Thursday, 30 January 2014

Random Fridays: 02



POV:           First person
Genre:         Thriller
Subject:       Wound, Value & Icky

I clutched desperately at my right arm, holding it against my chest as tightly as possible in an attempt to stymie the blood flow. I couldn’t bring myself to look at the wound. The thought of seeing torn flesh and the raw redness beneath sickened me more than the pain itself.

My breathing was ragged. The basement was hardly a great distance but the heart pounding in my chest insisted that I had endured the stress of a hundred miles. I fell back against the solid wall and slid into an uneven heap against the cold flag stones. The basement was cool and dark. The only light came in a wide beam from a small window near the ceiling; the setting sun’s final failing rays. From outside came the distant thrumming of hurried footsteps searching this way and that. They knew I was here. Somewhere.

The man’s knife had missed its intended target, slashing at an outstretched arm that flew unthinking to my defence. No doubt he had aimed to kill me. After all, what use could they possibly have with me? No, I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. I had something they wanted and they wanted it badly enough to kill.

I winced as I released my hand momentarily from my injured arm; the blood had already began to congeal and it had cemented my skin to the open wound. The pain was unbearable, a sharp sensation that felt as if the knife were still digging about the nerves and tendons of my arm. I managed to suppress a yelp and quickly rummaged in the pocket of my coat until my fingers found their target. The flash drive.

I held the small plastic device to the weak light. Had I been in a better position to appreciate such nuances I might have been amazed at how much trouble had been caused for so small a thing. It was a compact USB device, the kind that slid open to reveal the part you plug into the computer. It was delicate, I could probably have snapped in half with my single hand. I even considered it, put the pressure against it, tested my own resolve as much as the plastic’s strength. But it was clear that my only way out of this mess was going to be through bargaining.

There came a knock at the door, one that nearly burst the wooden barrier from within its frame. It wouldn’t take much to breach my meagre defences. I scrambled painfully to my feet and looked about the room for a suitable hiding place. The door burst open within thirty seconds.

The man took no time in searching the room. He found me easily, crouched behind some stacked boxes, partially covered with a musty sheet. He reached out and grabbed my arm, the one that was not wounded, and pulled me sharply to my feet. A small part of me was thankful to him for that, a feeling I felt quickly ashamed of. He was rough, his hands searching my whole body. If he enjoyed it then his face gave no indication of it; this was strictly business. He never said a word, not even a threat when I struggled; he clearly had the upper hand and we both knew I had not the force to break free.

When at last he seemed convinced that the flash drive was not on me he growled in frustration and shoved me back hard. I stumbled and fell against the boxes, rolling from them onto my wounded arm. This time I could not mask my pain and I cried out, rolling onto my back to cradle my arm.

‘Where is it?’ He shouted. Then he aimed a kick at my prone body for good measure. ‘I know you took it. Fucking bitch,’ he spat as he drew his knife.

I stared up into his darkened face. Tears of pain welled at the corners of my eyes, painting me a weak and defeated foe. But I was no prey; I was a cornered jackal now, desperate and fierce.

‘You’re just not looking in the right place,’ I said with a smile. Then my foot connected violently with his crotch.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Monday blog: Routine

Currently reading: Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Reading next: The Subtle Knife - Philip Pullman
Writers' Bureau course progress: Assignment 2 in progress
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I am the sort of person who needs structure, a rigid pattern of activities that recur at reliable intervals, in order to work at my best. Or even to work at all. I can talk myself out of doing most things simply through the belief that I haven't given them much thought, that I haven't mentally prepared myself. As such, I require a routine to write.

I've been attempting to write consistently for some time now. During that time I have discovered that I do not work well late in the day. Around about 3pm or 4pm I tend to get twitchy and find any excuse to abandon any task that resembles writing. Trying to write after work in the evening does not yield positive results either, usually encouraging more excuses and complacency than normal. The only time I seem to be able to concentrate, focus and feel positive about my work, is first thing in the morning.

