Monday #FlashFiction: The Suitcase

 

 

*Note: This was taken from a prompt suggested on the DIY MFA website. To retrieve a prompt to ignite a story or poem in your mind click here

Here are what I had to work with:

Character: Night-shift nurse

Situation: Must face his or her worst fear

Prop: Suitcase

 

It was a quiet night as she walked the halls. Most of the patients slept as she carefully checked their monitors and IVs. In one room she paused to study the milky rays as they filtered through the thin curtains covering the wide archaic window. From the 16th floor of the aging building overlooking the city-that-never-sleeps, she could barely hear the sounds of the street life below.

She used to find comfort in these quiet moments but that was before the Suitcase Killer which she barely survived some ten years ago. Her body shuttered as the image of a hand reaching out of the suitcase she’d packed earlier in the day for her red-eye flight home. Other than that, she remembered nothing of the three-day ordeal with the sadistic monster (which her psychologist have labeled “Dissociative Amnesia ” ) but it left her infertile and with a mountain of medical bills.

Over the two-year span, there would be twelve victims before he was caught, tried in court and sentenced to death by lethal injection. The state invited her to witness his demise, but she didn’t attend. She couldn’t bring herself to look at his face again in fear of triggering the traumatic memories. Memories she just as soon forget, forever.

The execution took place two years earlier. With him gone from the earth, she’d thought she’d moved on with her life until she turned to check on the comatose patient.

Setting on top of a chair nearby was a suitcase.

Her breathing hitched and held.

It looked strangely familiar. No, it couldn’t be.

Can’t be.

She had it destroyed in an incinerator immediately after she was discharged from the hospital.

Her head began to spin as the darkness encased her.

Breathe. Don’t forget to breathe as she forced the air to move in and out of her burning lungs.

Her eyes fixated at its brown leather body until they zeroed on a flaw. The same flaw her suitcase possessed. A circular shaped white patch on the upper right corner. They said hers was damaged during the manufacturing process, and because of this, she got a steal of a deal on it.

What were the chances of finding another with the same damage?

Next to nothing?

She wanted to tear her eyes from the bag, but couldn’t. Her feet was rooted to the spot. Her skin felt frozen and yet she was sweating under the white uniform.

Pain radiated through her chest as she tried to slow her hysterical panting, but failing miserably.

The deafening roar in her head blurred  everything around her until the suitcase was all she saw.

Oh god, oh god.

Horrific images pricked somewhere from the deep recess of her mind as they threatened to explode into her conscious.

No, no!

“Nancy?”

The voice sounded so far away at first she’d thought she was imagining it. Then it repeated her name.

Blinking several times to clear the fog that seemed to have enveloped everything, a woman’s form came in view.

“Are you okay?” She was asking, in her hands a tray of carefully measured meds.

Nancy slowly shook her head and returned her attention to the object on the chair, and had to close her eyes for a moment before looking again.

The chair was empty. Void of luggage of any kind.

“Nancy, you’re scaring me,” the younger woman’s voice rose to a higher pitch.

Nancy forced herself to meet the woman’s wide-eyed expression with an unquivering smile, “No worries, Beatrice, he’s not here anymore,” and walked away.

 

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#Writerslife: Honor Your Reality

 

*If you’re interested in joining the DIY MFA Book Club to take part in the writing prompts, click here

 

I’m in the “honor your reality” period at the moment with my husband’s on government furlough.   Since I am a stay-at-home mom with a disability, I usually spend my mornings writing/blogging/reading; however, with hubby home since December 22nd 2018, my writing schedule has been erratic at best.  It’s been very difficult to set up any kind of routine or get into the “zone” with him underfoot (it’s like having another child in the house as he craves my constant attention) or he needs to be on the computer several hours each day monitoring the news for federal employees/juggling financial issues/etc. which take precedent over writing at any given time.

Now that we’re approaching 40 days into the government shutdown, stress is starting to mount in the household which adds additional distraction for me as I’m watching our small savings quickly dwindles.

*Sigh*

While I have been unable to continue working on the few manuscripts I began late last year, I’ve been utilizing the notebook and quick bursts of microfiction (posting them to my blog) to keep me from becoming completely frustrated with hubby and the current circumstances we’re in.

So, I’m taking a deep breath as I recognize the reality for what it is and accept it while knowing that this won’t last forever and that I will be back to my regular writing schedule (soon I hope!).

