Tag Archives: Writing

Word.a.Day Writing Exercise #3

I’d read today that one thing to consider is the length of sentences.  One article I read today suggested that “in this day and age, people just aren’t up for long sentences like they used to be. Most readers want quick and easy information packed into short powerful sentences.”  I’m a big fan of long, drawn-out sentences in order to give the reader a sense of the magnitude of the character’s thought.  However, I’ve also been accused of wordiness.  And rightly so.  As a result of this and today’s Word.a.Day word, my challenge was to keep sentences at 16 words or fewer (it was 10, but that’s just crazy-talk and doesn’t match the word of the day as nicely either).  Today’s word is:

semiquaver

PRONUNCIATION: (SEM-ee-kway-vuhr)

MEANING: noun: In music, a note having the time value of one-sixteenth of a whole note.

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Applause.  “Will number 18, Jack Kenley, please make your way to the front?”  Applause.

Aunt Bette stood up from the pew in the 3rd row.  She grasped Jack’s hand in hers, tugging him a little from his seat. Together, they walked unevenly towards the altar—Jack shaking, Aunt Bette gleaming.  He was an unwilling dog being lead on a leash down an unwanted path.

On the altar, Aunt Bette sat to the side, where teachers watched on.  Jack looked at the piano in front of him.  Bigger and newer than his piano at home where he’d practice.  More isolated too.  He sat.  Heart racing.  People staring.  One coughing.  Echo echoing. Alone.

The treble clefs and semiquavers for Music Box Dancer glared at him intensely.  Next, they swirled on the sheet music—a dizzying hurricane of notes.  Jack couldn’t focus.  He gulped.  He thought he might throw up.  How many other kids had vomited in this church, he wondered.  Aunt Bette would be mortified.  The thought of it made the hurricane die down.  He smiled and began playing.

At each bar ending, Jack knew he’d missed the timing.  It was an intricate piece for a 9-year-old; Aunt Bette chose it for its difficulty.   He heard her foot tapping at practice.  “The timing makes it a happy piece.  The complexity makes it a winner.”  It would be her win really, he thought.

He felt Aunt Bette’s brows furrowing, her temperature rising, the misplaced embarrassment gathering in her face.  His back tensed from the glare she surely was giving him.  With each bar that passed, the timing became more off.  The notes became more minor in tone.  The stress fell on the wrong sylLAble.  MuSICboxdancER:  now popping up without an arm, spinning on a broken axis.

Jack played what we he thought must be the last note.  It echoed throughout the crevices of the church, fighting with the previous note for audible attention.  It was a twisted siren call, unfading, uncomfortably long.

He stared at the sheets in front of him.  Nothing.  Soundlessness.  Did he actually play it?  Were all the other kids and parents still behind him?  Was Aunt Bette still sitting in the teacher’s spot?  He felt dizzy.

Clap.  Another clap.  A few more claps.  Staggered, the claps weren’t a group, but many individual claps out of unison.  A firm hand gripped his right shoulder.  His eyes followed the hand up the arm, loose skin hanging from tense tendons.  Aunt Bette scowled down at him, then shot a pursed smile to the MC and the clappers.

Oh no, Jack thought.  He welcomed the coming evening at home with the same dread he’d felt just five minutes before, but doubled.  His heartbeat sped.  His head whorled.   He threw up.  Aunt Bette screamed.  The crowd gasped.  And Jack smiled.


Word.a.Day #2 – An exercise in character development

A new word was sent to my inbox this morning and thanks to a whole lot of sudden inspiration, stories just waiting to be burst from the enclosures of my mind have just streamed out.  I’m sure this pace won’t last, but I’ll make the most of it while it does.

Now the point really started off as using the Word.a.Day as a theme for the story, from which characters can be developed.  Today’s word, however, I thought would be simple enough to base a story around, but it ended up being only a minor player in this segment.  Though it’s a build on characters I introduced in my segment yesterday, I can say without a doubt that there isn’t a lot of plot progression yet.  I’ve always noticed that the set up drives my writing at first rather than the plot.  Having said this, I’m excited to see where the next few sessions of writing exercises take this story.

baksheesh

PRONUNCIATION: (BAK-sheesh)

MEANING: noun: A payment, such as a tip or bribe.

