The Florist

So lots of things happened this month that kept me from doing much writing. I got sick for two weeks, and then a lot of other craziness happened.

However, I did finish the story based on my latest writing prompt:

It’s probably terrible, and I barely got to edit it, but here it is anyhow.

He hated tending to this part of the garden. The strange mask he had to wear was cumbersome and uncomfortable. It made him look like a bird. A skinny, pale bird watering ugly herbs and flowers. Despite his dislike of the mask, though, he knew he was better off wearing it and looking like a fool than wandering through the deadly garden unprotected. Without the mask, it would only be minutes, perhaps even seconds, before he would lose control of his muscles, fall to the ground, and eventually lose the ability to control his lungs, thus dying of asphyxiation.
Needless to say, he wore the mask.
Of course, it wasn’t just him. Anyone who walked through the garden would have to protect themselves. That is, if anyone else ever did wander through. Which they didn’t. No one ever saw the garden, never mind set foot in it.
Except for her.
Oleander did not need to wear a mask when she promenaded thru the garden. In fact, she would often stop and stroke and sniff the ugly plants that grew for her. She even smiled at the hideous things. It made Ash wonder why she insisted he tend to the plants every day instead of doing it herself. Since the poisonous beasts didn’t seem to have any effect upon her—other than make her happy, apparently—it seemed to make sense for her to take care of them.
But then again, she had other more important things to tend to.
Such as making up her “bouquets.”
The Flogger was looking a bit depressed. Ash would have to report that to her before it committed suicide. Finished watering and feeding the plants, he retreated to the cottage, removing the ridiculous mask and wiping away the sweat that was trickling into his eyes. He tossed the mask onto the kitchen table and headed towards the door that led down to Oleander’s workshop. The stairs creaked, alerting her to his arrival.
“What is it?” she asked without looking up from her latest order.
“The Flogger is looking depressed,” Ash informed her.
Oleander sighed. “Such a fragile little herb. If a fly but looks at it the wrong way it threatens to undo itself,” she mumbled.
She did not move, though. The workshop looked like an ordinary cellar. Herbs and flowers hung from the ceiling, drying so as to be used in “bouquets.” There were gardening tools, as well as various apothecary instruments scattered about. Barrels were randomly placed about the room, some sealed, some open. Candles were placed along the walls so as to illuminate the otherwise dark space. And in the center of it all was a single table, at which Oleander sat, her head bent over her latest work. Her dark brown hair was pulled back loosely, although strands of it had come loose and hid her face from view. Not that Ash needed to see her face; he had been with her long enough to know what she looked like when she was concentrating on her work.
“Was that the only concern? Is the Chimsel doing well? I worried after last night’s humidity,” Oleander said, still not looking up at him.
“Yes, no sign of frizz or splitting. And the Yrellz is in bloom,” Ash replied.
“Indeed? What color?”
“Excellent. Just what I hoped for.”
“I took the liberty of transplanting it into a small pot and bringing it into the house so that it would not harm the others.”
“Well done.” Oleander now looked up and flashed Ash a dazzling smile. “I could not have hoped for a better assistant. How blessed I am to have found you.”
Ash nodded his head to acknowledge the compliment but did not speak a word. He expected Oleander to return to her work, but she continued to watch him, her grey eyes probing through him. It made him uncomfortable, as he wasn’t convinced that she couldn’t see straight through his heart and mind, reading all his thoughts and desires. Not that he had anything to hide; but who wants someone to break into their thoughts? So he turned and retreated up the stairs.
Four years. It had been four years since Ash had limped up to Oleander’s home in a desperate attempt to find help, even from a crazy hermit in the woods. As he weakly knocked on her door, his legs giving out underneath him, he never expected a pretty woman to answer his desperate plea for sanctuary. She took him in without a word, not even asking how he had come to be in such a sad, wounded state. It seemed strange to him that a single woman of all people would show no apprehension at taking in a complete stranger.
