Friday, February 3, 2017

Writing Exercise #3: Hero to Hero, Finding Theme

Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Before we get started today, I would love to pass out doughnuts and high fives. If I was closer to you all, I would. You've been doing such a fantastic job on these Friday Writing Exercises. I'm a little behind reading through last week's, so bear with me.

At Go Teen Writers, we're getting ready to film our first panel. Jill, Steph and I will be answering a couple of questions provided by you guys. The teen writers who have earned the right to ask us ALMOST any question, have been randomly selected from among all those who participated in the first two writing exercises of the year. Are you ready to find out who they are?

J. Liessa 
Hadley Grace

Congrats you two! We are working to contact you, but if either of you are reading, could you drop me a line at admin@shannondittemore.com and I'll get you the details. I didn't think through the whole contact thing, so please accept my apologies.

In any case, I hope you're all enjoying the writing exercises. Today I thought we'd follow up Stephanie's Monday post on theme.

Theme shows up all over your novel and it shows up in different ways. Sometimes it's bold and sometimes it's subtle. If it's done well, it's woven into your story from beginning to end--which makes it a little tough to address in a writing exercise that can easily be shared in the comments section of a site like this.

But I had a thought. And after chewing on it for a bit, I think perhaps this little exercise might help you unearth at least one of the themes struggling to break free from the depths of your story.



Off you go, friends! Write, write, write! I'll be back to check in on you and I hope you return as well. Take a look at what everyone else is writing and see if you can help them spot THEME.

164 comments:

  1. I look over at myself. It's such a strange feeling. It was stranger then, but crazier now. I smile. I was SO naive back then.
    "Hi.... Cerise," I (is the other person still 'I' or am I 'I'?) say to me.
    "Hello," It's going how I remember it. Wait. I said some stuff in here that definitely shaped me. What happens if I mess up? If I change anything then that might influence the past me which might make her make different choices which might make me not here right now, but I am here, so.... Ah. Time travel still makes my brain hurt.
    The younger me sits down at the table and starts fiddling with her hands.
    "I've been waiting for you," Boy. Can you get any creepier than that?
    The younger me smiles and says, "I know. This is almost my last test."
    "Are you prepared for what's going to be coming?" I can't tell her all of it, but I can give her some pointers that helped me, or her....
    She takes a deep breath, "I think so. I do have some questions for you."
    Of course she does. She needs to pass the tests in order to save her - MY - family. I had so much hope then.
    "I will answer all the questions I can, but I can't answer all of them."
    "Okay."
    Here comes the first question... Are you really an older me.
    "Are you really an older me?"
    I smile, "Yes. I am."
    I see the gears turning in her head and remember what was going through my head. Do I ask her what I need to do to pass the next test? Nope. I ask myself if I eventually succeed. And then I don't answer.
    "Okay. Will I, you, um... will I eventually succeed?"
    I sigh. This really didn't help me then, but I can't change anything.
    "I can't tell you that. If I did, that might change something. I'm sorry."
    She nods, stands up, and then, just like I remember, she continues through the door.
    At least I told her everything I needed to. I am her future self, I can't tell her if she will succeed and she needs to stay strong.
    Wait.
    No.
    It's too late now.
    Anything could happen.
    Anything.

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    1. I'd love any feedback you have for me! Thanks!

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    2. I really like the beginning, of her wrestling with who is "I".

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    3. Ah! My thoughts about your character(s) flow toward an inward struggle and I wonder if your hero wrestles with who she is throughout the novel. I wonder then, reading older hero's thoughts, if she somehow figures it out. Older hero seems more certain, but not entirely as evidenced by the ending there. Good job.

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    4. Interesting. I sense uncertainty in both versions of Cerise. (Nifty name by the way.) The remarks about her being naïve and hopeful make me think perhaps younger Cerise is going to have to learn about perseverance and being brave no matter what.

      -Ann

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    5. Great job, Lexi! I love Cerise's name (good job putting it in, by the way!) and I found several parts funny (the "I, I" part, and the "I've been waiting for you" line; because we all want to creep out our past selves sometimes.;)) I really like how your theme is there yet not in your face at the same time. It's about being brave no matter what, perseverance, and maybe a bit about discovering who you are inside? That's my guess. Keep up the good work!
      *Sarah

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    6. That was pretty much my theme Sarah. Good job!
      Thanks everyone for all the feedback!!

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    7. This is great! It's very descriptive. :)
      -LHE

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    8. Loved this! Really enjoyed the dialogue, and I really like the last part where the character is struggling with what she can and should tell her younger self. Great job!

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  2. I am so stupid. Not myself, but this younger me across the table. I think I have me life under control, that I know how to take care of myself, that I doesn't need anyone.

    I am so very wrong.

    "So you're me," my younger self says. "You look... good."

    "No thanks to you."

    My younger self squints. "Excuse me?"

    "Your pride almost ruined our life."

    "You mean our pride. And what could I possibly have done?"

    It would be so easy to heap this on my younger self. To lambast my youth and separate my actions to a different time and place. I have changed, but that change had been bought with the pain of my younger self. Of myself. "Just... don't take our family for granted."

    My younger self laughs. "You mean Beda?" Across the table, I draw a deck of cards from my coat and start shuffling them. "And how did our older brother turn out? I'd say the chance is high that he married Rane, has five or more kids on that blighted farm, and that he controls every aspect of their lives." The younger me deals; a card to me, a card to the other me.

    It's a game which only one of us can win, a play of chance to see who comes out on top. If the younger me knew what was to come, we never could have played this game.

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    1. Fantastic! What a great scene this is! I've learned a lot about your hero. I wonder if you have. Pride and rebellion and a resistance to the wisdom sitting across from her. Really good work here.

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    2. Pride goes before a fall...Nice work! The character's voice is engaging and this piece piqued my curiosity for what lies ahead. I hope nothing terrible happens to the brother. :(

      -Ann

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    3. This is neat! I want to read more. :)
      Keep up the good work!
      -LHE

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    4. I agree with LHE and Ann - I hope the brother (and your hero) turn out all right in the end. Keep up the good work!
      *Sarah

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  3. Two people sit across from each other. So alike, they could be twins. They at not, especially since one looks a bit younger than the other. The older one speaks just now.
    "Listen carefully young Gabriel you are about to be assassinated. You need to be ready." The older one of the two men looks around anxiously.
    "What do you mean assassinated. I have no enemies," exclaims Gabriel spreading his arms wide.
    "Maybe not yet but I can grantee you have them in the future. This may surprise you but time travel is real and there are some who would use that fact for horribly evil and nefarious purposes." The older man is desperate now.
    "Mister you're starting to freak me out a bit. And how do you even know this stuff any way?"
    "I know this because I am you, from the future of course."
    Gabriel gasps, he dose not believe you. You believe it is time to step in. You walk up to the table where the men are sitting, old bones creaking with every step.
    "Listen to yourself Gabriel. He speaks the truth," you declare.
    "Who are you?" young Gabriel asks. Fear glints in his eyes.
    "I am you, only much, much older," you reply, no matter how many times you think about this moment it never gets old.
    "Whaaa." Young Gabriel still dose not believe you.
    It is time to remedy that so you say, "I am you because right now you have a crush on Janice Silver."
    "You also feel like your mother dose not love you because she walked out one your family when you were nine," middle Gabriel chimes in.
    Youngest Gabriel's face turns pasty and his breathing quickens. You see now that he finally believes you.
    "Okay, you guys really are me from the future. So why am I going to be assassinated?" The youngest one of you leans forward his eyes the tiniest touch wild.
    "Because," the middle Gabriel says, "you invent the time machine."

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    1. Three heroes! Wow! That changes everything doesn't it. So much wisdom. I see some seedlings of theme here as well: abandonment, naivete, weakness. Great things to build on.

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    2. Thanks. :)
      -Book Dragon

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    3. I agree with what Ms. Dittemore said on theme. :) I love how it took 2 versions of himself to convince him. Fun scene.

      -Ann

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    4. To be honest, Book Dragon, your scene was a little hard to follow--understandable, since you're working with three versions of the same character. ;) Your last line was brilliant, though. It opens so many doors and windows of thought!

