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Autumn Night

The moon was full and the wind was wild Gushing as the tree-tops rustled.

The streetlights gave a faint glow from the dark leaves that encompassed them.

Black blotches of their shadows danced on the pavement, first softly, then hard, until they were still – like a painting on the ground.

I believe nights like these have magic to them. It’s the reason why the wind blows so violent.

Everything that isn’t supposed to be stirs to life

All at once.

The Birthmark that Mapped Her Future

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Em. 

She lived in a castle along with her six other brothers and sisters. Everyone got along with each other except with her because she was different. She was born with a birthmark, big and pale, that mapped itself from her neck down to her shoulder. “It’s the devil’s child,” they’d call her. “She’s been marked by the devil!” 

The only time they ever played with her was at Em’s expense. They would lunge at her and reel back just as fast, to see who got closest without touching her. Once, Em tried to grab them back, but when she did, they screamed and stared at her as if she was a monster. She never played with them again and avoided them altogether. Many years went by and her oldest brother was eighteen and he was sent off to another kingdom. “He’s such a good son,” her parents would say. “He’ll do great things for the country.” Em didn’t know there were other countries in the world and listened intently whenever she could. As long as she was quiet, and stayed out of their way, she could listen for as long as she liked because her parents didn’t care for her anyway.

Then there was her fifth sibling, who was married to a prince at sixteen and she was sent off to live in his castle. Em wondered if she’d be married off too someday… And so, one after the other, her siblings left the castle until she was the only one left. She thought, maybe now mum and dad will pay attention to me, sense I’m all they got? She tried getting their attention by singing and playing the piano but they would just send one of the maids and drag her away. “They are very busy,” the maid would say.

Soon, Em stopped trying to make them notice her and stayed in her room, where everyone preferred her anyway. All day she’d read or sing or play the piano. Other days she’d just sit by the window and look as the world moved on without her, dreaming of being sent away one day. The only time she ever left her room was when everyone was asleep and she had the whole castle to herself. Unfortunately, the castle was very dark at night and she would jump at every suspicious sound, or shadow. She was especially frightened near the kitchen where she heard strange moans at night. She asked her father for a lantern but he wouldn’t give it to her. “What would you need a lantern for anyway? He asked. But Em wouldn’t say, fearing he’d lock her up if he knew what she was up to. Then one night, she saw something glowing in the dark. It was a lit lantern that was resting outside the kitchen door. Pleased with her find, she snatched it and ran back to her room, never considering it might belong to somebody esle. The next morning, two servants were fired and the noise from the kitchen went away. 

Many years later (when she was twelve) after coming home from one of her nightly adventures, there was an old lady waiting in her room. Em almost dropped the lantern because she thought it was some sort of goblin that had followed her. But as the creature turned, Em could see it was a person smiling. Her name was Emma, which was funny because that’s what Em always thought her own name would be if her parents had bothered finishing it. 

As it turned out, Emma was very kind and she’d stay with Em all day long telling stories or brushing her hair. “I’m so glad you are here,” Em said. “I don’t ever have to leave my room and feel lonely again.” 

“Oh? Why wouldn’t you want to leave? The night is yours, nobody is gonna hurt you.”

Em scratched her neck. “I don’t really like the dark,” she said.

Emma put down the brush and said. “Have you ever heard about Vampires?”

Em shook her head. 

“They are tall and handsome creatures of the night and they got their eyes on you. They’ll come for you, one day, when you are ready.”

Em jittered out of her chair. “Me? Why?!”

Emma caressed Em’s neck which didn’t help to sooth her because nobody had dared touch her there before. “They’ll protect you because they know you’ll do great things. That’s why everyone is afraid of you,” she said.

Em thought about it. “Everyone? Even monsters?”

Emma smiled. “Even monsters.”

“But then… Why aren’t you afraid of me?”

The old woman quirked her mouth. “I’m too old to be scared of death.” 