But he hadn’t known then what kind of a person Oleander really was.
She nursed him back to health. When he was at last able to support himself and carry on a conversation, he admitted to her that he was a thief, on the run from the authorities as well as other ne’er-do-wells like himself whom he had managed to make enemies of. She listened patiently, her face never betraying her thoughts. When he was done, he wondered if she would throw him out or perhaps turn him in. But she surprised him. She smiled and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“We all have pasts. We all have secrets,” she said understandingly. “Not everyone, though, has a future. You, however, can. If you’re interested. Are you?”
“What do you mean?” Ash asked, not expecting such a positive response.
Oleander got to her feet, fetching a paper from her writing desk. Sitting back down beside him, she held what appeared to be a document out to him. “I am in need of an assistant. And if you would like, I would be happy to give the position to you.”
“And assistant? What am I going to assist you with?”
“I am a florist.”
“A florist?”
“Yes. A special kind of florist. My garden is not the prettiest of beds, and my flowers are not so sweet, but they’re as important as any rose.”
“All right…”
“It’s not just a hobby, this garden. I run a business. Some of my customers are very well-to-do. Kings and queens, dukes and duchesses. I have made bouquets for more noblemen than you would know.” A sly smile spread across her face. “I am certain you have seen my handiwork one time or another.”
Ash felt thoroughly confused, but he was still recovering from his injuries, so perhaps that was complicating matters. “So you need me to help you make bouquets for prissy rich girls?”
Oleander raised an eyebrow. “No. You will not be required to make bouquets. It’s not something you would be capable of, anyhow. I simply need you to help me make sure this garden continues to thrive, even after I’m gone.”
Ash furrowed his brow in confusion. Oleander held out the document to him, as well as a quill, ready with ink. What choice did he have? This woman was offering him sanctuary. She didn’t care about his past. She was giving him a chance at a future.
So he signed it.
And that’s how he became Oleander’s assistant. Thus far it hadn’t been anything glamorous. But it was nothing horrible, either. She made sure he was protected from her deadly garden. She never allowed any nobleman or soldier to take him away. A few had recognized him. However, they would likely never have breathed a threat in his direction, considering what they were there for.
For as time went on, Oleander slowly revealed to Ash why her ugly “bouquets” were so valuable. Why royalty came in the dead of night in disguise to buy at great cost her disgusting flowers.
“My bouquets, as I like to call them, perform services for these high officials,” she told him.
“None of the things they buy look like bouquets,” Ash commented.
That sly smile sidled up once more. “No, they don’t. That’s because they are my own creation. Some are powder. Some are food. Some are liquid. But all get the job done.”
It didn’t take Ash long to connect the dots. “You sell poison.”
“Many different kinds.”
“They buy poison from you to kill…whoever, I guess.”
Oleander held Ash’s gaze. “Do you think I am wrong?”
Ash held her gaze. “I don’t know. But I really don’t think I have any place to judge.”
Oleander smiled complacently. “You’re a good assistant.”
Ash now stood in the kitchen. He didn’t think poorly of Oleander for the work she did. He feared her, a little, but he was very much impressed with her as well. To live such a lonely life and to serve such cowardly people. It took a strong person to do such things.
Ash turned around and found Oleander standing in the doorway of her workshop. He started when he saw her. It wasn’t that she took him by surprise necessarily; her expression did. It was so soft and vulnerable. He had never seen her look like that before.
“Yes?” Ash replied.
“I need to speak with you.”
Motioning to the kitchen table, she invited—rather commanded—Ash to take a seat. He did so, and she sat across from him. She smiled, but it didn’t have her normal confidence behind it. She seemed almost nervous.
