Wish

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“Danny doesn’t like blue,” Cara said, tugging on Amanda’s hand.

“But it’s not all blue,” Amanda said, holding the sheet set down for her daughter’s appraisal. “See, there are white clouds and yellow stars.”

“But the sky is blue.”

“Of course the sky is blue,” Amanda said.

“Blue gives Danny nightmares and when he has nightmares, he wakes me up,” Cara said.

Amanda sighed, replacing the sheets once more among its brethren and strode along the aisle, Cara in tow.

“And that’s why you tore your sheets?” Amanda asked.

Screaming had woke them in the early morning hours. They found Cara’s room a complete mess, cotton ribbons strewn about, the mattress and pillows bare while Cara sat in the middle of the floor, shivering and wide-eyed.

“Danny did it.”

“You’re too old to have an imaginary friend. Just tell me what’s bothering you,” Amanda said.

She halted and crouched to her daughter’s level. Large brown eyes stared at her, slightly puzzled and a little hurt.

“Why don’t you believe me, Mama?”

“Because nothing is invisible, baby.”

“The air, chameleons and the Klingons’ Birds of Prey are invisible,” Cara said.

Amanda blinked and burst into laughter. Drawing Cara into her arms, she kissed her daughter’s head, still chuckling.

“Got me there, and you are spending way too much time watching movies with Daddy,” Amanda said.

“These!”

Cara wiggled out Amanda’s embrace and dashed several feet down the aisle. She spun, facing Amanda, a set of sheets clutched to her chest. Amanda unfolded and joined her daughter. Taking the set from Cara, Amanda studied the field of vivid yellow covered with a pattern in neon pink and orange paisley swirls and purple peace signs.

“Really?”

“Yep, they’re perfect. Danny loves them,” Cara said.

“These would give me nightmares.”

Grasping Cara’s hand, Amanda began the trek to the check out lines, weaving through the labyrinth of aisles. Cara chattered happily, though Amanda couldn’t understand what her daughter said. Each time she halted and asked Cara about it, her daughter only scowled as if Amanda was wasting her time and said:

“I wasn’t talking to you, Mama.”

“Those sure are bright, huh?” The cashier grinned as Amanda handed the sheets to her.

“She inherited her father’s lack of taste,” Amanda said. “He has a pea green suit I’ve buried in the depths of the closet.”

The cashier chuckled and rang the set up. Amanda paid for the sheets, tucked the purchase into her shopping bag and grabbed Cara’s hand.

“Have a nice day,” the cashier said.

“Thanks, I hope so. You too,” Amanda said, walking away.

Amanda slowed her pace as they exited the store, her heart lodging in her throat. On the sidewalk bordering the parking lot, a clown capered, a bouquet of balloons in her hand. Amanda swallowed, her hand squeezing Cara’s.

“A clown!” Cara bounced, pointing. “Can we get a balloon?”

“I don’t know.” Amanda eyed the cavorting creature garbed in silk motley. Unease coiled in her belly. “Why don’t we just go home and I’ll make us some lunch?”

Cara pouted and tugged on Amanda’s hand, refusing to move. They stood halfway between the store’s entrance and the cluster of cars in the parking lot. Amanda spied her car twenty feet beyond the clown. She sighed, giving in to the inevitable.

“Hello,” the clown said.

Amanda cringed, staring at the impossibly wide painted mouth.

“Can we have some balloons?” Cara asked.

“Sure can,” the clown said.

She picked out three strings from the others gathered in her hand, giving one to Amanda. Crouching, the clown grinned and gave the other two to Cara.

“You’re very lucky. This one here is my fiftieth,” the clown said, tugging on the string of the red balloon. It danced above Cara’s head. “And it’s special.”

“It is? How?”

“If you pop it after saying a wish aloud, your wish will come true,” the clown said, her gaze flickering to the empty air to Cara’s right.

“Wow,” Cara said, eyes wide.

“Thank you,” Amanda said, pulling Cara away.

“Thanks, clown lady.” Cara tried waving with the hand holding the balloons, they jostled and bobbed, rubbing together.

“You’re very welcome.”

Amanda’s hand delved into her coat pocket, searching for the keys as they neared the car.

“Mama?”

“What?”

