Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Starting Sparks #1: the numbness // also beta-reading?

(Disclaimer: Oddball is not ready for beta-readers. I wrote something else.)

Emily @ Emily Etc. and I are doing this really cool writing prompt link up! We call it Starting Sparks. It helps generate creative sparks to light the writing flame.

That sounded better in my head. . .

So here's my bit for the prompt. It made me think of the weird idea (among other things). So here's a random scene from a yet-to-be WIP. It's very, uh-- I don't even know. 

If you're curious, your narrator's name is Rayne. 


Our lines glide down the cables. The metallic zipping sound echoes into the darkness of Underground headquarters. The hollow clunk of our feet on the walkway follows it. I can feel the steel grating beneath my shoes and yet I don’t feel anything stable beneath me. 

Everyone seems suspended in this bubble. No one speaks and I absorb the numbness of the group as my own. I wrap myself in the protection of denial. 

Savannah breaks away first. Her terse footsteps on the walkway take her to the tech room. One by one, everyone follows. 

She wants to be alone. I know it. The thought hangs like fading mist in the back of my mind. But I turn and follow mechanically. I can’t be left here alone with the memory of an hour ago. 

I stand in the doorway. I see everything and nothing at the same time. The only thing I notice is that Mikel for once doesn’t make any jokes and Savannah for once does not pull away when he embraces her. 

Terrence is not here. I know where he’s gone. Should I leave him alone? Or find him? He’s like a brother to me. The thought of him alone and brooding makes me ache. But I know he treasures his solitude to think and cope. 

I, for one, do not want to think. I don’t want the flashbacks to tackle me to the ground. I don’t want to cope. I don’t want to have to cope. This should never have happened. The plan was perfect. Fool-proof. Who knew a wise man would stumble in it? 

Stop that. I grimace. I force my thoughts away from an hour ago and back onto Terrence. I look to Sid for advice. He’s taken up residence in some dark corner opposite me. He always hides, I know he does. And yet I always spot him so easily when others do not.

His gaze is already fixed on me. Something I would normal find unnerving. He nods ever so slightly to me. 

I leave. My abrupt movement feels muffled in this fog. I can see the whole Underground fill up with drifting mist if I try to imagine it. 

No, don’t. Keep a clear head. 

A lump forms in my throat when I entire the arsenal. I move in and out of the shelves as if I were not here. Touching anything feels like a degradation. The whole place seems as a room of relics, of ghosts, and of old memories lying in wait to prey on my mind. 

I climb the rungs of the ladder on the far wall. I focus on how rusty it is. How pieces of it peel off when my hands release the rough metal. How long has this ladder been here? Who put it here? What was the original purpose of this room? 

I grapple the ceiling beams and swing onto the skeleton of a loft. Terrence sits on a far beam where a crack in the ceiling casts a sliver of light onto his fingers. Has he ever realized how symbolic it is that he always comes here to this crack of light when he needs the world to make sense? Is it something he does subconsciously or has he known about that shining light since the first time he sat here?

Silently, I sit beside him. His hand with the light cast on it between us. He doesn’t acknowledge my presence. I don’t expect him to. I wouldn’t have if I were in his place. 

I want to say something. I’m usually good with words. I lace my fingers together. No. Actually, I’m better at edging words with a bite than I am at saying nice things. 

Yeah, nice things is not my specialty. 

I don’t know what to do. I have no right to ask him not to break. I could understand that too well. At the same time though, Terrence is family in a way that I could never let him slip through the cracks without a fight. 

His face is turned completely away from me. I have no idea what he’s thinking.

“Terrence.” I barely hear my own voice.

His hand darts around me and his head presses against my shoulder. His movements have always been sudden like my own. Perhaps that’s why we understand each other so much. I’m not much of a hugger, but it is natural to hug Terrence. Despite being almost a whole head shorter than myself, he really is my big brother. 

The light glimmers on his black hair. He heaves a breath and I can feel him shut his eyes tighter. My shirt is damp and something wet slips down my own face and onto his hair. 

We stay like that until the numbness fades.

* * * *

 I wrote a short story. It fits the prompt perfectly and I was going to use it instead of the weird idea scene. Then I thought, "Or I could actually do something with it!"


Do Something: to publish in a magazine, electronic or otherwise, or to submit into a writing contest

I have no idea what I'm going to do with it exactly. Where to submit it, etc. I'll do some searching. At the same time though, I had the strong urge to post it here because I wanted you all to read it. 

It's a short story (which I never do) and it's actually not fantasy (*gasps* I must be sick or something). It's just over 500 words and it's about grief. Yeah. . . So if you want to read it, just send me an email. On the right hand sidebar, there's a lovely envelope icon you can click to do so. If you want to give any feedback that would be awesome! Let me know if you don't mind answering a few follow up questions. If not, and you just want to read, that's cool too. ;)  

Okay, okay. I'm done. I really am. 