“Is there something wrong?” Ash asked anxiously. Anything that could unnerve this woman had to be terrible.
“No. Nothing is wrong. It’s just…” Oleander trailed off a bit, her eyes wandering away. Before Ash could even attempt to say something, she snapped back to attention, her gaze determined. “Do you remember the contract you signed?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Well, it’s about time that we complete its purpose.”
“Its purpose? I thought its purpose was to make me your assistant in caring for the garden.”
“Not exactly. There is more to it than that.”
Oleander leaned forward a bit. “Do you remember that I told you, before you signed the contract, that I needed you to help me be sure my garden will be cared for even after I’m gone?”
“That is what the contract is really about. Yes, it also included helping me care for the garden itself, but ultimately our contracts are to procure a successor.”
“Wait, what? ‘Our contracts’? What does that even mean? Who are you talking about?”
“I am not the first to tend to this garden. My mother was the caretaker before I. And her mother before her, and so on and so forth.”
“This is like a family business?”
“Yes. My family has been around for a long time. We’ve been supplying bouquets to people for decades, perhaps even centuries.”
“How am I involved with this?”
“Well, I certainly can’t produce a successor on my own.”
It took Ash only a second to catch her drift. The color drained from his face, and he went cold. “Oh.”
“The contract was sort of…a marriage contract?”
Ash’s head was spinning. “Marriage?”
“Yes. We must find a suitable mate in time for us to produce a successor who will then be raised with the garden. Doing so, she will become immune to the ill effects of the flowers as well as learn how to make bouquets.”
Ash ran his hand through his hair and leaned forward a bit, trying to wrap his head around all this.
“Of course, when I met you, you were a bit too young for my liking,” Oleander continued. “So I decided to wait. Which may have been a mistake, as I’ve become rather fond of having you around.”
“Why is that a problem? Shouldn’t you be fond of your husband?”
“In a normal marriage, perhaps. But the women of my family are Black Widows. We marry only with the intent of producing offspring. A mate would only be in the way.”
Ash’s stomach dropped. “So you kill your husbands?”
“How many fathers would allow their wife feeding their child poisonous herbs and exposing her to deadly flowers? Besides, we can only trust people for so long. We are involved in a very risky business.”
Ash felt panicked. The day he signed that contract he thought he was signing up for a better life, for a future. But really, he had only been buying a few years.
“Are you all right, Ash?”
Ash looked up. Oleander was gazing at him concernedly. “Am I all right? You just told me you plan to kill me! How could I be all right?”
Oleander laughed. She gently placed a hand on Ash’s arm, causing him to twitch slightly. “Do you really think if I planned to kill you I would have told you about it? Like I said, I’ve grown fond of you. Perhaps I’m not in love with you, but I do enjoy your company. I want to keep you around. If you are agreeable to it.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Well, while I am fond of you, I really can’t let you go. Too much risk.” Her eyes flickered playfully. “Do you not want to marry me? Am I so old and repulsive?”
“You’re not old.”
“Older than you’d think. I’m an herbalist. I know how to stay looking youthful. I’m certainly not decrepit, but I am nearing the age when childbirth will no longer be possible. Even I don’t have the power to slow down time.” Oleander placed her hands around Ash’s own. “Are you willing, Ash? Will you be my husband? Will you help me keep my garden alive?”
Ash tried to think. He wasn’t opposed to marrying Oleander. She was pretty. He wasn’t in love with her, but he admired and respected her. Perhaps love could grow from that? And he wasn’t certain he’d be all right with his daughter being exposed to that deadly garden. But Oleander had been, and she was a strong, brilliant woman. Aside from the fact that he would be killed if he refused—that did have some bearing on his decision—he realized that a continued future here, in this home, with this frightful woman and her terrifying garden was not unappealing.
Placing his other hand over hers, Ash smiled. “I’d be honored.”