When Em was left alone, she thought about what had been said. If everyone was afraid of her she could do whatever she wanted! That very same night she went without her lantern. She knew the castle by heart and at first, she was scared without it but as her eyes got used to the darkness she became more confident. She even went to the tower at the abandoned part of the castle, where the Wraith is said to wander up and down the stairs. And lo and behold, she came back without being hurt! Ever since then, the night became hers and she would sometimes frighten others that walked the dark. Sometimes she would even eves-drop on her father’s meetings which she wasn’t supposed to hear: apparently, things weren’t going well for her oldest brother in the other kingdom and rumour had it he’d been captured and locked in a prison somewhere. For some reason, this amused Em, thinking of her siblings being locked away in a dark cell with nobody to talk to and she secretly wished all her siblings shared the same fate. 

Two years went by and she was fourteen. She was looking out the window when a mysterious carriage drove up to the door. Excited, she snuck downstairs to have a listen. It was an old man in his 40s that came through the door. He had a large beard and a dreary look about him. Her father frowned as he stepped inside and didn’t seem too pleased to see him. They went into the parlour where her father always had his secret meetings. Em climbed stealthily down the stairs, relying on the dark to hide her, but then the stranger suddenly turned and stared straight at her. Her heart froze and she shot back. He couldn’t have seen her in the dark, could he? She went back to have a look but they were gone. Em was too nervous to go closer and it didn’t feel safe sneaking into her father’s meeting. She decided to go back to bed where she lay awake, wondering who the stranger was and what he wanted.

Continue reading on Tablo!

It’s okay not knowing

How strange it is that a comfortable life can be a problem.

I don’t know about you but I remember when I just moved into my first apartment and took odd jobs as a substitute teacher I had the most fun being a writer. My life was uncertain, I didn’t know what to make of myself and somehow that translated well into my writing. 

Nowadays my life is secure and the job I have, although not the worst for a creative person, I’ve become weary of it. I want to do and see new things… I don’t think any creative person is satisfied with their condition. It’s a trap, if you let it and it becomes harder and harder to break up the monotony if you wait.  

At the same time, having a secure job gives you peace to write, but I don’t know about you, I wouldn’t mind living in poverty if it meant I could write and live.  

Sometimes things need to change and I fear I’ll live like I do now for the rest of my life if I don’t do something about it. 

A writer’s doubt

Procrastinating is a filthy word but a common one, we all do it, especially when you can’t get it right. I get scared to continue because I don’t want to face my inequities, that’s my excuse anyway, that’s what keeps me from writing.

And who can blame me? I have so many ideas to realise but I have finished none, no books anyway… Maybe I can’t? Maybe short fiction is for me and books are beyond my grasp? Perhaps scripts are better, they are easier, right? I don’t know… I’ve worked on too many stories for too long only to turn them away again and again. My instincts is all I can trust But what if my instincts are wrong? What can I put trust in then?

Perhaps I’m not listening well enough or not as often…

A creative mind is borderline insane, they say. We decided what’s true, where the border is. Maybe I’ll get it some day, but for the moment, I’ll stay glued to the screen with a warm cup of tea in my hands until I build enough courage to continue.

I just want it to be fun again

What is essential to the plot?

”A story is based on the merit on how much is removed.” I never understood this quote until I had to do it.

I recently had to remove a lot from a chapter because it was boring and irrelevant, though there were bits and pieces that I adored, and tried very hard to incorporate, it never fit in anywhere, as if it lost its place.

I don’t know if there’s any meaning to losing text like this or if it’s just a necessary step in my process to get to the good part.

Of course, some things are removed on purpose; backstories, for instance, rarely fit into the narrative but is essential nonetheless. The reader doesn’t need to know the backstory (not always) but the writer absolutely have to.

The more you decide not to include in the final product the more depth a story has and the more implicit things become which the writer can build upon.

At least, that is what I like to believe, that the many hours I spent on a segment is important even though it’s not included and somehow enriches the story instead if being relegated to the void where it came from.