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  4. I sit down at the table, wondering who left the note. Is someone messing with me? Because it won't be funny, especially not for them.
    "Hello, Kamryn," says a girl, maybe in her twenties or thirties. She's got messy blonde hair, a few shades darker than my own. Our eyes are the same brown color, though hers are streaked with wisdom and experience. Not to mention, the color of our skin is almost identical.
    I groan slightly, knowing exactly what's going on. "It's me, isn't it?"
    She smiles. "Yeah. I knew I--you'd guess it right away. You are pretty smart."
    "Do I even want to know about my future?" I ask, slowly walking backwards.
    "Yes," she says and smiles. "Don't sit down."
    I do what I want! I sit down and realize she tricked me. "That was clever."
    "Let's just say I know you better than I know yourself."
    I cross my arms. "Then stop making puns and get on with it!"
    The older me sighs, but smiles--again. What reason do I have to smile so often? "You know Collin?"
    "Blond kid?"
    "Yeah, him," she says. "Stay close to him, because he'll do you good in the future."
    That was probably the last thing I expected her to say. "We're not really friends. I mean, yeah, we talk about soggy breakfast pancakes sometimes and I sprained my ankle in his treehouse, but other than that..."
    She laughs. Was what I was saying really that funny? I wish she would get on with this. "High school is going to change a lot of things, but you need to go with your instincts."
    "My instincts say I should walk away right now." I stand up, making an effort that the chair scratches and my feet stomp.
    She shakes her head. "Not those instincts, Kamri. You know what I mean. Your real ones."
    "No, I don't know what you mean."
    She mutters something about not remembering being so stubborn. "I mean, there are your survival and protection instincts, which tell you not to get attached, when to leave if things could get messy... which can be useful in a dangerous situation. But you also have to listen to your heart. You need to be happy. Have a good life. Care about others."
    "Sounds cliche." Yet some of it was making sense.
    The older me stands up this time. "You won't remember any of this once you leave."
    "Then what's the point?" I ask.
    "You'll remember what I said, in the back of your mind, if you concentrate hard enough. Good luck."
    She dissolves into thin air. I run out the door, and as soon as I passed the door frame I woke up.
    It was just a dream, wasn't it?

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    1. Stubborn, skeptical. Great traits in a hero and a fantastic soil to plant theme in. Good job here.

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    2. I love stubborn heroes. So much fun! She must have been hurt by someone so she's cautious. Maybe she needs to learn to trust people--good people.

      -Ann

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    3. Thank you! Yeah, that's her character arch in my story.

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    4. This is great! I've never wrote about someone talking to his\her younger self. I love how you did yours. :)
      -L

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  5. She’s young, I realize, and I can still see blinding, newborn stars in her eyes. Mine have been replaced by dying ones; they burn red and black, instead of a bright yellow and white. Her smile is eager and energetic, and she’s bouncing in her chair, her eyes darting from one spot to the next. She simply can’t stay still.
    “You’re me, aren’t you?” she pipes up, jabbing a finger into my arm. “Me in the future. ‘Cause you look womanly. But still like me. When am I gonna look like that?”
    I glanced over her short stature, her spindly limbs, and her two short braids. “You’re, what, ten?”
    “Yup.” she nodded seriously, and put her elbows on the table, resting her chin on her palms.
    “In about six years,” I said, exhaling. “A long six years.”
    Her eyes lit up. “Good! I have so many questions to ask you”—she pulled out her notebook and pen—”am I on the New York Times bestseller list yet?”
    “Well—”
    “What about my drawings? Are they up somewhere?”
    I tried again. “Actually—”
    “You excited for college? I’m excited for college, I’ll get to meet so many cool people! We’re all gonna be best friends and write and draw around the campfire while eating s’mores and drinking hot chocolate...” Seeing my hesitant expression, she finally began to quiet down and started picking at her fingernails—our nervous tick. “Am...am I good?”
    I get taken back to my first harsh critique, to my first insecurity episode, and then all the others go flashing by.
    What is this? You call this art?
    Your writing is juvenile. I’m afraid we cannot accept this. You’ve got spark, though.
    Oh really? I only spent like an hour on it, I almost missed the deadline! I can’t believe I got first place, maybe that’s just my talent.
    It’s just a hobby, you’ve got to find a worthwhile career.
    But then I look at her little sketchpad, her paint-spattered clothes, her inquisitive eyes, her worn-out notebook, and her chewed-to-bits pen. And I remember the good parts.
    You’ve got a passion and a great understanding of grammar, girl, you could go places.
    I love your portrait of her, can you do one of me? Please? Pretty pretty please?
    Your story made me sob, and I never cry.
    Talent is one thing, my dear, but hard work? Priceless.
    I look into her slight smile, her worried eyes. “The best,” I promise. “You’re gonna shake the world. Just keep on going.”

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    1. Love little self's enthusiasm. She's insecure. Since she'll be tempered with some rejection, I'm guessing theme could be on perseverance and possibly self-esteem that's not based on other's approval.

      -Ann

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    2. Thanks so much for your critique!

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    3. Aw, little hero is adorable! I love the trail of thoughts at the end.

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    4. Great job here. Passion and tenacity in both young and old. I wonder how that translates into your larger piece.

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    5. This is very inspiring, and hard work, perseverence, and ambition seem to be key themes.

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    6. I love her hopes and dreams. Reminds of me of myself when I was younger. Good job!
      *Sarah

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    7. I like how the meeting with her younger self ends up being an encouragement to both of them :) Loved it!

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  6. “Do I know you?” I frowned at the gentleman who sat across the table.

    He tugged at his salt and pepper moustache. “Not very well, Clive.”

    “But we’ve met.”

    “Formally? No.” He laughed.

    For some reason the sound grated on my nerves. “Then who are you, if I may ask?”

    “Always so suspicious. Must be hard to trust anyone when you don’t trust yourself.”

    I averted my gaze by smoothing my pocket square. Maybe the gentleman was addled. Maybe I should leave. He had my sympathy, but I couldn’t help him.

    “You can’t or won’t help me?”

    I hadn’t spoken aloud. Or had I? Breathe in. Breathe out.

    He cocked his head as he studied me. “Huh. I really do have a poker face." He tsked. "You look well put together, Clive, to be such a mess inside. Don’t like it when you can’t control even a simple conversation, do you?”

    My mind scrambled for a response. “Sorry, but—”

    “It’s okay not to have the answers as long as you know who does.”

    “I don’t understand.”

    “You will, when you can let go of the hurt. Trust me.”

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    1. Good job! Very eye opening conversation full of smart dialogue and characterization. It told me a lot about your hero and it tells me you know your hero well.

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    2. This is great! I love how older-Clive just bombards his younger self with what he knows about him. Older-Clive seems to really be enjoying himself, which contrasts well with younger-Clive's bafflement. It feels to me like vulnerability might be a theme.

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    3. Fantastic piece! The part about the laugh grating on his nerves was a great little detail, I noticed. (Most people don't like the sound of their own voice recorded, after all.) Skillfully written!

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    4. Thank you for the feedback, everyone! Helps to know other's impressions. :)

      -Ann

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  8. I watch Raven's face - my face - morph from anger to confusion.
    "Do I know you?" the younger me asks. I smile a little.
    "That depends on if you know yourself," I say casually. Young Raven is getting more confused by the minute. "Of course, if you do know yourself, you most certainly know me."
    "What are you saying?" she asks. She isn't getting it.
    "I am you."
    "You are me?" Man, I used to be dense. I nod vigorously.
    "How am I supposed to believe that?" Young Raven asks skeptically. I sigh.
    "Your hidden talent is singing, your crush is Zane York, and you have a secret fear of heights."
    My young eyes go wide. "You are me." Her (my?) voice is quiet and thoughtful.
    Young Raven suddenly smiles. "Can you give e advice?"
    "No can do, Little Me," I say, shaking my head. "You won't ever learn if you know the problems ahead."
    Little Me frowns. "Nothing?"
    "I can tell you only two things: Don't give up, and don't forget the one who holds it all."

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    1. Hmm...thinking maybe she likes to be in control, so she's a little too self-reliant. Theme might be on perseverance as well. Just my impression. And I'm with LHE, the "No can do, Little Me," is a fun line.

