Tag Archives: freeform writing

Night light

Lying in bed is a strange thing when you think about it. We’re sleeping, at our most vulnerable, yet we present ourselves at waist height with out thin cotton sheets to protect us from the outside world. I don’t neccesarily trust the night, but some people enjoy it. Enveloped in darkness, barely able to tell if your eyes are open or closed, it gives me panic.

I used to keep a nightlight on, but not anymore. Yeah I know, I’m nearly 30 and still sleeping with a nightlight. But there’s a reason I don’t use one anymore. I want that cradle of darkness to keep out of sight all the things swimming around us, just outside of our vision. It’s easier to pretend that the things out there cannot see you if you cannot see them.

It was a hot summer night, and our A/C was on the fritz. We had a repair guy coming in the morning, but until then we made due with open windows and ceiling fans. The gentle buzz of faraway traffic and the calm whoosh of the ceiling fan made quite the suburban lullaby, and the light from the lamppost outside gently illuminated my room.

With the heat I was down to my boxers and a single bedsheet. Even though I would have been more comfortable without it, I never have been able to sleep well without at least a single sheet covering me. When I was a kid I believed that if you kept your feet outside the covers at night things could grab you. If they were inside the covers, the creatures lurking in the dark had to follow the rules. Covers were a safe zone, and you could rest comfortably knowing that you were hidden in the sheets.

I was tossing and turning as I usually do when sleeping without the modicum of creature comforts I’ve grown used to when I first heard it – the gentle creaking of my closet door. Cursing the worn latch that was the only thing keeping the door closed, I got up out of bed and made my way to the cracked doorway.

As I did I heard a low thump from the closet, almost like the sound of someone scrabbling backwards.

I froze, the beads of sweat cooling against my skin. I listened intently but heard only the gentle noise from the fan and the traffic from outside my window. It felt like minutes before I moved again, but I know now it was probably only a matter of seconds.

As though on autopilot, I moved to my dresser and opened the sock drawer. Finding the lockbox hidden under my unorganized piles of underwear and socks, I quickly twisted the combination into the lock and withdrew the snub nose .38 I had bought a few years before.

I hadn’t taken it out for years, but I knew by the weight that it still held 5 rounds of .38 hollowpoints. I grabbed the small flashlight I kept near my bed and made my way to the lightswitch near the closet.

I reached the switch near the door and raised the .38, finger sweating against the stainless steel trigger. My heart was pounding in my chest as I flipped on the light and opened the closet door. Bright light flooded into the dark space, illuminating everything I had stashed in there over the years.

Nothing was out of place. I scolded myself for being so paranoid and quickly locked up the revolver, annoyed at myself for being so frightened at such a mundane noise.

I switched off the light and went back to bed, heart rate slowly dropping to normal, when I heard the door creak open again. I almost started laughing until I hear the door fully open and hit the wall. A second later, a few plodding thuds came from the direction of the closet, and I pulled the covers down slightly to peek.

Emerging from the closet and tiptoeing as if trying not to wake me, was a being, at least nine feet tall and hunched below the ceiling. It’s long, spindly arms blindly groped at the wall as it looked in my direction, apparently unable to see the abject look of horror on my face. It continued its quiet progression and quickly slipped out my bedroom door.

I don’t use a night light anymore. If it’s still ever in my closet, I figure I’d rather us not be able to see each other.

Titan

I gasp for air in the drain pipe as my shoulder pounds in pain. My  vision is swimming. Slowly my eyes adjust to the darkness and my torn up palms trace their way along the bottom of the tunnel. Scrabbling deeper into the dark, I curl into a ball every time I hear that damn sound.

I had been walking home from my office when I heard it the first time. My boss, Parker, made me stay late again and I was starting to curse myself for deciding to jog to work this morning instead of driving. Taylor was trying to get me into shape for our upcoming vacation and I was doing a shit poor job of actually listening to her. I know she doesn’t want to be the woman hanging out on the beach with the husband equivalent of a beached whale, but getting myself to be motivated was harder and harder to achieve.

Walking alone down the darkened backstreets didn’t bother me. I preferred it to the howling masses that seemed to live on Main Street at this time of night, swarming between the bars and restaurants that dotted the road in the middle of town.

Alone with my thoughts and the quiet music seeping through my headphones, I made my way down the darkened alleys. I figured I was alone until I turned the corner.

