Sunday, February 7, 2016

For the love of writing

I miss my book club. A lot of people I know like to write and love to read. But there is something special about those who make time for it on the one free day of the week. My home town was a fairly culturally-active place. I have been missing that sense of intellectual stimulation in this new city, not because of a lack of it, but because I have hardly ventured out of the daily humdrum of the university. This past week was rather stressful for a number of reasons and I really needed that strangers-geeking-out-over-books feeling again. So I tracked down the next best thing, a writing club that was worth it.

As part of today's activities, I wrote and read out two things that, if not anything else, at least helped get my entirely dried up creativity flowing again. For one, I enjoyed writing in an actual notebook as opposed to the laptop, I think the pen and paper awakened a new side of me. (The picture is sad, my scrawl does the Moleskine no justice.) I wanted to post edited versions of both stories and make it a regular thing, if, that is, I attend more of the meetups. I will explain the prompts at the end of each story. Ideally, it should stand alone. 

1. Untitled

It was a quiet morning. Mary took her usual route to school, but not without an uncanny worry. She felt as if her shadow had been cut away. At school, the children prodded her, "What is wrong, Mary?" The teachers wondered, "Why do you look so forlorn, Mary?" But their probing went unanswered.

Mary walked back home alone, her heart heavy, her mind in a dark place. "But why!" she asked herself, "but where!" At dinner too, Mary was awfully quiet, gulping down her food, stray tears in her eyes, until Mother asked, a mask of concern, "What is wrong, dear Mary, whatever is wrong now?" It is nothing, she replied in quiet voice. "I thought you would be happy today," said Mother, "considering how Father took care of that wretched lamb." 

"What do you mean?" Mary looked up. "The silly thing that has been following you around everywhere, what a nuisance. Your teachers gave us a call, you know." "What did Father do?" Mary's voice quivered. "Why, we just had it for dinner last night."

Prompt: Pick a nursery rhyme and kill the main character. People wrote some really good things! Mine turned out weird, and you sort of see it coming. But it was the best I could do in ten minutes. Plots are not my turf. It was a cool warm-up though, for what was to follow.

2. Blinded

The flesh burned slowly and the night air grew thick with the stench. "Only one more left." The man whispered to himself, "God forgive me, dear Lord, please forgive me." He dragged the final corpse to the fire, a single high flame. He cut out the heart and threw it in. It sizzled and crackled. The man shut his eyes and crept away from the fire. He began to chant. Something in the forest came alive at his words, the wind rustled and the trees shivered. The man held out his hands beckoning the nether spirits to this world. Goosebumps flowered on every inch of his body, but he stood still. 

For a moment nothing happened. Then the air changed as something stirred to life. Had the man opened his eyes, he would have seen the fire turn crimson and then black. He did not, but he did feel a presence. The wind curled around his fingers and squeezed. A lump built in his throat. The man dared not open his eyes. Sight, the scriptures say, is the pathway to the soul. One look and a nether creature could eat you alive, but there was no other way. He needed them.

"You are here," he finally whispered, and the wind howled back a yes. "I need help," said the man, "I need you so much." A throaty chill reverberated through the forest air, and in his mind, the man heard an echo. "We can help you, Julian Wyllen. We are here to help. You have served us and we are here to help." "Oh, thank the Lord, thank you, God." Julian whispered, and the chill replied, "Not the Lord." The forest laughed, as the man fumbled with the cross on his neck. His heart thudded in quiet desperation.

"Do you have her," he finally said, "I want her back. I need her back." The air around his fingers was fluid now, almost liquid, hard and smooth. It curled around his hand and squeezed again, a tiny icy grip. The breath left his body. "Is she here?" Julian asked the forest. "Yes, father. I'm right here," came a quiet voice from outside his head. A real voice. "Anne?" the man whispered and clutched at the liquid air around his fingers. It hardened and softened and moulded in his hand. Skin to skin. "Oh my Annie," the man turned to her, then stiffened. The little hand had dissolved into air. The wind thundered with laughter.

The cold voice echoed in his thoughts, "Not so soon, Julian Wyllen. We offer no gifts. What have you for us?" Anything you want, the man said to himself, I shall give you anything you want. "A life in exchange for another," replied the forest that was his mind. "Open your eyes. Look at us. Look at what you worship. And look at what we have brought you. Once done, she cannot be undone. What have you to lose." "Nothing," said the man. He had worked towards this moment, waited for his girl, for ten years. He had sacrificed everything. Now he would give up the only thing he had left. "Forgive me, Lord," he whispered and opened his eyes.