      -Ann

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    2. Thanks! That's actually very close to what I was going for! :D
      I like mixing in humor. Sometimes people don't get it, though. lol

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    3. Fun little back and forth here. I wonder why they're talking. Hmmmm. What brought them together? Something about your piece makes me curious.

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    4. Thanks! I'm flattered. :D I'm in the process of writing a book, so hopefully it catches my readers' eyes like this piece...

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  9. "No can do, Little Me," I say shaking my head.
    *laughs*
    This is great! xD That part was so funny.
    -LHE

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  10. I look up at her with tear-filled eyes. "I don't want to die. I'm not ready to die."
    "I know," she takes my hand, so smooth compared to his wrinkled one, in her own. "I know, darling. That's why I'm here."
    I blink. "... that's why you're here?"
    She nods. "I am one of your future selves. I may very well be your only good future self. All the rest of you is out to kill you." She squeezes my hand and leans forward. "But I am also your oldest self. I know all the rest of you - and I'm the only one who can take you to a safe place."
    I slowly slide my hand out of her grasp and give her a dull look. "I totally believe you."
    "I know that you love the sound of your sister's harp, no matter how much you dislike your sister, and you have a crush on the boy next door. I know that you wish you were as beautiful as your mother, and I know that, in twenty-five days, all your nightmares are going to come true unless you trust me ." She stares at me with ice-cold eyes. "Let me take you somewhere safe."
    Somehow, she knew everyone of my secrets.
    It scared me.
    But it also caused something deep in my heart to wake up and whisper 'trust her'.
    My hands shook. It's hard to say yes to something that scares you. It's even harder to say yes when something scares you ... and you still want it.
    "Okay." I whisper. "I believe you." I stand up. "Now show me what I have to do to stay alive."

    ~ Savannah
    scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    1. Interesting! Bravery. Fear. And many selves trying to kill her. Very compelling.

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    2. Very interesting take. Very creative, I really feel her tension then her ready belief in her future self.
      *Sarah

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    3. So now I want to write a story in which a person does have a bunch of alternate universe selves trying to kill him/her . . . *adds to list*

      Great piece, though!

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    4. I'm with Sarah--cool concept! :D

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    5. Guess I'm with Sarah, too xD. I'm glad that you like the idea! I'll definitely be writing more of this someday ;).

      ~ Savannah
      scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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  11. I'm sitting across from---me. Well, the young me. I was so sad then. I used to feel hopeless.
    I decide not to tell the younger me that I am him. I want to test him and ask him some questions.
    "Um...how's it going, kid." The younger me looked at me with sad, hollow eyes.
    "Why do you wanna know?" I was rude then.
    "Well, maybe I can help or give you advice." The old me lifted an eyebrow.
    "Look, I don't want to be rude, but I don't know you." It's time to tell the little dude.
    "Look, bro. I'm you." He looked at me with confused eyes.
    "You're...me. You're Daniel Peck?" He acted like I was insane.
    "Look, I can prove it to you. You're sad because your dad left and your mom is never around." He looked at me with worried anxious eyes.
    "Look...you're creeping me out." the younger me started to slowly get up from his chair. I thought fast.
    "Daniel, no. You need to hear something." He slowly sat back down, but his scared look didn't go away. "Look, you've been disappointed over and over again. You feel like you can't trust anyone anymore. Your most favorite person in the world left and you feel abandoned and confused. You're hurt and you feel desolate. I found you and now I'm here to tell you, the younger me, that you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and just live again. You're not alone and you never have been. There's a guy that will never let you down and he wants to be your dad if you'll let him. His name is Jesus."
    The younger me looked broken and desperate. "I don't know him. How can he know me?" I tried to think of what to say.
    "Well, he created you and came down to earth to give his life for you. For everyone. He lived a perfect life and was still put to death. When he was on the cross he thought of you, and said 'I need to do this for Daniel'. Even if you hate him, he still loves you."
    The younger me looked like he was at a loss for words. "I...how...how do I know that he won't leave me. Everyone I meet and love leaves me. Why wouldn't he?" I took his--my hand.
    "Little dude, you need to keep trusting. God has already called you, but you need to call on him. He's the still small voice in your head. Don't ignore it." The little me looked into my eyes.
    "You're...me. I wouldn't lie, would I? I mean you wouldn't lie-- we wouldn't lie?" I grinned.
    "What do you think? Would you lie to yourself about something like this in the state you're in now?" I looked at the younger me.
    "I...I don't think so." It looked like the younger me had a war going on in his head.
    "What's your choice. Me, what do you choose?"
    -LHE

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    1. Lots of great, fatherly advice here from one hero to another. It shows us a lot about him, doesn't it? And it gives us faith that he'll come out okay on the other side.

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    2. It does. Yeah, sense he's talking to his younger self about coming to God, then that means that he believes. Thanks for the comment! :)
      -LHE

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    3. This is really good, shows his struggle really well. I really feel for this character; good job.
      *Sarah

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    4. So did I when I wrote it. Thank you for the lovely comments! I'm going to look for what you wrote. :)
      -LHE

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    5. That's awesome! The theme is subtle, but there. Good job!

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    6. Thank you! I loved yours. :)
      I love getting comments, Something about it makes me happy. xD
      -LHE

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    7. Thank you Sarah\ Lexi \Mrs Dittemore for the nice comments. I really appreciate them. :)

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  13. Max stirred, blinking his eyes rapidly. 'The heck?' He was seated in a room he'd never seen before, surrounded by white, stone walls. He sat in a stiff chair, a round table before him. A greying man sat opposite him, smiling broadly. "Hello, Max. I've been expecting you."
    Max eyed him warily. "Yeah... cause that's not at all creepy. Who are you, where's Ashley, and where are we?"
    The old man chuckled, his mirth rising to meet his minty green eyes. "You would ask me about her." He shrugged, causing Max to immediately narrow his eyes. "She's not here, and the where isn't important. This room is a figment of your imagination, created for the sole purpose of talking to me." The man leaned forward in his seat, crossing his fingers to rest his chin upon them. "You're dreaming, Max."
    Max rolled his eyes. "Thanks, old man, for the unnecessarily long explanation." He stood, his chair scraping the floor. "You'd think my imagination wouldn't force me into rooms with cryptic old men, who are borderline stalkerish and filled with nonsense." He paced cagily, looking for an exit.
    The old man lifted an unimpressed brow. "I forgot how seemingly arrogant you were at this age. Tell me, I'm curious, do the demons still scream?"
    Max stiffened, clenching his fists. "I don't know what you're talking about."
    The old man scoffed. "Don't mock me, Max. I just wanted to know if you can hear them. I'm guessing not; this room is fairly secure. They probably can't get past its defenses."
    Max took a moment to really take in the man. Max had written him off; his sweater vest, salt and pepper hair making him seem nonthreatening. This man knew more than he should, and bore a remarkable resemblance to Max's father. "Who are you?"
    The man smiled over his fingers. "Wouldn't you like to know."
    Max growled. "I wouldn't have asked you, old man, if I hadn't wanted to know."
    The man shrugged. "That;s true, I suppose." He stood, gentler than Max. He walked around the table, till nothing separated him from Max. "I'm you, Max."
    A chuckle bubbled from Max's throat. "Well, I'm glad I won't make it to your age. Dude, you ugly. Sweater vests? Really?"
    "At least you believed me."