“I don’t want to hurt you, man, but I will. Give me your wallet and your phone and don’t try any shit.”

The man, really a boy now that I think of it, couldn’t have been older than 17 or 18. Time stopped and I noticed everything. His eyes were ringed and bagged, fingernails ragged and chewed. He looked paler than I was, and the unmistakable tremors and sweating indicated some kind of drug use.

It’s easy to feel detached now, but then all I found myself focusing on was the boxy shape of a Glock 9mm handgun pointed directly at my chest. Adrenaline kicked in and before I knew it I was holding my phone and wallet above my head, as though they were an offering to the gods.

The kid was shaking the gun at me and yelling, but by this point I had no idea what he was saying. The sounds of the world were being droned out by the noise of blood pumping in my ears. He waved the gun, and I realized he wanted me to drop the stuff on the floor.

Practically throwing my phone and wallet, I dumped them on the floor and took a few steps back. The thief scooped them up and with that he was gone. The sounds of the world slowly faded back into perception, and I was left standing in the dark alley with nothing left but the encroaching feeling of nausea.

Then I heard the scream. The scream was panicked and primal. At first I thought it was an animal like a rabbit or something, but my brain connected the dots when I heard the clattering from the Glock hitting the asphalt.

I worked up my courage and approached the brick corner at the end of the alley. Peering around the edge, I could see the legs of the thief dangling from the rooftop as he was slowly being pulled over the ledge.

The smell of copper and ozone filled my nostrils and the only thing I could hear was a sickly popping noise. Every morning when we wake up, Taylor likes to pop her back. I hate that noise. It bothers me to my core and even though I ask her to not do it, she can’t help herself. She just grins at me and struggles to crack her back multiple times in a row. This was like that, but left me feeling like I was going to throw up.

Looking above me is when I first saw it. It’s head was shaped like an over-sized pumpkin. It’s empty, raw eye sockets stared back at me. Below it sat a gaping hole where a mouth should be.

I turned and ran. My feet pounding against the pavement as whatever it was began trailing me across the rooftops. As I passed alleyways and empty streets I realize that whatever it was, it was clearing the 20 foot gaps between the buildings as easy as you or I stepping over a crack in the pavement.

Whatever the thing is, it’s big. I can hear its joints pop as it lopes across the buildings next to me. I can hear a low dry croaking sound each time it lands after a jump.

I turn towards the river and hope to lose it in the forest lying along the shore when I make my mistake. I trip, whether it’s over a rock or hole in the ground, it ends with only one thing. I tumble down the embankment and slam my shoulder into the concrete drainage pipe.

Now, climbing through the pipe I realize that I can hide out here until morning. Then my heart sinks. I come to a locked security grate. I’m barely twenty feet into the pipe when I hear the sickening, cracking of joints and see a filthy and white bony hand work its way towards me. As I press my back against the grate, the thing leans further into the tunnel, plunging me into complete darkness.

On failure

I’ve been recently told that I need to slow down on my projects or I’ll burn myself out. This is a valid concern (given my New Years pushups and running resolutions) however with writing and my side projects, I feel like slowing down will burn myself out. I am enjoying creating content for others to read. I can only hope it’s entertaining, but the goal here is to create something worthy of just two minutes of someone’s time. Just a year ago around this time I heavily started writing. I’ve always written, but I wouldn’t have called myself a writer until then.

Back then, I was terrified of criticism. I would worry about each piece I was thinking of showing to people, and then show them only to select groups from where I knew I would get positive feedback. I would never dare put my writing up online for fear that someone wouldn’t like it. Just getting one negative review would be enough to throw me into a shame spiral. But you know what? Now I don’t really care about that.

I just started on YouTube working on my podcast. It has been a long time in the making, and my friend Graham is lending his amazing sound mastering experience to help supplement my writing. We’ve gotten pretty positive responses, but also something that I’m not used to. Now, for the first time I’ve received visibly negative feedback.

I got my first dislike, my friends.

What would originally have destroyed me has actually inspired me. I try and think of what I can do differently for the next video instead of beating myself up about it. When I look at my project’s failings, it’s not out of self-pity, but to continue to improve and thrive.

