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Is the phrase "Once upon a time..."
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Monthly Writing Prompt
For this month's writing prompt write a scene using the following sentence to start;

The streets were deserted. Where was everyone? Where had they all gone?

Writing Tip
Our monthly writing tips are written by our very own TerishD. You can read more in Terish's Blog located in "The Abstractions" area of the forum.

Look Back

When not able to write ahead, it helps to look back. In my case I had written a paragraph ahead of the story. What I needed to do was add a section of exposition (talking) presenting some facts. In going back, I realized that I could insert a section where a 'tour' of the surroundings could be done. This allowed for character interaction, story development, and other things that enabled me to present the facts in an entertaining manner.

One should not face a writer's block with the mentality of bursting through it. I have found in my own experience that a writer's block is usually due to my mind indicating that it has a problem in 'channeling' the story. One reason might be a re-imagining of certain story points. Another reason however is that there is a problem in where you are at in the story, so you need to look back and find out the problem with the 'journey' that prevents the tale from advancing.

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 Dearest Son

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Number of posts : 17
Registration date : 2008-07-22

PostSubject: Dearest Son   December 18th 2008, 6:21 pm

Dearest son,

Some days I just did not know whether to be happy or sad, but that day I knew I must have been both. I didn't know where one emotion ended and another began. Your Dad's retirement gave me such joy and optimism during that last week at home before you left for your tour in Iraq. It tore me apart to think of the harm you would be facing, all of those fears we felt sending our beloved son to his possible death.

I just knew I could get through it all with Jim by my side, especially since he had been to war and knew just how to calm the fears. Back when he went to war I faced the same fears and I think he knew then, though he always pretended he didn't know. I think he did that just to hide the anguish he felt in leaving us behind to be a soldier. When you shipped out he shared in my concerns for you and helped me get through.

The day your Dad took you to the airport to leave, I just couldn't bear to go and cry my way through another good-bye. It was best that it was just you and him, a chance for a good-bye that had the dignity only two soldiers could share in parting.

He stepped out for a drink with his old friends, as he too often did, before coming home. I had a nice steak dinner hot and ready for him on such an occasion. I felt bad when he started to choke a little bit on something I prepared for him. I normally get yelled at something fierce when I do something wrong, like cooking a meal wrong and cause him to choke just a little.

I don't know how many times I gave him several decent taps on the back to help him dislodge what was stuck in his throat. He finally quit choking and just sat there for awhile. I didn't know if he was furious or not since he didn't say a word to me the rest of the evening. I just sat at the table eating, waiting for the worst. I sat there long after I finished eating, waiting on him to finish, until I finally gave up and went to bed. I was too spent to stay awake and wait.

I wasn't all that worried I guess because I fell right to sleep and slept well. I did get worried when the first glimmers of morning sun brought me from my sleep to find Jim had not come to bed. I almost wanted to stay there in hopes I would not have to face what surely was going to be a bad fight. Instead, I got up and headed for the kitchen to get some coffee on. Your Dad was sitting at the table just watching me for a few moments and finally just said good morning. I said good morning and thought about how he was not berating me.

We ended up having a nice day watching tv and talking about things. It was a strange day too since it was so pleasant. In fact, the whole year you were gone it was great, like the early days of our marriage. He sat beside me at the table or on the couch all that time even. Good times.

There was those days in early summer where there was some strong and strange odor in the air. We never could find the source and we must have just gotten used to it. Neighbors would even ask about the smell when they stopped by the porch to visit. We decided some poor skunk found his demise, probably under the kitchen where it was strongest. Jim never said anything to them. He wasn't really much for talking to them. He was nice to me so I didn't care that he wasn't being sociable with some old hens.

It was such a nice morning on the day we awaited your return for a leave. It had been a year so I made you your favorite foods. Your Dad even helped me prepare the food. He had gotten to where he loved to help me out after the day you left a year ago. But the look on your face when you came in the house was not what I expected to see. I couldn't believe it when you said he was dead. He was just fine earlier today. Then when you said that I had killed him it hurt so bad. How could you have thought I killed your Dad?

