Writing Prompt: Folded Hands, Furrowed Brow, Fractured Dreams

Time to Wake

          Aurora followed the wind, and banked toward the fading sun. Golden beams of light were turning green at the edges, and curled like fire. She gazed at the vista with a furrowed brow. Her world was dying.

          Aurora tightened her body into a sharp line, clenching her muscles and heaving her wings in a powerful struggle for altitude. Her body did this instinctively, and it should have strained her to the edge of endurance. Instead it was alarmingly effortless. Finally, she reached the peak of her aerie, and dropped to the stone with a slight bounce.

          From her vantage point she could see everything. It was why she chose this place for her sanctuary. Many times she had stood here, soaking up the beauty of the green valley, the gently rolling hills, and beyond, the sapphire allure of the sea. But today it was different. The valley was dry and brown, and the hills were shrouded in smoke. The ocean was lost already.

          As she watched, the sun, which had been rising, began to sink below the horizon. The sky turned grey, and blended into the smoky hills, which also disappeared. The rough stone beneath her bare feet still felt solid and real. But for how long? Aurora folded her hands, and bowed her head, closing her eyes in silent defeat. She was out of time. She needed to flee this fractured dream to have any hope of saving the others.

          Aurora opened her eyes to darkness. “Computer,” she croaked. “Status.”

          The light in her pod activated, and she slapped a hand over her eyes, keeping them open, but shielding them.

          “Hello Aurora. Log out complete. Your session lasted 9,079 hours, 23 minutes. Status report: Life support stable. 452 users are logged in. Active scenario is degrading, scenario integrity at 63%. Initiate contingency? Say yes or no.”

          “No. What is causing the degradation? Is the equipment malfunctioning?”

          “Unknown error. No mechanical defects detected.”

          Aurora mulled this over. “Computer, open.”

          The pod door retracted. Aurora gritted her teeth, and sat up. Her back screamed in protest. She panted. When the pain faded to a throb she slowly hauled herself into the wheelchair that rested next to her pod. Sweat beaded on her forehead, and she realized that next time she probably wouldn’t be able to get up without help.

          Aurora navigated her motorized chair through the pods and stopped in front of the display screen. Her world was mapped on the screen. The outer edges were covered in red, and as she watched, she could see the red slowly creep towards the center. As it moved, she saw the number of users logged on drop from 452 to 499.

          She knew the answer before she asked. “Computer, how many users have logged off in the last hour?”


          “And the status of those users?”

          “No life signs, pods have entered hibernation.”

          Even knowing the answer, it was a shock to hear. There were so few of them left that she was sure to know them all, and some were probably friends. With effort Aurora pushed the pain away. She glanced out the window at the moonlit landscape of broken concrete, and rusting metal.

          There just wasn’t time to immerse herself in the reality of the real world so that she could bring the details with her and breathe life back into the dream. And even if she could, she would need the help of other admins to reimagine the lost geography. Not enough time. And the lost dreamers wouldn’t be waking again.

          Aurora bowed her head once more. “Computer. Initiate contingency.”

          Her heart filled with darkness as the pods flooded with light.

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Story Idea WIP: Cinderella Retelling

          My new sisters call me Cinderella. I’ve never before heard a name as appropriate as it is cruel. It has a sense of heat to it, like it’s burning into my soul, marking me even while it changes me. At least I’m sure it would feel that way if I had a soul to burn.

          My birth name is Ella, and I was one of the thousands of children born each year with the disorder Careo Animus. In essence, I was born without a soul. It’s a rare birth defect, but not so rare as to be unheard of. You probably know at least one person who was born with the disorder, although they are unlikely to admit it. There is a bit of a stigma around having been born soulless, but we have the same rights as anyone else. Well… Most of us do.

          I’m a bit different. I’m a Construct. A Singed Construct. When my parents learned about my genetic deficiency, they did not follow the law and adopt a soul from the waiting pool of corporal applicants. They took me home, and forged a brand new soul for me. A few microchips, a couple gears, a pinch of magic and voila! Instant soul.

          Only one problem. I’m not supposed to exist. Their plan, while brilliant in execution, lacked a thorough consideration of the consequences. They viewed the act of creation as a miracle. The world viewed it as murder. My body could no longer house a real soul, leaving in its place a pale and artificial imitation. Like so many other foolhardy parents, their crime was discovered, their souls were impounded, and their bodies given over to the next applicants. Unfortunately, the gift of corporal form came with some unwanted baggage; me.

          To mark my shame, and the damaged state of my soul, my entire wardrobe has been singed. I can’t even go to the market without everyone staring, whispering, judging. I would know. I am the one who goes to market every week. I am the one who does the laundry, cooks the meals, washes the dishes, and scrubs the floors. Along with anything else my new family demands. A Singed Construct has no rights. We are lucky to exist.

