Tag Archives: writing exercise

Wednesday’s Word: Kleptocracy. Say that three times fast, and then write a story.

The last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking: about new routines, upcoming projects and books unfinished. Planning, but not so much creating. It seems right, then, to click over to Wordsmith.org and spend some time with the Wednesday’s word of the day* — and my muse.

(I hope she’s listening.)

Today’s word:

kleptocracy. Noun. A government by the corrupt in which rulers use their official positions for personal gain.

A word and definition applicable to many, I’d say.

*****

Head of Household

Under the muted glow of the nightlight, Nora pulled at her lip. In the mirror, she could see a growing line of blood trickle down the inside of her mouth.

“Damn,” she whispered.

“Guess I got a little crazy, huh?” Glen came up from behind her and put heavy hands on her shoulders.

“Crazy!” Nora said. “You bit me.” She wriggled out from under his grip.

“Yeah, just making sure you knew who was in charge.” He slapped her ass. Nora flipped him off and marched back to the bedroom. She heard Glen laugh, but he didn’t apologize.

Glen wasn’t always so rough and crass. It wasn’t until the day after they’d gotten married, when Nora woke to the sour smell of morning breath and Glen’s face staring down at hers, that he started declaring he was now “master of her domain.”

“Good morning?” she’d said, as she’d laughed and pushed him aside. She had thought he was kidding around.

The next week, though, he began claiming her time, telling her exactly how many nights a year she could go out with her girlfriends. No more Happy Hour meet-ups or impromptu coffee dates. And “Ladies night out” was a conspiracy, he said.

During dinners, he got greedy, taking much more than his share and leaving her with scraps some nights. She called him out on it, but he told her she’d just have to start cooking more.

“The King has a right to seconds,” he said on the night she served tenderloin. “And thirds.” He stabbed at the last piece on the platter.

And after the lights went out, he was like an animal in hiding most nights. He waited until she was almost asleep and too tired to fight back and he took her. Tonight, he’d been vicious.

“How’s the lip?” Glen asked as he crawled into bed.

“I can still taste blood…just so you know,” she said.

He patted her head and turned over without saying goodnight. Nora sat up on her elbow and studied the shape of his silhouette. When she heard his breathing slow to a shallow rhythm, she reached out and put her hand on his waist.

She squeezed.

He was growing fat.

*****

They Might Be Giants – Don’t Let’s Start from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.

* Wednesday’s Word means write something – an essay, poem, or flash fiction – based on Wordsmith.org’s word of the day and post it by midnight. Past pieces from this fun writing exercise can be found under Wednesday’s Word on the sidebar to the right.

Flash Fiction on Wednesday: Cold

There’s a new website in my Google Reader: Fiction Writers Review. Writers can find a plethora of information, stories, and great blog posts there. Plus, they have a blog series by Celeste Ng called “Get Writing,” where she posts an exercise to get your muse off the couch and back to some serious calisthenics. This week, Celeste suggests writers turn to the tabloids.

Looking through the tabloids is a lot like waiting for Wordsmith.org’s Word of the Day – you never know what you’ll get – and, seeing as it’s Wednesday, the timing was perfect to use the tabloids as a spark for a little flash fiction.

*****

Cold
(Based on this post, called “Magnetic Boy,” from Weekly World News)

Standing outside, Nicholas Baker – even at ten years old – could see that his mother had lost it. She used to get mad if he ran outside without a jacket, when the air was just a little bit cool. But now, she was insisting that he stand in the front yard, naked from the waist up, in the middle of winter.

“She’s looney,” his older sister, Emily, had said about their mother just a few days before. “Mental.”

“You are what you say!” Nicholas yelled back at first, because he didn’t want to hear her call his mother crazy. Though, he figured she might be right.

“Mom, Nicholas is shivering,” Emily said now. “He’s freezing.”

His mother adjusted his arms up and out to his sides and then stood back to look at him.

“Mom!” Emily shouted.

“Shhh,” she said. “Hold still, Nicky,” his mother told him. “I have to get this picture just right, otherwise we won’t win.” Then, she wiggled her hand toward, Emily. “Hand me some tablespoons,” she said.

Emily rolled her eyes and bent down to grab a handful from the silverware tray that sat on the ground. The wind kicked up. Nicholas’s teeth started to chatter.

“At least let me get him a coat, Mom.”

“No. If his skin is warm, the metal won’t stick. You know that. Now just be quiet and let me work.” His mother’s hands moved in swift diagonals across his chest. She shifted spoons around into various shapes. Her eyes flashed and she was breathing hard.