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    1. Max shrugged, returning to his pacing. "Why wouldn't I? My subconscious is weird. Of course, you wouldn't know that."
      "All too well." Max shot the older version of himself a glare from the corner of his eye, humming in response. "I do have a purpose being here. You aren't going to remember most of this, but I'm supposed to tell you some random bit of knowledge to help you when you wake again."
      "Supposed to?"
      Older Max wagged his head side to side. "Yes. But no, I'm not explaining that. I can say this though, Ashley says hi." Max stopped mid step, his jaw slackening. A knowing smile grace older Max's face. "Yep. I... or we..." He paused, a perplexed look crossing his features. "Tenses are weird. I finally get that." He shook his head. "Anyway, Ashley knows us still."
      Max groaned, rubbing his eyes. "Ow. My head hurts, man. Just get on with what you need to tell me so I can wake up from this nightmare of a dream."
      Older Max nodded rapidly in agreement. "Yes, yes, of course. I've been sitting here for about three hours, trying to come up with something profound to say." he chuckled, looking at his shoes momentarily, then glancing through his eyelashes at Max. "We're still not the smoothest of talkers. I've got basically nothing, save, trust God, trust Ashley, and trust yourself. You know the way past your demons. Just keep walking toward the light and you'll get out of the tunnel."
      Max stared blankly. "Really? That's your big piece of wisdom? 'Trust yourself'?"
      Older Max straightened, slight anger showing in his stance. "No. The biggest piece of wisdom is trusting God. Stop running from Him."
      Max's fist clenched again at his sides. He took a step closer to the older him, only for the man's form to flicker like a light going out. Max paused, uncertainty blowing in his veins. "Uh... Max?"
      Older Max took a step back, giving his younger self a once over. He shook his head. "I was so broken. God, how on earth did you get through to me?"
      Max opened his mouth, questions washing over him like waves on a shore. Before he could get one out, the room vanished, taking the older Max with it. Max fell through a blackness, and knew nothing.

      "Hey, Max! Wanna make some pancakes?"
      Max groaned, rolling off his couch. "Wait!" He tried shouting, the words getting stuck in his sleep-filled voice. "You can't make pancakes! You'll set the kitchen on fire again!" He stumbled out of the living room, down the hall to the kitchen. All memory of the dream he'd had disappeared from his brain, except one simple thought running on repeat. 'Keep walking toward that light...'

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    2. Sorry, wouldn't let me do it in one piece...

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    3. This is literally THE BEST piece I've read (and probably will stay that way)!!!!!! You're so talented! If you plan on writing another book, I wanna read it!

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    4. I love how much thought you put into this! It's a poignant scene and tells us a lot about the fiery nature of your hero.

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    5. I loved this! Great job, you're such a good writer!
      *Sarah

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    6. This is really good! The dialogue and interactions are very natural and have a strong sense of purpose. Excellent job!

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    7. I agree with Olivia. The dialogue gives great purpose and description. I love this. :)
      -LHE

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    8. This is really cool!! I want more. The setting is really well done. Good job!

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    9. Sorry it took me so long to respond! Thank you, everyone who read my piece, and wow, am I flattered!!! I was not expecting so many comments, thank you so much.
      R.D. Youngblood

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    10. Hey, you did great work! It's hard not to read it. :)
      -LHE

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    11. You're welcome! I've read this piece like.... at least five times over! I wanna read more!

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  14. Sorry for how long it is! If any of you readers have any comments or suggestions, I would love to hear them.
    Uriah made a quick retreat to a table in the corner of the rundown tavern, where he turned his chair to face the room and watched the crowd over the upturned folds of his coat collar. He scanned the faces but didn’t see the man he was looking for.
    He would wait.
    With the soft ruffle of leather brushing against itself, another person seated himself across the table. Uriah refused to look at the stranger, instead keeping his eyes peeled for his victim.
    “What are you planning to do?”
    Uriah allowed his gaze to swivel to the man across from him, who hid behind a book held up in gloved hands. “Excuse me, sir. Did you say something?”
    “I did. What are you planning to do with him? After you find him, that is.”
    Uriah allowed his gaze to skip back over the crowd, in hopes of either spotting his man or finding out how his intentions were so plain. Rather than asking the obvious, he gave a hesitant answer. “I’ll make sure he minds his own business. Do whatever it takes to make sure he doesn’t touch my family.”
    The stranger turned a page, but he didn’t seem to be reading. “Do whatever it takes, huh? Like slamming him against a wall with an arrowhead to his throat? Are you sure that’s wise?”
    Unnerved at the faceless man’s knowledge, Uriah answered defensively. “I didn’t say I would do that.”
    “But you thought it.”
    “Who are you, anyway?”
    “Someone who knows what comes of acting out of anger.”
    Uriah growled and scanned the room for a diversion. Still none. He glared at the book that blocked his view of the stranger. “If you know so much, then you must know he threatened my family. If you think I’m going to stand idly by and let them get hurt, you’ve got another thing coming.” Uriah stood, snatched his bow from the edge of the table, and stormed past the man. The slam of a book against the table stopped him.
    Uriah froze midstep. The partiers around him continued the noise. The stranger spoke, and both his soft, firm voice and his words sounded strangely familiar. “There are better ways to do things. Things that won’t leave you with scars.”
    Uriah’s thoughts turned to the hard, open scar carved into the side of his face, and he suddenly found it difficult to breathe. In the silence that followed, his eyes picked up on his enemy weaving through the crowd toward the bar. He forced himself to thaw. “I make my own decisions.” He left the stranger behind and weaved through the tables toward his man. Once he stood behind him, listening to the raucous laughter at the bar, he thought over a plan of action. Spring upon him with threatening drive and corner him. Draw the eyes of all around as he dared the man to challenge. His prey would be angry. Angry enough to retaliate.
    No. There were better ways to handle this. It could wait.

    The man watching from the table saw some of the aggression melt from the face of the younger version of himself. He smiled as the troubled youth he once was chose mercy and walked out the front doors into the night.
    Uriah picked up his book and took the back door out.

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    1. This is great, Olivia! :D

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    2. Such a great storytelling voice! Great job, Olivia. There's a lot here to suggest theme and I wonder if vengeance plays quite a role in your story. Uriah is clearly worried for his family and you've shown that well.

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    3. Wow, you showed Uriah's struggle so well and his older self was really well played. Great, job!
      *Sarah

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    4. Wow, thank you guys! This is really encouraging, since I've worked with this character so much that it's become hard for me to be sure of my writing quality. And yes, Mrs. Dittemore, one of the themes of my story is vengeance, though the character is driven primarily by a wrong done him many years ago. Again, thank you all for reading through my long piece and providing feedback. It was very helpful!

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    5. This is awesome! I'm wondering, though . . . did Uriah's older self just change his own history? Because it almost sounds like he did. Either way, great work.

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    6. Great job! I feel so invested in both versions of Uriah.

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    7. To answer your question, Sarah, Uriah's older self did just change his own history, but only by removing the guilt. Younger Uriah makes the same choice following this scene as he did in the previous version and so goes on much the same journey. Older Uriah's visitation simply gives his younger self a nudge toward making wiser decisions in the future. Sorry if that explanation is confusing--I had to chew on your question for a while before I figured out the answer. And thank you, Sarah, and Izz for your uplifting comments!

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  15. He's already there, pacing around the table. I sigh, remembering how much nervous energy I had when I was the one pacing. I use my can to steady myself as I ease into the chair.
    "Sit down. I haven't got all the time in the world." I laugh. River rolls his eyes and sits, his feet tapping and his fingers drumming on the table.
    "Look, I'm kind of busy now, so let's make this quick, okay? What advice," he makes air quotes, "do you have?"
    Boy, I was not near as smart as I thought I was back then. "I'll be fast, alright? First, remember other humans are just as human as you. Everyone is someone's son or daughter. Treat everyone like you would want someone to treat Grace if she was in that situation."
    He gives me a raised eyebrow. I remember how sarcastic I thought that expression was.
    "Secondly, stop trying to play "god". You. Can't. Control. Everything. There will-"
    He jumps from his chair, nostrils flaring. "Yes I can! I can-"
    "You couldn't stop your mom from dying could you?"
    He looks as though he's been slapped. He glances away as a tear rolls down his cheek. "Maybe I couldn't stop Mom from dying and stop Father from... But I can stop anything from ever hurting me or Grace again." He bends over the table and looks me in the eye. "I can.Don't look at me like that!" He whirls around and stalks out of the room, leaving me shaking his head. Little does he know.

    -HKD

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    1. Oh, boy. It sounds like young River has a lot of baggage, and your last sentence makes me wonder if something is going to happen to Grace... Yikes! Anyway, I really like how young River's internal struggle comes across in his return fire.