 

The Birth Of a Writer: My Origin Story

 

*If you’re interested in joining the DIY MFA Book Club to take part in the weekly writing prompts, click here

 

My journey to becoming a writer began when I was about eleven years old. I was a girl, a loner, struggling with being an outsider due to my hearing disability and difficulties with  communication (I spoke funny and didn’t always hear what people said even though I wore hearing aids).  As a result, I spent a lot of time in imaginary worlds and with my imaginary friends. At times, however, this proved dangerous.

An example: A year or so earlier, I was in my basement where I had set up a line of chairs. I was pretending to be Wonder Woman, and wanted to see how far I could jump (or how many chairs I could clear). My imaginary friends kept edging me on, “More! More! Make it longer!” Of course, I didn’t want to look like a poor sport, I added a kiddie rocking chair at the end, and proceeded to jump.

Well, I didn’t make it. In fact, that rocking chair was my undoing as I landed on top of it, straddling it.

I think you get the idea.

I ended up in the ER that evening, and for the next two or three weeks, using the bathroom and stairs were challenging (not to mention, painful!) at best.

Let’s move forward to when I was about eleven years old. My best friend, Melanie (a feisty red-head who didn’t mind my weird lisp and pronunciations) challenged me and a few other classmates to see who could write the “scariest” story. So, I sat down and wrote about a girl who accepted a dare to enter a haunted house where she’d discovered a decapitated head in the fridge. I no longer remember if that girl managed to get out of the house so I’ll just leave it to my imagination. Anyway, what I can clearly remember was how they all reacted when they read my story.  One was totally grossed out by the details, others either squealed or shuttered. I’d loved every reaction.

I then realized that with writing, I could “act” out my imagination without harming myself (or anyone else!). But most of all, after writing that story I felt like I had found something I could be good at. Writing was something I could excel in and not be looked down on as “odd” or as the girl “who spoke funny.”

Writing also gave me that guilty pleasure of making people squirm.

 

Writing: Favorite Story Type

Gabriela covers the story types in chapter eleven in her DIY MFA Book. Just click on the image for the book.

In this prompt: “Are you like me and a sucker for underdog stories? Do you love that classic boy-meets-girl Rom-Com formula? Are you crazy for epic quests about heroes saving the world? For today’s prompt, tell us which story type you love and why.”

Oh, this one is so tough as I enjoy all of them!  My writing background, so far, has been horror short stories (where many times the protagonist does NOT survive or win in the end), dark poetry, and dark fantasy stories (these would include the epic quest types).  Now that I’m thinking of it, for some reason, I’ve yet to complete a fantasy story.  Well, I do know the reason.  The stories tend to grow too big, too complicated, and overwhelm me to the point that I stop writing them.  These have all been written in the serial-format.  I’ve come to a realization that perhaps serial fiction may not be for me.  Not at this time anyway.

The only romance story I’ve written is a screenplay (“Storms of the Heart”) which I will be converting to a book this year.  This one has comedic scenes throughout, but probably not enough to be truly called a “rom-com.”   There are dramatic parts, and suspense too.  The heroine has both internal and external conflicts to wrestle with.  It’s a love story, and it’s a survival story.  It’s a story that keeps pestering me since it’s birth back in 2008.  It’s a story that will deal with PTSD.  And losses.

It’s the type of story that has won my heart.  And it is the one I will write in the coming months ahead.

So, to answer the prompt question above.  The type of story I love most is the survivalist kind, the underdog where the conflict/antagonist that the protagonist has to face is so much stronger than she is, but she’s determined to survive.  And this particular story also has a love story intertwined which makes it all the more endearing since I love watching something bloom between two people in-spite of all the roadblocks standing in their way.

Why this type?  Probably because I consider myself a survivor.  I’ve been an underdog all my life.  And I’m still fighting, and I suppose I always will, but that’s fine.  I don’t think I would have it any other way.  🙂

 

Writing: Favorite Supporting Character Archetype

Curious about DIY MFA? Click on the image for  more information about it!

In Gabriela Pereira’s book, DIY MFA Book, she talks about the protagonist and the supporting characters.  She believes “that every story has one (and only one) protagonist. This means that the job of every other character is to support that main character’s development.”  In this book, she talks about “the five main types of supporting characters—Villain, Love Interest, BFF/Sidekick, Mentor, and Fool—and the functions they serve in the story.” 

She goes on in detail describing the various functions of each type in chapter eight of her book (click here if you’d like to buy it); in the DIY MFA Virtual Book Club, Gabriela asked ” what’s your favorite supporting character archetype and why?”