It was clear that some sacrifices needed to be made. My downtime during the evening needed to be trimmed in order to allow me to wake up earlier. I now rise at 5am, have a quick breakfast and sit down at the desk to start writing. This means I can squeeze up to 90 minutes of writing time out of my morning and ensure that I have achieved something significant before I even leave for work.

I have also implemented a couple of weekly tasks which add further structure and give me small responsibilities that I need to observe. Both the Monday blog and Random Fridays are something that I need to keep up, even if it means forcing myself to write something or publish unedited; two very useful skills to develop.

Ironically, on the day I have chosen to write about routine, I have been distracted by the internet and fallen behind. I have allowed myself little time to write today's Monday blog. May the deterioration in this blog's quality serve as a lesson to all.

This is Frisk,
signing off.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Random Fridays: 01

POV:           Third person
Genre:         Comedy
Subject:       Father, Thunder & Clever

Barry’s father Brian was a great man. He wasn’t exceptionally intelligent, diligent or even particularly perceptive of anything that happened around him but he was a great man nonetheless. After all, brains were not required for Brian’s role in life. You see, Brian was a man of ideas, a thinker and a creator. Among his most formidable talents was the impressive ability to conjure seemingly ludicrous ideas into reality.

Brian’s crowning achievement was his theory of thunder. Thunder always follows lightning, right? Wrong! Brian theorised that really this was all some big misunderstanding and that the two elements were completely unrelated, only coincidentally appearing together. Madness you say? Well now, people said that about Einstein and Newton too you know.

Brian died two years ago after sustaining several thousand volts of electricity to his highly conductive bodily regions.

Although Brian’s brain was fried, along with all remaining trace of his genius, his legacy lived on in Barry. Barry, I’m almost certain to say, had a somewhat troubled childhood. There is no evidence to support this theory but, and let’s be honest here, how could he not have?

Barry idolised his father, believing his traits to be the pinnacle of mankind’s development. Evolution? Pah! Wanton abandon and a complete disregard for the established laws of physics was the way to go. How on earth could you refute science’s teachings without nearly killing yourself in the process. It truly seemed like the only answer. A most noble cause.

So Barry resolved to prove his father’s crazed hypothesis. He waited until a particularly stormy night, one where the thunderous rumbles followed very closely the illuminated sky flares. It is safe to say that no man has been more excited to see a storm than Barry was on that night. He stared into the night, watching the falling rain in a sort of comatose awe, before punching the air jubilantly and running to his garden shed. In hindsight that was probably one provocation too far.

He gathered up several metal washing line poles that he had been saving for this very occasion and raced to the edge of a nearby field. The land sloped steeply upwards and he climbed defiantly, tumbling over the turned ridges of claggy earth and stumbling through the deep furrows slicked with rain. At the field’s apex he stopped to assemble the poles, tying each one together tightly with wire-cored twine. He plunged his newly made lightning rod into the earth triumphantly and stood, his beaming idiot face aimed to the sky, waiting for the promised results.

Few intelligent thoughts ever passed through Barry’s mind. His was not the sort of brain that could hold those kinds of things. Barry’s father discovered that there are two sorts of brains: ones that hold ideas like a bucket that holds water and ones that filter ideas like the way a sieve doesn’t hold water.

So Barry was a giant sieve; certainly not the worst label he’d ever been assigned. But in that moment, clutching gleefully a large metal pole, a thought came to him, an idea so incredible that he just had to follow up on it. The feeling was intense, unlike anything he had experienced before. Synapses fired, neurones connected and suddenly everything in the world was as clear as pure as crystalline water. That’s when it struck him.

They never did write anything on his gravestone. What could possibly be said? He’s down there now, deep in the earth; such a shame that he didn’t have that protection before. He conspires together with his father now. I wonder what their next great plan will be. I heard a theory that the afterlife is all just a ruse anyway.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Monday blog: Letting go

Currently reading: Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card
Just finished reading: I have no mouth and I must scream - Harlan Ellison
Writers' Bureau course progress: Assignment 2 in progress
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I hesitate to call myself a perfectionist; the term often sounds trite and casts whomever uses it as a pretentious figure. Instead I would describe myself as someone who seeks a level of quality that will never be obtainable through my own merits.