Lethal Garden

I think it’s time for another writing prompt:

Prompt the second: Her garden was more lethal than pretty.

See you in thirty days…

Let Us Speak Again Of Dark And Sad Things

IMG_4741“Write hard and clear about what hurts” -Ernest Hemingway

I am guilty of ruining my characters’ lives.

Okay, maybe that’s going a bit far; most of my characters end up with relatively satisfying endings. However, I am known for killing off quite a few people in my stories. You know Veronica Roth’s Allegiant? Yeah, I’ve been guilty of doing the unthinkable like she did (disclaimer: I haven’t read that book yet, but I’ve pretty much figured it out from what I’ve heard and been told). I have friends and family who don’t handle such loss too well, so I try to warn them away from any stories I write that don’t have a happy enough ending to help them get over all the agony I put them through in the rest of the narrative.

What is my fascination with such tales of darkness and grief?

I’ve been told by certain people–people who seem to think that just because they are older than I that they are sages–that when I get older and have experienced more sadness in my life, I’ll get tired of being entertained by such darkness.


Anyone reading this may not be aware (but the sages to whom I alluded are indeed aware) that I have been through some pretty heartbreaking, devastating, dark experiences. I shan’t go into detail, but I’ve experienced more than just having a cute guy not like me back. Death? Yes. Attempted suicide (not my own)? Yep. Violence? Mhm. Emotional abuse? Heck yes! So I’ve been through a whole lot of heartrending situations, more than, I might add, those who claim my dark writing is just a phase. My interest in the dark and sad have nothing to do with not having experienced these things myself. I won’t lie; going through experiences often does change my writing. I think my experience in romance has changed how I write it; it’s a lot more complicated than it was a few years ago. And my experiences with grief have certainly shaped my writing of it, but not as the “sages” suggested they would. If anything, I write even darker, more despairing stories than once I did. Characters who were gruff and mean but eventually became less abrasive? No such transformation occurs now. Some people just remain jerks; transformations don’t always happen. Writing a sequel to reunite two characters who ended up torn asunder? Nah, leave them pining for each other. Because that, sadly, is the way life is. There aren’t always nice, neat endings. Your favorite people don’t always stick around. Sometimes they don’t even stay alive. I know I write fiction, usually leaning towards the more fantastical, but I want my writing to have a realistic feel to it. Death, grief, depression–all of these things are sadly a part of life.

These dark, sad events also tend to elicit great emotion from the readers. True, they may curse out the author and throw the book across the room, but they get emotionally involved with these characters. They feel for them, even relate to their pain. Seeing a character go through something similar to what you’ve been through can be great therapy. And if you haven’t been through it, it can teach you empathy. If you can feel that strongly for a fictional person, imagine how you could feel for a real person who may need your empathy and support?

And in the end, if our characters were to have nothing but rainbows and sunshine, wouldn’t that be horribly boring? Nothing of interest would happen (in my opinion). I mean, I suppose one could go overboard with the tragedies. I had a discussion with a few people regarding sad stories. One guy was arguing with me that consistently dark, sad stories are useless and ridiculous. His reasoning didn’t convince me, but someone else in that discussion (a musician) agreed that while some tragedy makes for an interesting story, repeated sadness in a tale is like playing the same chord in a song over and over and over. He said it may be a good chord, but it would wear on him and make him tired of it after a while. I saw where he was coming from. But I’m more writer than musician. The same chord may be played, and, yes, that could wear on me. However, I tend to focus more on the lyrics. If the chord is appealing enough a few times and the lyrics are fascinatingly insightful, hitting me right in the feels, I am more than happy to play that song on repeat thirty times over.

That’s how I view writing these sad things. A pervading feeling of darkness and grief could wear on a person. However, if the “lyrics”–the characters, dialogue, etc.–are mesmerizing and cause you to feel so strongly, then they are worth reading ten times over.

So, no, dear “sages.” As I grow older and wiser like you, I doubt I will tire of writing of sad and dark things. If anything, I feel time and experience will only make me want to write them all the more so, with far more insight and understanding than I have now.