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    2. I agree with Olivia. There's so much packed into those words! I want to read more! :D

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  16. These are all great! I don't think mine's that good (it was harder to write than I thought it would be) but it gave me some things to think about. I might use this exercise to figure out theme in my future stories. Anyways, here's mine, and any feedback would be great!
    *Sarah

    Flynn leaned back in his chair and studied his younger self across from him. “Why are you so afraid?”
    “Pardon?” Young Flynn raised an eyebrow and rubbed the long curved scar on his right forearm–a dead giveaway to his true feelings. Why all the enemies in his life had never figured out that was his one telling sign Flynn could never figure out.
    “You can’t fool yourself, Flynn.” Was it a good idea to address yourself by name? Flynn shook his head. Focus, he didn’t have long here. The dark, blank room around them wavered as he thought.
    Young Flynn sighed and ran his hand through his messy dark brown hair. “Look, anyone would be afraid of their friends dying in this crazy war, all right? It’s a natural feeling.”
    “True. What about you?”
    Young Flynn shook his head and frowned. “I’m not sure I understand. What about me?”
    “What about you dying?”
    Young Flynn clasped his hands together in his lap and looked at them instead of himself. “My life doesn’t matter. I died once, so what if I do again?”
    Flynn winced. Gah, did he really use to sound like that? He sounded so . . . hopeless, done. Over. He shouldn’t have, not at twenty one, not with what little, yet good he’d had in his life. Not for all Tirana still had in store for him. “Why do you say that? Your friends care about you. So does Vienna.”
    Young Flynn flinched at Vienna but didn’t look up. “She’d be better off without me,” he said softly. “I’m not who she needs or deserves, and if I’m not careful I’ll kill her too.”
    Flynn sighed. He used to believe this as fact. How blind he had been. “She won’t give up on you even if you give up on yourself. You won’t kill her, trust me. Tirana put both of you in the other's life for a reason.”
    Young Flynn looked up with narrowed eyes and slowly shook his head. “You don’t know what I’ve done.”
    Flynn rose feeling his real self stirring somewhere out of this dream world. “Actually, I do, and none of it was your fault. You won’t remember talking to me, but you know the truth in your heart. You just have to let go of all you fear to lose and give it to the One who holds it all in His hands.”

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    1. This is lovely, Sarah! I like the details you added about the room, and it's easy to sympathize with both Flynns. I really like the gentle, compassionate way older Flynn addressed younger Flynn--knowing that there was a long journey ahead but that planting a seed of hope would help young Flynn on his way. Good job! :)

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    2. I really like this- Flynn, both older and younger, sounds like he fits into one of my favorite character types. I'd rather like to read the story he's from. :)

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    3. Thank you! Flynn is one of my two main characters in the trilogy I'm currently writing.
      *Sarah

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    4. Oh, wow, I just realized that Flynn starred in your entry for the last prompt (also amazing). This may sound a little strange, but I like that he says, "Pardon?" in both. I think it sounds scholarly. ;)

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    5. This is great!
      I like the last sentence!
      -LHE

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    6. Really good job getting into the nitty gritty of your character's fears here. I like it a lot.

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    7. I like how you used the "young Flynn" and "Flynn" to differentiate between the two. That clears things up so you don't have to figure it out in your head.
      I am really intrigued by the "I've already died once..." Now I want to get to know more of his past and how that worked out! You're really good at suspense and keeping readers reading.

      P.S. Thanks for the feedback you gave me! :D

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    8. This was really fun to read. I loved the description you added in, and Flynn (both older and younger) sound like really interesting characters. Already died once?! Made me so curious about your book! Keep on writing -- you're doing great!

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    9. Thank you for all the lovely feedback, this made my day! Olivia, your comment on Flynn's "Pardon?" cracked me up. Scholarly is the last thing he would describe himself as! Lexi, your welcome for the feedback and thanks for the encouragement about wanting to keep people reading. Thanks to everyone else who took the time to comment too. As for the already died once bit, well, there's quite a tale behind that . . . ;)
      *Sarah

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    10. I would love to know the tale! *smile bigger than the Chesire Cat*
      I love getting comments, so I guessed everyone else did too. :)

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  17. Her wrinkled skin was delicate as lace and twice as soft. There was a strength in the old woman’s posture that defied her frail body and the lie of age. She radiated warmth and selflessness. Everything I was not.
    Refusing to accept this preposterous reality, my mind attempted to explain what my eyes could not.
    “I wondered when you would come,” she mused.
    My breathing quickened. “This can’t be real. I mean… There’s no way that you’re me. Time doesn’t work like that.”
    “Stubborn as ever I see.” My elderly future chuckled at the memory. “Let’s just say you’ll get used to the idea.”
    “Why did you bring me here?” I questioned. “What do you want?”
    She didn’t answer at first. A downcast look clouded her features. “I want you to let me help you. You’re off-track.”
    “What are you talking about?”
    “You’re running from the journey that history has written for you. I am the product of your adversity and joy. Trust me. You have to listen closely.” Elder-Me approached and took my hands into her own.
    I gazed into the eyes of a woman who had seen a thousand tragedies. “I’m listening.”
    Elder-Me pursed her lips. A crystal tear stumbled out of its resting place. “I’m sorry.”
    Only then did I notice the cold steel biting my wrists. My skin inwardly protested the invasion, and it took several moments to realize what was going on. I glanced down in shock at the cuffs.
    Elder-Me began to shrink away toward the back of the building, just as the sound of the Pursuers reached my ears.
    She was turning me in!
    “Why?” I cried. “Why would you do this?!”
    “This is your story, my dear,” Elder-Me replied sadly. “You may not understand now, but one day you will. Pain passes on, but legacies are forever.”
    On that simple yet complex note, she exited the room, abandoning me to a fate that, at the time, I considered worse than death.
    Little did I know it was the best thing anyone had ever done for me.

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    1. Wow, intense! I really felt for both older and younger versions and the last line is really thought provoking, as is the last thing Elder-Me says. Great job, keep up the good work!
      *Sarah

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    2. Wow! Your intro drew me in right away, and the twist was gloriously shocking! It also had excellent balance and strong theme. Very nice.

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    3. This is really good writing. I love the description of the older hero... :D

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    4. Beautiful! I agree with GJE on the description of Elder-Me. I wish there was more.

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    5. Very interesting! I wonder what this scene tells YOU as the author. It tells me that your hero is stronger than she knows. Strong deep into her soul. She's a survivor who leaves from hard things. Good job.

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    6. Wow, this was great! Very vivid and thought-provoking. I love the "You may not understand now, but one day you will" theme you have going on in this piece.

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    7. Thanks for the feedback everyone!! =)

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  18. With my free hand I trace the ridges in the makeshift table with my finger. I keep my head down, not wanting to meet the eyes of the man across from me. Not wanting to hear what he had to say. I don’t think I can bear to see the person, no the monster, that I will become.
    “I know how you feel.” An edge of desperation lay behind his smooth voice. “I’ve been there, felt it. I’m asking you to listen to me for… two minutes. Can you do that?”
    I look down at the handcuff attaching my right hand to the chair. “Doesn’t look like I have much of a choice.”
    “I can force you to hear me. I can’t make you listen.”
    Now he’s being all cryptic again. I stay silent, my eyes focused on the table. Anything but his face.
    He places his hands on the table. They shake, as if he is angry or very, very afraid.
    “Look at me!” He jerks my chin up, too fast for me to close my eyes. I take in the sharp eyes, the scarred ear, and the face that is too young for its streaks of grey hair. “Little boy.” His voice softened, in pity. He drops his hand. “Little boy. Has it ever occurred to you that I may know things that you don’t?”
    I fight for control of my emotions. “You can’t tell me what to do.” My voice comes out as an immature squeak. “You’re not my dad.”
    His, my, breath shudders. “No I’m not. Neither are you. And someday you are going to find that out.”
    I know things you don’t.
    I straighten, trying to look as tall as the stranger on the other side of a table, a life. We look eye to eye.
    “I’m ready to listen now.”
    If only to prove myself wrong.

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    1. A little messy, but fun to write nonetheless.

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    2. This is fantastic, Izz! I wish there was more. It left me hanging.
      I wish that this was a book that was sitting on my bookshelf. :)
      -LHE

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    3. I like the character development here. I wonder what it is he hears when he finally agrees to listen? Hmmm.

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    4. Thanks Mrs. Dittemore! I have been really enjoying your exercises.

