Wednesday, September 29, 2010

WIP Wednesday: Forcing Productivity

If you saw my previous tongue-in-cheek-but-actually-confessional post about actual productivity for many writers, you'll know why I was distressed after I took a good hard look at my own time set aside for "writing."

I had to come up with some kind of plan. Some incentive to keep me on the straight and narrow. Otherwise it would be internet forever and no books at all to show for it.

But, my inner self whines whenever I think this, I like writing rough drafts about as much as I like shoveling manure. On the other hand, I LOVE internet.

I had to do something! So I created a rule for myself that went into effect immediately.

NO INTERNET unless I've written at least 1 thousand words in the WIP. Per day. 

Writing is hard. But will write for internet!!!

BUT so far, it's working out pretty well. I grit my teeth and bang out the required lines, which produces a happy, glowing feeling inside. Once I'm finished, I triumphantly hit save, and then I can log onto Twitter and brag about my success. With this accomplished, I'm free to gleefully watch youtube videos about fainting goats and baby tigers. And chances are, since I got my creative juices flowing, I might just return to the WIP too.

Speaking of Works in Progress, I've returned to the nasty nasty MS that gives me fits. And I think I'm making headway!

* fireworks! applause! ice cream cake! *

The biggest push for me was a new and enthusiastic beta reader who is begging for more. Naturally, being the kind and generous soul that I am, I must write in order to put her out of her misery. * modesty * Annnnd with the writing comes sudden bursts of creativity.  It's really a lovely cycle.

So thanks for that, Rebecca :-D

Anybody else making headway with a WIP lately? What's YOUR secret to getting that creative drive back?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WIP Wednesday!

I have some great news to report.

I'm writing again.

At least, I'm excited about writing again. For the last month or so I've been struggling to get words down. But over the last week I've had a few good ideas regarding plot holes and characterization.

I don't have anything to post in terms of WIPs, because I'm in first drafts right now and they are t.e.r.r.i.b.le. in my opinion. BUT! I have a question.

How do you get from THIS ...

What do you do to motivate yourself when you absolutely do not want to write? When writing feels like holding your hand to the fire or pushing a cart full of bricks up a mountainside or chipping at an iceberg with a plastic spoon?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Themes That Inspire

What particular themes in books inspire you as a reader?

And you aren't allowed to just say "love." That's too basic. I'll use it as a jumping off point, though! Let's think about love. Let's pretend you said "love." What KIND of love story inspires you?

Types of love, for instance

Forbidden love?

Unusual/unexpected attraction?

Dangerous/ill-advised attachment?

Unrequited love?


What's the point of this, you ask?

I think if you play this game with yourself you'll discover the threads and undercurrents that you can put into your own writing to give it that punch of genuine feeling that can breathe life into a work. So ask yourself, what speaks to you?

I actually want you to think about something other than love if possible, even though I mentioned it above. Dig deep; consider emotions that are more nuanced and less articulated in song and film and poetry. 

What speaks to me

I pondered this question recently, sifting through memories, favorite books, and childhood stories. A common theme emerged, and once I recognized it, I realized it made sense. I like stories about vindication.

vin·di·cate  (vnd-kt)
tr.v. vin·di·cat·ed, vin·di·cat·ing, vin·di·cates
1. To clear of accusation, blame, suspicion, or doubt with supporting arguments or proof: "Our society permits people to sue for libel so that they may vindicate their reputations" (Irving R. Kaufman).
2. To provide justification or support for: vindicate one's claim.
3. To justify or prove the worth of, especially in light of later developments.
4. To defend, maintain, or insist on the recognition of (one's rights, for example).
5. To exact revenge for; avenge.
I suppose this says a lot about me as a person, not to mention my childhood. C'est la vie.

(^ For clarification, I have provided the definition of the word according to The Free Dictionary. I highlighted my favorite bits, too.)

After I recognized my love of/need for vindication in literature and embraced it, I started trying to put pieces of it into every WIP. This injects emotion into my writing and motivates me to care more about the work.

What themes and emotions move you as a reader, and why?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speaking Up for SPEAK

If you're on Twitter, you're probably familiar with the controversy surrounding Laurie Halse Anderson's beautiful book SPEAK, the story of a girl who slowly goes silent after she is raped. I wanted to speak out myself about the importance of this story. I feel like I have a responsibility as a writer, as someone who suffered in silence, and as a Christian to take a stand on this issue.

First, this book helped change me.

