Smashing Pumpkins – Opening Scene

(Being hard at work on getting my book finished I haven’t written a short story this week.  I feel moderately bad, but under the circumstances sacrifices must be made.  My life will be different next week.  Until then help yourself to bit of my main character.)

 

“This will go so much smoother if you will all just get in a line.”  Tammy’s voice rose higher with each word, a useless attempt to verbally control the throng of adults groping over her desk like zombies in search of a meal.  

Samson tried not to chuckle as he thumbed through the stack of papers marked for him.  Tammy’s desk was placed fully across the main path to Principal Brandt’s office, the door being in a direct line with her chair.  Anyone needing to speak with the Principal had to deal with Tammy first.  Like it or not though, the only order in force this morning was that of alpha versus everything that wasn’t alpha, excluding the scavengers drifting around the outer edges looking for their shot, and secretaries who lacked enough self-assurance to enforce order in an excited situation.

As if to prove his point, a narrow, pale arm covered in a three quarter length black knit and surrounded by four wide, silver bangles, snaked its way between himself and the other third grade teacher, Mrs. Chang, and snatched one of the thinner stacks off the top of Tammy’s faux wooden desk.  From the edge of his vision, he could see the platinum blond head of Alison Kanger, one of two seventh grade math teachers, retreat to the south wall with her prize.  Ghost white skin and large, round eyes with irises the color of drying earth clay, Alison was a startling apparition in the fluorescent illumination of the school’s main office.  More than once in his first three weeks here it had amused him to think she would be a heart stopping shock on a dark, county road in the dead of night.  High beams or low wouldn’t make a difference.  If Alison Kanger jumped in front of his car he would scream like a school girl and jerk the wheel.  

Using her middle finger to push her glasses further up the bridge of her nose, Tammy scowled at the group, her round, flushed cheeks bulging outward like a chipmunk.

“Is anyone even listening to me?”  

Noting the way the small muscles around her eyes were tightening Samson looked directly at her and smiled, showing just the bottoms of his upper teeth.  Tammy’s pupils expanded instantly and she smiled back, her teeth fully exposed.  Quickly he looked back down at the papers in his hands. 

“Not really,” Alison stated, head bowed over her papers.  The fluffy, overly large bump she teased into the front of her hair translated into the pillar of a crown in the shadow she cast on the pastel yellow wall behind her.  Her angle in the light coupled with her head down posture gave her shadow a grotesque hump on its back.

“Animals, all of you.”  Straining to cross her arms over her chest Tammy huffed deeply and used her feet to push off from her desk, propelling her office chair backwards, away from them all.  A slight turn at the end gave everyone a side view of the long, brown tresses she refused to trim, the split ends appearing gray and unhealthy as they floated through the air a mere two inches from the floor.

Seeing all his pages were in order Samson went through them a second time, not really looking now as he watched Alison from the corner of his eyes.  The way she was licking her finger before turning every third page was maddening, like listening to someone scrape their nails over an old, slate chalkboard.  The small gap between her top and bottom teeth, clearly the result of a mild overbite, was filled with the tip of her tongue waiting for its next opportunity to wet the middle finger of her right hand.  Near the bottom of the stack she froze for a second, her eyes widening and a calculated smile spread over her entire face.  It vanished so quickly that had he not been watching he would have missed it completely.

Straightening up he began to make his way out of the office.  At six feet on the nose, he was taller than most of them and used that difference to his advantage. Careful to not step on Mrs. Chang’s foot, he dropped one shoulder and slid between her and Mr. McDonald, the Middle School Phys Ed teacher.  McDonald grunted as Samson’s pristine blue button down brushed his arm.

“Mmpf.  Football players.”

A guilty smile flashed across his face.  He had never been a football player or into any sports at all.  His muscular build was from the hours spent at home doing floor exercises while studying his suspects on the plasma.  He never went to a gym.  

“Goodbye Samson!”  Tammy’s voice sing songed over the heads of the teachers.

Raising a hand in acknowledgment he headed into the hall toward the Elementary wing. He had twenty minutes to get himself together before the kids started pouring through the doors.

“Dream on, sister.”  

Irritated by the snarky tone, Samson paused and thought about going back to confront Alison about her assuming attitude.  It would be a great start to his day, but it would undoubtedly give Tammy the wrong idea.  She was nice and all, but she was also a toad. Every time he looked at the squat secretary with her four feet of dead hair, his mind drew a picture of a jelly-filled amphibian with giant glasses riding on a shaggy lily pad.  Naw, let Tammy deal with Alison on her own.