Reasons I Can’t Write Today…

IMG_46631. I just got home from work. I need to unwind a bit. I’ll just go on Pinterest for a few minutes.

2. I need to eat dinner now. I don’t want it to get cold. And I certainly don’t want to get food in my keyboard. But I can keep the computer far enough from my food and surf through Pinterest without any trouble. It would be uncomfortable to write that way, though.

3. I have chores to do. I should really finish those first.

4. You know, my studying is more important than my writing. I need to have my priorities straight.

5. Studying took a toll on me mentally. I need to unwind. I’ll watch some TV. And maybe more Pinterest…

6. Russian. I need to study my Russian. I’ll write after that.

7. Ugh, it’s 10:00 pm. I need to start getting ready for bed. I’ll write after that. That way I can stay up late and not worry about falling asleep with my makeup on and my teeth unbrushed.

8. Look at all these books I need to read. I’m in the middle of like ten! I should read a portion of at least one.

9. Okay. I’m going to do it. I’m going to write. Let me just read what I’ve written so far. I need to get an idea of where I left off.

10. What color did I say this character’s eyes were? That’s really important. I think I’ve mentioned it a total of two times. I wouldn’t want to say he has blue eyes one minute and brown the next. I’d better search for the word “eyes.”

11. You know what story I should look at? The one I already finished writing. I should definitely spend some time reading that over again.

12. You know what will help me get an idea of what to write next? Pinterest! I’ll search for some writing prompts and inspiration.

13. These ideas are great. I’ll put them in my Lexophile board. I’ll totally use them soon.

14. Quotes could help motivate me to write. I’ll just take a look over there.

15. Ha, that quote was hilarious. I love puns! I should go look at the Humor section.

16. It’s midnight. I really should go to bed now. I’ll think about my stories as I fall asleep.

17. Passes out instantly.

Always There (Until We’re Not)

So thirty days after my first writing prompt here is the result. Not my best piece, but I hope y’all like it.