———————————————————————————

“Mr. Devonshire,” a tall man in a well-tailored navy pin-stripe suit and sleekly combed hair, said with confidence, “Please follow me.  Our hostess will show you and your party to the table we’ve arranged for you. I deeply apologize for the wait.”

“I should say so,” Mr. Devonshire retorted firmly but not angrily.

Jack picked up his cranberry martini to take with him.  “Leave it.  They’ll bring you a fresh one at the table,” Mr. Devonshire gestured with one hand aimed down at the coffee table and the other towards the man in the well-tailored suit and sleekly combed hair.  Jack put down the glass.

The four men were led out from the lounge area where they’d been sipping on complimentary cocktails and relaxing on dark brown leather arm-chairs for the past 10 minutes.  Relaxing—more like pretending to relax, Jack thought.  The group made their way past polished round oak tables, some in booth form on one side, made of the same leather as in the lounge.  Men, their companions and business associates ate their steaks and drank their wine in dimmed light while another well-dressed man sat behind a baby grand piano, skilfully playing a jazzy number Jack didn’t recognize.  As they kept walking further and further through the maze of tables, he wondered where he would be spending the next few hours and whether they would be uncomfortable, exciting or relaxed.

“I hope this is to your satisfaction, Mr. Devonshire,” the hostess said politely as she laid the menus on the table.

“Yes, thank you,” he replied with a commanding smile and handed her a non-descript white envelope, which she took in both hands without a thank you.  Odd, thought Jack, but no one else seemed to acknowledge this.  It must have been a tip, he assured himself.

The table was large and round, like the others, on which were settings for four including crystal glassware and polished silverware on serviettes with a classy gold stitching.  A centrepiece of white lilies was surrounded by four candles.  It was situated in the further-most corner from where they’d come in from the lounge.  A long wall with tasteful gothic flower print and a floor-to-ceiling window which overlooked the city cornered the table.  Jack gravitated toward the window and gazed out in awe at the office towers across the street about with random lights shining from their windows, showing life was happening elsewhere too.  He wished he were out there instead of in here.

“It’s a magnificent view, isn’t it?” Mr. Devonshire remarked to Jack.  “It always keeps me coming back.”

Jack smiled and nodded before taking his seat beside him.  The menu in front of him was a booklet bound also in leather, with a frilly swank font, possibly Palace Script, he wondered.  He knew then and there he probably wouldn’t recognize any of the items on it, but testing knowledge of French cuisine wasn’t the point of this meeting, he was sure.

Immediately, the waiter appeared with a fresh martini for Jack, a pint of Keith’s for Eddie, a gin and tonic for Marco and a glass of some unknown fancy red wine that Jack didn’t catch the name of in lounge for Mr. Devonshire.  The waiter introduced himself as Stefan, before describing the evening’s chef specials and pointing to the wine list for suggestions as to what would complement what.  Jack didn’t pay much attention, opting rather to stick with what he knew instead, despite what would complement his entrée of choice.  Maybe he’d stick with the two-drink limit.  That would be enough to calm his nerves, but also not to make an ass of himself.  He wasn’t sure he could say the same about Eddie.

“This menu might as well be all in Greek.  Maybe it is!”  Eddie chuckled, possibly trying to break the ice.  Eddie never seemed to care much about being subtle.

Mr. Devonshire chuckled politely and suggested the prime rib.  The waiter returned, took the order—Eddie did have the prime rib, medium-rare—and left the table.  Jack knew now the real meeting would begin.  His stomach was in his throat with butterflies desperately trying to escape to freedom.  Maybe he’d reconsider that two-drink limit.

“So boys, I’m glad you accepted my invitation this evening,” Mr. Devonshire’s tone reassured Jack. “I’m sure it came as a surprise.  I’ve been impressed with what your company has done, particularly with Push Candy.  You really have done wonders their public image.”

Hearts accelerated.  Eyes widened.  The boys of Freshmind Media sat up in their chairs with anticipation.  “Thank you so much, sir,” Marco managed to get out from the stun.  Jack nervously smiled and agreed.  He prayed Eddie wouldn’t attempt a high-five and thankfully he didn’t.