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  19. Aileen sat frozen, unable to take her eyes off the woman sitting across the table. She had Aileen's brown hair, but duller, just beginning to show grey. She had Aileen's nose, and Aileen's way of tilting her head when she was thinking. But the most striking detail were her eyes: the same coffee color, softened by faint crow's feet.

    It was like staring at a mirror and a portrait of a stranger at the same time.

    Aileen sat back. There was no question this woman was an older version of herself. "I guess I do survive. Do we all..." She blinked back tears. "Do we all make it?"

    Older Aileen's smile dropped. "I can't say. But no matter what heartache you face, Aileen, you need to know there's beauty and goodness in the end. The future is brighter than you think."

    Aileen the younger looked down at the worn tabletop. "That's hard to believe from where I am right now. Can you at least tell me if Demetria withstands the war?"

    "I'm not permitted to share specifics. I can only offer encouragement and wisdom." Older Aileen folded her hands around her mug of tea. A whiff of chamomile drifted across the table, and a gold band glinted around her ring finger.

    Younger Aileen reached over and touched the ring softly. "I get married, huh? Any advice there?"

    The older one beamed and clasped the younger's hand. "Just...keep your eyes open. But don't worry about that now. There's--" She paused as if searching for the right words. "There's much at stake for you now. Love will come later." She sighed, and there were years contained in that exhalation. "For now, press on. Never forget who you are."

    Aileen's palm tingled where the Mark was imprinted. She turned over her older self's hand to reveal the same reddish, candle-shaped image emblazoned on her skin. Somehow, seeing that the Mark lasted so long made it a little easier to believe that what is signified was true. "I like how I turn out," she murmured. "I just hope I do all the right things to get to where you are."

    "You will. But there will be wrong turns along the way. Forgive yourself. Your mistakes are not you."

    Young Aileen nodded, pulled her hand away, and shrank back in her chair. Easy for this older self to say--but hard for her to believe. The fear was too real.

    As if she had read her mind, the woman leaned forward with a fiery gleam in her gaze. "Listen to me, Aileen. If you forget everything else in this conversation, remember this. The fear is not real."

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    1. Brilliant! There's a lot of story in this piece, and I'd love to explore it. Very well written!

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    2. I feel for young Aileen -- but that makes me happy that she has such a kind older self to talk to. I'm definitely interested to know the story in between her young and old selves!

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    3. Any story that examines fear is compelling to me. Good job, here. I wonder how your hero moves from young to old, how she overcomes the fears that haunt her now.

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    4. "Your mistakes are not you." Good reminder. :)

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    5. This was wonderful, Tracey. You did a great job :).

      ~ Savannah
      scattered-scribblings.blogspot.com

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    6. Thanks for the feedback, everyone! :) Shannon, I so agree about fear being a compelling element. As a universal and deeply personal thing, it's a topic I'm passionate about dealing with in writing!

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    7. Forgiveness and fear . . . sounds like my story! I really liked this, good job!
      *Sarah

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  20. Candlelight flickered throughout the dirty room, washing the walls with shadows. This was a luxury -- prisoners usually lived their pathetic life in the dark, languishing along the roaches in their misery. A scowl crawled across my face as I stared through the bars. I slipped my hand over the lock, undoing it and sliding inside. I locked the dungeon door behind me and strode down the dusty hall. Half-dead faces slowly turned towards me, staring deliriously at this strange visitor in the night. Or was it day? But what did it matter to them? Their lives had already been condemned.

    I pushed them out my mind. I was here for one man only -- the good hermit who had eluded me for far too long. And there he was, sprawled across the floor in a corner, with his straggly gray beard and frail, broken body. What a shame. I cast the other prisoners a dirty look, then commanded him to stand. He complied with a sly grin, bowing mockingly.

    "Kind sir," he said, the cocky grin still curling his lips. "How may I serve you?"

    "Bow, vagrant," I said harshly. He laughed. "Son, you've not changed a bit. Do you still lie before the king as a lapdog? Perhaps you should wear a collar, no? I hear they're in fashion." I drew a pistol from my belt and cocked it. "Now." The hermit tilted his head, raising an eyebrow. "You're here to take me to the king? I see the fire in your eyes. Do you want to slap me? Go on. Do it. I'm a tough old man." He laughed, turning a wrinkled cheek towards me. I spat on it.

    "Provocative," he chuckled, wiping his cheek with his palm. "Power is strange, son. It gives and it gives, and still leaves a beggar in its wake. Funny, no?"

    "I'd go with no," I growled. He chuckled again. "You don't recognize me, do you? And yet I remember. Do you recall the farm? So long ago. You were different then -- happy, contented. Surely you must remember."

    I gritted my teeth. "You're senile, old man." He laughed. "Yes! Unfortunate, isn't it? Tragic, really. Kid, I have a teensy bit of advice for you. So listen, eh?" And now his smile curled into an ugly sneer, and I found myself taking a step back. Weak as he was, this man still radiated control. "You will never be king. You will never be able to assassinate him. Your plans will always fail. You will carve a path to the throne, and fall before it. You will bathe in blood, and drown in it. This is your destiny: you cannot flee from it, only fall before it." He came closer now, the stench of rotting carcasses emanating from his person. My hands shook. I'd never told anyone of my plans to assassinate the king. "Who are you?" I whispered, the pistol slipping from my hands and clattering on the stone floor. He grinned once more.

    "Don't you know? I'm you, kid."

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    1. This is nice! Good work! :D

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    2. I really like how much fire both versions of the protagonist have. The unique position of having a man with plans for power talking to his destitute, bitter future self in a prison is very interesting and leads me to believe that the theme is about there being more to life than power and the need to seize the opportunity to change before it's too late. Very nice work, and bursting with character!

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    3. Wow, Jason, this is fantastic! Your description and dialogue is amazing. Keep up the good work! :)
      -LHE

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    4. Compelling! The amused hopelessness in the older hero is interesting. Makes me wonder just how the young hero's journey will play out. Lovely prose.

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    5. Wow! I really enjoyed readjng this! You're great at both dialogue and description, and it definitely made me want to read more. :D

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    6. Thanks you guys! I really appreciate it. :) You all made my day!

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    7. Good! You're welcome! :D

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  21. I stepped cautiously over to the booth and sat down. I could tell by the feeling in my stomach that I was supposed to go there, but I couldn’t figure out why. It didn’t make any logical sense. I mean, why go to the surface of Deerdren, when I could stay below it?
    “Endings! You came,” I heard a familiar voice coming from behind me. I flipped my head around. Me?
    “Uh . . ..”
    “Calm down. It’s not like you didn’t know this was coming,” he laughed. “You could feel it, right?”
    Though he –I? – hadn’t aged at all, like usual, I could tell he was older. His eyes looked different – wiser. “Yeah. I could feel it, but I didn’t know it would be . . . me.”
    “I came because I needed to talk to you,” he said, sighing. “So . . . how old are you now?”
    “Four thousand,” I answered cautiously.
    “Wow. Young, then.”
    I crossed my arms and glared. “Sure. Young. I’m only as old as Deerdren itself.”
    “You’re young compared to me,” he laughed, but then became very serious. “Look . . . I need to prepare you for something very important that’s going to happen to you.”
    I raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”
    “I want you to know that, no matter what you think, your family doesn’t actually hate you. They just don’t know how to show you that they love you. And . . . the accident . . . it wasn’t your fault.”
    I scoffed. “Yeah love me. And . . . not my fault? *Sure*. That’s what Cat keeps saying.”
    “Catastrophe . . ..”
    Great. He had something to say about her, too. “What?”
    “Nothing,” he sighed, apparently deciding that it wasn’t necessary information to be given.
    “Is that all you came to say?”
    “Well . . . not exactly . . ..”

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    1. How interesting to work with a character who doesn't age. Your ending was intriguing, and it makes me wonder if the older character decides to tell more. As for your younger character, I can definitely understand his unwillingness to accept his future advice. Forgiving and accepting ourselves can be a hard task to accomplish.

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    2. Clearly your young hero is going to battle insecurities deep inside his soul. I wonder if a need for belonging will motivate his actions throughout.