A few posts ago I mentioned that I had scrapped the work on my novel. People I know, to put it simply, politely freaked out. They worried about all the time I put in to the current drafts. What they didn’t realize was that I was already on my third attempt at the same story that just wasn’t working. I had invested all told about 40,000 words on writing that I was trying to force to work. Now I don’t believe that all writing is inspiration and magically flows through you or some such. Writing is work, in some cases harder than other things. But when you can’t shake an idea and keep it as a sacred cow, you can’t improve on it.

So, I scrapped it. There are still copies of it on my hard drive so I can’t say I dramatically burned the thing to the ground, but I no longer consult them. I started writing fresh and shed the plot elements I was so concerned were needed, and ended up having my characters take me to where I needed them to be. Yes, writing is work, but sometimes there are those moments when the words talk back to you. You just put them to paper and they glow. Other times you stare out the windows wracking your brain for the next big step.

The dislike on my video was more puzzling than disheartening, but I get it. A week ago I sent Graham a new cut of recordings I did for the next episode of the podcast. I waited for a response because I wanted to get in to it, and he replied that I had made my voice so gravelly and stuttered that I sounded like a barely literate Batman. I thought I had sounded creepy, he thought that me being ‘creepy’ sounded like I didn’t know how to pronounce the word ‘exercises.’ He was brutally honest about it, and I loved it. I learned more about recording in that 5 minute conversation than spending time trying to figure out what I think people would like. It’s been one of the most helpful criticisms I’ve gotten in my career.

Like any other blooming YouTube sensation, I tend to exaggerate but I also watch my click-through-rate and advertising statistics. They make sense to me now. They ebb and flow just like everything else and the goal to getting views isn’t just good marketing, but also providing great content. I had run ad campaigns that shot up my views, but did little to keep people except for a dedicated core of viewers and readers around. I was getting my 15 minutes without any of the benefits.

Moving forward, I’m working on making myself better in all ways. I’ve started doing my pushups again, and now I’m learning how to use video editing software in addition to the sound aspect of the project. Graham has his own projects to worry about, so the more I can help him with the mundane aspects of the editing the better. But I need to start considering my technical skills in addition to my creative ones. Graham is awesome with sound because not only is he a skilled musician, but he’s also passionate about all aspects of recording music. Thanks to this podcast, he’s transitioning into Foley work as well. It is as new a field to him as recording and video making is to me.

That’s what I need to learn how to do. Not just focus on the technical or creative aspect, but both. They can live together in harmony and don’t need to be mutually exclusive. I can watch CTR’s and also not compromise myself as an artist or whatever pretentious spin you want to put on it. People will like things, people will hate things, but if you want to be successful you need to keep putting out work, and scrap your sacred cows when they aren’t working for you.

I was so afraid of failure with the podcast initially that we had the episode recorded for months before it actually hit the internet. It was my first foray into the audio arena of the internet, and while it isn’t perfect, it was a start. Scrapping my novel and starting over has been the best decision I’ve made yet, as I’ve written more in two days based around the same general elements than I have in the last month on this project. It all comes down to not being afraid to admit failure, but not letting that failure stop you or slow you down. That’s how we learn and that’s how we prosper. If I hadn’t gotten rid of my flawed progress on my story, I would be rewriting the same 40,000 words. Just spinning my wheels unhappy with everything, but since I had already gotten that far, there was nothing I was able to do.

Getting that far is only part of the trip, the other is making sure the journey is worth it. If Wally World is closed, savor the journey, but also turn the damn car around and go to Disneyland.

Creative writing: He said she said

Wanted to take a wee break from my horror writing and focus on practicing something I desperately need to practice – realistic  emotional tension. It’s rough around the edges, but I’ve never really written this much back-and-forth before. Hope you guys enjoy my little experiment.


“What does this mean for us then?” The question hung over the table as she waited for the answer. The diner continued as though nothing life-changing was happening. It didn’t matter, each table had a story, and this table’s story wouldn’t impact anything for the rest of the patrons anyways. The diner was busy, the diner didn’t care.

Continue reading Creative writing: He said she said

I keep restarting my novel, and I hate it

So I’ve run into a bit of an issue with my novel. I’m sure others have had the same problem, but I’m kind of curious as to how you proceeded.

There’s two separate ways I can see my novel starting, but I like them both. I know usually the advice is to start in the middle, but the beginning kind of informs the majority of my story. I’ve written and re-written both the opening and portions of the middle multiple times, but can’t seem to find my center.