My toes are starting to disappear.
I noticed it the other day while I was waiting for Jocelyn to get home from school. I was sitting on the front porch, thinking about the days when she used to allow me to go to school with her. But she began to seem uncomfortable with me being there. Anytime I’d try to talk to her she’d pretend I wasn’t there. She’d ignore me and talk to her friends. I wouldn’t make a big deal of it, but it hurt. To be ignored by the only person who can see you is kind of hurtful. Still, I didn’t want to needlessly embarrass her, so I would just sit silently until we got home. When I finally asked her about it, she was reluctant to talk.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to my friends to talk to someone they can’t talk to. You know?” she said as she pulled her books out of her bag, not even looking me in the eyes.
I didn’t bother to ask how it was fair to ignore me, her best friend since she was three. I simply nodded and slipped away to the corner of her room where her unused toy box was stored. I sat down beside it, quietly pulling out Anne, her old beloved doll who now spent most of her time tucked away in the dark chest. I wondered how long it would be before I was stored away in the dark.
But I know that isn’t how it will end for me.
So I was sitting on the porch, waiting for Jocelyn to come back from school. As I did so, I drew lines in the dirt with my toes. That’s when I saw it. My toes were…transparent. I dusted them off, thinking maybe it was a trick of the eye due to the dirt on them. But even when cleaned I found that I was able to see through them to the ground. I felt a jolt of panic. I quickly examined the rest of me. Legs, arms, fingers. They were all still there. It was just my toes. I glanced back down at them. I wondered how long I had until they were completely gone. Then I wondered what would be the next body part to disappear.
I heard Jocelyn’s bus approach, so I quickly slipped my sneakers back on. As she waved goodbye to her friends and the bus doors closed, I tried to hide my anxiety with a joyful grin. Jocelyn saw me as she approached, and she tried to give me a smile, but I could tell it was forced. She looked down at the ground as she walked to the porch.
“How was school?” I asked.
“Okay,” Jocelyn replied warily, glancing around to be sure no one was nearby.
“How are your friends?”
“Is Caitlin still sick?”
“Uh, no, she came back to school the other day.”
“Oh. You didn’t tell me.”
“Guess I forgot. Sorry.”
I tried not to let the hurt show in my face. “That’s okay. Um, so, do you want to play on the tire swing?”
“I have a lot of homework to do.”
Jocelyn hurried up the porch steps and into the house. I watched the screen door slam shut. Slipping one foot out of its sneaker, I looked again at my vanishing toes.
My hair is shorter. I noticed it the other day. My sandy locks used to go well past my hips. Jocelyn always loved long hair, and since her mother made her keep hers short, she created me with the hair she longed to have. But now it barely brushes against my shoulders. Of course, I know it’s not shorter; it’s disappearing. Just like my toes. They’ve completely vanished now. I guess I’m fortunate nothing too noticeable has gone missing. I wouldn’t want Jocelyn to worry.
I hear laughter in the kitchen. A pain in my throat wells up, and I pull my knees up to my chest. Jocelyn’s friends are over today, studying, or so they say. They sound like they’re having a lot of fun. I can only hear snippets of the conversation, but I hear words like “lame,” “totes,” “smexy.” These terms are so foreign to me. Jocelyn never used such slang when she was younger. She was more interested in animals, books, playing on the tire swing. She didn’t have a lot of friends back then. Not that I wish her to be alone. I would never want that. I just want Jocelyn to be happy. And if these girls make her happy…
Another loud burst of laughter. I pull my knees up tighter as I sit at the top of the dark stairs, trying not to be nosy but so wanting to spend whatever time I have left within my friend’s presence. She didn’t exactly banish me to the shadows, but I could tell from the uncomfortable way she avoided my eyes when telling me her friends were coming over that I would only be in the way. I just want to be able to hear her voice, her laughter. I’m glad she has friends. I’m glad she’s having fun.
Although, I wonder what kind of an influence these girls will have on her. Ever since she’s started hanging out with them she’s changed. And not just with regards to me. She used to be a bookworm, never without something to read. But now she is replacing her books with magazines about fashion, celebrities, boys. And she is wearing makeup. I don’t know why she wants to wear that gooey stuff all over her face. She’s such a pretty girl. True, she doesn’t look like the models and actresses that now adorn her walls, but she’s naturally beautiful. Innocent, pure. She’s different from these girls she seems to like so much. I hate to see her change for them.
Maybe I’m just being jealous. They seem nice enough. I hear more laughter. I sigh and lean my head against the wall. As I glance down at my knees, I notice that my fingers, which are desperately wrapped around my legs, are transparent. With another sigh I stare off into the air. It won’t be long now. I just need to take in as much of her precious laughter as I can.
It’s cold. Maybe it’s just me. I’ve noticed that, even as I sit on the tire swing in the warm sunshine, there’s an ever-present chill. Perhaps that’s a side effect of dying. Sorry, disappearing. Imaginary friends can’t die, can they? It’s not possible to die when you were never a living, breathing creature.
But there was a time, not all that long ago, when I was as real to Jocelyn as any of the other people around her. She created me with so much detail, so much personality. I was her sole companion. We had so much fun back in those days. Reading. Playing tag. Fighting dragons. Imaginary dragons, of course, but as real to her as I. And in the end, we didn’t really fight them so much as we befriended them. Oh, the games we played. The laughter. The conversations.