I won't say it saved my life, because I was past that crisis when I read Speak, but the book deeply moved me and taught me and healed me all the same. It told a story that I had a part in. A story about marginalized people who are dying inside silently even as they are judged and misunderstood by those around them. It said things I couldn't say. And reading it changed me--this book made me stronger.

There are only a few books I can say that about. Speak is one of them. I have spent most of my life in pieces, and every once in a while I read a book that puts a few more of the fragments back together for me, a book that's like a window into a dark room or a hand reaching out to me in a crowd.

Speak is that kind of a book.

Censorship angers me anyway, but I am a devout Christian believer and the fact that this man is trying to ban this book in the name of God and my faith deeply saddens me. (I'll be honest and admit it doesn't surprise me, but it saddens me.)

This blog post isn't going to turn into a raw description of the horrors I experienced in regards to my own personal issues. I'm not ready to go there. I just wanted to say that the words of Laure Halse Anderson and provided such healing and such release for me--Wintergirls as well as Speak. It's not just about rape or eating disorders or specific things like that. These books speak out about being so hurt and torn and beaten down and lost and weak and silent that you don't know how to even cry out for help.

Speak has given abused, hurting, and silent teens a voice.

Veronica Roth says it so beautifully on her blog that I wanted to include an excerpt here. She says,

"The world is broken. No matter how much time you spend covering your eyes, and covering your children's eyes, the world will still be broken when you uncover them. And when I say the world is broken, I mean that bad crap is happening to people everywhere and people are doing terrible things everywhere. Do you want your kids to understand just how beautiful the grace of God is? Then they have to understand how crappy the world is. It's not just "a good idea." It's necessary."

All I can say to that is AMEN.

I wonder what Bible this fellow is reading, because it surely isn't mine. The Bible depicts a lot of brutal and hard things, sir. It doesn't shy away from the horrible, disgusting things that happen out there in a fallen, messed up world. You may want to cover your eyes and pretend it doesn't happen, but I can't. And I won't.

I've included links to the blog posts of two other lovely fellow writers who articulate all of this much much better than I do here:

C.J.'s post

Myra's post

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

WIP Wednesday!

Guys, I FORGOT it was Wednesday.

This means it's Work In Progress on the blog. I'll get to that in a minute.

First, I had an idea while I was driving home from work today. I was thinking about American Idol, Project Runway, America's Next Top Model, etc, and then I thought, How awesome would it be if we had a show (or even just a contest) like American Idol and such except for wanna-be authors?

I don't exactly see such a concept making for great TV, mind you ... I mean, where's the drama in a bunch of people sitting around writing? But what if there was some kind of online forum where the writers' pieces could be posted, and people could vote, and there could be all kinds of awesome prizes like a book deal for the winner? I would definitely tune in for that.

Or maybe I just wish writers got a little more love. Like Ally Carter pointed out recently on Twitter, when has Dancing With The Stars EVER had an author on the show?

Well, I digress. On the the WIP stuff.

What exactly am I working on right now? Good question. I'm sort of floating several idea around in my head and picking none of them. I have a couple projects that I'm working on ("working on") but I have the end-of-summer blues. Yick.

Anyway, here's a little bit from one of my current fantasy/court intrigue WIPs. Shana, the main character, heard sounds of struggle outside her rooms in the palace and went to investigate. She finds a man bleeding in the corridor. Someone she knows ...