“Can I borrow your pin?”

“Hmm?” Amanda frowned, withdrawing her keys. “What for?”

“I want to make a wish,” Cara said.

It would be one less balloon in the car on the ride home. She handed Cara her balloon, slid the keys back into her pocket and began to remove the decorative pin on her lapel. As she worked the clasp, Amanda glanced at the balloons Cara held. Three shiny balloons, not two.

“Why did she give us three?”

“One for you, one for Danny and the special one for me,” Cara said, passing the other balloons to Amanda.

“Don’t be silly. Danny doesn’t exist.”

Cara glowered at Amanda. She wound the string around her hand, lowering it.

“I wish Mama could see Danny,” Cara said, jabbing the pin into the balloon.

The thin flesh popped, resounding across the parking lot. Amanda gasped.

A white furry creature towered over her. Tiny, leathery wings sprouted from its back. Amanda’s gaze traveled up the torso, and she found herself staring into a pair of large, black eyes. Cat ears flattened as its pink nose twitched nervously.

“This is Danny.”

Danny grinned, the smile nearly consuming the lower half of his face. Sunlight glinted on dagger-like teeth.

Amanda screamed, her hands fluttering to her mouth.

Free of her hold, the balloons drifted to the sky. Two specks of color soon lost among the blue.

 

This is Dreaming Blithely’s 50th post! Thank you all and I hope you enjoyed the story. 🙂

 

 

 

The Trouble with Technology

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I have spotty internet but for the most part, it’s usually reliable. For last two weeks, my computer has not wanted to connect to the internet or maybe the internet didn’t want to connect to my computer. I’m not really sure, however the war has ended and they are now on talking terms which makes me happy.

I just wanted you all to know that I’m doing my best to get caught up on the blogs I follow. It may take a couple of days.

Also, fiction won the most votes so the next post will be a short story. Thank you all for participating and helping me out. 🙂 I really appreciate it.

Fiftieth Post Looming! Help!

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Dreaming Blithely

Okay, I like celebrating milestones. And I’m nearing my 50th post here, which is pretty exciting in my opinion. So, in preparation for the event, I thought it would be kind of fun to gather the opinions of all of you. What would you like to see to commemorate the occasion?

Categories

Non-fiction Folklore/Fairytales: This would be a post about creatures of folklore, perhaps about one that might be little known or a post on fairytales their impact on fiction, not only my own work but the work of others.

Book Review: I freaking LOVE books. I could talk about books for a very long, long time, lol.

Fiction/Short Story: I’ll write one that incorporates the number 50 in some way. That might be fun. 🙂

Movies: As those of you who have endured my horror movies posts back in October know, I love movies. I could do one on favorite genre movies. Fantasy, science fiction and action.

Non-fiction Writing/Genres: A post about genres in fiction, my favorite stories, writing influences and all that jazz.

Whichever topic is chosen, I promise to try to make it interesting. 🙂 And thank you all! I really appreciate the thoughtful comments you have made and interacting with you here.

Love Stories Part 3: Sayuri, Nobu and the Chairman

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Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautifully written novel by Arthur Golden which was made into a visually stunning movie directed by Rob Marshall. I enjoyed both versions immensely.

Chiyo and her sister, Satsu, are sold by their father as it becomes apparent that their mother’s health is rapidly deteriorating. He is not a young man, either, and while this might seem to be a callous thing to do, I believe he hoped to give them a better life. However, it doesn’t work out for Satsu as well as it does for Chiyo. The sisters are split, Satsu fated for a brothel and Chiyo handed over to Mother, head of the Nitta okiya.

It’s not an easy life for Chiyo. She agrees to become an apprentice geisha, attending school with her friend, Pumpkin. From the first moment they met, Hatsumomo dislikes Chiyo, perhaps sensing the girl as a future rival. As the leading geisha, making the most money, Hatsumomo is in a position of power and she makes it her mission to make life hell for Chiyo, especially after Chiyo catches Hatsumomo in a clandestine affair with someone beneath the geisha’s status. Chiyo confesses to Mother about discovering the affair and Hatsumomo is forbidden from seeing Koichi, her lover, ever again. Unable to endure Hatsumomo’s cruelty, Chiyo plans to runaway with Satsu. However, the night she was to meet Satsu, Chiyo falls from the roof of the okiya in her attempt to escape, incurring Mother’s anger and even more debt that must be worked off. Chiyo is also no longer allowed to be trained as a geisha.