I tried to tell the police that I didn't know what everyone was talking about when they were saying he had been dead a long time. I wanted to go check for myself but the police took me away before I could even see him. And you were so mad at me. My world crashed in one day and I couldn't even understand it all.

The doctors have helped me a lot over the past weeks. They still insist I stabbed him repeatedly with a knife or that he died a year ago. I remember tapping him on the back when he was choking but he was fine after that. So fine that we got to enjoy a wonderful year.

I'm sorry you had to handle the funeral and stuff while I sat in here helpless. I guess I am stuck here but I hope you can come visit. I need to close out this letter since it is chow time. The food here really isn't that bad to me. Jim would hate it though, even after he turned nicer.

Love with all my heart,
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PostSubject: Re: Dearest Son   December 18th 2008, 6:39 pm

I was a little confused at the start as to rather the dad and Jim were the same person and a few of the lines need a little rewrite due to grammar issues, but I like the unexpected nature of it. One expects at the start of it to be a sappy piece about a mother's love and son gone to war, maybe even a comment on the politics of war, but that's not what it is at all.
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PostSubject: Reply   December 19th 2008, 12:25 am

Cute. Saw the ending almost from the start. Nothing wrong there, just the type of reading that I have been seeing lately.

What you did not do was make me care. I believe that you desired all the shock should have been in the revelation. Okay. The problem is that once the revelation is done, you also realize that everything has been accounted for. The 'murderer' has been identified. The verdict has been delivered. There is nothing to connect me, the reader, to the story. I had the feeling, "Okay, this crime is solved."

Still, good attempt. Keep working. As with any other skill, writing takes constant work. I wish you well.

Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market.  "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Re: Dearest Son   December 19th 2008, 9:32 am

This had a nice "Poe" feel to it. Well done!
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PostSubject: Re: Dearest Son   December 19th 2008, 2:50 pm

I like this, it reminded me of Annabel Lee in a way.
It was cool and I agree a very Poe feel.
This is really good, I would love to read more of your stuff.
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PostSubject: Re: Dearest Son   December 19th 2008, 4:49 pm

Thank you for your thoughts on this piece. I hadn't thought about Poe but I think I should go back and read some from him. You reminded me that Poe is a good writer to help one trying to write about insane, or near insane, characters.

I hadn't thought about the crime itself and what focus might be on it. I did think about it as far as thinking the crime had to be solved in the piece since I did it in a confessional letter style.

I see what you mean about the Jim/Dad confusion. I was trying to seperate the two relationships by name. Like when she talked about the father/son relationship she would use Dad and use Jim when it was about the husband/wife. It probably would have been best to stick with Dad.

I wrote this partly as an exercise to help me work on writing about an insane character I have in my second book. The character is a ten year old in a mental hospital after torching his Mom's house, at least in the part of the story I am struggling with. He also pulled his Mom out of the fire but torching a house usually gets a person three squares and a cot for some time.
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PostSubject: Re: Dearest Son   December 21st 2008, 11:52 am

One thing I will suggest.

This irked me a bit, a mother would never express to her son that her husband beat her (If she did, she would be in a battered woman's shelter, seriously) what she would say is.

"You know how your father gets, with his temper and all" or something like that, so we know he beats her, with out saying "he beats her"

Because the son very well would know what Dad was like, when he was angry, and many battered woman live in denial about it.

Just a bit on that one.
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PostSubject: Re: Dearest Son   December 22nd 2008, 9:44 pm

Hello Joe,

I really enjoyed this piece. I actually got interrupted in the middle of it which greatly annoyed me because I was so focused. Being a military dependent, living and working on military bases, I really connected with your story.

I must admit I did not expect the ending. I do agree that it wasn't necessarily shocking in that wide-eyed jaw-dropping sense, but it was thought provoking in that it was mildly disturbing. At the beginning of the letter, I was thinking that this could have been my mom writing a letter. Least to say, you can see why I was a little disturbed by the end.

I really can't offer any real constructive advice, it's been covered, but I honestly think this story is pretty solid.

You're a strong writer with an amazing voice. I look forward to reading more.

~New York Bum
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