The school housed kindergarten through high school, each part joined to the next by a single set of heavy, metal, double doors.   Pushing his way out of the middle school, Samson let the big doors bang shut hard behind him and walked to his classroom near the end of the hall. Cardboard cutouts of pumpkins, scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns were taped to the walls above the coat racks and JOC banners were tacked over every classroom door.  Closer to the floors, cats, ghosts, spiders and colorful fall leaves had been pasted.  The overall impression was an entire hallway of Halloween.  Welcome to October.

 

Monologue #22

How do you maintain forward motion when life is dragging you down?

I’m not sure how to answer this.  My life has taken a few turns these past few weeks but nothing has changed.  Same job, same first novel. I’m tired though.

I keep staring at my files and poking at the words, changing sentences and editing spelling and punctuation.  I’m afraid if I don’t at least look at it, I will forget about it.  I’m doing what I have to in order to keep my dream in motion.  This tiredness will pass eventually and I will be off and running again.  Until then, I’ll continue looking at it, reminding myself of what I’m working for.  

Before I go, I want to give a joyful thumbs up to all the Camp NaNoWriMo participants.  I’m sure you are all waking up everyday super excited to get your fingers on  your keyboards.  Keep going.  The feeling you will have when you reach your goal is worth all the work.  You guys are awesome!

Monologue #11

I feel like the warm weather has stunted my growth.  My writing is suffering because I want to open the windows and play games and stuff.  I’m just not miserable enough! 

Several years ago I noticed a link between my personal level of unhappiness and my writing.  The more I hated things the more I wrote.  When I was comfortable and content, I wrote less.  This still seems to be true even though I am now old enough to take responsibility for my own motivation.  I just get tired of hating everything all the time.  That takes a lot of energy that could be put to better use on things like cooking or carpet cleaning, both of which are things that need to be done.


My wife has taken possession of my NaNoWriMo draft of Smashing Pumpkins and is in the process of editing.  I’m curious to see what her suggestions are.  I set it aside in favor of working on my Guild Wars 2 fanfiction piece, The Mine, for a bit, hoping the side project would clean out my eyes a little so I could get a renewed perspective.  This is my first novel ever and I’m quite anxious about it.  While I have enjoyed The Mine a lot I know I need to tear myself away and get back to my novel.  But the weather is so nice.  And my carpets need cleaning!

Monday Monologue #1 – Smashing Pumpkins

Revising and editing is hard work!  I have been successfully avoiding the bulk of the work by opening my laptop and the appropriate file then walking away to scrub my range top, scrape the litter box, vacuum all the cat hair from my furniture or just take a quick power nap.  There are so many effective and justifiable ways to not work on my book that it’s a wonder I have gotten anywhere with it at all.

I have to say, though, I am pleased with my present level of work – and my clean apartment.  Smashing Pumpkins (still a tentative title) is coming clearly into focus.  I have struggled a bit with my choice of a main character though.  In my mind, the MC has changed three times so far.  I believe this current choice is the one I will stick with though.  It has taken some heavy cleaning (the range top) to get my thoughts and background on the MC in order.  Somewhere during the mad dash of NaNoWriMo I neglected to actually develop this guy.  Deciding to use him as the MC brought me to a halt when I was unable to actually get him moving.  After several failed attempts to ignite his inner light I realized that I didn’t know a damn thing about him.  He had no life before this story.  I needed to sit down and flesh him out.

It’s funny to me that I managed to create a character that I knew nothing about.  The other characters of the book came forward out almost fully formed.  They were demanding to be noticed.  This guy… this guy, kinda slipped into the story without being noticed.  He sat quietly in a single chapter without really drawing attention to himself.  After NaNoWriMo ended I was left will all these pages of people and events and emotion that had no clear starting point.  I knew exactly where the ending was but finding the true beginning involved repetitive sorting and weighing of each character.  As I typed and retyped, this guy kinda stepped out from the crowd, all by himself, and bowed to me.  The strong, silent type.

I am rolling along again and hope to have a completed manuscript by June.  I’m not going to hold my breath over it but, that is my current goal.

The End – Pantsing NaNoWriMo 2016

NaNoWriMo is over for 2016 and I finished with 50k on the nose.  What I have for my 50k words is not at all what I had anticipated a rough draft to be.  Having not written more than 20k words on any subject in my life I found myself wandering in unproductive circles at the start.  The idea of going chapter by chapter had been my original intention but having never done it before, and working without any sort of outline my golden road didn’t exist.  Eventually I broke out the index cards, wrote out info about each character I wanted to include and began to slide them around my table like a puzzle, trying to assemble a time line and where everyone would be at each stage.  What eventually happened was, I simply created individual files for each character and wrote every scene I could think of for the story.  That worked better for me.  The only real problem that cropped up was being able to maintain a consistent word count as I went.  Some days I was working on three different files at a time, bouncing back and forth with ideas that I couldn’t let get away.