This wasn’t the first time he stood out in the cold while she lined him with kitchen utensils. Ever since they found out he was attracted to metal, or that metal was attracted to him, his mother had glued herself to the internet in search of contests on sites like Ripley’s Believe It or Not. She took picture after picture and drove to the post office every weekend. Nothing ever came of the pictures, so Nicholas started to wonder if it was really such a big deal that a set of keys sitting on a  table would jump into his palm if he held his hand over them.

“You’re like  Jedi Knight!” His mother had told him. “Like Luke Skywalker living in Cleveland, Ohio,” she’d grinned.

“Worth money,” he’d overheard her tell his Aunt Judy on the phone.

His stomach felt sick, and his head was frozen like a giant ice cube. He told his mother that his fingers were numb. She cupped each of his hands and blew on them, promising that in two more minutes she’d make him the biggest cup of hot chocolate he’d ever seen.

He didn’t like being a Jedi so much anymore, and he wondered if Luke Skywalker ever felt this bad. But, he did his best to smile for the camera, thinking maybe this would be the last time.

Oiling the Hinges: Writing on Wednesday’s Word

At almost 100 years old, our Grandfather clock stands with authority in our living room. Its inner workings are simple, but delicate, and when I don’t pay attention – when I let the weights wind their way to the bottom – the gears stick. Only a silent prayer and a gentle nudge of the minute hand will break an invisible seal and get the clock ticking again.

Caring for that clock requires the same diligence as nurturing all aspects of my writing. If I ignore one area of writing for too long, it grows stagnant, it stalls, and it takes muscle to get that part of my creativity flowing again.

Recently, I had a chance to crank out a flash fiction piece for Pam Parker for a Flash Friday post. She emailed me and two other writers a prompt and asked that we turn it into a 100 word flash in a few days (you can read the pieces here). Writing 100 words was not an easy task, and it was a reminder that I can’t ignore that side of myself that loves creating something new. Rewriting and editing are great (dare I say fun?….nah. Great, but not fun). But my muse gets bored helping me whittle down the same old short story. She wants shiny, new, get-the-blood-pumping kind of work. So, I’m dipping back into Wednesday’s Word today, basically so my muse won’t leave me high and dry when I return to those rewrites.

Today’s word from Wordsmith.org:

volte-face. noun. A reversal in policy or opinion; an about face

*****

Fickle

Lately, Nick predicted his wife’s moods with the same success rate as the new guy on Channel 9 when he predicted the weather: nine times out of ten he was wrong. When the forecast called for sun, Nick was pelted with insults like hail. If Nick braced himself for frigid temps, he came home to a barrage of affection. He began to wonder if there wasn’t something in the water. Or, maybe it was all that Sweet and Sour Chicken his wife had been eating for the last week. The sauce had an unnatural color, that was for sure, and maybe housed some other infecting quality.

He watched her scarf down another take-out order for the eighth day in a row. He shook his head.

“What?” she asked, as she licked each finger clean.

“Nothing,” he said. “It’s just –”

“Hold that thought.” She pointed her index finger at him in a way that made him jump, then she ran to the bathroom. He considered retreating upstairs, to wait out whatever might be brewing. But, when she came out of the bathroom, she looked flushed and giddy.

She pulled him out of his seat and squeezed both his hands.

“I’m pregnant!” She beamed.

He rolled his eyes. “Thank God,” he said. “I thought you were going crazy.”

She squinted, then she slapped him, and then she drenched him in kisses.

Flash Fiction: Somebody Needs Attention

Wordsmith.org and I are on a break.

Though I’ve enjoyed the freedom, I’ve missed the early morning wake up call in my inbox where the Word of the Day challenge awaited. I’ve forgotten the playful tease that comes in a real stinker of a word, felt lonely for the thrill in wrestling a word into submission, and longed for the surprise when a word lends itself to a poem.

I needed a flash fiction fix, but I’m not ready to recommit. So, I glommed onto one of Lisa Romeo’s writing prompts (from her Winter Writing Prompts Project). The word: bloated.

Nobody said re-entry would be pretty.

*****

Somebody Needs Attention

Rebecca held the curtain open with the back of her hand. The sunrise colored the sky with a fiery orange and shed light on the fact that nothing had changed. Bags of garbage still lined the sidewalks; they festered, split, and spilled out onto the street.