I guess it’s kind of like writer’s block, but instead of me not being able to write, I can’t commit as to what to write. I’m bad at outlining and like to write a bit more free form, but has that helped any of you in the past? Should I write both and see what stands out down the line? I really have no idea, but I know most of you reading this are writers and editors, any advice as to how to get past this reoccurring hiccup?

As always, thanks everyone!

Creative Writing

Just a bit of free form writing I started this morning. Nothing from my life except the horror. Dragonfly guy popped in my head when I woke up and I loved him too much. Bit of a break from horror.


The cold metal chair bites into my back as I listen to the latest speaker. I shouldn’t be slouching, but I feel like a kid stuck in church. The group had been billed as a fiction writing group, but if you add a podium, we could be an AA meeting. Hell, add some robes and we’re a cult.

The empty school gymnasium echoes as the poetry guy talks again. He just simply showed up and started reciting poems. Jasper, the guy that was running the group, tried to explain that this was for fiction writer’s and not a poetry jam, but the guy didn’t get it. We just kind of let him do his thing. It would be cool if his poetry didn’t suck so bad.

The overhead lights are shut off and we’re illuminated by a set of hastily placed work lamps. The janitor apologized and said the overhead’s were on a timer. I think he’s full of it though, and just wants us to leave.

Ok, poetry guy finished his introduction. My guess is the poem will be about his mother.

“My poem is entitled, ‘My Mother, Dragonfly.’” He beams.

I look around, some people have looks of pity for the guy, some are leaning heavily into their hands trying to stay awake. We just came off a long lecture about ‘showing, and not telling’ from Jasper. He told us all the ways we could show things.

“Mother dragonfly, your legs are not strong enough to walk, but you can fly,” poetry guy recites from a pristine piece of paper. It had been folded but the lines are so crisp that you can tell he had spent more than a minute folding it.

All the poems are like this. Last week was ‘Soaring mother eagle,’ and then before that ‘Proud mother lion.’ We all felt bad for the guy, clearly he had just lost his mom and was trying to express himself in the only way he knew how. I mean, even if it was just through rhyming animal facts he was still expressing himself.

Then his completely healthy mother picked him up from the meeting last week and now it’s gotten a bit weird.

I try to make eye contact with the cute girl across the way that writes about elves and dwarves and stuff. She’s beautiful in that ‘pre-taking off glasses’ moment in a high school movie kind of way. I never got that, half the time the girls were better looking with the glasses and messy hair. More unique.

Anyways, I tried talking to her last week, but found out quickly that she wasn’t into any universe but the one she made up. I made small talk while she explained the intricacies of her magic system. When I tried to explain my basics for what I feel makes great horror, she kept steering it back to the scary creatures occupying her world. I listened and smiled but it hurt, weren’t we here to share ideas? Also it hurt that she didn’t care a lick about my writing but the ideas thing is probably more important.

Applause struggles for life as the Dragonfly guy sits back down.

The next woman called up is in her forties and was just laid off. She told us this last week and I went home and teared up about it for a bit. She was good. I mean best seller good, but she couldn’t finish her manuscript for the life of her. Just kept re-editing and re-reading us the same passages. I wanted to tell her to submit it. It was about her life experiences as a single mother of two, having come from a nuclear family. It was touching, and I hadn’t worked up the nerve to ask for a manuscript but I think I will someday. I want to tell her to submit it to some literary agents, but I don’t.

I get up and read next. It’s more Gothic horror, and I’m starting to run out of ways to say ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘mind-shattering.’ The more I write, them more I lose the horror. I can’t put together a novel length story to save my life. I don’t write blood and guts, and I have no idea how to keep the story going past 1000 words. I went to a literary agent once, but they told me no one cared about a short story collection unless you’re established.

With that the meeting concludes. Jasper says he’ll see us next week because writing’s cheaper than therapy and we laugh. It’s a bittersweet laugh because I know half of us are in therapy. Hell, that’s probably why we’re writers.

I get up to go ask the single mother for her manuscript but stop myself. It feels wrong, it just feels so intimate to ask for something like that. I don’t want to pressure her into doing something with her work she doesn’t want to do yet. I walk away and catch up with the elves girl.

I ask her out on a date and she says yes. As we walk through the empty school halls and into the brisk winter night, she regaled me with the royal history of the Elven people of Aeri.