Jocelyn used to confide in me about everything. We had such deep discussions, even for as young as we were. She used to wonder about what was beyond the stars above as we would lie on our backs on warm summer nights, gazing up at the infinite heavens. We would form theories about other universes, other creatures. Perhaps there was another girl and her imaginary friend on some far off planet watching the sky above them, wondering if out there, out where we were, perhaps there were creatures wondering about them.
Children with imaginary friends always have much more open minds and vivid imaginations than most. Why should life beyond this planet be so ridiculous when they have created something so real with just their minds?
I hug the tire swing tighter. Has Jocelyn lost her imagination? Is that why I’m fading? Or is it that she just doesn’t need me anymore? I’m not too sure why we eventually fade away. There’s no real law about it. I mean, honestly, we imaginary friends barely have any communication with one another. We’re just sort of born with the knowledge that 1: no one but our creator can see us (unless she has friends who also have imaginary friends, but then it’s really more of a blurry outline to them; they fill in the details with what our creator tells them), 2: we can defy the laws of nature, but we should only do so if our creator asks us to and only so much so that we don’t make a noticeable effect on the real world, 3: we never age, unless our creator imagines us to, and 4: at some point, we will disappear. It’s just the way life is for an imaginary friend. We’re always there, no matter what, until one day we’re not. It’s not as if we abandon our creators; they never notice once we’re gone. Maybe one day down the road they’ll recall that they had a friend whom only they could see and talk to. But they’ll never wonder, Whatever became of her? No, they’ll just laugh softly and think, What a creative child I was.
Imaginary friends are always there until they aren’t.
I don’t have much longer. Every part of me is translucent now. It’s so cold; I can barely stand it. I want to shiver, but it’s not that kind of cold. It’s just more of a state of being.
Being. How much longer will I be? By the look of my hands, not long. I’m waiting in Jocelyn’s room, half hoping I’ll be gone before she gets home. I don’t want her to see me like this. Not that she would notice. These past few weeks she’s barely paid me any mind. I’ve stopped trying to get her attention. Why try to delay the inevitable? She has friends now. They hang out all the time. Tina and Evelyn and Caitlin. They have sleepovers, they go to the mall, they talk about boys. What does she need with an imaginary friend now that she has real ones?
But I mustn’t think like that. I was real. Am real. I was as important to her at one time as these new friends. She’s just grown up. She’s changed. She’s moving on with her life. I just can’t come with her. But that’s okay. She’s a good girl. Sure, she’s acting kind of silly now, but I’m sure she’s still that smart, creative, inquisitive girl I’ve always known, the one who wondered about everything and found beauty in whatever she laid eyes upon. Silly, vapid girls can’t change that. Right?
There’s no use in panicking about it now. There’s nothing I can do. My time with her is over. The cold is beginning to turn into numbness. My vision is a tad fuzzy, and my thoughts are beginning to feel blurry. How can one feel thoughts? Ugh, never mind. Now is not the time to wan philosophical. I stumble over to the bed and lie down. Anne is lying against the pillows, her sewn-on smile big and red. I take her into my arms, glad to see that Jocelyn is willing to keep at least one of her childhood friends around. No, that’s cruel. This isn’t Jocelyn’s doing, not really. It’s just one of the many facts of life. I sigh and look about the bed, searching to see if any other piece of the delightful childhood I spent with my best friend is still around. I find a small notebook on the nightstand. A diary perhaps? I shouldn’t look. But who would know? I won’t be around much longer. I pick up the book and examine it. It’s very nice. Not leather but made to look like it. It appears weathered, although it certainly couldn’t be all that aged. Jocelyn always did have a liking for old-timey things. I open the pages up to a random spot in the middle and begin to read. I expect to find something about her daily life and the gossip she exchanges with her friends, maybe even confessions about the boy she likes (I know from the conversations she’s had with Caitlin in front of me that his name is Greg).
But I find something very different.
It’s a story. I flip the pages back a bit and start at what is labeled chapter two. It appears to be about a young servant girl in medieval times (her favorite time period). She is treated very badly by the family she works for, and even her fellow servants think her bizarre because she dreams of being an adventurer who goes out and discovers new lands in the face of many dangers. Her only true friend is a fairy girl who watches over her and encourages her to dream. She assists her in her chores and helps her make plans to escape and live the life she longs for. Much of the story that has been written is about the close friendship between the fairy and the girl.
My eyes begin to water.
The fairy’s name is Anastasia.
So she hasn’t completely forgotten me.
I flip to the last page that has been written. The girl and the fairy are only just beginning their adventures. I think about it and realize that Jocelyn writes in this book nearly every night. I never asked about it because I assumed it was her personal journal, and I didn’t want to upset her.
She remembers me.
Perhaps she will always remember me.
A single tear begins to roll down my cheek as I hold the book tightly to my chest.
The numbness is so intense now, but I don’t care.
Jocelyn, thank you for remembering. Please, don’t forget me.

