As I mentioned in my previous post, I would like to share with you what I’ve learned in my CW101 class so far. I’ll start with my second week’s assignment and skip week one. That one I’ll save for later, because it has the potential to become a full-fledged story, and I would like to work on it in secret. Just to be sure I am not infringing on anyone’s copyright, I checked with Gotham’s administration about what I can and cannot share about the class. I was told two exercises are OK. (I suppose I can share my own stories (not the actual instructions or themes), because stories are mine and I can do with them however I please.)
Assignment rules the way I remember them: Write a scene under 500 words, based on a short “telling” paragraph. Stick to the facts; show rather than tell.
The paragraph the way I remember it: Mick and Loretta, are driving along a lonely wintry highway. Suddenly they hear a loud noise. They start bickering about who’s been drinking. Then they get out of the car to only find … nothing.
Just a couple of notes before the actual scene. I didn’t want to write in 3rd person (whatever it’s called in proper terms.) And I didn’t want Loretta to be the narrator. I didn’t come up with the title as it was not required by the rules, but tried to stick to 500 word count and found it incredibly hard. I actually wrote over 600 words, but then had to pare it down. I struggled with the collision paragraph, because it was hard to incorporate the loud noise into the story — it would change everything, and the scene wanted to be written with a “heavy thud.” Oh, almost forgot: the female character swears.
I will greatly appreciate your ideas about how I can improve the scene without increasing the word count. I haven’t gotten any feedback on this yet, so you can go to town ripping it apart. I think I’ve grown thick enough skin to take criticism, if not with acceptance, but at least with dignity. Enough talk though.
~ \ ~
The night fell and enveloped the world in a soft blanket of falling snow. A ribbon of treacherous ice that was the highway streamed beneath the wheels of my Land Rover. On both sides of the road, pine trees raced — solemn, watchful, wary — their spires reaching for the pregnant firmament that was about to collapse under its own weight and relieve itself in one monstrous dump.
I looked at my watch. 8:05 pm. We had to hurry. If we didn’t reach the cabin within the next hour, we could be stranded in this godforsaken wilderness until morning. I glanced at Loretta’s profile silhouetted against the backdrop of the blurred hibernal landscape – she was fast asleep. My left hand on the steering, I rummaged through her purse with my right hand, fished out her cell phone and checked the screen. Just as I expected, the screen flashed lugubriously “No Service.”
I was about to return the cell to the purse, when suddenly, with a heavy thud the Rover shook like a giant beast and lurched into the empty oncoming traffic lane. I slammed on the brakes, and the truck screeched to a halt barely an inch away from the edge of the road.
“What the f*** was that?” Loretta croaked.
“I’ve no clue. I think I hit something.” I replied unbuckling my seat belt and shifting the gear into “park.”
“What could that be? A deer?” Loretta asked. She turned around to look at the highway.
I followed her gaze, but couldn’t see much – the rear view was half blocked by snow.
“Mick,” Loretta was now staring at me, her eyes glistening with suspicion. “Have you been drinking?”
“No. Why would I be drinking?”
She continued to stare at me in silence, her eyes growing harder, her mouth tightening and turning into a straight line, her chin pushing slightly forward. At that moment, she looked like a pitbull ready to attack.
“You tell me why,” she finally uttered. Her hoarse voice didn’t portend forgiveness.
“I haven’t,” I coughed up, my throat suddenly dry. “I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in my mouth for several months.” It was a lie, but she didn’t need to know that. Not now, not ever.
“And you expect me to believe this? Of course, you haven’t been drinking. Why then are we sitting here in the middle of nowhere and having this conversation?”
“Get off my back,” I opened the door and jumped out of the quietly humming truck. Loretta followed suit.
We made a few steps in the direction where our collision ought to have occurred, expecting to see… something. A deer?.. Santa Clause? All we saw, however, was a deserted highway, sentry pine trees, and a promise of big trouble if we didn’t get out of here soon.
Loretta touched me lightly on the shoulder. “Listen!” she whispered. I strained my hearing, and realized that the world grew quieter than in a coffin.