my Collie — pink, round, sunset & blue, round, noon — panic, satisfied, relaxed & melancholic, peaceful, hysterical —Cassie
Now, the class instructor would choose five prompts, allowing us to pick three, to incorporate into a cohesive piece of writing. We had one hour to write the piece, and one half hour to edit, before turning in the assignment. Extra marks were given if the story included all five items.
Since I’m no longer limited to class schedules, I decided to challenge myself. I gave myself five hours to write a piece including all of the provided elements, edited. I began writing at eleven o’clock last night. Broke at three minutes after midnight, and resumed writing at ten o’clock this morning. I finished the writing at 12:20 p.m. After a single pass at editing, (another fifteen minutes), I stopped myself.
Please forgive any typographical mistakes or technical errors. I haven’t titled the story, either. I hope you enjoy it, and perhaps you’ll try the exercise yourself. I did challenge a few others to try it. I’d love to see the results!
Here is my 1462 word short:
By some sort of miracle, April had cleared her inbox by noon. In her five years at the tiny, family owned accounting firm, that had never happened to her. To be honest, she was at a loss for how to fill the time until they locked up. She should have known Kendra would be tracking her progress.
“It’s a gorgeous summer day!” The raven-haired diva chirped from the doorway. “Take the afternoon off, and take that puppy of yours out to play.”
Before April could respond, Kendra had flounced off, her stilettos clacking on the tile, in time to the chiming of the twenty or more silver bangles she always wore.
April shook her head. Cassie was far from a puppy, for all that she was still full of mischief. At ten years old, her poor hips were beginning to ache, and damp or humid days would set her limping. She still loved a good romp at the Dog Park though, and with the air so dry the past week, she should be feeling good enough to indulge. April smiled to herself as she packed her briefcase.
Strolling home, April felt her shoulders expand, as tension she didn’t realize she had faded. It really was a perfect day. The air was warm enough for shorts, with an occasional fresh breeze. Yes, Cassie would have the most fun she’d had in weeks!
Shelby sat on the lip of the park fountain and stared at the quaint shops, on a Main Street swarming with tourists, as if staring at them long enough would help him absorb their charm and whimsicality. When he was young, the concept of immortality was exciting, but being stuck at thirty-two years of age had lost its allure after the first one hundred years. Watching everyone and everything around him wither and die, had driven him to the brink of psychosis. By the time he’d endured one hundred and fifty summers of immortality, he longed for death. As of sunset that evening, he would be two hundred and thirty-two years old, yet still only thirty-two.
It was his own fault. Silas had warned him against the woman, after all.
“She’s a witch, Shel. I know she’s beautiful, but she’s dangerous. Don’t let her get you with her spells.”
“Every beautiful woman is accused of witchcraft Silas.” Shelby had scoffed. “That woman is no more a witch than I am a Saint.”
But Silas had been right. He’d pursued the witch-woman and she’d tricked him into accepting her spell. It had seemed so simple. A cross scratched into his chest with a fingernail, a drop of blood from her pricked finger traced over the wound. A kiss from her gorgeous lips to bind their blood, just there, over his rapidly beating heart.
She hadn’t told him his heart would stop beating. He’d panicked then, gaping like a fish and clutching at his chest. He hadn’t expected his lungs to collapse, or the blood in his veins to crystallize. Had she poisoned him? Was he dying?
“Do not fight the change.” She crooned to him as she stroked his hair. He was on the floor somehow, his head cradled in her lap. “The blood and breathe will return to you. Your heart will beat again, and it will beat forever, until you find someone to pass this curse to.” As the murky waters of unconsciousness rose over him, he’d become silently hysterical. She’d called it a spell, the blessing of eternal life without death, but he was dying! When had it become a curse? A swimmer against the current, his mind struggled to rise above it, and failed.
When he’d returned from death, she was gone. He’d thought they would share their everlasting lives. Her body, the forearms slashed from wrist to elbow, floated in the creek outside the house. She had found her peace in her release. He was alone. He could ask her no questions about this curse of a blessing she’d bestowed upon him.
