How To Make a Mask

I’m back to my usual style for this Inspiration Monday post.

* * * * *

Six two. One hundred and eighty pounds. Black suit, blue shirt, silver tie.

The door opens. Black suit, but the height is wrong. Leftover drops from the brief but consuming rain splatter against the hood of the car, reminding me of the fire escape above me. My own escape if things get messy.

My phone dances in the cup holder. I pick it up and open the text message.

You pick up. Stuck w boss til late.

Crap. Not today. A change in plan means I make a change in plan. I take a quick look, then step out of the car and go to the trunk. Swap the SIG for the Beretta. Screw on the silencer. Another look around. Slam the trunk.

The door opens. Black suit. Blue shirt. Tie could be silver. Height and weight spot on. He lights a cigarette and takes a drag. Looks at me. The cigarette spins on its fall and I’m up on him before it hits the ground. One in the chest, one in the head.

I get back in the car and drive until I’m out from under the cover of rain clouds. A brown sign alerts me of Gold Mountain State Park. That will do. When I reach the park, I follow the signs to a trail head and park. I put away the Beretta. Strip off all my clothes, replace them with sweatpants, a hoodie, and walking shoes.

Three trails available. I choose the longest one. The forest hums with life. The ground is spongy under my shoes and the squirrels are partying in the trees. I take off my sunglasses to enjoy the luminance of green. I could walk off this trail right now and be lost. So lost I’d never find my way back.

Three point five miles later I’m back at the car. I drive back into town with the windows down, and when I reach the parking lot, it’s almost empty. I hope he’s not upset.

He’s the last one, but he’s not upset. He shows me a watercolor he painted. I get his backpack, and walk him to the car.

“Is mommy going to be late today?” he asks as I’m strapping him into the car.

“Yep. But you and I are going to play some video games and eat some junk food.”

I see my grin reflected in the window when I slam his door. Another success. Let’s hope it holds until he’s in bed.

How to Format Your Manuscript (via BeKindRewrite)

Excellent post. For future reference!

Times New Roman. 12 pt font. Double spaced. You’ve got all that covered. But what else do you have to do to get your manuscript in shape for submission? Here’s some handy info I stole from a used copy of Writer’s Market (any edition of which I highly recommend; mine’s a 2004). Cover page In the upper left-hand corner, list your real name, street address, phone number, and email address (remember to use a professional-looking email addy based on y … Read More

via BeKindRewrite

The Art of Subtlety

For writers learning the craft, subtlety may be one of the most difficult concepts to hone – not because it’s hard to do, but because it’s difficult to realize we need to do it. We see the details in our minds, and we feel every one of them is important. First drafts are usually detail overload. Full of adverbs and dialogue tags. Whole sentences, paragraphs, pages that need to be cut. Getting it all out is natural to free the story from our minds. We can only begin to clear away the clutter once it’s all out on the screen.

Subtlety is Chapter 15 of The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. It’s worth buying this book just for these six pages.

Subtlety is the mark of confidence… A writer who is confident need not prove anything, need not try to grab attention with spates of stylism or hyperbole or melodrama… He will often leave things unsaid, may even employ a bit of confusion, and often allow you to come to your own conclusions.

Lukeman goes on to say that books written by unsubtle writers leave you with a short-lasting fix. Once finished, you haven’t been fully satisfied. You’ll forget the book and move on to something better. It won’t leave an impression.

If you can master subtlety, your books will stay with readers for a long time.

How to be subtle? It’s easier than you think. Less is more. Don’t serve out words as if your readers are starving. Serve them to readers who just ate Thanksgiving dinner and only need one last taste of pie. Make that taste really matter, and make it small. Make them ask for more. And don’t give them every kind of pie. Just give them one. A really, really good one. Your best. Resist the urge to tell the reader, “This is my best pie. The recipe has been handed down for seven generations. You are going to love it.” Just let your reader taste it and make that decision himself. Pretend this reader is a world-famous chef who understands fine cuisine, maybe even better than you.

Readers don’t need to know everything. The more you beat them over the head with information, the less interested they are going to be. Play hard to get. And don’t underestimate your reader.

“Showing not telling” goes hand in hand with subtlety.

But don’t take it too far. There’s a line, and if you cross it you’ll have worse problems.

I wish I had know all this when I was working on the second or third draft. It would have saved me a lot of time with the parts that just weren’t right.

Do any of you specifically write for subtlety, or is this something you work out in a later draft by cutting?

