The young woman waded out into the icy snow melt of the Blackfoot River and prepared her cast. Just like a metronome. Just like her father showed her. The fly soared through the air and danced with the surface currents. A trout jumped, then snapped.
“Reel it in, Honey!” Her father hooted from the shore, with hands cupped over his mouth; a beer between his knees.
Her smile widened to mirror this prize trout as it drew closer in the water. “Toss me the net!”
Her father threw the net while leaning into the bag next to the cooler to grab their camera. “You know the rule! You need a picture with your first fish.”
The net snared the writhing tail as she unhooked the big trout, retrieving her fly. Her father beamed as she waded over to the shore, her thick rubber slickers folding against the water and her bending legs.
“Ready for some pictures?” Her father held up the camera. She grinned, forgetting what it meant to be a teenager caught having fun with your parents.
She picked the fish up, staring at its gills – drowning in the air; red on the inside. Just like her. She smirked. “How about I kiss it?”
“Your mother will love that! Go ahead!” Her father laughed and readied the camera. “Ready?”
She held the fish up and puckered her lips dramatically. “Set!” She attempted to shout through her shmooshed face.
“Go!” Her father returned and took the picture. But the picture her father reviewed was of his mortified daughter kissing a very naked young man with a bleeding cheek.
“What the hell?!” She screamed as the young man fell to the ground, coughing the remains of the Blackfoot River out.
“Get away from my daughter!” Her father shouted, but he didn’t need that instruction. Sooner than he’d said it, the young man was gone. Stepping over to his daughter, he clapped a hand on her shoulder. “Sorry about your fish.”
His daughter shrugged. “It’s okay, Dad. There’re a lot of fish in this creek.”
I hope you enjoyed this short silly story dedicated to my dad for father’s day and our many father-daughter fishing trips. This is the product of a writing group I recently joined and have found is improving my creativity and writing skills drastically. The prompt was: rewrite a fairy tale based where you currently live. I am so grateful for Leslie, Susana, Miguelina, Glorya, and Emmie (I am terrified that I spelled someone’s name wrong, so I may come back and correct name spellings if I did). Being surrounded by powerful women is bringing out the best in me.
I’m excited to share the winning short story composed by L.H. Westerlund written for the contest associated with Quarantine Writer’s Block: Exercise 1. This short story seized an every day object sitting on the desk and turned it into a curiosity adventure. Enjoy!
It looked inconspicuous. It looked like a hair accessory, that was the only way to put it. A soft fabric circle curled around an elastic, meant to be used to tie your hair up. It was made with half grey, half pink but in matching white-plaited fabrics and it stretched readily around the cord inside if pulled at.
But it lay on the working desk of the single most prized student of the greatest crafts magician of all time – well, excepting the mentioned disciple if the master was to be believed. And perhaps he unceremoniously should be.
The delicate, almost invisible white pattern going across the two colours, the gentle curve of the fabric and the hidden stitches from where it had been sewn together told nothing about the power it might hide within. The fabric was soft and felt maybe slightly warm to the touch, but was it all a trick of the mind? Was this merely something the crafter had left behind, dislodged accidentally by a hand running through her long hair as she worked?
Or was it the product of some new spell? An artifact of unspeakable power using magic most mortals could only dream of wistfully? Who knew what magic it could contain!
The fabric item lay there peacefully, mocking with its secrets. There was no way to tell. None at all… except perhaps… A shout.
“Kiera! What’s that on your desk?!”
L. H. Westerlund is a Nordic author, engineer and playwright living in London. She is currently working on several new novels, including “The End of Elena Heart” which will be available at the end of the summer, and a sequel to the children’s-series “The Truth About Monsters”.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Unresolved situations are frustrating.
Example: If a character experiences trauma, they will be traumatized and then display signs of trauma as a result of the event.
To not experience trauma in response to a traumatic event indicates something other. This could be used as a literary device. If it is not being used as a device it is distracting and takes away from the work. Make sure all actions have consequences.
Does The Characterization Of Each Character Match Up With The Timeline?
Characters are on a journey. Each character is moving from A to B and some will go on to C or D. Along those paths each character is changed. This creates the timeline of a book. How a character is portrayed in a scene needs to match the point in the timeline a character is at.