This may sound like a defeatist attitude but this is what being a so-called perfectionist is about; not being perfect but rather holding yourself to an individually determined but unreasonable standard.Don't get me wrong, I take no issue in having high standards, but it's important to know when and where to apply them. To expect The Divine Comedy from the first draft of the first chapter is to invite ruin.

For me, right now, learning to let go is quite possibly the single most important element of my writing goals. No amount of writing theory, book study or writers' advice will help in this situation; it's simply a case of writing. Writing nonsense, allowing myself to type words which have little to no coherence, letting poor grammar and spelling slip through the tightly woven threads of my net of scrutiny.

Although this approach sounds as if I am purposely writing gibberish, it is not the case. Learning to let go is to accept that mistakes will happen, word selection will be unimaginative and paragraph structure will be non existent. It just will. In fact, it's more than that; it needs to be that way.

The key is to remember that this pile of poorly constructed words is still my best effort. It's a different sort of best effort. It shall be my most skilled and deft attempt at crafting a skeleton, at creating ideas and getting words on (virtual) paper. Later, when the true edits come, that is where a different sort of skill will be required. That is when the critical brain can be released to wreak havoc on the mess of a first draft. That is when, paradoxically, it will be the least hateful because, despite the rough edges, something was achieved and perhaps, just maybe, it wasn't half as bad as I had originally feared.

Last week marked the first day of Random Fridays, an exercise in letting go. I wrote just over 600 words of terrible fiction that I cannot stand to look at. I posted it, as is, immediately after writing and edited nothing outside my writing hour. I hate it and cannot bear to look upon it. I can think of several better ideas I could have implemented using the provided words. But I can also see ways to improve what I have, a way to make better the paragraphs that I cast off as useless rubbish. There is a value in all words, but you need to let the words come before you can ever hope to find that quality within.

This is the lesson of letting go. This is my biggest hurdle.

This is Frisk,
signing off.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Random Fridays: 00

What is this? A blog post outside of the now-usual Monday slot? Worry not, my fine people, for this is merely a new announcement of my latest activity: Random Fridays.

Allow me to explain...

The aim is to write a short story of at least 500 words within 60 minutes. The content is randomly generated using the rules below. Only five minutes maximum is to be spent thinking/planning what should be written.

The point of view, genre and subject matter shall be decided on the roll of a dice or random word generator according to the following template:

P.O.V.
Even number = First person
Odd number = Third person

Genre
1 = Horror
2 = Thriller
3 = Romance
4 = Science Fiction
5 = Fantasy
6 = Comedy

Subject
Randomly select two nouns and an adjective. These should be used to inform the content of the story.

Random Fridays is an activity I shall attempt each and every Friday, (shocking, no?) Each one shall be written within an hour, will have minimal editing and shall be posted as is. They'll probably all be awful but the idea is to stimulate ze little grey (creativity) cells and encourage me to write more and worry less, number 3 on my New Year's Revolutions.

This is Frisk,
signing off.

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POV:       First person
Genre:     Fantasy
Subject:   Regret, teaching & pathetic

The shaft of the staff spun as it fell. The crack resonated across the courtyard followed shortly by the anguished cries of the inevitable pain. Yet another boy fell awkwardly to the ground. He lay writhing on the cobbles only momentarily before the others swiftly pulled him to his feet. They made sure to keep their eyes on me as they hauled the patient away; as if I were some form of monster.

Much to the chagrin of my usual restraint I released a heavy sigh and placed two fingers against my forehead, massaging the wrinkled skin. ‘Next,’ I said. My voice no doubt carried a hint of my weariness but I spoke loudly enough to convey the idea that I was in no way ready to accept such mediocrity.