One Man’s Trash

Here’s my attempt at this week’s Inspiration Monday. I’m not too happy with this one but I’ll post it anyway. Go easy on me. I suck at third person.

*****

He chased her up the escalator. When they reached the top, they were both out of breath, as anyone would be after sprinting up a long flight of stairs while laughing so hard.

“You know there’s cameras everywhere,” she said. “It’s only a matter of time.”

He raised his eyebrow and stifled a grin. “Maybe I turned them off.”

She studied him. “Are you as good at turning things off as you are at turning them on?”

An open door. A “Welcome, Please Come In” sign. He took a step forward.

She retreated one step into a rack of Calvin Klein. “What kind of girl would I be if I let you kiss me that easily?”

He felt his eyes get wide before he looked down. Coward. He looked straight into her eyes. “Guess you’d be easy.”

“Guess so.”

“Want to climb the elevator cable?”

“You turned that off too?”

“No, but I could.” He slipped his backpack to his front and went for the zipper. His laptop battery was about to die. If he was going to do it, he’d better do it now.

Her gaze slid along the wall behind him, obviously searching for the elevator sign in the dim light. “Race you.” She took off, in the wrong direction.

He threw his backpack to his back and ducked between the racks. He could beat her there. If he kept down she wouldn’t see where he was headed. Something ripped his backpack off his shoulder and he spun around. Darn clothing rack. He jerked himself free only to hook the other strap on another rack. He’d never beat her now.

He crept toward the elevator, head low. Cold air blasted over him. The air conditioner shouldn’t be running after hours. She was hunched down in the light of the elevator sign, holding her ankle. Her face turned to him. Lips parted. Frozen. Blood seeped through the fingers gripping her ankle.

“Meg? What happened?” He dropped to his knees next to her.

“I don’t know,” she whispered. Blood puddled around her foot, sticky and reflective. “It was like something slapped me. God, it hurts. I think it’s cut through. My Achilles tendon. I can’t walk on it.”

He took off his jacket because that’s what people do in movies when someone’s bleeding. She moaned as he tied it around. Then she grabbed his shoulder, her eyes wide and staring past him.

“Something. Over there.”

He jerked his head toward a light screeching. Metal on metal. Hangers, sliding on racks. He spun to face the sound. Quiet settled on them, hung in the air. He looked at her. “Maybe we should-”

A black length whipped out of nowhere and he shoved backward, out of the way. She cried out, grabbing her other ankle. Metal screeched, the racks swayed, and he got around her and slid his arms under hers and dragged her around the elevator behind a plastic dumpster.

Her eyes were watery, but she looked too afraid to cry. “What is that? My god what is that!”

“I don’t know.” He pulled her hand away from her ankle. Her second tendon was severed just like the first. He wiped the blood on his jeans. If she could barely walk before, now she couldn’t at all.

He stood and yanked the broken arm of a metal clothing rack out of the dumpster. One man’s trash is another man’s weapon.

The Other Me

Another round of BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday.

*****

Casual footsteps sound on the dock behind me. If I turn around too fast, she’ll think I’m afraid. The ducks take flight, their white bellies stained orange from the water. I’m glad it doesn’t kill them anymore.

“Don’t pretend you don’t hear me.”

I wait a few seconds before responding. “I heard you. I was watching the ducks. They can swim in the water now.”

“Good for them.”

I spin on my butt and look up at her. It’s dangerous on the end of the dock with my back to the water. But I don’t move. I’m not afraid of her. Not anymore.

Mona-Thena appears at the corner of the house. I know what she’s thinking. Keep her talking.

I open my mouth, but my heart has climbed into my throat. Words can’t squeeze by.

Mona-Thena places both palms on her temples like she’s about to bend some spoons. Snapping wood cracks the air. I shove to my feet and leap over the hole in the dock. Don’t look down. Close your ears.

I stiffen my legs to keep them from running me to the house. All I hear is that squirrel, high up in the tree. Not the splashing. Not those screams.

“Don’t look so guilty, you’ll give us away,” Mona-Thena says. “She can swim.”

“Not in that water.”

A gust of wind burns my skin. Mona-Thena sucks air through her teeth and pulls her sleeves down. The acid content of the air must be high today.

“Just remember. She can’t hurt the baby anymore. She can’t hurt momma anymore.”

“She can’t hurt us anymore.” That’s the new me talking. The other me is still sitting on the end of that dock, watching the ducks.