Gabriela is big on archetypes.  She’d even developed a quiz to take to determine which protagonist archetype you most identified with just by determining your “storytelling superpower,” and I got Protector.

“Your favorite characters see their world in danger and will do whatever it takes to protect it and those they love in it.”

When I look at the word Protector, one of the first images to come to mind is of Merlin and Arthur in the BBC popular TV series, Merlin.  Unbeknownst to the once and future king, Prince Arthur, Merlin is destined to be his guardian and mentor.  But, he is also Arthur’s shield and protector who’s more than willing to give up his life for the prince as this picture above shows (one of the cups has poisoned wine; one must die in order to break the curse bestowed upon Camelot because Arthur accidentally killed a unicorn). Arthur felt it was his place and duty to die for his beloved Camelot, but of course, Merlin thought otherwise.

 

Here’s another time when a witch attempted to poison the prince, but Merlin stepped in to intervene in the nick of time.

King Uther did not believe Merlin, and instructed him to drink it to prove if the disguised witch was really trying to poison his son.

And Merlin did, and nearly died (Arthur would set out on a quest to find the antidote in time to save his servant).

Merlin is one of my favorite shows, and I tend to use it as a study on character development for my writing.

Why not books?

I learn best visually and hands-on.  I like to play out story lines and scenes in my mind, or even act them out in the privacy of my, wait for it, bathroom!  And because I learn best in these ways, I’ve dabbled in screenwriting (which by the way is a great tool to help one write more concise while cutting out all the unnecessary words) as well as turning my short writings and poems in to videos with images and music.

Now that we established how odd I really am…

Let’s move on 🙂

Of the five types of supporting character archetypes, I tend to bounce between the Love Interest and Mentor.

 

Guinevere is Merlin’s good friend whom he trusts and confides in (except for his most guarded secrets one being he’s a sorcerer but needs to conceal that for as long as magic was outlawed in the kingdom); she’s also Prince Arthur’s love interest.  She’s a key person in helping Merlin mold Arthur in to the kind of king Camelot needs.

 

Gaius is Merlin’s mentor, father-figure, and the only one (for a long time) who knew the truth about Merlin’s magical abilities.  Once a wizard himself turned physician of the king’s court under Uther (who was personally responsible for the law that forbade anyone to practice magic or face the death penalty) before serving under Arthur after King Uther’s death.  From time to time, Gaius himself plays the Protector of Merlin against Uther’s desire to rid his kingdom of magic at all costs, or against powerful witches or ancient magical creatures.

Why do I prefer these two types?

Even though I haven’t really written any romance stories yet, my mind is constantly filled with various couples and their relationships to one another. Bottom line, it’s all about connection.  That intimacy (and not just the physical part; true connection and intimacy run much deeper than that), the bond you share with that one person.  It’s something that touches me to the core, and I just can’t get enough of it. Hence, these are why I adore the Love Interest type.

Next, the mentor.  For me, a mentor tends to be a father-figure.  I suppose the reason is the close relationship I had with my own father, and how he always felt the need to protect me.  He’s been gone for over three years now, and I still crave his hugs.  They always made me feel safe, and that somehow everything will be okay.  So, in a sense, the mentor tends to also carry qualities of a Protector which then tends to rub off on the protagonist.

What about you?  Of the five supporting character archetypes (villain, love interest, BFF/sidekick, mentor and fool), which one(s) do you like to include in your stories?

 


 

Still on the fence about the DIY MFA Book, or need more info on what’s in it?  I wrote a book review of it here.

 

 

 

 

Writing: Using Fears as Your Compass

Click on image for the DIY MFA Book

 

Gabriela Pereira: “Share an example of when resistance has pointed you toward a writing project that was juicy and high-stakes… and maybe even a little bit scary. Did you face that fear head-on and overcome your resistance? What was the result of pursuing (or not pursuing) that project?”

 

This is a tough one.  I’ve encountered a lot of resistance to a lot of things for many reasons in my life.

Where to even begin?

There’s resistance due to having disabilities, and feeling inferior in that I don’t feel I will ever amount to anything.

There’s resistance due to experiencing verbal and emotional abuse as a girl, and then some as an adult, and along comes the feeling of not being good enough for anything or anyone.

These usually result in self-sabotaging myself so instead of succeeding in life, I end up failing or being bypassed for  career opportunities.