Example: A character that is in her twenties thinks about bills and her job as opposed to a character in her teens that is thinking about school. Because of this, the relationships formed around these areas are most important in life and are the most emotionally impactful outside of family and those that might as well be family.
We Didn’t Go Anywhere
When the setting of a story changes it’s important to have some form of transition to show movement of time and place.
There are some stories that don’t include enough details about objective indicators of passage of time and check that they are consistent such that all of the details of the story align temporally.
There are some stories that don’t include them at all and it’s somehow eternal summer somewhere bizarre like Alaska.
There are some stories that include way too much detail. It’s overwhelming and distracting from the story. I am suddenly studying the passage of time and the changing of the seasons instead of the nature of man.
There are some stories that include lots and lots of details. So many details. All the details. But none of them align temporally, so suddenly April was both 6 months ago and 2 months ago with Winter only 3 months away. This is when I start getting headaches. James Joyce does this. A lot.
Characters Have Hidden Lives
It’s Okay To Have “Offensive” Characters
There’s a huge difference between an “offensive” character that upsets readers and an overdone inaccurate stereotyped character that upsets readers because it doesn’t resonate.
The best offensive characters speak to the group they’re offending because they are too accurate and too real. This will be upsetting to some people. That’s the kind of “offensive” I relish. There may be those that demand a content warning. Good – research is showing that content warnings increase the reads a piece gets much like good tagging because people are seeking them out.
I don’t care who the author is – I promise if you have done your research and shaped your character in a way that reveals truths in your observations, I will love your character even if people get really upset with you over it. Cut the wound deep and hit where it hurts, not where it’s been done ad nauseum unless it’s real. Reveal something no one else has, but remember that pen names exist for your protection.
Your Characters Have Conversations The ReaderDoesn’t Know About And Doesn’t See
An author cannot document everything. They are writing down a snapshot of a potential alternate universe that could exist because someone thought of it, right? That means all of those characters have private inner lives the reader can’t possibly know in its entirety. This means characters can have relationships with each other that are implied instead of explicitly stated. All of this helps to create depth.
It helps to come up with a full backstory for every character in a story even if it’s never talked about or mentioned. This will influence how dialogue is written and how hidden relationships between characters are revealed.
Your Characters Have Moods
Depending on your character’s internal state they will have a mood. This mood will translate into action or inaction in response to a stimulus and that will result in some consequence. Moods and energy levels related to exhaustion as an effect of the story timeline should all be cohesive.
Your Characters Of Different Cultures Are Going To Have Trouble Getting Along
Culture clash is real. The minority of people will be peaceful and fine and that’s great, but your characters aren’t the saints you think they are. Nope. They are averse to change and other cultures and view other as dangerous. This goes all ways. Be real – your characters from different cultures are going to be uneasy around each other and hesitant to make friends for legitimate reasons evolutionary wired in (if they’re humanoid).
Settings Are Places That Can Only Be KnownThrough Experience
Setting Descriptions Have A Time And Place With Characters In Them
It is not uncommon that I run into setting descriptions that are detached from the story either by the characters not interacting with the setting features or by the characters existing completely separate from setting descriptions.
By integrating setting details with the story as a whole the sensory experience can be the focus. The integrated sensory experience of the setting provides the reader with a greater sense of passage of time.
Settings Indicate Culture
Think about it – In the United States, if I set a story in the South a reader is going to anticipate a lot of passive aggressive saccharine manipulation straddled by y’alls happening. If I set a story in the Northeast, there’s a more WASPy social norm puppet show expectation.
But that’s based on the dominant culture of an area. What about when you’re writing about an area’s subculture?
I like to refer to framing subculture structures in writing as “country clubs” – it’s exclusive, you need to know someone to be someone, and there are generally specific central gathering places.
Make sure everything makes sense temporally
Ground the reader in temporal details outside the character
Offend by speaking the truth and make very effort to ensure that truth resonates in an effective and impactful way with the audience
Characters have conversations the reader won’t see but totally influence what the final dialogue will be.
Characters have inner lives, states, and energy levels that change as a result of the story. Write that.
Culture clash is real. Observe it and describe it. Be curious and nuanced. This gives a story so much depth.
Details of setting can be added to show passage of time in the story and immerse the characters and action in the location.
Settings indicate dominant culture and can somewhat indicate subcultures.
Thank you for reading! If you like this post on writing please like and let me know. What are things in books that drive you crazy?