         “Help me,” he whispered. “They’re trying to kill me. I’ve been stabbed.”
His voice sounded vaguely familiar, but Shana had no time to consider where she had heard it before. She reached out and caught his wrist. The door had shut behind her—it was too dark to see much. She needed to get him out of there before someone came back. “Can you stand?”
            “I think so.” He gripped her hand. “Your shoulder, please.”
She bent down, and he wrapped one arm clumsily around her neck. Shana braced herself against the wall as the man slid his legs forward and found an angle through which he could push himself up to a standing position. Together they limped for the door, and she pushed it open with her elbow.
            The man collapsed on the ground just inside her chamber. Shana looked down into his face and froze.
            Lying on her rug, dressed entirely in black and bleeding profusely from his side, was the queen’s stupid, handsome, dangerous Fool.
            Shock slipped over her skin like ice.
            The Fool lifted the hand that had been pressed to his ribs, and Shana saw the dark blood smeared across it. For one awful moment the room around her blurred except for that splash of dark red against the white of his skin, and she felt a cold, sharp pang run straight through her like a blade. Was he dying?
            More importantly, why did she care?
“Mistress,” Filia gasped from the doorway, her voice dragging Shana thoughts back to the present and what needed to be done.
She shook off her shock. “Filia—A doctor. Find one. Quickly.”
            “You will hardly want to explain my presence in your rooms,” the Fool murmured, speaking calmly for a man who might be bleeding to death as he met her eyes and tried to smile suggestively. But his face was turning gray, and his words began to slur.
            “I want a dead man on my floor even less.” Shana crouched down beside him and turned back to Filia, who was still hovering uncertainly by the door. “Go now. We can bribe the physician to keep his mouth shut.”
            The servant girl slipped outside and was gone.         
“Are you planning on using that?” The Fool nodded at the knife in her hand, which she hadn’t realized she was still carrying. Shana slipped it into her bodice, between the bone supports of her corset and the thin silk of her undershirt. Awareness of what she’d done was beginning to trickle through her, the full import of her actions blossoming in her mind.
            “Do you want to tell me why someone just tried to stab you?”
            He rolled his head to one side to see her better, his golden hair flopping into his eyes. “Someone doesn’t like the fact that I’ve been keeping the Austrisian diplomat from speaking to the queen, I think.”
            “Hmmm, maybe the diplomat himself?”
            He shook his head slightly, wincing at the movement. “He wouldn’t dare. Such a move against the queen could make his job . . . messy.”
            She looked him over. “Killing you wouldn’t cause a war.”
            He tried to sit up on his elbows, but the pain in his side made him fall back. “No. But such an action, within her own palace . . . ? No, he isn’t that stupid.” He lay down again and tucked his hand over his wound.
            Shana rather thought he was being generous to the diplomat in matters of intelligence, but she let it go. She reached for a pillow and put it behind his head. The Fool’s eyebrows lifted, and she scowled.
            “I am not incapable of kindness, you know.”
            “Then can you find something to stuff in my side to keep me alive until the doctor comes?”
            She found a pillowcase and he pressed it to his side. A stain blossomed across the cream-colored fabric like spilled ink. Shana put her hand over his to hold the cloth steady. They glanced at each other, and the unspoken words between them shivered in the air.
            The door opened, startling her, and Filia slipped in again with one of the palace physicians in tow—a young doctor-in-training. He licked his lips and looked from Shana to the Fool.
            “Trouble between lovers?” He suggested with a smile, but his voice trembled a little. 
             Shana and the Fool pinned him with twin glares.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fitting the Character to the Story

Know what drives your characters. Use that.
Today I'd like to talk about a pet peeve of mine: characters who do things that make little or no sense simply for the advancement of plot.

Characters + Plot

If you find yourself having to move your character around in the book like a puppet, pulling strings and forcing actions that don't make logical sense or seem like cop-outs to your readers, then you need to adjust either 1) your story or 2) your character. 

How should the writer handle such a situation in which they need to make a character do something without just, well, making them do it? First, you need to start with your character's personality.

Who is your character?

Would would your character do in this situation, and how is that different than if another person were in the same situation? What motivates your character? What do they want? What are they like?

The story and main characters should flow together in harmony. You shouldn’t be able to have one without the other. The character’s personality, temperament, and motivation should have a direct effect on how that character will behave within the plot.

 Writing exercise ...
Here's an exercise to try--swap the main characters from two of your WIPs ... what happens? What is different about the books?

Hopefully a lot. Your character and his or her personality should affect the flow of the story somehow.

For example, my character Briand from DRAGONSAYER is impulsive, defensive, and tomboyish. Shana, a main character from another MS I'm writing, is calm, pensive, and calculating. In Shana’s story, she is sentenced to six years in a mining colony, but before her sentence can be carried out she is offered a job as a spy in the queen’s court in exchange for her eventual freedom. If Briand was dropped into this circumstance instead of Shana, she would most certainly get into a knife fight, blow her cover, and run away. But Shana takes the job and does it well because this is the sort of person she is, not just because I, as the writer, forced her character to do so.

In Briand’s story, she is hated outcast living in her uncle’s house. She's constantly getting into trouble and she's about to be shipped off to an apprenticeship as punishment, which sets in motion the rest of the events of the story. Shana, being the practical, quiet, clever person that she is, would not have made Briand’s mistakes. And without Briand’s impulsive and troublesome behavior getting her into one scrape after another, we wouldn’t have the story at all. 


Character and story should be inseparable. Make the story fit the character, and the character fit the story. This might mean that as you write your story and further discover who your characters are (if you're an in-advance plotter, that is) you're going to have to make some changes to your plot along the way. But don't worry about that now. Be flexible. Allow your plot to unfold organically. Just don't make characters do things for no reason. Let their motivations come from who they are.