Why do we make life harder than it has to be?

When you write a story you often come to a point where everything feels wrong. It physically hurts working on the it and you don’t know why. That is your cue to stop. You’ll try to fix it, of course, because you are stubborn, but why move the boulder that’s in the way when you can walk around it? 

Discard what you have written, at least parts of it, perhaps only a sentence or two that you feel stuck on, and start over and you’ll find the flow again. It’s not worth working against the grain.

We don’t know what we are doing anyway and we need to accept that.

I like to think of us as scribes recording stories from a long lost archive that’s in a language we can barely understand. We catch the general idea but we must fill in the blanks ourselves. 

Kill your darlings is the advice, I believe.

Why is it so hard?

Getting the paragraphs the way I want it is sometimes more work than actually writing the story! Why?! It’s slow and tedious with lots of rewriting.

It’s painful is what it is. It’s like I’m squeezing out the last drops from a yogurt or grinding out the last of the paste in my toothpaste before I throw it out and buy a new one, or in this case, start another story.

I cannot settle with just being okay because I know I can make it good. But listening to my gut gets harder the more I put on paper. It’s like I’m putting a web on the story that isn’t supposed to be there… Perhaps the pain is a sign that I’m doing it wrong or the pain is a sign that I’m on the right track? Nothing that matters is easy, after all. But I never imagined it would be so much work…

I genuinely wanna hear your thoughts on this, even if you are a plotter.

New Theme!

You may or may not have noticed I’ve made changes to my website. It’s so hard finding the right theme for writers because we don’t care about pictures, do we?

I want to spend as little time on the websites design as possible so I settled with this minimalist one. I never click on articles or posts because of the picture anyway and feel like if you are a follower of mine, you feel the same.

Anyway, I just wanted to announce it, make it official. I changed the About page too so if you haven’t give it a read.

Confront your demons

Are there dangers in writing too simply?

Whenever I approach a story, I build it up as I go, meaning, it’s very basic and I skip a lot of steps in the process. For instance, I didn’t develop the scene when the character had to battle between doing what he wants and what is right; instead I made the choice for him and moved on. 

Basically, I skip a lot of essential scenes that might change the story later. I only do them if I absolutely have to, which is often very late in the process… 

I can never understand how most writers are able to write so much. Their concern is having to scale down while mine is scaling up! This leads to a lot of rewrites, naturally, because eventually I’m forced to confront these events and, inexplicably, the event didn’t turn out as I imagined it to be.

It sounds ludicrous because am I not the one making up the story to begin with? How much control do the characters have?

It’s almost impossible to make the necessary changes so late in the process because I’ve grown accustomed to my ideas, they anchor me in the sea of words that is a novel. I’m a slow learner but I cannot escape this fundamental flaw in my writing. I’ve jumped stories so many times because I was unable to understand my problem and in doing so never finishing anything. 

Procrastinate 

I’m sitting at a cafe reading one of my stories when a fly landed beside me. There was nothing particularly special about this fly, maybe it was a bit more colourful than I was used to, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It acted like a typical fly, cleaning itself with its front legs rigorously while staring at the window trying to figure out why it can’t fly through it. It must have found a solution, or maybe it got inpatient because it dashed right into the window and landed back on the table again, next to my computer. 

It started cleaning itself again, the wings this time. It doesn’t look unclean and I wonder if he really needs to groom itself all the time or if it is just an instinct whenever it is idle. Why do they clean themselves with their feet, it’s the dirtiest part of their body, surely? But then again, I don’t know anything about flies. It made another dash at the window, unsuccessfully and landed this time on my shoulder. It started cleaning itself again, furiously.

I did not swat the fly. Instead I let it be as I walked out from the cafe and waited until it realised it was free and I wondered if I should go back to reading again.

Talk to me on Twitter if you want – most of my short, brain-stormy, ideas happen over there.