The first thing Julian saw was the black fire. For a moment he was enraptured, then his focus shifted and he shouted, "Anne, Annie, my darling." Julian spun around, bending down to hug her, when his mind caught up with his senses. It was dark, but even in the dull gloom he could see the cracks in her eyes. He cringed. She was a pale thing, the face as beautiful as he remembered, but it held no depth. "Oh Lord," he gasped and gulped, and she opened her mouth. A rasping voice emerged from the pretty lips, "Thank you. You, Julian Wyllen, have served us and given us life. We shall remain grateful." The wind howled through the forest. Then the voice changed. "Goodbye," Anne cooed, as her face twisted into a smile. It was the last thing Julian Wyllen ever saw.

Prompt: This again requires a lot of reworking. I have edited it considerably since I returned home, but I stuck to the first idea I had. Forty minutes are too little to pen a story for me. The activity, however, was still interesting. We picked four books each for the character name, setting, mood and plot. My selections were Julian from Famous Five, a forest from the first page of Eragon, the emotion was distaste, though I forget the book, and the action was a passive waiting. 

Our titles came from a list of cocktails, randomly assigned. My pick was Blind Abbot. I did not directly use it as the title of the story, but I did heavily incorporate it into the theme. Google brings up a nice description for the drink, of coffee liqueur, cinnamon syrup, Irish whiskey, froth and cream, which if I did drink, I might even have liked. Then again, the cocktail has no relevance here, I decided to use the more ecclesiastic meaning of abbot. 

For a first attempt, the whole exercise went quite well. Even if I do a little of this every week, I think I will stay happily in touch with writing. Meanwhile, I would love to know what you think. Are you part of any book or writing clubs, virtual or otherwise? Do you find it helpful?

9 comments:

Deepika Ramesh said...

Hi Priya, I really enjoyed reading your stories. I particularly liked the first one. For some reason, I couldn't stop smiling after reading that. Thank you for sharing your stories, and I look forward to reading more.

I am glad that you discovered something that inspires you. And, I hope you continue to write more, despite your uni work. :)

Deepika Ramesh said...

Oh, forgot to mention this. Wielding a pen, and 'writing' a story sounds so good. I like your penmanship. :)

Priya said...

Hi Deepika, thank you for reading the story and commenting. I'm really glad the first one made you smile, I wasn't so sure about it. This alone is going to make me write more! :)

Delia (Postcards from Asia) said...

The first story made me smile as well. At first I though, what is wrong with me, the poor lamb is dead, but then I see Deepika had the same reaction so I'm not (that) weird, maybe?! :)

I really liked the atmosphere in the second story. I wanted more. That's the best, isn't it, leaving the reader wanting more.
This is my favorite part, where the voices say "not the Lord".
"You have served us and we are here to help." "Oh, thank the Lord, thank you, God." Julian whispered, and the chill replied, "Not the Lord." The forest laughed, as the man fumbled with the cross around his neck. His heart thudded in quiet desperation."

I would really love to see more of the second story because there are so many wonderful mysteries left unsolved. Who is the abbot? How come he has a daughter? Or is she one of his charges, an orphan girl perhaps who calls him father? What were those creatures and what will they do now that they are released into the world?
I think what appeals the most to me, besides the mysteries, is the setting of the story - medieval maybe? Perhaps you could do a serialized story here on the blog. I was thinking of doing something of the sort on my blog.

I think it's great you found a writing group to inspire you and unclog that creativity channel. Back in Bangkok I organize a book club and a writing group. I miss them both. For the writing group, we didn't have anything as structured as you, though I did have similar ideas like writing prompts and such but had to leave before I managed to put that into practice. I hope to do it when I get back.

Viktoria Berg said...

I can so relate to getting out of touch with what one loves to do - while doing other things that are really worth-while too. I really wish sometimes I didn´t have to sleep or eat! I think being in a group helps. I liked both your stories, for different reasons; keep going! :-)

listenwatchreadshare said...

I think these are great ideas and love what you have produced. I can see they are great "loosening up" exercises. I am astounded by what you produced in the short amount of time too, reworking or not.
I do enjoy being part of two book clubs, it's sad you haven't got that at the moment, here's hoping you can get to one some time?

Priya said...

Delia, thanks! I do like the idea of continuing the story in a series of posts. In forty minutes, I had no chance at solving all the mysteries, but I like where your ideas are leading you. This is the first writing club I have been to. There was one back where I used to live but back then the book club was enough to keep the creativity flowing. Good luck with your clubs once you get back. :)

Viktoria, Thanks! I wish I didn't have to sleep too, but I can't say the same for food. ;)

Denise, I hope I find a nice book club again, too. You're lucky to be part of two!

Delia (Postcards from Asia) said...

It really is a good story and has a lot of potential. I would really love to see it more developed. I can tell this would my kind of story.
How often will your writing club get together? :)

Priya said...

Delia, they get together every Saturday. Sadly I can't make it this time!

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