Don't make characters do things just because you need them to. If that's the case, you probably still have some adjusting to do somewhere else in the flow of the story.

"Plot springs from character ..." ~ Anne Lamott

Friday, September 10, 2010

Killer Openings (not in a good way!)

I love reading Kristin's blog, Pub Rants, and this brief entry was so good that I wanted to share! Check it out.

I know for sure I've done at least 2 of these things in the past. * cringe * And both of them in a manuscript submitted to her agency! *head desk * I'm pretty good about not opening with #1 back story (I always hated that in books, even as a kid) and with #2 (well hopefully so!!), but embarrassingly, I've definitely been guilty of #3 and #4.

I'm especially bad about prologues that have no immediate connection to the following chapter (probably because I've read real books that do this and I thought it would be okay/preferable). I think my rationale was that I could write something really cool and interesting to grab the agent's interest before I got into the main story. Oops! Looks like my strategy had the opposite effect ... glad I eventually ditched it.

It's good to know that prologues (at least certain kinds of prologues) are no-nos. For future reference.

Which mistakes on the list have you made in the past?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Work In Progress Wednesday

Hey, all! Today is the day in which I talk about a current WIP of mine.  Also, I'm going to talk about Dragon*Con, Carrie Ryan, and robots, so stick around.

First today's menu is a gigantic helping of cool excuses as to why I haven't exactly been working on my MSS this past couple of days.


It's been a busy week for me. My husband and I went to the Decatur Book Festival, for one thing, where I heard Carrie Ryan talk about her zombie books. That was cool. But it did interfere with writing.

Also we did stuff with friends and family.

Then we spent a day at Dragon*Con:

Cute little lego stormstroopers!
I wish I'd taken more pictures of the awesome and the crazies at Dragon*Con, but I'm really shy and I was generally hesitant to walk up to random people and ask for a picture of them. I mostly took pictures of Star Wars costumes because I knew my little brother and sister would want to see that. I also saw a TON of awesome steampunk costumes, which made me very excited (but unfortunately I don't have pictures of that). And at one of the vendor booths, I found the steampunk pocket watch that inspired a portion of DRAGONSAYER, the book I'm currently querying...

But still, no writing.

But I'll talk about the WIP anyway:

I'm still having trouble with the flow of the story, and perhaps this is where some of my procrastination is coming from... I'm slowly uncovering the motivations of various characters and figuring out their convoluted back stories, but even then the writing itself is feeling clunky to me. Slow. Clogged. I need to do something, but I'm not sure what it is yet. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know.

The problem MIGHT be the POV (I'm currently writing in 3rd, but the story is beginning to feel like it needs to be 1st ... since I'm 30k in at this point I rather dread the prospect of changing it...)

Also, robots:
He could look like this.

I really really really really really wish I had a robot that could change the POV or tenses for me when this happens, because it is SO TEDIOUS to do myself. I would call him Robob. Will someone invent him for me, please?

Thanks. I'll be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Awesomesauce Contest

So today I'm blogging about C A Marshall's awesome contest she's having in which she's giving away a free manuscript edit!

* cue cheers *

The zombicorns are partying, that's how awesome this is!
This is a pretty awesome opportunity, so if you haven't already done so, head over to her blog and check it out!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Zombies Vs. Unicorns

Folks, before this blog goes on any further I feel that I must make myself very clear on a serious and controversial issue that has been sweeping the interwebs. Are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

In short: I am TEAM UNICORN.

Adding to their awesome? Rainbows and glittery little stars, people.
Well, at least, maybe. I'm going to admit I am slightly baffled by what we are supporting with this debate. Are we discussing the merits of the aforementioned creatures? Their ability to dismember you or me in a fight? Their ability to dismember each other? Which one we would prefer as a dinner guest? As a next-door neighbor? Which brand of apocalypse we'd prefer?

I'm not entirely sure, so I will address each of these concerns individually so you can understand why unicorns are the superior choice over zombies* in every instance.

Individual Merits of the Species:

A disgusting, rotting zombie.
Zombies are gross. They are shuffling, shambling, decomposing bodies that eat brains. Unicorns are beautiful, glistening, magical specimens of horsehood that have GIANT GOLDEN HORNS sticking out of their heads. Also, they have magic and stuff.