Olan Rogers


  1. Omigoodness Ashley, that was wonderful, I need to read this. Terrence the poor fellow, I want to hug him too.

    1. Thank so much!

      Yeah, I rather like Terrence.

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  3. Terrence... I remember one of my early WIP characters named Terrence from a post I did a few years ago when I first started my blog. XD Oh, he was a tricky one. Good luck with your Terrence though! I came up with the name Terrence because of that one Pixie Dust Fairy in Tinkerbell. How did you come across the name Terrence?
    Your short story sounds really good! I wish I could beta read for you, but I have about a million and one exams coming up here and there. Yeah... school is a downer.

    1. Terrence is such a cool name. I don't really remember how I stumbled across it. I know at the time I was on the look out for unusually names because I wanted most of the characters in the weird idea to have different names (Savannah, Keth, Kiwi. . .). And Terrence just fit him so well. I might have maybe found in it the credits to a movie or something. (You'll always find something unusual there.)

      It's cool. I know how school can be. . . Hope it's going well though!

  4. I love this piece so much. *dies* It perfectly communicates the initial numbness following a tragedy, and it doesn't even tell me what's happened--I just know that something awful has happened. I'm kind of at a loss for words here. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much! That was my goal. . . I was uncertain if I had accomplished it, but now I am so happy it worked.

      Thank you!

  5. Excellent job, Ashley!! I love this! Like Liz above me said, it perfectly communicates the numbness following a tragedy. A tragedy that we know nothing about but, through your writing, can really understand and feel the impact of. Really nice job.

    Also I love the idea for Starting Sparks! Great prompt. I didn't expect it to say "don't mention the tragedy." Interesting little twist.

    Finally, good luck finding some beta readers! I wish I could help you there. I know how much good a writer can get from that. But I'd be a poor beta reader, especially right now. But a fun little spot you might want to look at for contests and minor feedback is Allpoetry.com. It's mostly for poetry, but people do post stories.

    Best of luck. :)

    1. Thank you so much!

      And thank you for the site. I will definitely look into it. :D

  6. Love it! Sorry it's taken me five hundred years to get here but you know. Life. (I like to think you appreciate my comments all the more when they come four weeks late ... right??)

    No one speaks and I absorb the numbness of the group as my own. I wrap myself in the protection of denial.

    I love it. The whole tone is so numb and enclosed, it really captures that first shock of grief.

    The whole place seems as a room of relics, of ghosts, and of old memories lying in wait to prey on my mind.

    ^^Beautiful line.

    I'm already v much enjoying Rayne and Terrence's friendship (is he the one with whom she quotes Princess Bride??). And my prior knowledge of the weird idea made this even more intriguing; I love how, even at this time, Rayne is still always questioning: "How long has this ladder been here? Who put it here? What was the original purpose of this room?"

    I have a bit of a soft spot for the weird idea, gotta say. Any ideas what's coming after Oddball (it or Eelistle, I mean?) I think that, to my mind, the weird idea is more attractive because it feels really different and fresh. I'm so interested in reading your first person FMC stuff!

    PS I almost closed this post in disgust after reading the first sentence, you built up my hopes and then tore then away!

    PPS But I would love to beta if you're still looking?

    1. PPS I changed my blog name bc I'm super rad.

    2. I do actually. It's always a nice surprise when I find a comment from you. I love surprises. ;)

      Yay! I'm so glad it does. I was a little uncertain about it. I don't usually write from the perspective of characters who refuse to feel. It almost felt like, uh, sacrilege? When I write deaths, or any general "bad stuff," I tend to let the characters feel the weight of it all. I want my audience to know that it's okay to feel things. It's okay to be sad or angry or whatever. So writing from Rayne's view is vastly different.

      I am glad you like that line. I really loved it.

      (Nope, sorry. Terrence is much to serious a person to quote Princess Bride. Rayne and Mikel quote the Princess Bride [which you should watch *cough*]. I don't think I've ever had Mikel on the blog yet. He's a hoot.)

      Yes! Rayne is always diverting her thoughts to things of the past. Especially if she is trying not to think of something, it's the easiest thing for her thoughts to revert to, like a default setting.

      Up after Oddball? I really don't know. It was originally going to be the weird idea. Which I am very glad you like. It is different. The tone and feel is not Oddball at all. But then Eelistle and Brayden knocked on my door with devilish grins and swords and quests. Honestly, I want to write the weird idea so badly, but at the same time, I'm afraid that as a writer I'm not ready for that yet. It's one of those ideas that I can't pants through and I don't know. Have you ever had one of those book ideas that you just know has the potential to effect/change readers? Like this is the "big one"? (Also, I am going to take a leap and ask if FMC means like female protagonist? Cause that's all my brain is coming up with. Now that I think of it, I guess I do have a lot of male narrated works. O_O I don't know how that happened.)

      PS-- What!? Emily, you would do that to me? Kidding. ;) Actually, I wasn't going to leave that sentence until after the writing prompt, but at the last minute I realized I might be giving people false hope and it would just be cruel to break it to them at the end of the post. . .