Mrs. Owen, from across the street, ate a lot of Kentucky Fried Chicken it seemed, and Bobby Cooper, at the end of the block, must not have any real dishes. Paper plates and red plastic cups littered his stretch of lawn.  Rebecca’s next door neighbor, Stan, had tried to keep things neat by piling his garbage into a well-formed mountain, but one of the bags had rolled off and exploded onto Rebecca’s driveway. A shadow moved across the concrete and slipped behind the trash — a rat.

It had only been three weeks since the Waste Management workers first refused to fire up their trucks and clear the neighborhood, but already they made national headlines. Workers weren’t allowed to collect any trash, but the mayor insisted they had hauled somebody’s garbage and dropped it on the front steps of his house. The mayor’s front door was blocked, he said, and he was being held hostage by refuse. Still, he didn’t budge on concessions. It was like the New York City garbage strike on a small town scale.

Rebecca turned on the news, which showed two police officers outside the mayor’s house wearing face masks. Then, the news cut to the mayor, who sat inside and conducted a news conference using his son’s videocam. He drank his coffee and bragged that, with the internet, he could run the city from the comfort of his own kitchen. “Bring it on,” he told the camera, meaning more garbage Rebecca guessed.

The mayor reminded Rebecca of Vince Watters in high school. Vince played the clarinet, he wore high-waisted jeans from Walmart, and he got pushed around during lunch. Vince landed in detention one week, for fighting back, and got chummy with Darrin and Hendricks, two beefy outcasts who happened to be seniors. Vince marched into the lunchroom that Friday, with Darrin and Hendricks at his side, pointing fingers at the jocks who shoved him around and yelling “Yeah! Bring it on, dickheads!”

If memory served Rebecca right, the mayor played clarinet at his inauguration that year, and, like Vince, he puffed his chest when he was flanked by guards.

Once during the broadcast, the cameras fell onto the mayor’s wife as she wiped off the counter and poured him another cup of coffee. She cleared his breakfast plate and dumped the leftovers into the trash can, which seemed mostly empty. Her shoulders sagged and her expression was flat when she turned back around, but Rebecca thought she saw a hint of disgust in her eyes.

The mayor, however, beamed.

*****

For fun, click on over to this video from They Might Be Giants, called “I’m All You Can Think About.” The song plays just at the beginning, and is well worth the click.

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Word up. It’s Execrate, and I’m disgusted.

Wednesday’s Word means write something – an essay, poem, or flash fiction – based on Wordsmith.org’s word of the day and post it by midnight. Past pieces from this fun writing exercise can be found under Wednesday’s Word on the sidebar to the right.

~

I’m feeling sassy today, maybe because this is the last Wednesday’s Word post for a while or because it’s the weather. Quite possibly, my attitude stems from reading the definition of Today’s word:

execrate. verb. to detest, denounce, or curse.

It’s hard to meditate on a word like that and not puff up my chest or haul out my soapbox. I curse the cold temps right now, for example, and the encroaching deep freeze that the meteorologist with the hair piece keeps gushing about (see? it is the weather). But, do you know the first thing that popped into my mind after I read execrate?

Food that cannot be chewed properly. If you’re a finicky eater like me, you know what I’m talking about.

*****

The Martyr

Cynthia closed her menu and set it on the table. Peter whispered to the waiter, who nodded and slipped away. Cynthia smiled that dreamy smile. Two weeks ago, Peter’s photo popped up on her online dating page with an “I’m interested” vote. She studied his profile. He had those deep, brown eyes that hinted at warm nights by a fire in December and boxes of rich chocolate on Valentine’s Day, so she bumped him up to “Let’s chat.” They talked online for an hour and a half. Then, they both sent the “You, Me, Now” instant message on the next day. It was so cute.

This dinner was their first real date, and she wanted to make a good impression. She paid him full attention and got chills down her spine when he said her name in the same sentence as “beautiful.” Was there a hint of an English accent in his voice? She hoped so.

“Beautiful!” He said again, when the waiter brought out their appetizer. Peter gave the waiter a thumbs up; Cynthia cringed. Oysters. On the half shell. Raw. Glistening globs drenched in their own puddle of, what was that she wondered, oyster juice? Peter’s hands flashed in front of her as he squeezed lemons and ground pepper and set out tiny forks.

“The best in the city!” He said. “Aphrodisiac,” he winked. All she had to do was eat just one. He lit up and spoke of Italy and the first time he ate them raw. She cooed on the outside but grimaced on the inside.

He picked up a shell and shimmied the oyster into his mouth and down his throat. He groaned. She shivered. But, what choice did she have? It was the oyster, or Peter. Or, the oyster and Peter. Either way, she told herself, she had to do it. She surveyed the platter for the smallest one. She picked up the shell and held up her hand. In a few seconds, it would all be over.