Ability to dismember you/me in a fight:

Should we be Team The-thing-that-can-eat-us-all or Team The-thing-that-won't-hurt-us? You decide. Either way, unicorns pwn, because let's face it. Zombies are slow and dumb. You can run away from them. You can outsmart them. You can cut them in two with a chainsaw. Ah, you might say, but you could cut a unicorn in two with a chainsaw! Let me say this in response, friend--I'd like to see you try.

Now unicorns, according to some interpretations, are gentle, docile creatures. According to other mythologies, they are fierce, vicious killing machines. Either way, if you're looking for a beast that is equipped to pose the greatest threat to your continued existence, look no further than the unicorn. From the tip of its wicked golden horn to the edges of its razor-sharp hooves, the unicorn is equipped to do serious slaughter to anybody who crosses it.
A unicorn prepares to dismember this disgusting zombie.

To sum up: unicorns kick serious butt. But I'd like to think that their benevolent natures keep them in check. So either way, unicorns win again.

Zombie's/Unicorn's ability to dismember each other in a fight:

Like I said before, zombies are slow and dumb (see my note about "real" zombies at the bottom) These slobbering, lurching monsters would be skewered by the unicorns before you could say "braaiiiiiinnnnnsss."  Also, did I mention unicorns have MAGIC?

As a dinner guest:

Come on. You're making this too easy. With zombies--you ARE the dinner. With unicorns--if you're lucky, they'll even take care of the weeds at the edge of the driveway.

As a neighbor:

Zombies would make terrible neighbors. They would try to eat you, for one thing. That would put a serious damper on those summer block parties. Also zombies are probably awful with upkeep. Imagine how the property values will plummet when they leave bits and pieces of sweet old Miss Beckinstock lying by their mailbox.

Unicorns, on the other hand, would enhance the neighborhood. They'd probably attract rainbows and kittens. Even if they were evil, vicious unicorns, they'd probably at least keep their lawn a decent length.
An evil unicorn is still breathtaking.

Which sort of apocalypse?

Well, let's see. In a zombie apocalypse, humanity as we know it ceases to exist or moves underground in bunkers, armed with chainsaws. In the uniclypse, as I'd like to call it, rainbows, ice cream cake, and puppies are showered across the globe. Even if you're subscribing to the evil unicorn theory (EUT), at least you have decent opponents running around in all their muscular, obsidian-black glory.

So there you have it. My defense of Team Unicorn.

Now, if your purpose in delineating teams is to defend your position on which mythical creature would make a better subject of a dystopian/horror novel, I give you one word:

Zombicorns want your braiiiins too. But they are still magnificent.

What's your team, and why?


* I am going with the Romero or real zombies over any special "fast" zombies, because hey, you can't just go adding crap to your mythology.**  E.g., bam, unicorns can fly. See how infuriating that is?? :-)

**Not unless you're me defending team unicorn.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Setting Personal Goals

I love goals. I set all KINDS of them--"I will be showered and dressed before noon," for example, or "I will only spend X amount on ice cream cake this month."

Ice cream cake, while delicious, must be eaten in moderation.
Writing is no exception. Personally, I have tried a diverse assortment of goals when it comes to managing my creative output--some with success, some with not-so-awesome results.*

In one of my high school classes, we were taught about making goals (I believe it was health class specifically, which is weird, but ... whatever). I remember being told that you should have 3 types: 1) short term goals, 2) medium term goals, and 3) long term goals.

I absorbed this information like a good little student and have replicated it in my writing life. If you're like me, and goals help focus, motivate, and compel you, I would encourage you to set a few.

But what sort of goals should you make when it comes to writing?

Short term: 

This usually looks like "I will write 1k a day all summer" (*snort* because THAT happened, yeah...) or "I will spend X time each day writing instead of on twitter."

Medium term: 

For me this usually looks like "I will finish writing this book by August."

Long term:

"I will finish 4 WIPs this year." I really set this goal this year--whether or not I'm crazy, I'm not sure... (I have, however, completed 3 to date. I'm not holding out hope for the completion of that 4th one though!) This might sound super productive, but in reality I have about 8 WIPs in various stages of completion lying around at any one time. Finish, of course, means "complete the rough draft." Editing is a whole different animal.

I play lots of mind games with myself (an aspect of my ocd, I'm afraid) and for me, goals are mostly about suckering myself into expending some extra frantic effort for the singular consolation of achieving said goals. But hey, it can be very effective!

If you don't have any goals regarding your writing, I'd encourage you to make a few.

It could be as simple as "I will write every single day, even if it's just a sentence."