      PPS-- I would love for you to beta it! I'm really not finding many people who will read it. But it's only, like two pages, so it's not particularly time-consuming. I shall email it posthaste! Oh man, and it's male narrated too! *head desk*

      I know! I saw that you changed it. I love it! Ink Inc. I am mildly jealous. ;) And I LOVE the new design/header!

    3. That's so interesting. Corrie is definitely the weighty-feeler type (what a weird phrase), so writing grief from her POV is .... taxing. I don't know it'd feel from somebody else more like Rayne (like Jem for example) .

      So, Mikel, Savannah, Terence, Rayne, are they a group? What about Sid, who's he? Are we shipping anyone (legit always my first question)?

      That's 900% how I feel about the Ruskins! I know it would be a lot easier to slip back into high fantasy with Aithne, Kit and Leo -- with devilish grins and swords and quests, like you say -- but I also know that, at least right now, the Ruskins are what's exciting me the most. But I also know that, as realistic fiction/contemporary, I'm going to be completely out of my depth/comfort zone and there aren't going to be any quests or swords or magic, and I don't know if I can handle that. (Good thing, I guess, that TCATT is at least a trilogy. I have my hands full for a while!)

      (Also can I ask where are you in Oddball atm, which book?)

      (Female Main Character.)

      PS That would have been cruel!

      PPS OK, I've seen your email and will read it forthwith!

      Thank you! I'm so happy, the header was an enjoyable creation :) But tell me, is it loading much much slower for you?

    4. *I don't know how it'd feel from somebody else more like Rayne (like Jem for example).

    5. It is a strange phrase, but I know what you mean. It gets the point across exactly. I can kind of tell Corrie is definitely a weighty-feeler. ;) Oddball is too. He can be funny sometimes, but when he gets sad, he can be really solemn and it's kind of depressing. Peril can get like that too, except she becomes bitter. Rayne though tries to distance herself from her emotions a lot. So it's really, really weird.

      Yes, they are. Not in the beginning. Rayne meets them along the way and such. Why do you ask me who Sid is? He's supposed to be the secretive, mysterious guy who you don't know whether to trust or not. Does that explain anything? As to the other question. . . I will only answer Mikel and Savannah. Mikel is the silly, cheerful person (almost all happy or fun moments are creds to him). While Savannah is more like the "don't touch me, leave me alone, you talk to much" etc. type. It's one of those weird love/hate relationships where all the love is one side and all the annoyance/tolerance on the other side and eventually though it works out.

      I am so glad you get it! And it's like you're completely out of your element and what in the world do you do now?! Okay, I have a random, slightly related questions. In the Ruskins, do one of the two younger kids try to cope by creating like a fantasy world or something? They mention it every now and then or something?

      Yes, I'm on Oddball the Sequel. Not even a third of the way through though. *mourns* How about The City and the Trees?

      Um, no I don't think it loads slowly for me. It's about the same, I think.

    6. Have just replied to your email!

      Ooh, sorry, I won't mention Sid again! (I feel like I've wandered somewhere I shouldn't have!) Mikel and Savannah (Mavannah? Sikel? Ha, maybe better not Sikel) sound cute. That sort of relationship is so satisfying to read about! You just spend the entire book like "cmon Savannah!" and then at the end you're so happy :)

      Right?! Erm, well, odd question ... OK so first thing to establish, I think you are confusing Flick and Teresa. Flick is the confident pretty loud one everyone pays attention to, but Teresa is actually two years older. So when you talk about the two younger kids having a fantasy world, I assume you're thinking of Edmund and Teresa?

      I don't know, it's an interesting question that I'd not thought about before. I feel like Edmund definitely would be the type to invent a fantasy world. Teresa, I'm not so sure. The really confusing thing is that I don't know how close they are; you'd think they'd gravitate towards each other, but I suspect they're actually both closer to Matthew (the eldest) than to each other? I don't know why, that's just my feeling!

      Sorry, Ashley, I'm totally throwing random character names at you here and you've probably forgotten who they all are! Why don't I start again trying to answer your question? No, I've not thought about a fantasy world, but Edmund does seem the type so maybe!

      KEEP GOING! TCATT is OK, I addressed this question in my email to you!

      OK, that's good. It's a lot slower for me but I think that's just my dire internet.

    7. Mavannah! I like it. XD They make my day. And it's cool about Sid. He's just, gah! He's one of my favorites, but I don't want to deal with him right now.

      Yes Edmund. I was thinking about him when I said that. I don't know, for some reason, he seems like the kind of kid who would like have an imaginary world or imaginary friend? Or am I just totally off? I could see him and Teresa trying to connect but the ways they communicate are just too different? I could so see them gravitating toward Matthew though! Especially since he's the oldest.

    8. He totally would have an imaginary world, he totally totally would. He has glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling as a kid and he dreams of exploring magic worlds. And I feel like maybe Matthew (six years older) would be up for playing those games with him.


      This book, man!


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