How We Write – The Photo

This is probably the shortest, at 186 words, and the darkest story we’ve ever written.

Immediately, the combination of the prompts, photo and the dumpster, led to certain conclusions. Orion wrote the story a few years ago, then, says Kyros, traumatized him with it! However, he’s responsible for some of the chilling details at the end that were added during editing.

It’s said, with some truth, that Orion kills characters off, not Kyros! But once Orion puts it out there, Kyros’ diabolical brain comes up with some very, uh, innovative, shall we say, methods to accomplish that goal.

 


Photo by Talles Alves on Unsplash

 

THE PHOTO

My mom framed the photo. She keeps it right there on the mantelpiece in our small rambler.

“See?” she says to visitors. “My lovely daughter and my second husband Nick.” She sniffs. “He was a policeman, you know, and a good one, they said. Always so good with the survivors, the wives and parents and kids.

“My girl? She’s thirteen there. Such a good girl. Sports star, good grades.”

A tear slides down her wrinkled cheek. Then she shakes her head.

“I don’t know why my darling husband had to die.”

I do.

Because of that ‘special’ warmth he showed me from the day they were married.

Because of the nights he tucked me into bed.

Because of the baby I left in a dumpster behind the high school.

You better believe I know why he had to die.

Why I spent a year growing hemlock in the corner of the backyard.

Why, after the paralysis set in, we had a nice long talk about his sins before he died.

And why I’m now the youngest woman in history to be sentenced to life in prison.

 

How We Write – Last Call

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

 

The prompts for this story were: dark star safari, last call, a moment of yearning.

As usual, the three prompts already suggested a story: Someone is loading for a trip. Dark star safari suggested outer space. Who was yearning? The story unspooled from there.

Oddly enough, given that Orion doesn’t usually enjoy first-person stories, this one demanded to be told from that point of view.

As with other stories lately, we are finding that moving some of the exposition into the narrator’s thoughts strengthens the impact of the story. See, we’re still growing and learning our craft as writers just like everyone else.


Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

 

LAST CALL

As usual, Johnny was up earlier than I was. Logically, my little brother should have made breakfast, but most of the time, I’d find him drinking kaffo, reading a space story, or perusing travel brochures. Today, he sat at a dining room table covered with pamphlets and reference books. His Note-Tab was propped up by a thick book he favored: Dr. Drummond’s All Things Space. Coming up behind him, I saw an info page for ‘Dark Star Safari – Experience the very best the universe has to offer!’

I pointed at the screen. “What’s this? I haven’t heard of them before.”

He turned a shining face up toward me. “They’re new! Sit down. I’ll show you.” (more…)

How We Write – Hi, Honey, I’m Home

We had four prompts for this story. They were: Blue skies, Perfect weather, Top down, A wasted life. One reason it’s so easy for us to write a short story is that, given three or more prompts, we can already see a snapshot of the story we want to write. We hear other writers complain that trying to fit anything over one prompt into a story makes their head spin, but apparently there’s truth to the old adage that two heads are better than one. More space for the ideas to bounce around in! (Yeah, yeah, we know. That implies there’s a lot of empty room up there!)

Also, as a side note: Somewhere between originally writing this short and polishing it for the blog, we forgot what the prompts were. Thankfully, because we use Google Docs for all our writing, it was a simple matter to bring up the version history, click on the very first version and find the prompts sitting there, right at the top of the page, along with the very first rough outline of the story.


HI, HONEY, I’M HOME!

I needed this, I thought as I pulled out of the parking lot at work.

Hell, I deserved this.

Getting this convertible was a great idea! I don’t care what everyone says, I didn’t get it because I’m going through a ‘midlife crisis.’ (more…)

How We Write – Just Like An Old Time Movie

Picture thanks to http://valleysinthevinyl.com/

 

Our prompts this story were: bottled water, spiral, starting over, and rain. Taken together, they suggested a sad story of unrequited love. Of wishing things could be different but knowing they never can be.

When we first wrote it, the story was all in the first person, but, on editing, we found it needed to be more…personal…more immediate!

So, we pulled a lot of the original story into the narrator’s thoughts. We also added the movie the narrator was watching, with its attendant imagery.

We think the resulting story is much stronger. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

The title phrase kept bouncing around in Kyros’ mind until he remembered where it came from. By the way, in case you’re wondering, it’s from an old Gordon Lightfoot song If You Could Read My Mind.

Also, we have some observations after the story we’d like you to think about.



Picture thanks to http://valleysinthevinyl.com/

 

JUST LIKE AN OLD TIME MOVIE

 

It’s raining outside my window. Well, that’s the perfect backdrop for my thoughts today.

I took a long drink from my bottle of water and let my thoughts drift back over our interactions. Every moment of my life since I met her played across the movie screen in my mind.

It was winter that first time we met, everything slippery with ice. I stopped to help her pick up her books, scattered across the sidewalk where she’d fallen in the snow. (more…)

How We Write – On The Road Again

So, if you didn’t know already, Kyros and Orion have a short story collection out called Unidentified Love. It’s seven connected short stories about a human man and his alien husband. When we got the prompts, Gray, Outrunning 911, and Debating, Kyros immediately knew what the gray was: a gray alien. That put this story squarely in the Unidentified Love universe.

It’s unusual for either Kyros or Orion to write in the first person present tense, but this story pretty much demanded it. Most of our fiction is written in the third person past tense. First person point of view is a really good way to get to know a character and their thoughts.

Give it a try: pick a short story you’ve written or a piece of flash fiction or a scene from your WIP (work in progress). Rewrite it in first person and see if it turns into a stronger story. You might learn something new about your main character.

Let us know in the comments how it turns out for you.


Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

(An Unidentified Love Universe story)

 

“Hey, Terry, how was your weekend?” Franklyn asked as he slid onto the bar stool next to me.

Putting my head on my crossed arms, I sighed heavily before answering him. “I spent most of it debating with Janet, my oh-so-annoying mother-in-law. She swore she was going to have me arrested.”

“Arrested? For what?” (more…)

How We Write – Merry Spacemen

Orion has long had a fascination with Robin Hood and the Middle Ages. In fact, she got her bachelor’s degree in English, specializing in Medieval and Renaissance literature. (Ask her how that worked out!)

Later in life, she discovered the Society for Creative Anachronism, an international group that spends its weekends recreating the Middle Ages complete with period garb and armor, but with toilets and without the Black Death. Concurrently, she was attending science fiction conventions! Things got confusing at times.

Presented with the prompt ‘between worlds’, Orion combined her two loves, outer space and Robin Hood, for a romp of a story.

Kyros created the picture that accompanies this story by photographing a model of the Liberator sitting on a starfield displayed on his iPad. (The Liberator is from the British TV show, Blake’s 7, from the 70s about a small band of outlaws fighting against the repressive, galaxy-wide Federation. Very like Robin Hood himself. Look it up. Though it featured cheesy sets and special effects similar to the original Star Trek, its ideas and values are worth your time.)

When we began editing this story for the blog, we found it required extensive work. It was originally written in 2013 and we’ve learned a lot about dialog and exposition, and show, don’t tell since then.

We think the story is much better now. Let us know what you think in the comments below.


MERRY SPACEMEN

 

“This is Alliance Frigate Notttingham.” The speakers crackled for a moment. “Lincoln Green, shut down your engines. Surrender and prepare to be boarded!”

Thumbing the comm button, I countered, “We do apologize, but that’s not going to be possible. Our engineer says we can’t shut down right now.”

“Now listen here…,” the Alliance Captain started. (more…)

How We Write – In the Shadows

The prompts were: anonymous, motivated kiss, and fool’s gold

Initially, this story was written in third person with the narrator just listing off what he saw. But when we went back over it for the blog, Kyros suggested it might work better as a true crime type story where the detective is dictating what he sees to a recorder. After that, the story took off. We could both see everything like we were watching it unfold on a TV show. That’s how you know you’re on the right track: the story starts flowing and every detail seems like it’s happening right in front of you.


Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

IN THE SHADOWS

“The subject has entered a small, upscale restaurant on the lower east side.”

He glanced at the lit sign over the door.

“Rubio’s on East 26th.” Letting go the record button on his digital voice recorder, he walked further down the block, then ducked into a dark alley where he could see his subject better.

Pressing down on the record button, he continued, “Subject has taken a table near the window. She appears to be reading something on her Kindle, completely oblivious to the other diners. Is she waiting for someone?”

He saw a commotion through the large plate glass window of the restaurant. (more…)

How We Write – Warm In The Night

The prompts, two men and a flapping tarp, brought to mind for Orion a rustic, possibly medieval setting. Hmmm, a cart with a flapping tarp? Now why would that picture spring to mind? Where was the cart going? Why? And why would the reader care?

Ah, there’s someone in the brush beside the road the cart is on. Who is it and why is that person hiding?

And it needed a cat. A cat always helps a story, right?

So why not make the cat the narrator?

And the story spooled out from there.


WARM IN THE NIGHT

She-Who-Is-Warm and I wept when we left our first home.

Warm’s father said we had to go live with the strange man. There were too many mouths to feed and Warm was the youngest daughter. He told her the strange man would protect us, keep us safe, even love us.

That is not what happened though. (more…)

How We Write – The Woods Are Lovely, Dark, And Scary

The prompt for this one was to write about a real-life incident. Orion doesn’t know why this particular piece of her past surfaced, but even all these years later, it was still vivid in her mind.

It happened when she was a newly-minted English teacher living in a new, strange town. Being raised on a farm and not used to the noise and bustle of a city, even a relatively small Midwestern one, she often sought the peace and quiet of local parks. While the events of this story only happened once, it did put her off that particular park.

When she first wrote this story, she mostly just stated the facts of what happened, like a victim recounting the event to the police. When she and Kyros edited the piece for this blog, they fleshed it out into an actual story, framing the incident in thoughts and emotions, while still keeping it 100% true to Orion’s experience from when she was (much!) younger.


Photo by Cecile Vedemil on Unsplash

 

THE WOODS ARE LOVELY, DARK, AND SCARY

 

I took a deep breath, letting the light and air and peace of the wooded park seep into my body through the open car window.

I really need this. I’m still not used to this city with its loud noises, cars, and people running everywhere. I need reconnect with nature.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man jog into view. (more…)

How We Write – Flourishing Trumpets

Our prompts: Prompt attention, Flags, I’m late

This week, we celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. Those protests took place just two weeks after Kyros was born, so gay pride has had special meaning to him ever since he came out.

The events around Kyros getting kicked out of the military in 1989, before the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy went into effect, also shapes his view of how our country can treat gay people.

All of these experiences went into the writing of this cautionary tale in June 2016, right after the current president won his party’s nomination. Kyros knew from history and firsthand experience that discrimination is never fully eradicated. That even the smallest shift can undo years of hard-fought-for rights.

Happy Pride Week everyone!


FLOURISHING TRUMPETS

“It’s hard to believe it’s only been eight years,” Dennis said, shaking his head. “We never believed it could happen here.”

The two men paused, staring up at the flags waving in the breeze over the central plaza.

“I know. So much has changed….”

A flourish of trumpets rang out from the loudspeakers, cutting him off. (more…)