Friday, August 8, 2014

Flash Fiction: Excerpt from Harbinger of the Wrath

Whoever said that flash fiction was good for the soul was definitely on to something.  It's led me to look back at some older projects that I've shelved for various reasons.  What follows is from a science fiction novel that I've been tinkering since my junior year in college (circa 1999).  I've gone back, made a few adjustments and polished out a couple of rust stains.  I might just take this one off of the shelf and start playing around with it again.  

Excerpt from "Harbinger of the Wrath" (working title)

The priest stood in the doorway, framed by the blue-white light from the solitary light source in the corridor outside. He held the auto-pistol in his right hand, periodically flexing his last three fingers open and closed. The air continued to grow so thick that the priest inwardly swore that he saw the shadows inside the room flutter and move. 

“Forgive me my trespasses and those who trespass against me, Lord. They know not what they do. Grant me your strength to do what must be done and save this poor soul before you come claim her.” The priest whispered to himself and took a single step forward as he steeled himself for what was to come. He waited for her to stir or give some sign that she was still alive. Finally, the priest kneeled upon both knees, sitting forward to keep the ache from setting into his calves. He held the auto-pistol in his lap and braced himself with his free hand. 

“I know you’re awake, Janelle. Just because I’m a priest that doesn’t mean I can’t tell when someone’s trying to play me for a fool.” He said in a low, hoarse voice that did not startle the woman. When her eyes did flutter open, there was little more than bitterness and rage behind them. 

“Priest?” Janelle shot back. The unguarded quiver in the woman’s voice betrayed the rage that seethed within. 

“Nothing has changed Janelle. I am still the same Father…” The priest’s voice rose in volume and was still hoarse and dry, but now it was lined with a gentle edge that was almost pleading.

“No!” She interrupted, shouting at the top of her lungs. “No you’re not! You’re no priest. Priests don’t go murdering people!” 

“Sinners, Janelle. They were all sinners. There was no hope of salvation for them.” The priest shot back in frustration. “Worse, they dared to try and stand in the way of God’s plan. Hence, why he unleashed the plague on the colony and probably…” 

“It was a biological attack!” Janelle cut him off again. “No natural disease can kill someone in three hours. This isn’t God, it’s the Republic launching its counteroffensive to kick-start the Unification War all over again. Jesus Christ I can’t believe…” 

“Don’t! Don’t you dare, don’t you dare!” Spittle flew from his lips and coated the side of the woman’s face and the cold metal barrel of the auto-pistol which was now viciously pressed against the side of her head. “Never take His name in vain! Never, do you hear me! Never!” 

“Because once it starts, I can’t stop them,” his voice lowered to a whimper. “…I can’t stop them from coming for your soul. Once it starts…has started. Don’t you see?” He repeated more quietly as he panted and fought for breath. Eventually he became aware that he had grabbed hold of her hair with his other hand. As he slowed his breathing, the priest began to let go of her. He kept the auto-pistol pointed at her head as he backed away and stood up.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hitting the Rewind Button in Your Mind's Eye

There's an old story that's been told in various incarnations and media.  Generally, it involves a young, hard working employee at some company who passes by the desk/office of a more senior employee.  For the sake of this post, we'll call the young employee Bob and the more senior employee Joe.  Bob passes by Joe's office almost daily and notices that, each time, Joe is just sitting with his feet propped up on his desk.  It looks like Joe is staring out into space or even half-asleep.  Bob, meanwhile, puts in long hours and keeps his nose to the grindstone.  After a few weeks of watching Joe's apparent tireless slacking, Bob finally works up the courage to ask another employee why Joe hasn't been fired yet.  Bob's fellow worker then tells him that some time ago, Joe was sitting at his desk, with his feet propped up, and came up with an idea that saved the company millions of dollars.  I've likely butchered the story, though I think you get the point.

Daydreaming is the writer's best friend, just as in the example above.  It's an opportunity to let the creative side of your brain take over and just wander.  This leads to all sorts of ideas that you may not have considered while you were diligently tapping away at the keyboard to meet your daily/weekly word count goal.  This is because when we are in the trenches of actively writing we are either trying to capture that moment of inspiration and emotion, or trying to slog through a chapter that's become tedious for whatever reason.  Neither gives the writer much of an opportunity to sit back in the audience and watch what's playing on the screen.  That's what daydreaming becomes in the context of writing a book: it's like hitting the replay button for your favorite movie scene to make you didn't miss something. It leads to far more introspection that you might even find during the normal editing process.  

The kind of replay editing that I'm referring to is not so much to catch grammar and punctuation mistakes, as it's a sort of quality control device.  Ultimately, the writer has to ask herself/himself: does this scene play out on paper/ebook the same way that it does in my head?  If it doesn't, then it may be time to hit the replay button and fix what doesn't work.  Alternatively, if what you've written mirrors what's in your head, then you know that it's time to move on to the next scene.  

Another important aspect of daydreaming and its importance to writing - aside from the usual enjoyment of staring off into space - is the inspirational aspect.  Sometimes we dwell so much and for so long on a story that we lose sight of what ignited the creative spark in the first place.  Under those circumstances, daydreaming about your story can help rekindle that fire.  As I mentioned in a previous post that I tend to listen to music when I write.  I also play certain songs when I'm daydreaming and trying to work out a particular section before trying to write it down.  

What do you see when you write or read?