Years pass. Chiyo’s life is one of a servant, she runs errands and does chores while Pumpkin continues her education. One day, Chiyo meets a business man, known as the Chairman, who cheers her up by purchasing shaved ice and gives her a handkerchief with money in it. From that moment on, Chiyo vows to become a geisha in order to be in the Chairman’s life. Filled with purpose, Chiyo donates the money to a shrine and prays. She keeps the handkerchief as a memento.

Not long after, in what seems to be an act of fate, Chiyo becomes an apprentice to the popular geisha, Mameha, and her training begins once more. With the transition of becoming a geisha, Chiyo is given the name Sayuri, and she is introduced into geisha society and customers. Her heart soars when, after so many years, she once more meets the Chairman. Sayuri feels that finally she will be with the man she loves. As Sayuri starts making her rounds to teahouses and accompanying Mameha to events, she catches the eye of several men, one being the Chairman’s friend, Nobu.

In order not to spoil this novel for those of you who haven’t read it, I won’t venture into detail but I do want to say that as the novel progresses, a triangle between Nobu, Sayuri and the Chairman forms, one that really tore at my heart. I rooted for one, wanting Sayuri to find the happiness that she deserved but there came a part, near the end where I was sure she was making the wrong choice. I was so involved that I yelled at the book and tossed it onto my nightstand where I glared at it for several minutes before picking it and continued reading. I will also state that I was very happy with the end.

Memoirs of a Geisha is a beautiful novel, feeling like a fairytale and a true memoir. Arthur Golden created a truly captivating story, one not easy to put down and I highly recommend reading it if you haven’t done so already.

This concludes my Love Stories series, I hope you all have enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and sharing my favorite fictional love stories with you. 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.

Love Stories Part 2: Severus and Lily

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Okay, I’m a bit of a Potterhead.  I own and I have read the whole series several times, I have the movies and there was the one time that I crocheted a Gryffindor scarf. There has been a little bit of an uproar lately about the romance between Ron and Hermione after J.K. Rowling admitted that she regrets the characters becoming a couple. But I’m not going to discuss that romance, although it is one that divides the fans of the series. I’m going to talk about the relationship of Severus Snape and Lily Potter.

It’s there, hidden beneath the plots and subplots of the series, behind everything Snape does. He has an almost tangible dislike for Harry since the very first moment they meet. Harry looks very much like his father, Snape’s childhood nemesis and tormentor, but as is so often said he has his mother’s eyes. And, as it’s discovered in the final book of the series, Snape was very much in love with Lily, although a friendship between the two is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

The story of the relationship unfolds in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, after Harry finds Snape dying. He collects his memories in a flask and gives them to Harry. In chapter 33, Harry discovers by way of the pensieve used to view Snape’s memories everything Severus has done, from the first meeting between Lily Evans (Potter) and Severus Snape to the moment he departs to aid Harry, Hermione and Ron. And what is told in that chapter really blew my mind when I first read it, gone was the villain that had been painted and a silent hero emerged. I cried.

On Pinterest, I have come across pins centered on this love story. Here’s a couple.

Taken from my Happy Geekery board

 

This is one of my favorite love stories despite the fact that it is an unhappy one. Even after all the years, Severus loved only Lily Potter and as any Potter fan worth their salt can attest, his patronus is a remembrance of her.

 

 

 

 

Love Stories Part 1: Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy

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When I think of love stories, Jane Austen comes to mind. Her novels have given me hours of joy where I am lost in Regency England among the lives and romance of her characters. I have laughed, growled in frustration at misunderstandings between characters and have cried with delight when arriving at the end…and then mourn that the story is over. I set the novel aside with a great sigh befitting a lovelorn heroine and return again when once more it calls to me, luring me into a  jaunt to the past…

Pride and Prejudice (1813)

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of  a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

And so opens a novel about morals, relationships, family, love and society. It centers around Elizabeth Bennet, the second daughter of five blessed to the Bennet family. Elizabeth is my favorite character in I think all of Jane Austen’s novels. She is independent, clever, slightly sarcastic and cares deeply about her family. Instead of being insulted by Mr. Darcy’s disdainful dismissal of her as a dance partner, Elizabeth laughs at his snobbery. It isn’t an auspicious meeting between the two, neither impressed with the other but I think it would have been a different sort of story altogether if there had been fireworks and eyes meeting across a crowded room. What’s a good love story without some conflict?