Another boy stepped forward, his uneven and clumsy gait betraying the hesitance his tensed face was trying desperately to suppress. He stood before me and bowed so low and with so much enthusiasm that for a moment I believed he would knock himself out on the ground before he even had chance to swing. The boy arranged his legs into a configuration I can only assume was his interpretation of a combat stance and readied his own staff.

I held back, as ever I do, and swung with only a fraction of my speed and force. I felt clumsy and unbalanced. This movement was slow and alien to me; I could feel every opening and was made starkly aware of the mistakes I was making. Is this how it was to fight like them? Is this the sensation they experienced right before their failure? I had barely time to process this thought when I found my staff to be cutting through air. I had made but two strokes and rendered my current opponent inert against the stone.

The boy sat up. He clutched his head and groaned. A stream of crimson blood pooled at his fingertips and steadily ran its course down his forehead and cheek. He pulled his hand away shakily to inspect the damage. He paled at the sight of the blood and turned a shade paler than he and his weak-willed companions already were. Then he passed out. The usual few boys returned to retrieve their fallen ally. Their faces darkened with each casualty. The look they gave me was intense; if only they could channel that into their fighting.

I looked over the small crowd that stood before me. Most of them had been defeated so, in fact, very few actually remained standing. They were mere boys, all of them; not a one over the age of fourteen. Perhaps their previous tutor was not so strict on them; perhaps they had not yet learned the disciplines required to fight an armed opponent. What ever the reason for their incompetence, it had left them weak and useless. How was I to work with such a force? How could we ever hope to drive back the armies that hounded our borders with soldiers that looked upon their own with such contempt and fear? This passion should be reserved for our enemies not for me.

And yet this is my role, my purpose, to provide the conflict needed to force their hands. What other option is there? Should we send these poor souls to the fields of battle with nought but desperation and survival on their minds? No, they need more than that; nothing short of a pure fury to triumph will be enough to win this war. If I should pummel them daily, inflict lasting wounds, bore in them such deep seated shame and hatred that one day they land even a single blow against me, then I shall have served my purpose. Perhaps not well, but served it shall be.

‘Again,’ I commanded, beckoning the next child forward as I readied my staff.



Sunday, 12 January 2014

Monday blog: Start something

Let's talk about New Year's resolutions.

Now, you may be wondering why I have allowed this particular subject to remain in a state of non-discussion until approximately the middle of January when it is, by its very nature, an activity for the year's start. Well there's a very good reason for that.

I'm lazy. No, seriously; that's it.

So what exactly is a resolution? Typically to resolve something is to find an answer, to generate a solution. As far as chronology goes the resolution usually comes in at the end, marking the finality of a particular period or problem. So I ask you this: why should we focus on the end when the year is but beginning?

I propose a title far more suited to the season, a moniker for the very ages. I call upon you now, embark with me as we begin our New Year's REVOLUTION!

(I'm almost 32% certain that's never been used as a patronising motivational tag line before.)

Ah, Revolution, the very antithesis of the resolution. It is the beginning of something new, a change in course, a rebellious movement which seeks to overthrow the common establishment and cast out complacency. This is more akin to my true goals. So what of my specific aims?

  1. Write more - Maintain a routine. Write every day without fail. No excuses.
  2. Read more - Read every day. Target of at least one book per month.
  3. Worry less - Focus on writing and forget editing. Re-establish the NaNoWriMo mindset.

In part response to no. 1, Monday is now blog day! Yes, that's right. Every Monday I will compose a new blog post right here. It's just another way of writing regularly and keeping to a schedule. I may feel the need to elaborate on each point in future posts.

The book for this month is Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Although I am enjoying the book so far, please let it be known that I do not personally share the author's somewhat outspoken personal views regarding gay marriage.
 
Albert Einstein once defined insanity as: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I have been trying to adequately achieve each of the goals for the past few years and still the same tired resolutions are made for the following year. Am I then insane? No, instead I shall begin my revolution and I shall meet the resolution when the proper time comes.

This is Frisk, 
signing off.