Writers In Motion
For readers, this is an event organized by Jeni Chappelle last year, in which writers create a story based on a prompt, and move it from first draft to finished piece over five weeks.
Normally, I’d open with story, and that’s what I plan to do in the next blog posts. But because this is the opening week, I decided to introduce myself and my process first.
The Mess…uh, Writer
This is my first time participating in Writers-In-Motion. I was initially hesitant about exposing my process of drafting/redrafting/rewriting/revising/ burn-it-and-start over on my blog, mostly because…
I’m a pantser. With sequins.
Believe me, I’ve tried to change my pantsing ways. For years. I read the books. I tried beat sheets. I tried the outline. I tried the reverse outline. (FYI: That’s the least onerous kind of outline if any pantser wants to try it. It’s still an outline. You will cry. Just not as much.) I spent a lot of time trying to change who I was. Why?
Because I’d been told I was wrong and my whole creative process was wrong. Because I was embarrassed to call myself a real writer because I write out of my imagination directly and have for–well, a long time. I’m messy. My desk is messy. My mind is messy. My stories are messy.
I’m a beautiful mess.
But the good thing about writing? Truth is, there’s no one way to write.
The first thing I thought when I saw the prompt was that it was sterile, frightening, and staged. The colors were stark and uninspiring. The lady holds the flare with the look of a person who has no choice in the matter. Her face is frozen.
The more I looked at it, the more my brain churned. This seemed like a picture intended to be inspiring, but instead of being inspiring, it seemed to belong to the world of motivational posters where the caption would probably say something like “Reach for the Sky” and the person looking at it would be thinking, “At gunpoint?”
What can I say? My mind is a weird place.
I didn’t want to go dark on this prompt. Having triggered the feelings of despair, sadness, and trapped lives, I wanted to do something about it. Something fantastic, off-the-wall, and happy for all involved.
I put this together in right at ten minutes. I didn’t plan. I didn’t think. I didn’t even look at the picture while I wrote it.
The name Kenny came out of nowhere. I went with it. The only character thing I was conscious of as I wrote was a need to capture the hatred Kenny feels for his dead-end job and how he’s trapped in a situation he’s desperate to escape. I wrote out the images purely as his reaction to them.
The only plot thing I kept in mind was a need to tell this as a full story—a protagonist, a goal, a problem, his solution, and the resolution. I also needed to do it in 500 words or less. Why 500? Because I wanted room to add in the next draft. Most of my first drafts serve as the bones for rewrites rather than revision. I wanted a whole, told story there on day one. No showing. Only telling.
WAITING TO JUMP
Kenny was waiting for Batlady to jump. When she did, that would be his cue.
The office was full of these inane motivational posters. Everest is waiting to kill you faced him every day across his desk. Zombie Biker dudes completed the Tour De France on the way to slaughter him whenever he walked down the hall. And behind the boss’s desk, Batlady held her torch above the clouds, her face trapped in that tortured vision that suggested somebody evil had nailed her feet to her perch, but he didn’t see the blood. Cleaned it up for the photoshoot probably. But one of these days, she’d pull her feet free, and so would he.
But when she jumped, he didn’t expect to be the one to catch her.
He was breaking the law at the time. He’d heard through the office gossip-chain that his head was on the chopping block. If they were going to fire him, he’d prefer to go out with everything he needed to blow enough whistles to bring every dog in the regulatory agencies barking to the door. He took everything he needed: books, phone-numbers, illegal correspondence, feeling more self-righteous and less like dog-doo on a shoe the further he dug into the darkness he’d worked in for so long.
He jumped up like the chair had shot thumbtacks in his ass when he heard her scream. And there she was, batwing cape flapping around her flailing arms, yoga pants on fire, bloody feet trailing helpless streamers as she fell.
Maybe it was his need to save something. Maybe he felt for her, trapped in the world for so long that she’d die to get out of it, like he would. Maybe he was high on either the gasoline fumes or the vindictive joy he felt in knowing he didn’t need to use it to bring down the corporate Dark Tower. But he flung himself at the poster, arms open wide, screaming for her to grab hold—he’d catch her.
They took the poster with them when they left. She carried all the information he stole, hidden in the folds of her cloak. He carried the gasoline, which he didn’t need anymore. He’d never really fit the image of a terrorist. She was so beautiful, and he gave her his shoes because her feet were so bloody.
Now they raise organic vegetables on a farm in Oregon. Kenny is happy in his Birkenstocks and wide-brimmed hat, and his blood pressure numbers are the envy of men half his age. And Batlady cards wool from their hair-sheep to spin into thread, which she looms into the cloth for all the batwing cloaks she sells. She’s happy too. Kenny calls her Lady Bee. The nail-holes in her feet barely show.