For fifty-two years, he’d searched for another like him, to no avail. Shelby had spent the last forty-three years searching every myth, religion and magical tome he could find, looking for the key to his release. Yesterday he had found the solution. Today he was as hopelessly cursed as he had always been.
In two hundred years he had not found the kind of love described in the grimoire. Without a soul-mate to release him, he had to resort to the other option. He must seduce someone the way he had been seduced. Shelby wondered how long it would take him, to overcome his conscience enough, to resort to that depth of guile.
The sunlight was beginning to fade, as its source dipped out of the blue sky. A band of crimson formed along the horizon. Sunset was upon him, and mortality just as elusive as when he’d chosen this spot for his melancholic reflection.
As he stood to leave, a small pink ball bounced out of the park behind him, rolling to a stop at his feet. He picked it up, and heard a joyful bark as a dog lunged through the bushes separating the town gardens from the dog park.
She was a gorgeous dog, a Sable Rough Collie with a mischievous grin, and she was rushing at him unchecked.
“Cassie!” The woman’s voice was a little breathless, and full of command, with a hint of laughter.
The collie skidded to a stop on the grass, sat on her haunches, cocked her head to the side and grinned at him. Her mouth dropped open in a pant. She looked so loveable, Shelby allowed himself a rare chuckle. It died in his throat as the woman rounded the bushes and stormed into view.
Even with her unadorned face flushed with exertion, and what appeared to be anger, the woman was stunning. Her long hair escaping a loose ponytail, and her rumpled, grass stained clothes, only enhanced her fresh beauty. Here, he realized with a jolt of sweet pain, was his key.
April’s only concern was catching Cassie before the local dog catcher did. As she ran through the town’s garden park, she prayed Cassie wouldn’t dive into the fountain. Damn the council, and their “money-saving” decisions! Anyone with half a brain knew a hedge was not enough to keep the dogs safely in the dog park. If she had to start a petition for proper fencing, she would.
She heard Cassie bark as she emerged from another bush, and felt a momentary despair at the thought of how much brushing she’d need to do later.
“Cassie!” The command took nearly all of her breath.
The relief, when she came around the bushes to see the dog obediently waiting for her, drained all the anger from April in an instant. A man stood, not two feet in front of Cassie, holding her pink ball, and staring at April with a stunned expression.
He looked like the dark, brooding type, and he was quite handsome. April was suddenly self-conscious about her own appearance. She must look a fright. Forcing her muscles to relax, she stepped between Cassie and the man.
“Thank you for catching that.” She said, trying to keep from panting louder than Cassie. “I don’t think she’d have chased it into the road, but I’m so relieved not to have to find out for sure.”
The only sounds, for a moment, were the traffic on the street behind him, the bubbling of the fountain and Cassie’s panting. She looked into his eyes then, and April could swear she heard his heart pounding. It must be her own heart, she reasoned. The strange compulsion to reach out to him frightened her. She’d done so, before she could stop herself, and then turned her hand over, to make the gesture a request for the ball. He handed her the ball in continued silence, never taking his eyes from hers.
Cassie nudged the back of her knees impatiently, with her nose. It nearly broke the spell, but then he spoke.
“My great pleasure, Miss …” His deep voice was midnight and starlight, with the warmth of a campfire. His blue eyes were ice and moonlight. She was fascinated. She was captivated.
“Spencer. April Spencer.” She heard Cassie whine softly.
“So nice to meet you, April. I’m Shelby Wallace”
She loved the way he said her name. April nearly missed the hand extended in greeting. When she put her own within it, the enthrallment was complete.
“If you don’t mind — How old are you, April Spencer?” Need and desire crept through the words.
“Twenty-six, Shelby.” His name felt oddly ancient on her lips.
“Ah!” His sigh was oozing satisfaction, relief, and temptation. “To be twenty-six forever.”
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