After Jane became ill and is forced to stay at the neighboring Netherfield, Elizabeth walks the distance to nurse her sister. She arrives with her hem and shoes covered in thick mud, without a care about her appearance. And to Mr. Darcy, her willingness to travel by foot the miles between Netherfield and her home shows only Elizabeth’s best qualities.

I don’t want to spoil the novel for those of you who haven’t read it, so I’ll forgo delving into details but the developing relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy is one that is battered against obstacle after obstacle. There are family obligations and drama (on both sides) which crop up, misunderstandings, societal class and lies all conspire against the spark of romance between the two. It isn’t until the end that issues are resolved and feelings realized.

I highly recommend reading this novel, especially if you are a fan of historical fiction or history in general. Published in 1813, Pride and Prejudice displays the social norms and rituals, culture and expectations of Regency England. Plus there are several very good movies based on the novel. My favorite screen adaptation is the BBC movie starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. The one referred to in Bridget Jones’ Diary. Interestingly, Helen Fielding has said that Bridget’s story is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

And just for fun, I’ve decided to end this post with a clip from one of my favorite television series (Red Dwarf) that touches on the likely lasting impact of Pride and Prejudice. It’s also really funny. Enjoy. :)

The Old Witch

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“I hate living like this!” Disgusted, Jaspa tossed the can of tomatoes to the floor, spilling the contents.

“Starve then,” Jaspa’s mother said, trying to salvage the tomatoes.

“Can’t afford to be picky,” her father said, digging into a can of beans.

“Why can’t we settle somewhere? I miss having hot meals.”

“And become Scavenger bait? No thank you, I’m attached to my skin,” her father said.

“The light and smoke of a fire draws attention.”

“I want chocolate and a decent bed.” Jaspa pouted, crossing her arms over her chest.

Her parents exchanged exasperated glances.

“The Old Witch would know how to conjure chocolate and I bet she has a bed soft enough to ease her bones,” Jaspa said.

Worried glances passed between her parents.

“She’s all safe in her apartment building. No one dares to bother her,” Jaspa said.

“For good reason,” her father said.

“Her magic is the dark sort,” her mother said.

“I’m going to see her,” Jaspa said, standing.

“No you are not!” Her mother stood, putting her hands on her hips and staining her grimy shirt with tomato juice.

“She’ll take me as an apprentice,” Jaspa said.

“She’ll bake you into a pie,” her father said.

Jaspa snatched her backpack from the concrete and slipped her arms through the straps. She grinned at her parents, sure of her quest.

“If you leave you are no child of ours,” her mother said.

“I thought our common sense would have been inherited,” her father said, shaking his head.

“Fine,” Jaspa said, chin lifting as her eyes stung. “When I am an all powerful witch and you two are dying of starvation I’m not going to help you.”

“It’s been nice knowing you,” her father said. “I wish it was for longer.”

“Wait and see,” Jaspa said and stormed out of their hiding place behind the dumpsters.

Gritting her teeth, she was determined not to turn back as she reached the mouth of the darkened alley. Sunset colored the sky in fiery shades, causing the ruined city to become a silhouette of black spires. Fear snaked through Jaspa, her steps tentative. She had never been on her own. Inhaling, Jaspa bolstered her courage and strode onto the debris littered street.

She stuck to the sidewalk, staying close to the safety of the buildings. Her body was tense, waiting for the slightest sign of one of the bands of Scavengers that plagued the ruins. They’d kill her in a heartbeat, scouring her belongings for anything useful and leave her corpse to rot with the detritus abandoned by humanity. Jaspa’s gaze flickered constantly, trying to probe the shadows of alleys and doorways for movement.

The distant sounds of gunshots sent her skittering into an unlocked corner store. She ducked below the window display, her heart hammering against her ribs. Voices echoed, the words mangled as they resounded through the streets. Jaspa raised herself and peered out, her pulse roaring in her ears.