          I am going to change all that though. Today I’m making a gambit for my freedom, and, win or lose, I’m all in.

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Life, the Universe, and Try/Fail Cycles

Plot Line Graph by Wendell Wellman

Plot Line Graph by Wendell Wellman

Inciting Incident

Our career minded heroine, a single mother, decides to prepare for the next step up the corporate ladder by making herself more marketable. She realizes that she has the skills and experience, but lacks the education. While researching business degrees and IT certifications she suddenly realizes that she has no desire to complete said education, or even to continue in her career track. Upon introspection, she realizes that her dream of being a writer, thought dead at age 13, has never really left her. She decides to dedicate herself to writing.

First Turning Point

Our heroine discovers Nanowrimo. Her thoughts are filled with the tantalizing idea of writing her first novel in only 30 days. She knows that it can’t be that easy, but she is determined to try. She has had a story idea bouncing in her head for 10 years, and decides to make it a book. In a frenzy of information overload she reads 12 books on writing in a month, and listens to nine seasons of the Writing Excuses podcast. She joins a writing group, and invests $300 to create her own website. She outlines her novel. She decides to start getting up at 4am each morning and write from 4-6 am.

Pinch Point One

After two weeks of getting up at 4am our heroine realizes that this strategy is not going to work. On the days she actually wakes up that early she is so tired that she only writes a few paragraphs. She becomes irritable, and frequently looses patience with her children who, at ages 3 and 5, do not understand what she is trying to do, or why it requires peace and quiet. She realizes that her writing time is not going to be able to come out of her sleep time if she wants to be able to function mentally and write. She begins taking time after work to write. They stakes rise when her children start to misbehave and throw tantrums because she has been paying them less attention. She books her son an appointment with a counselor.


Our heroine realizes that she is not going to obtain instant success in 30 days. She decides to keep trying to do Nanowrimo even though she is way behind on her word count. She decides to keep moving towards her goal of becoming a published author even though there aren’t shortcuts and this could take years. She also decides that obtaining this goal cannot come at the cost of her children’s well being. She will continue to write when she can. She decides to buy David Farland‘s online course, The Story Puzzle, and continue to hone her craft through the slow wonderful slog of practice. The midpoint of this story could last years, and, unlike the 3 act structure, will likely contain more than 3 try/fail cycles.

The rest of the 3 act structure will be determined as our heroine continues her journey.

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2014 Nanowrimo Kickoff Party


I will be at AFK Tavern on Tuesday, October 28th at 4 PM for the 2014 Nanowrimo Kickoff Party for Snohomish county writers. Yes, that’s tomorrow. Come have a drink with me, and tell me all about your novel. I will be impressed, rapt, fascinated even. No, really. I recently joined a writing group called Writers Kickstart only a few weeks ago, and prior to that I have never met another aspiring author. I am excited to meet the writing community in my area.

Ideally, I’d love to find a writing buddy. Someone who can encourage me and keep me accountable, in person or online. I will happily return the favor. I will be found typing away at any number of coffee shops, cafes, and libraries spread throughout King and Snohomish counties. If you don’t have a writing group of your own, consider trying out the Writers Kickstart group. We meet at Haggens Foods in Snohomish every Tuesday at 6:30 PM. If you want to meet up with me online, this blog is the ideal location, but I can also be found at:

I can’t wait to meet you!


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Why I’m Grateful For My First Rejection

A couple of weeks ago I submitted my first piece of Flash Fiction “The Price of Passage” to Flash Fiction Online. It got rejected. You would think I’d be discouraged, upset, in a funk. Actually, I’m grateful and encouraged. Excited even. Why? because I received a personal rejection note from the editor with feedback that can actually improve my writing. Here is an excerpt from the note with names left out:

To further ease your mind, I’d like you to know that both I and our publisher, _________________, read your story. We found the storytelling and narrative voice lovely and gentle, but found the POV shift, accompanied by the use of alternate names/identity tags for the acting characters, to be confusing.


I apologize for any anxiety I may have caused you, and hope to see your work in our slush pile again soon.

I sent a short but heartfelt thank you note in return. This feedback is very specific, and tells me exactly how I can improve my work. I don’t delude myself that this is the only flaw in my writing, but I can check this one off the list with just a little more attention to that area. Getting concrete advice for improvement is more than I expected, and incredibly useful. Also, receiving a personal note at all is encouraging due to its rarity. You can read more about why this is a good sign in the blog post How to Interpret Rejection by Joe Hessert, the editor of Ardor Magazine.

By the way, if you haven’t read Flash Fiction Online yet, you should. Its wonderful!


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