My finished draft is a mess of files that needs to be assembled into chapters.  I’m sure this is going to take a while and will, in the long run, increase my overall word count.  The scenes I wrote carry a good amount of emotional intention but to get what I really want from them will take a significant amount of rewriting.  I am not afraid!

I believe I will participate in NaNoWriMo again next year.  I really enjoyed myself with this project and have learned a lot about my own writing process.  A little bit of planning never hurt anyone but it seems to be something I’m not a fan of.  Flying by the seat of my pants is the only way to go.

Business as usual will commence next week.  Until then, Happy Holidays everyone!

A Mad Dash To The End

It is November 22, I still have 17k words to go and my mother is coming to visit on the 28th and will stay until the 30th.  I really need to hustle and get this finished, at least word-count-wise before that time.  Three days ago I was pecking out one word at a time, chewing my nails off and actively avoiding NaNoWriMo by playing countless games of Bejeweled Blitz while my mind struggled over plot issues and the fact that I had nothing scheduled for this blog.   I like to keep to a schedule as much as possible and when I am not able to do that I tend to get agitated and my thinking can break down.  I was definitely floundering.

My wife peers at my computer screen and asks how things are going?  She can see I’m playing Bejeweled.  I state my plot problems and the impending doom of my word count while I spin pretty, colored gems and try to get Blazing Speed going, and she says… “Why don’t you just write the ending?”

Why didn’t I think of that?

So here I am, tearing along again with a pot of coffee at hand and Bejeweled open on a tab in the back instead of the front.  My carefully thought out characters are dying one by one, the way I intended and I’m feeling like a vengeful God about it.  I have to admit, there are some twists I hadn’t actually meant to have but now that they are there I am rather impressed by them.  Hopefully the finished product will be as smooth as I want it to be.  Once I get to 50k, finished or not I will post a few more excerpts for everyone.

Cheers Wrimos and happy writing!

Smashing Pumpkins – Carl

(An excerpt from my NaNoWriMo project.  I have reached the 20k mark.  As others have already stated, there is really no time to spend on crafting a single paragraph to near perfection (in my mind) if I intend to reach the 50k goal by the end of the month.  It is very unnatural for me to write without editing as I go and I’m suffering a bit of over-thinking.  I keep telling myself I can clean it up later, just get the words into the file right now.)

A slender, middle aged woman, wearing a stylish, brown, knit hat and a long, tan, wool coat made her way out of the door with a small boy in tow.  The boy looked to be five or six years old but it was difficult to tell through his outer wear.  His thin blue hoody was zipped all the way up, the hood pulled over his head which was also covered with a knit hat.  A grubby, white scarf wrapped tightly around his face completed the ensemble.  The only thing Carl could see for sure were the eyes, two dark orbs staring blankly out at the street.  With all the autism awareness these days he was prepared to make a snap judgement on the child when the woman snatched his shoulder and proceeded to push him before her into the street, obviously aiming for the bus stop he currently occupied.  The bearing of the woman and directness of her path gave Carl the crazy impression that she was coming specifically to talk to him about the boy.  His mind threw up a panicked scenario.

“Hey mister, you want to buy a boy?  He doesn’t eat much.   He can eat even less if you just don’t give it to him, he’s used to not having much.  Are you interested?  What do you say?  You could have your very own boy!”  

Feeling genuine alarm Carl made himself as still as he could.  Bug instincts, JC would have said.  When people knew something was wrong they tended to get very still, some ancient instinct making them believe if they could avoid detection then whatever the problem was, it would go away.  Hunching forward slightly he lowered his head and stared at the sidewalk as the woman and her boy entered the shelter.  The woman pressed the boy against the Plexiglas wall near the end of the bench.

“Stand there,” she said in a voice that swirled from her mouth like smoke.  Carefully tucking her long coat around her legs she sat down on the opposite end of the bench from Carl.

Continuing to stare downward Carl felt his nerves tightening with every passing second, the adult sized space between him and the woman feeling much too small.  He wanted to tap his toe or bounce his knee.  From the edge of his vision he could see the boy’s sneakers, a pair of off brand shoes that were too worn to have been bought new at his age.  By shoving his eyes far to the sides of their sockets and tilting his chin just a hair he could see the blue hoody was in similar shape.  Compared to the woman and her nice, wool, coat the boy looked like he had been bought on clearance from the local Goodwill.  Carl tightened his jaw and prayed the bus would come soon.