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    3. This is very interesting. I wish there was more! Good work. :)

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    4. Thanks everyone! I really appreciate the feedback! :)

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  22. Lem stared at the tall man.
    “Do I look like I thought you would?” grinned the man, who had introduced himself as
    Lemuel, ‘to spare confusion’.
    Lem stared at the man’s robust mid-section, wondering whether to crack a joke about it. Did respecting your elders still count if it was you? “You’ve filled out some,” he finally said, as they sat down at the table and ordered coffee.
    “Good home cooking,” laughed Lemuel.
    Being two good ole farm boys, they discussed the weather in great depth until the mugs arrived.
    Lem took a glance at his reflection in the mug, half-expecting to see beer instead of coffee. But whether he was dreaming this whole meeting or not, he decided he ought to ask questions of more importance.
    “What happens to the farm?” he asked the older man.
    Lemuel looked up, a frown clouding his round face. “I’d rather not talk about that.”
    “Why?”
    “I’ll doubt you’ll handle the news any better than I did.”
    “So it’s bad?” guessed Lem, sucking in a breath.
    “Is it ever bad!” grumbled Lemuel. “Those stupid taxes and regulations, on a bad crop year, they just killed my profits, and after that there wasn’t much I could do…” Lemuel paused. “Oh, I see what you’re doing. Well, I won’t say anything more. Trying to trick me, aren’t you?”
    “Can you blame me?”
    “No – I’d do the same. But, if you’re really looking to avoid all this extra weight, try to keep your cool no matter what happens. Stand your ground – make them be fair. And when they’re right, and you’re completely sure of it, obey. Not before then, you hear? Keep your head up and don’t lose hope. There’s a bright spot around the corner.”
    Lem, his head drooping a little, nodded. He took a sip of coffee. “What about Amelie?” he suddenly asked.
    Lemuel winked. “That’s the bright spot I was telling you about. Now, I’ve talked too much already. I’d better go. One last piece of advice Lem. Talk more. There’s no need to go around like one of those actors in a silent movie.”
    “Hey, I talk. That’s all we’ve been doing this whole morning.”
    Lemuel rolled his eyes. “Duh. You’re always were good at talking to yourself. I mean talk to OTHER people. Especially Amelie. She likes hearing what you have to say.”
    Lem regarded Lemuel warily, about to ask how he knew that, but Lemuel was already rising, with some effort, from the narrow booth.
    “Now I’ve got a question for you,” Lemuel said. “What do you think about me?”
    Lem finally cracked a grin. “A little paunchy, but I’d take that to have your sense of humor.”
    “You do have it. I just show it more,” answered the man, giving him a friendly pat on the shoulder as he lumbered to the door.

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    1. I like how relaxed Lem and Lemuel are around each other, and I really like the line, "One last piece of advice Lem. Talk more. There's no need to go around like one of those actors in a silent movie." A good lesson to those of us who are introverts. ;)

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    2. A fun, lively chat. Tells us a lot about your strong, quiet hero.

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  23. This is a short bit based off of a story I've been working on for years. It's going through a lot of changes and I'm in an exploration process with it right now, so any comments/observations/feedback are welcome!

    -------
    The old man, there’s something familiar about him. Not in looks or mannerisms, just essence – the same kind of feeling I get when it seems like I’ve experienced something already. Déjà vu. Clasped between his shaking hands, a mug of hot tea quivers, the liquid lapping at its edges.

    “Do you know why we’re here, Max?” he asks, his voice hauntingly familiar, though cracked and faded like an old photograph.

    I swallow, gripping the edge of the table between my thumb and forefinger. “No, sir.”

    “I’m not your superior, you don’t have to call me ‘sir’,” he chuckles, tilting his head to study me.

    “Alright.” Through an exhale I ask, “Why are we here, then?”

    The old man sips from his tea, breathing in the steam. Cautiously he lowers it to the table where he rests his hands against it, rubbing a callous on his right index finger. He clears his throat.

    “You know what you have to do,” he says. “But you’re confused.”

    Something hot flairs in my chest, hot and sick.

    “I know what I want to do,” I answer, my voice tight.

    “But it may not align with the views of the majority.”

    “How do you know?” I bump the table when I lean forward and the tea laps over the edge of the mug, spilling onto the smooth wood. “How do you know what’s going on in my head?”

    He wipes at the spilled tea in silence, avoiding the answer. With wet fingertips, he absentmindedly draws the outline of a five-point star on the tabletop.

    “Truth, Max, is like a dragon,” he says. “You wake it up not knowing if it will let you go free, or destroy you. But we humans were given the unfortunate task of facing it eventually.” He sits back. “So, the question is, will you wake the dragon?”

    The reflective sheen on the surface of the spilled tea warps, images wavering across its surface: a young woman with a baby, the rebel medics’ blue caduceus patch, a scorched helmet in a bomb crater, a fleet of jets with dragon wings.

    I tear my eyes away, shivering, and the man is watching me knowingly.

    “Who are you?” I ask, but somehow, I know.

    He smiles, squinting grey eyes. My eyes. “You wish you knew me better.”

    / / /

    I startle awake in the quiet barracks, just one of many soldiers having nightmares.

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    1. This is so cool! I love the ending!

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    2. This is fascinating, and I love the ending.

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    3. This is AMAZING! O_O

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    4. This is really good. I like the extra adding of the tea and the ending is really good. Dragons being unleashed and the majority not agreeing? Sounds fascinating, keep at it!
      *Sarah

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    5. Thanks so much Izz/Sarah/GJE/*Sarah! I think it would make more sense in context with the larger work, so I'm glad you all like this even as a side piece. Means a lot! :)

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    6. I like how you communicated that Max and the old man were the same person not by direct confession but by the line, "My eyes." I agree with the other readers; your use of simile creates a strong symbol for the themes expressed in this passage.

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    7. This is one of my favorite writing exercises here hands down. This is amazing. I love how you did the dialogue and described what Max was think and and feeling. Keep up the good work. I wish there was more. :)

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    8. You're welcome! It's one of the best ones here!

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  24. A wee bit late, perhaps, but I did get a response up for the prompt. This is Gwen Alyron, the main character in my fantasy-adventure series.
    -----------
    Having grown up with an identical twin, Gwen had always thought she was used to seeing another person with her face. Now she discovered otherwise. True, Nightshade's face had been more like Gwen's own than that of the person sitting across the table from her. The face Gwen saw now was lined with worries, though the woman who wore it couldn't have been older than forty. Pale scars, nearly invisible against her pale skin, crossed her face, one coming dangerously close to her left eye. Yet Gwen couldn't look into the woman's violet eyes without absolute certainty that she looked at herself.

    “Done staring yet?” The woman crossed her arms, leaning back in back in her chair. “We don’t have time to waste, you know.”

    “I’m aware.” Gwen raised an eyebrow at her older self. “But it’s not every day that you meet yourself from the future.”

    “Fair enough.” The faintest hint of a smile crossed Older Gwen’s face. “All the more question you should ask your questions, then.”

    “Is everyone all right?” Gwen thought of her family, her friends, some captured, some she knew not where. “Do we all make it out of this alive?”

    “You know I can’t answer that.”

    “Why not?” Gwen clenched her fists. “I need to know. I have to be sure that whatever mistakes I’ve made and will make won’t end up getting people killed.”

    “No one gets to know what effect their decisions will have until after they’ve carried out those choices. Why should you?”

    “But-” Gwen stopped herself; she sounded like Rachelle, protesting like that. “Fine. But what am I supposed to do? Everything’s falling apart, and people keep looking to me for decisions- even Aleta seems to defer to me, and I do my best, but I don’t know what the right choices are sometimes.”

    “I know.” Older Gwen’s voice was a bit softer now. “And I know it gets harder. People won’t stop looking to you for direction after you get where you’re going. You’re a Dragon Rider, and people associate Riders with the heroes of old. They’ll turn to you when others fall, and you’re going to have to learn to lead them.”

    “But how?” Gwen shook her head. “I barely manage to take care of my family and the others who look to me now. How am I supposed to lead more?”

    “By doing what you’ve always done.”

    “What I’ve always done?” What kind of an answer was that? Gwen scowled. “You mean run off and hide in the mountains until the problem solves itself?” That was what she felt like doing some days. More days than she liked to admit, even to Icetora.