Mr. Devonshire took a sip of his wine, looked at each intensely, ending with Jack.  “Now you’re going to do that, times a hundred for NewFoods Inc.  This, boys, is your lucky day.”


Word.a.Day – An exercise in character development

On a writing blog that I’ve fairly recently started reading, the writer uses a word sent by Wordsmith.org as inspiration for a short story, which executes a good method for character development (not to mention just getting something down on paper).  I thought, hey, this is a good idea to get my figuratively rusty pen out for use.  Thanks to reading a lot of Margaret Atwood’s “speculative fiction”, I’ve been highly inspired to try my hand at that genre, so out came a segment to a story, which I plan to build on in word-of-the-day spurts.  Today’s word:

laager

PRONUNCIATION: (LAH-guhr)

MEANING: noun: 1. A camp, especially one protected by a circle of wagons or armored vehicles.

—————————————-

There was a time, Jack thought, that his weekends hadn’t involved being picked up in the company limo—no matter how plush the leather seats were nor how satisfying the array of cured meats on silver trimmed plates tasted—with his business partners lounging around him shooting the shit about nothing in particular.  Jack turned his head towards the darkened window on his left and stared at it as if looking through at a vast country-side landscape blurring by.

“Whatcha looking at Jacky?  I don’t see anything but grey glass.”  Eddie always had an uncanny sense for stating the obvious.

“Oh nothing.  Just a bit tired, I guess.”  Jack turned back to the window, or maybe wall really was the closer term.

As on every Saturday, they were on their way to the company compound located outside the city, but exactly where he wasn’t sure.  The limo always arrived at Jack’s condo at 6:00AM, where the driver, dressed in head-to-toe black uniform, vaguely militaristic in style, with a laminated badge labelled SECURITY in big blue letters pinned to the right breast pocket of his jacket, had the standard plastic baggie open to collect restricted items before the trip began.  Jack spread his arms and showed empty hands.  After two trips, Jack had decided just to leave his iPhone at home.

As he gazed into the greyness, traveling companions’ chatter becoming white noise, he saw a 9-year-old him sitting on the padded grey seat in the middle of a yellow school bus.  He was headed to BARCS—Boys Area Recreational Camp for Summer, a provincially run program for boys aged 8 to 10.  Although his mom didn’t think so, Jack knew that this summer camp was her attempt at acclimatizing him to the company of “normal” boys his age.  Others were laughing at crude jokes and throwing wadded up bits of paper at each other, and the kid next to him was turned to face his friend across the aisle.  Jack continued looking out the bus window, wishing he were back in bedroom making up adventures and mishaps for his toy figurines.

The bus slowed down, passed through the camp gates and came to a full stop, releasing a tsssssssst.  Teenage counsellors dressed in white polos and khaki shorts walked towards the doors with clipboards while the boys were herded out and put into groups prearranged groups—Jack never figured out the logic of this grouping system, it wasn’t by age as older and younger boys were together—and told to stand behind their selected counsellor.  Jack’s was Todd, as was written on the badge hanging around his neck on red strap.

“Ok boys,” an older woman’s voice echoed out from a megaphone.  “Follow your counsellors to your cabins and get settled.  We’ll meet in the pavilion at noon for lunch and BARCS welcome ceremony.  Bring your appetites!  We’re having hotdogs!”

Many boys cheered, but Jack did not.  The woman’s voice sounded very friendly, but he knew it wouldn’t remain so upbeat.  And he was eventually right.

The limo started making a slow turn and then came to a stop.  “Looks like we’re here,” Eddie said with pride.  Jack fazed back into the present, sending a perfunctory smile Eddie’s way.

The side door opened and the bright April sunlight shot in.  From it came the image of Mr. Devonshire, the team leader employed by the company.

“Welcome boys!  Hope the ride was good.  You know Jim,” he gestured toward the driver with the SECURITY badge.  “He’ll show you to your rooms.  You’ll be staying in the east wing this time.  Have a drink and take a load off, whatever you want for the next hour and we’ll meet you in the Rosemary board room at noon.  No need to bring anything but yourselves with you.  We’ve got your project notes and summaries waiting for you in the boardroom.”

Mr. Devonshire shook each hand with his usually firm but friendly grip, smiled and stretched out his arm pointing towards the entrance of the east wing of the compound.


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