“To us,” she said, and she gripped the seat of her chair.

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Buckle up and put on your thinking cap.

The beginning of the new year brought me writer’s angst, flashes of hope here and there, and news of a very busy work schedule.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Sign Language Interpreter in real life. One of the challenges in my line of work is that I can’t interpret what I don’t know. That means, for the next several months, my brain will be steeped in outside reading materials to help carry me through my schedule. What that doesn’t mean is a full stop on writing.

I am, however, taking a brief hiatus from my Wednesday’s Word of the Day challenge.

I love that writing exercise (and maybe I’ll jump back into it sooner than I anticipate), but I also love my day job…for obvious reasons (that monthly paycheck and, oh yeah, health insurance). So, here’s where you come in. You keep this blog alive just by reading, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on what types of posts will keep you coming back :

I can’t make you take the poll, but it is anonymous. And, even if you say “Thank god for the hiatus,” I’ll still love you.

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Steady, Girl (a little flash never felt so good)

It’s Wednesday’s Word, and you know what that means: write something – an essay, poem, or flash fiction – based on Wordsmith.org’s word of the day and post it by midnight. Past pieces from this fun writing exercise can be found under Wednesday’s Word on the sidebar to the right.

A New Year generally brings a fresh start, a positive outlook, a host of promises to do better, be better, feel better. But, for me, just days after the festivities ended, I hit a wall.

 

It wasn’t writer’s block as much as it was the feeling of writer’s plateau.

This thing isn’t really going anywhere, I thought. “This thing” being that one story still sitting in someone’s slushpile, that novel I’m trying to write, and bla bla bla. I bet you know the drill.

No writer should sit in that place too long. As writers, we often hear we should write for our readers. But some days, we have to write for ourselves. Thankfully, it’s Wednesday and time for my biweekly tête-à-tête with Wordsmith.org. If I didn’t commit to do this thing every other week (for my own darn good), I’d still be sitting in that cesspool of doubt, trusting  a shiny quarter to decide my fate:

Heads I quit, tails I don’t quit.
Three out of five.
Okay, five out of seven.
Fine, seven out of ten.

Never trust a quarter. Besides, I don’t really want to quit. I just want to move forward. And, the best way to do that is to write.

Today’s word:

primrose path. noun. A path of least resistance, especially one that ends in disaster.

As they say on Twitter, #amwriting now.

*****

Steady, Girl

Peter poured the coffee and handed a cup to his wife, Sharon. “Quitting would be easy,” he said, “but then what would you do?”

“I’d go back to knitting dishrags and Yoga every morning and reasonable bedtimes,” Sharon said with a huff.

“Okay. But, you’d be depressed within the month.” Peter kissed her forehead and picked up his briefcase for work.

“I’m already depressed,” she said.

“Nothing worthwhile is ever easy,” he told her, and he promised to check in on her at lunch. Then, he shut the door. Sharon shuffled back to where her laptop waited in sleep mode.

She drummed her fingers on the desk.

She jiggled her mouse. The screen lit up, but her muse didn’t.

She studied the pattern of the glaze on her coffee cup, the one she bought from that little pottery shop in Pueblo years ago.

“My new mojo!” She’d told the Potter, as she handed him twenty dollars.

“Big enough to hold three cups of coffee in one, and sturdy enough to work you through a dozen bestsellers,” he’d said when he’d given her the change.

She’d read more than a dozen bestsellers since then, but she hadn’t written one. She stared out the window next to her desk and watched a brown spider weave a whole web in the corner — one short length of silk at a time.

If only it were that easy, Sharon thought, to start at the beginning, jump to the end, and then fill in the middle. “Spiders never get writer’s block,” she mumbled, and she tapped on the window. The spider scurried to the side of the pane. It bobbed and then folded into a small hole in the wood.

Sharon sighed and wrapped her hand around her cup. As she tipped it to take a drink, she noticed a line across the rim. She held the cup away from her to get a better look.

Yes, she thought, a crack. A hairline fracture, really, but still!

“Ha!” She told the spider, who had ventured back out of the hole but had not yet crossed her web. “No wonder!”

She poured out the coffee and tossed the cup into the recycling. She rifled through the cabinet for a clean cup – a plain one without the distraction of glazing or a logo. She put on a fresh pot of coffee. Her mind whirled, her fingers tingled.

Something was definitely brewing. *

~

* I’m not sure what this story has to do with primrose path, so much, but there you are, anyway. And, I think I feel better.

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