A band of people spilled into the crosswalk, semi-automatics slung across their backs and pistols in their hands. Jaspa slid down, her breath coming in gasps.  She stared at the shadowy interior, praying they would move along without investigating the store. More shots caused her jump, the loud reports too close for comfort. She slithered across the floor, her pack jiggling on her back.

Once in the safety of the shadows, Jaspa crouched and began weaving through the aisles. There had to be a back door, and those words looped in her head. It was a mantra to keep her focused, to keep the panic at bay. She almost cried out in relief, spying the exit sign over a blue metal door set into the wall. Rushing to it, she pushed, finding it unlocked.

Jaspa stumbled into the alley. Turning, she raced to the end of the alley and bolted across the street, not stopping until she reached the Old Witch’s abode.

Stars pinned the twilit sky, and the late spring breeze cooled Jaspa’s cheeks as she bounded up the steps and opened the door.

Candlelight illuminated the cavernous lobby with a soft golden glow. Closing the door stirred the air, causing shadows to leap and dance upon the wall. Jaspa shivered, her stomach knotting. Gathering her courage, Jaspa stalked to the stairwell and began her ascent.

                                                                                           

The Old Witch’s suite reeked of smoke and something sickly-sweet. Jaspa trembled, her muscles rubbery. Glass French doors separated the living room from the bedroom and as Jaspa approached, the hair on the nape of her neck rose. Through the rippled glass, she spied a creature of fire and bones. Hands shaking, she turned the doorknobs and entered the room. She had come too far to turn back.

Before her sat an old woman, skin papery and time worn. A gentle smile played upon the witch’s lips while kind blue eyes regarded Jaspa with surprise.

“Hello, dear.”

Jaspa inched closer, shivering with fear and cold. The paltry fire in the hearth flickered as a draft toyed with it.

“Goodness, child, why are you quaking so?”

“I have seen…things on my way here,” Jaspa said, her voice wavering. “A man covered in black dust.”

“Only the charcoal man,” the Old Witch said, gesturing at the fire.

“And a man clothed in gray fur,” Jaspa said. She drew closer to the crone, relief chasing away the terror.

“That is the huntsman. He’s kind enough to supply me with meat.”

“Then there was a man covered in blood,” Jaspa said, quivering at the remembrance.

“My butcher,” the witch said.

“I spotted a fiery creature sitting here before I came in.”

“You’ve seen my true form, dear.” The Old Witch grinned. With a flourish of her hand, the witch transformed Jaspa into a block of wood and tossed it onto the fire.

As the flames cavorted, hungrily feasting upon the wood, the Old Witch chuckled.

“Finally, I will be warm.”

 

NOTE: This story is for a flash fiction challenge found on Chuck Wendig’s blog, terribleminds. It is a retelling of Grimm’s fairytale “The Old Witch” set in a dystopian world.  

 

 

 

Bittersweet Dreams – Eco-Horror

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I’d like to announce that my short story “Bittersweet Dreams” can be found in the eco-horror anthology Growing Concerns published by Chupa Cabra House and edited by Alex Hurst. It will be available to purchase January 15th.

As I stated above, the theme of this anthology is eco-horror, with a focus on plants. I had several ideas but in the end, one spoke louder than the others. My MC was very vocal, she talked me through her story and I wrote it in a day. Very rarely does that happen to me and when it does, it is bliss. Anyway, the idea was unlike the others I had because it didn’t involve an active malicious plant. It wasn’t a poisoned dryad or the tell-tale pumpkin plants I had been working on but it was about a 17-year-old girl babysitting her cousins and getting lost in the woods. She mistakenly ingests berries that she, at first thinks belongs to American highbush, a fruit that tastes a bit like cranberries from what I have read and are harmless. What she actually eats is a great big handful of bittersweet nightshade.