 I deserve to fail or to be ridiculed or be talked down.  I don’t deserve that promotion, or I’m not good enough or I’ll fail miserably at it.  So, why bother?  Who cares? 

A typical mantra I kept repeating and believing in.

And what did I end up with?

A lifetime of regrets.

Of what-ifs.

I could play the blame game, or a victim, but I won’t.

There are things I want to share with my readers, to let out, but I don’t want to hurt certain loved ones.  So, I thought about writing certain experiences in my fictional stories in hope that it will provide the cathartic healing that my soul yearns for.

So, I wrote dark poetry, and dark flash stories.  I journaled in notebooks now hidden away.  And as the years melted away, some of the pain from the past went along with them.

Now, I’m hoping to write my first book, and already I’m hit with fears and the feelings of inadequacy.  Why?  The book is a romance story with bits of comedy…what do I have to be afraid of?

That I want to be an author?  That I desire to be traditionally published?

That I want to be–successful?

Then an idea hit me.

Why don’t I write in certain subplots that involve abuse in relation to PTSD by using my own personal childhood and adulthood experiences?

Yeah, I think this might just work.

Stay tuned….

 

 

What Fuels the Muse?

Click on image for link to the DIY MFA Book!

 

A thought-provoking question!  For Gabriela Pereira, author of the DIY MFA Book, she doesn’t believe in waiting on your muse to inspire your writing.

“I firmly believe that creativity isn’t something random that may or may not happen to us. I don’t believe in an uncooperative muse. Instead, I believe inspiration is something we make happen. Yes, there is something magical about creativity, but it’s also something we can harness, channel, even manipulate.”

So, how do I usually jump-start my muse whenever I need her?

*Music

*Walking/Exercise

*Daydreaming

Sometimes, I even do all three at once!  If I’m looking for a particular mood, I’ll select the type of music (via You Tube or Pandora) that fits the bill.  When I’m “blocked,” music or some form of exercise almost always work for me.  Other times if none of the above are successful, I’d take a short break and binge-watch a TV show in the genre I’m attempting to write.

What about you?  What fuels your creativity?

 

Book Review: DIY MFA Book by Gabriela Pereira

diy mfa book

Click on the image to order

 

There are many, many books out there on writing; but, you won’t find one quite like this one. Gabriela Pereira knows the rigors and costs of a typical MFA program, and she knows that in the real world, it is not always feasible for any writer who desire to attain this coveted degree because of reasons such as time restraint, finances, family/work responsibilities, etc.. Hence, she crafted DIY MFA for these writers in mind.

The book breaks down critical skills that writers would need in their careers such as how to think like a writer (how to get into the right mindset) as well as how to keep moving forward inspite of setbacks (goal-setting techniques, learn from one’s failures, and ways of keeping motivated).

DIY MFA looks at vital areas of story crafting such as outlining (both traditional and non-traditional kinds), creating compelling and believable characters, POV, creating dialogues, and world building just to name a few.

The book also covers the dreaded revision process in detail (this is my favorite part of the book on a personal level-thank you Gabriela!). She took the Maslow’s Pyramid that highlighted the hierarchy of needs and converted it into the Revision Pyramid which takes one through several “layers” of revising (narration, characters, story, scenes, and other details such as grammar and punctuation). Absolutely crucial for any writer who’s struggling with revising a manuscript.

It goes on to show writers how they should not only read for pleasure, but also with purpose. And last but not least, the book stresses the importance of building a community (with not only readers but with other writers).

If you are a writer, it doesn’t matter which stage you’re in, this book is a treasure cove of engaging information on how to become the kind of writer you were meant to be.

Every Writer Has a Superpower!

Do you know your storytelling superpower?

This superpower is tied very closely with your personality and your strength as a writer.   Gabriela Pereira over at DIY MFA created a quiz that writers can take to help them determine their own superpower as storytellers.

Would you like to know yours?

storytelling superpower quiz

Click on this image to take the quiz.

 

 

So, what’s my superpower?

It’s Survivor!

“You’ve got a penchant for characters who will do whatever it takes to survive….regardless of their situation, you’re drawn to creating characters your readers will admire for their pluck, determination, and sheer creative willpower.”

I have to be honest to say that I was completely amazed by the result as it clearly described my writing personality.  My characters tend to be fighting for survival or for acceptance in worlds that have changed in horrifying ways.   It also resonated with me in a very personal way as I have dealt with losses throughout my life.

For those who decide to take the quiz, please share with us what’s your storytelling superpower, and let us know if the result truly resonates with you as a writer.