* Once I set a short term goal (1 week) of writing 5k a day. It ALMOST KILLED ME. No, seriously. It was awful.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Experimenting with POVs ~ SHORT STORY EXCERPT

I read a book recently that switched between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd person, and I was captivated by the 2nd person narrative. I'd never read fiction written in the 2nd person before (and then in another book I've read recently, Stolen, I felt as though it was in 2nd person since the character is addressing someone by "you" the whole time--but really it was in 1st person).

Anyway, inspired by what I'd read, yesterday I was bored at work and started writing a short story using the 2nd person just to experiment with the style. I wrote a bit more when I got home ... voila.

(I'm not really sure what I think about it yet. I think the question of appropriate POV depends on the story itself--3rd is more detached and allows for a subtlety that 1st doesn't, and can give a sort of dramatic irony at times that is difficult with the 1st person narrative. But 1st has its advantages too, and can feel more intimate and personal. To me, 2nd person feels very hypothetical, and I am liking that. It's personal yet at arm's length simultaneously.) 

Anyway, here's an excerpt:

Imagine you’re sitting on your bed in a two room cabin in the woods. It’s late, not too late, but late enough that it’s dark outside and shadowy inside. There’s one lamp glowing by your bed, and you’re reading some paperback from the airport you had a layover in yesterday. You’re sleepy, kind of hungry, and ever so slightly pissed off because this stupid cabin doesn’t have hot water, and what kind of vacation doesn’t include a steaming shower or bath at the end of the day?

But you’re overall glad to be here, in the middle of Nowhere Mountains of USA, and you’re trying to read and ignore the bellowing of frogs outside your window.

You were watching TV while your parents drove to the grocery store at the bottom of the mountain, but there was a news bulletin about a bank robbery or escaped convicts or something, and you got scared and turned it off. Now you’re skimming this boring book and trying to keep your mind off of all the things that could go bump in the night out there.

You realize something isn’t right and you look up from the page, but it takes you a second to pinpoint what has tripped your subconscious radar. What has made you pause.

You figure out what it is—the frogs have gone deathly silent—just before someone kicks in the back door.

BAM. Splintering sounds. Crashing. It’s the most terrifying noise you’ve ever heard. You know immediately. You know. Somebody is breaking into this cabin and you’re here all alone and they are going to probably kill you.

Of course, you panic. You’re seventeen and in high school. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know self defense. Adrenaline shafts you in the heart, pushes you off the bed. Your hands are shaking and your vision is blurry because you can’t breathe right and you’re trying to be quiet. You run towards your window because the only thought in your head is ESCAPE.

The window doesn’t have a latch. It’s one of those ones that isn’t made to open. You hit it with the heels of your hands, and that hurts like fire. The window makes this awful shuddering sound, but the glass doesn’t break.

You start crying, the sobs are crawling out of your throat around the tightness squeezing your breath away.  You kick the glass so hard you fall on the bed. When you push yourself up, somebody’s in the doorway.

Everything slows down and becomes painfully distinct. The man is a dark, ugly shape, foreign and wrong like a spider in the shower or a roach in the closet. He’s blocking the other room, and behind him you can barely hear the shatter of things falling in the kitchen over the roaring of blood in your ears.     

He’s looking at you, and you’re looking at him. You drop your hands to your sides. Your mind jumps ahead to the part where they kill you. You hope they’ll do it quick. But then you stop thinking that because you aren’t going to give up yet.

He says something to you but you can’t understand him. Your brain has stopped processing language. You back up. You’re cornered. There’s no door out except the one he’s standing in and you can’t run through the walls. You reach behind yourself and grab anything—a hairbrush. It’s the most worthless weapon in the world, but you clutch it to your chest like it’s a knife. You’re thinking WHERE IS MY CELL PHONE? Except you don’t get signal up here anyway and besides it’s probably in the front room where the other people are. You are shaking so bad you almost drop the hairbrush.  You feel like you can’t breathe.

The guy walks into the room until his legs hit the side of your bed. He stretches out his hand. His mouth moves.

You scream something at him. Maybe it isn’t even words. Maybe you said dontyoutouchmeillkillyou but of course you can’t do that because he is much bigger and much stronger than you are.

Another guy comes in the room, breathing hard and bleeding a little on his forehead. He looks at you and he looks at the other guy. He laughs in a mean way. The kind of laugh that says he is annoyed.

You’re so terrified you think you might crawl out of your own skin and claw your way through the wall.


The prospect of your own death is like a black hole and you’re being sucked towards it.


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