American Highbush Cranberry or viburnum trilobum
American Highbush Cranberry or viburnum trilobum

Research here was tricky. I found only two recorded instances of bittersweet nightshade poisoning, both were children and were fine since they had a small amount. Bittersweet nightshade gets its name from the fact that the berries are very bitter and children won’t eat anymore of the berries after that first taste. Side effects varied and were never really confirmed, ranging from an upset tummy to death. And there was a lot of debate on the subject of bittersweet’s toxicity. Some claimed that it was extremely toxic, and everything on the plant was dangerous to encounter while others were singing the praises of the plant’s medicinal abilities. So it was hard to pinpoint exactly what would happen to my MC, Claire. And in the end, I did the writer thing and used creative license, drawing on the darker aspects of the plant.

Bittersweet nightshade or solanum dulcamara, it’s an invasive species here in my neck of the woods. And often found along roadsides and ditches, not to mention our garden and at the base of our willow in the back yard. I remember when we first moved to our house and we planted a row of ornamental corn. In the autumn, my sister and I were admiring the corn, the pretty shades of brown and russet when we spied a vine of pretty purple flowers, star-shaped and with bright yellow centers. We contemplated picking them and putting them in a vase but a part of me spoke up and I said that I was uncomfortable picking something I didn’t recognize. I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be bittersweet nightshade.

Nightshade Trivia

  • The members of the nightshade family include tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and peppers among others.
  • The stems of the bittersweet nightshade has been approved by the German Commission E for the external use of chronic eczema. I’m still not touching the plant, though.
  • Members of the family of solanaceae or nightshade can be found on every continent but Antarctica.

Bittersweet Nightshade Side Effects

  • Gastrointestinitis
  • Dermatitis
  • Phyto-photosensitivity
  • Asthenia
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Fever
  • Hallucinations
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Vision changes
  • Abdominal pain
  • Respiratory depression
  • Death

As you can see there are many to chose from, but most people were pretty adamant that death is the least likely to happen because of the taste of the berries being so unappealing and the most one could expect was diarrhea and vomiting. One person put it colorfully like this: “It’ll clean you out at both ends.”

So that’s it, the research behind the tale. And I think the best way to end this post is with the awesome book trailer provided by Alex Hurst to whet your appetite. I know I’m very excited to read the stories in this anthology and feel very proud to be among the authors. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Bad Fiction: Breaking Rules

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I found out that my story “A Wolf in Gentleman’s Clothing” has won me a runner up prize in Zizek Press’s Bad Fiction Competition. Some of you may remember back in October that I reblogged my entry, and I apologize to all those who read it. For those of you with morbid curiosity, you can find the story here.

zizekpress

Along with the other two entrants. Grandpa in a Box, the winning story was brilliantly awful and deserved in to win in my opinion.

Writing bad fiction is hard…but fun, at least the first draft was fun. I had a blast giving life to Sophia and her family because I felt that I could be as outrageous as I wanted to be. The story didn’t have to make sense, I could ignore all the rules of good writing I wanted to, and just let the idea flow. I didn’t have to worry about making the story better so the experience was freeing. However, then came time for revising. Yes, revising because it turned out that my story wasn’t crappy enough and that’s when things got hard. And painful.

Adverbs

Among writers there are bound to be some that think adverbs are horrible things that need to be eliminated from writing. And there are others who think that adverbs are useful creatures and writing without their help would be lackluster. But I think that many would agree that too many adverbs in writing is never a good idea.

So I abused the hell out adverb usage. I jammed them in every sentence, added them at the end of every “said” and in a couple of cases, I used them redundantly.

Repetition

Some writing advice I have found to be helpful is that a writer shouldn’t rehash what has already happened in a previous chapter or paragraph. Readers are smart, they can follow a storyline without a constant reminder of what had happened. When I first started writing again after a very long break, my stories were full of repetition. I wanted to hammer home the point…by repeating it as often as I could.

I returned to that practice writing my bad story. I repeated many things several times, mostly in dialogue.

And finally.

Redundancy

I have a habit of being a little redundant when I write. I will write a sentence and turn around and write the same sentence but with different words. And when I wrote “A Wolf in Gentleman’s Clothing” I consciously used that bad habit to my advantage.

 

These were the rules I had broken when I wrote my entry for Bad Fiction and I thought it would be fun…okay interesting, maybe, to share which rules I  had decided to break. The writing of “A Wolf in Gentleman’s Clothing” was a great exercise in the difference between “bad” writing and “good” writing, and made me aware of how much I have grown as a writer.