    “Don’t be an idiot.” Gwen’s older self took on the same tone that Gwen often used on Hunter or Jared. “You know full well that when you went to the mountains, you weren’t hiding and hoping that Nightshade would go away. You were protecting those who needed it. You were doing your duty. You were putting others ahead of yourself. And that’s what you’re going to keep doing. And it will be enough.”

    “Will it?” Gwen asked softly. “It doesn’t feel like enough.”

    “It will be. Don’t worry.” Older Gwen stood. “I have to go now. I’ll see you in my memories. And you’ll see me in yourself, before too long.” She paused. “Oh, and one last thing- give Jared a chance. He’ll surprise you.”

    “What?” But no time remained for explanations. Older Gwen and the room faded away into darkness. And then Gwen woke up with a dry mouth and her wrists still bound behind her.

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    1. If this were a full novel I would totally read it! I love the way old and young Gwen converse, and the overall voice of your writing. This is very compelling :)

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  25. “Go on,” Aidan murmured. “You need it.” That half-puzzled-half-smiling expression she knew so well flitted across his face. “Or you did, anyway.”
    She took a breath and nodded, turning to the door. She put her hand on the handle and paused again. “Should I tell her right away?”
    There was silence for a moment before he answered. “She’s still going by Ahrelenna?”
    “Yes.”
    “Then say you’re Rel.”
    She nodded and then, without giving herself the chance to worry more, she entered the room. The door clicked shut behind her.
    The girl at the table looked up and frowned, tensing in a motion that would have been subtle to anyone else. Rel saw it clearly.
    “Who are you?”
    “I—I’m Rel.” She sat down, determined now. She had to go through with this—her past self needed this.
    “What are you doing here?” The other girl hadn’t relaxed yet, but that was no surprise.
    “I’m here to talk to you, Ahrelenna.”
    Ahrelenna burst from her seat. “How do you know my name?”
    Rel smiled. “Well, I’ve used it a lot in the past.”
    Ahrelenna blinked. Then her eyes widened and she glanced down at herself, then back to Rel.
    “You—you’re—you’re me!” she cried in shock.
    Rel nodded. “A bit further on in life, but yes.”
    Ahrelenna sat back, still wide-eyed. “I haven’t changed much.”
    “I’ve changed a lot.”
    “You look almost the same.”
    “Did you expect me to have gray hair? We both know that’s never going to happen.”
    Ahrelenna smiled faintly. “How many years ahead of me are you?”
    Rel smiled, her gaze softening. “A good few centuries.”
    “So…does it get better?” After a pause, she added hesitantly, “Do I—do I find them?”
    “Well…I can’t tell you that.” Rel smiled in sympathy as her past self slumped down further. “But the rest of the Ten haven’t forgotten you, I promise. They’re all looking just as much as you are.”
    Ahrelenna’s expression didn’t lighten. “What about…what about Viadren? Is he—is he here too?”
    Rel shook her head. “I can’t tell you that either.”
    “Well then what can you tell me?” Ahrelenna demanded, frustrated.
    Rel smiled. “That it does get better. Much better.”
    “If that’s all you can tell me I might just give up now.” Her lip trembled, but Ahrelenna held her expression in check.
    “Don’t. I know you’ve been searching for a long time, but trust me when I say you have great things ahead.” Rel’s eyes grew distant as she focused on something only she could see—memories that she had and Ahrelenna would eventually have too—and she smiled. “The hard things are all worth it in the end, I promise.”
    She got up and made her way to the door, giving her younger self one last smile of encouragement as it closed behind her.
    “Looks like it went well,” Aidan’s gentle voice brought her back to reality. Rel turned to him, still smiling. He grinned. “Ready to go, then?” A shimmering archway appeared behind him, giving a glimpse of the city that lay beyond—a city that was miles from where they were.
    Rel nodded, and together the two of them stepped through.

    (Sorry it's a little late!)

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    1. This is amazing! I love how you described it and your dialogue is very engrossing. :) Keep up the good work!

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    2. Thanks! I'm glad. :D

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    3. This is GREAT! Good work! It makes me want to read more!

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  26. "You."
    Brown eyes, brown hair, a slight smirk of a grin, broad shoulders, and one scarred, unseeing eye.
    She chuckles, sending chills up and down my spine. "Me."
    I'm staring. She's staring. We each size each other up with an identical, easy-going, calculating look. Her neck bears teeth marks I haven't gotten yet. Her hair's darker. Slightly sharper jaw.
    But we could be twins.
    "So you cracked it, then?" I say, trying to be nonchalant. My insides are in an uproar - so we do figure it out someday, and I apparently decide that the benefits outweigh the risks. Funny. I have managed to disgust myself.
    She nods, her brow furrowed ever so slightly. "Yes. Eventually." Her sigh betrays years - decades, perhaps - of work that I'm not ready for. It's been two years of constant exhaustion, betrayal, and analytical science that the adults in my division can't handle, and the idea of putting up with that for one more year is almost unbearable.
    "Was it worth it?" I hear myself ask, and my breath catches in my throat.
    She starts to nod, then stops, confused. "Yes. I don't know. It's...complicated."
    "Complicated. Our life's work is complicated?" I ask pointedly, crossing my arms.
    She looks...sad? No, not sad. Horrified. Her eyes have a look I've never seen before and hope to never see again.
    "We built the machine. It worked. Then, people started to travel, and things started to change." She speaks slowly and deliberately, swallowing hard after every sentence.
    I lean back in my chair, suddenly aware of what she's saying.
    "You ruined the space-time continuum."
    She nods.

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    1. Wow! Lots of great description, and I really enjoyed reading it! Great work!

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    2. Oooh, chilling! Your writing packs a lot of punch!

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  27. This is great! It has lots of description of the characters and is very well written.
    -LHE

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  28. Me studies me: my hand, cracked and torn and wrinkled; my eyes, dim and fading and hollow; and my beard, wondering why in the worlds he’ll ever have one. I know what he’s thinking, that he must have got it wrong somewhere, because he’d never, ever, look like his father. I smile at him, scoop my ring out my pocket and hold it out. It lights up at my touch, and glows with the same clouds-across-sky colours that dance over the same ring on his finger. He smiles, and we, being much alike, slide them onto the table so they can touch. It’s as if we’ve placed them on a mirror – sixty years apart and they glow and shimmer in sync.
    ‘Where’s the amulet?’ He asks.
    I smile. No greeting, no introduction. He’s so… me. ‘Isn’t telling you cheating?’
    ‘I have to find it’, he says, ‘Because there’s no other way to stop the purveyors. So if I’m supposed to find it, you already will have. And I need to know where it is.’
    I almost laugh at him, but that would be unkind. ‘Who’s to say I found it?’
    He tries to speak, but I cut in. ‘Life doesn’t always work out how you think it should.’
    ‘I know that.’ He says quickly.
    ‘You know nothing.’ I snap. ‘Everything doesn’t always work out alright in the end, even if you’ve done everything right, which you won’t. Good doesn’t always triumph over evil, because that’s the way everything “has to end”.’ Air quotes. I haven’t used them for-
    He looks as if his face has been burnt by a thousand purveyors, which is something he’ll experience soon enough.
    I sigh. ‘So no, I’m not telling you where it may or may not turn out to be.’
    The younger me turns to leave. Me, unaware of the pain, the torment and the anger about to swallow him moments after he leaves.
    ‘Wait.’
    He stops, but doesn’t look back. At me. Himself. Whatever.
    ‘Don’t put all your faith in your friends,’ I say. ‘It only hurts more afterwards.’
    He spins round, and meets me in the eye. ‘My friends will never betray me.’
    ‘No’. I agree. ‘Betrayal would be much better.’
    ‘I don’t care if they abandon me, or stab me, or leave me bleeding to death on the roadside. If they did, they’d do it for a good reason. And I’d never give up on them for it. If I did, I wouldn’t be me.’
    I picture the burnt, torn and stained addresses buried at the bottom of my drawer.
    ‘You better be going now.’ I say. ‘And if I were you, I’d turn left.’
    He slips on a ring and rises. ‘Thanks.’
    ‘See you soon.’ I say.
    ‘See you later.’
    And he vanishes in the doorway.
    I clutch the ring left on the table, and smile. It’s the ring he came with.

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    1. Cool! I love the feeling of forboding... what's going to happen to the friends?

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