Living in Limbo – prologue

It all started with one person. There must have been someone who started it all or was the first to notice. The first to experience the nightmare. It wasn’t long before other people noticed too. Doctors, nurses, family, friends. It was on the TV and in the media. “Hell on earth” “Alive forever”. The headlines were hilarious. But, there was no humour involved and no pranks to announce. It was real yet unfathomable.

Zale can recall the first story he heard. It was midday and the TV was on. He remembers the rain pattering on the windows as he served up his lunch of leftover pizza. Something he ate all too often with no fear of the obesity he will likely be battling against in later life. It’s strange the things you remember. Zale remembers how good that pizza tasted. He remembers yelling at his little sister for being too loud playing with her ponies. She’s wasn’t too loud, he was just an ass. He resented her. His parents spent most of their time yelling at him for wasting his life. No job, no girl, no house. He spent most of his days looking after his sister while they were at work. It’s baffling how in there late 40’s his parents managed to have another kid. People probably assumed that he was Annie’s dad. Sometimes he felt like it. What would they do if he did get a job anyway? They don’t have the money to pay for childcare. He was helping them by staying home and feeding her the healthy crap that was already prepped in tubs in the fridge. His thoughts were so pronounced and important at the time. Now they are his nightmares, his fear, and his guilt. He was binging on his last mouthful of pizza as he was flicking through the TV when for some reason unbeknown to him, he stopped on the news channel and there it was. The headlines “People not dying” “Riots” Stay in your homes”. He should have paid more attention to it. He should have done something as soon as he saw the news. If he had only packed up their things, headed straight out of town or found somewhere safe and barricaded themselves in. Then they might still be alive. He could have done so much more. If only he had known. Only he didn’t have anything other than a feeling of worthless sorrow for himself and his leftover pizza. As soon as he realized what was happening it was wasted effort to try and change it.

His parents called him Zale, it’s a strong name and means power of the sea. Only Zale has never been able to swim and that day he wasn’t strong. They pulled his little sister out of his grasp and corned his parents. He ran without looking back.

Now he was alone in this hell on earth. 

Who am I?

I’m a Keen and aspiring writer. Writing allows my creativity for words to evolve. I venture in Fiction and Young Adult, specifically, Science fiction, Dystopian, Thriller and Horror.

This little corner of the internet is for all things writing. The main areas of the website are Important updates, which speak for themselves. Rambles which, again speaks for itself, it’s me rambling. Wordies, which are short stories and snippets of my writing here and there, and, Reviews.

A boxing day nightmare – sneak peak

Jim is just about to put the pecan filled pastry mass into the oven when the power cuts. “Oh for god’s sake!” He slams the pie onto the nearest counter and fumbles around the kitchen looking for a torch. “What did you boys do now! I swear to god if this is one of your bloody pranks!” Catching his knuckle of on one of the drawer handles, his anger bubbles to thesurface. “Screw this” Reaching his hands out, he guideshimself towards the fruit bowl where he threw the phones. Grabbing both andturning one of them on he flicks on the flashlight and takes a moment toobserve the mess in the kitchen before guiding himself towards the livingroom

“Boys?” The light shines first on the sofas where the boys were sitting. Both sofas are empty, cushions left in disarray. “Ethan? Kyle?! Don’t mess around! Where are ya?” Jim is on high alert reading himself for one of their latest pranks. Something jumping out at him, maybe a pie in the face or a masked man, something along those lines and it wouldn’t be the first time.  The powder cut is a new additionthough

THUD 

The same sound from earlier resonates through the upstairs floorboards but then a second soundcan be heard behind the sofa. A scuffle of sorts. “Kyle, I swear togod if you jump out at me you’re grounded for the rest of yourlife!” Shining the circular circumference of the light on thefloorboards, Jim makes his way around the sofa. He gasps, all most dropping thephone when the cat jumps out from behind the sofa. “God damn it,Sammy” 

With one hand on his chest for reassurance, he looks in each room briefly for any signs of the twins before heading upstairs. The bathroom is straight ahead, he checks it first. Other than a few dirty towels there’s nothing to fret about and no prank forthcoming. Leaving the bathroom, Jim stands in the hallway, angling the phone towards each bedroom door in a decision about which to try first. The main bedroom door is slightly ajar, it’s normally closed so Jim assumes that the boys have set up the prank in there. They may be experts at pranks but they’ve never been good at hiding the evidence. For some reason, a bad feeling settles in Jim’sstomach. Something feels wrong and he can’t pinpoint what it is. 