Stage Kiss

IMG_4555“A writer has to have an imagination–that’s what makes a writer. He has to be able to put himself imaginatively in the position of whatever character he selects.” -W.R. Burnett

It’s no big secret that writers need imagination. A being without imagination could never create entire worlds and  civilizations without some sort of an imagination. I am always amazed and awed when I read a good piece of fiction or scifi where the writer creates these immensely detailed worlds. I’m even more impressed when they make up entire languages. I can barely figure out English, never mind create a consistent language of my own.

But what about the smaller things, the things that readers are going to be able to identify with? Things that, while we may be making them up for lack of personal experience, are real things that our audience is going to identify with. How can we write about such very tangible experiences if we’ve never been through them ourselves?

Writers have to put themselves into some pretty weird situations. Well, they have to imagine themselves into such situations. For myself, I know I’ve had to try and get into the mindset of an angsty, emotional teenager who is obsessed with romance novels. Not easy. Even as a teenager I was never really all that angst-ridden (I was a bookworm, surprise, surprise). I’ve also had to experience through that same character the desire to commit suicide. What’s more, I had to think of ways to commit suicide. Not gonna lie, I started feeling a little depressed writing that story. Granted, these are not experiences all readers have gone through, but there are more who have than we may think. Will our portrayal of it be realistic? Will they relate?

Let me give another example. This one is surely something a lot of people can relate to, so it is something I hope I portray realistically enough. Kissing. Confession: I have never been kissed. I’ve had close encounters of the snogging kind, but I evaded the attempts (long, personal story). At my age, most people have been kissed, so I’m sure those who may read my work will know what it feels like. Since I have not had such an experience, I am going off of what I’ve read, what I’ve watched, what I’ve been told. But more than that, I’m going off of my intuition. I haven’t been kissed, but I’ve experience romantic feelings. Based off of those feelings and everything else I’ve researched, I hope, very much so, that my depictions of kissing are accurate and relatable. I have asked people who’ve had a bit more experience than I whether or not my scenes seem realistic. I don’t really trust what one girl told me, though, as her experiences with kissing were far from what I would call romantic and kind of made me want to puke. That guy needs to learn what makes a good kiss. Seriously. But I digress. Hey, who knows? Her experiences could help me in one of my stories. Because that’s the other kicker: not all kisses are the same. Some are short and sweet. Some are hard and intense. Some are so dreamy and breathtaking that they only happen once in a lifetime. Different kisses for different characters in different situations.

This could apply to many other things, but kissing has always been something I’ve worried that I don’t write realistically enough. Most of my stories include romance, and I am a firm believer that the first kiss between two characters is essential. It’s not just the act; it’s everything that has led up to that point. The kiss involves their personalities, their fears, their passions, their futures. So much is said in a kissing scene, so I hope, I desperately hope, that I get it right. I hope it gets through to my readers (imaginary or otherwise) in a very realistic way.

As writers, I believe we really have experienced everything our characters have gone through. Perhaps not directly, but certainly we felt it empathetically. For me, with my characters, I’ve felt their pain, their anger, their elated joy. My eyes have brimmed with tears for them. My face has flushed in righteous indignation in their behalf. My heart has skipped a beat for every time theirs has.

So maybe it’s not all as pretend as we think.

Though the experience may not be ours, the feelings are true.