Suddenly, someone grabs his arm and a hand is placed over his mouth. He is pushed into the hallwaycloset. Falling against the wall he tries to pull the hand away from his mouthbut it keeps a tight grip and grabs the phone out of his hand. 

“Dad be quiet”Kyle whispers into his ear as he turns off the light on the phone and removes his other hand from his father’s stubbly mouth. “There’s someone in the house” 

All most as if on cue, a large shadow walks past the door of the cupboard they’re hiding in. Whistling in an eerily happy tune. Someone who is heavy-footed, dragging their feet. The figure moves away towards the main bedroom and the door is slammed shut. 

“Where’s Ethan? Have you called the police?” 

“I don’t know where he is, he might be with him. I was going to call the police but you have our phones” Remembering the phone. Jim snatches it from Kyle and dials 911. The repetitive beeps he hears indicates he has no signal. 

“OK. Tell me what happened?” 

“I was looking for the cat. Ethan followed me and searched the other room.  That’s when the power cut and I heard it. The sound of the axe scraping along the floor. I thought it might have been Ethan so I tried to find my way to the room but then I saw him, dad.” Kyle stutters and his words crumble under his emotion at his next words. “The guy has a light. It was shining on Ethan laid on the floor. He wasn’t moving dad” Kyles lip trembles. “The guy didn’t see me so I hid” He manages to shutter out in one quick whispered breath.

“OK. I need to go and find your brother. Stay here..”

“No, you can’t leave…” Kyles loud words are abruptly stopped with Jim’s hand over hismouth

“Shhh. I have to. When I give you a sign or even shout, I want you to run and find help.Ok? Don’t wait just run. You need to do this Kyle”

Biting his trembling lip, all he can do is nod. Jim steps into father mode and lays a protective hand on his son. A comforting reassuring where no words need to be said. Recalling the other mobile in his pocket, he reaches out and places the other in Kyle’s hand. Then he slowly opens the door and steps out, making sure to close it quietly behind him. His heart palpitates with anxious fear but he focuses his mind on the task at hand. Thoughts of finding a weapon are the first thoughts to settle. He will need something to fight off the intruder. Standing in the middle of the hallway unguarded and without a weapon. He has to make his mindup quick. Taking a moment to listen out for footsteps or any noise to indicate where the stranger is. When all remains quiet he steps lightly into the bathroom, the closest door to where he stands. In the cupboard is a pair of scissors, warn and dirty but still malleable as a tool of defence. Reaching a hand into his pocket he grabs the phone, the screen still shows the symbol for no signal. Placing it back into his cushioned pocket he holds a tight grip on the scissors and ventures back into the hallway, checking around the corner like a policeman holding a gun. It’s impossible to see through the darkness and Jim doubts is own hearing at his age. Oh, how he is wishing the police were here to help now, or anyone for that matter. He would even accept the help of his rowdy nasty neighbour at this point. Forcefully slowing his elevated breathing he heads towards the main bedroom, hands outstretched to feel his way along the walls, where Kyle recalls he last saw Ethan. Unfortunately, it’s also the room they heard the intruder walking into. 

A guide to creating characters

Characters are the ingredients of a good story. Without good characters, readers will lose interest in what you’re trying to share. First of all, let’s focus on the basics. 

Note, this is not all of my own. It’s has been collated from various online courses I have done as well as online sources. It’s merely been written in my own words, changed and elaborated so as to give a full guide in one place and to share what I have learned.

The basics

Round characters – You will often hear people talking about round VS flat characters. Flat characters are boring, predictable and most likely simple. That’s not why people are reading books. What you need to create are round characters. These characters are intersting, unpredictable and best of all fun to use. A sign of a good character is one who controls the story. You, the writer or just following them with your pen. 

You have to add depth – You should be able to do this through the creation of your character anyway but it’s also an important topic to keep in mind. There are a few ways you can add depth to your characters. Simply, it’s a way to make your characters more human. For example by making your characters make mistakes or contradict themselves.  

Remember, a good character will misbehave and change your storyline as you write.

Minor characters – Minor characters are just as important in a story. It’s especially important to keep tracck of the ones you create to avoid mistakes such as changing there name or job role halfway through the story which can happy more often than you would think. If you lose track, make a list and pin a rememorable point to each character to help you e.g. a distincitve odor of dogs or a cleft lip. 

How to create your character – using what you know 

Below is a short list of pointers to focus on when creating your character. These won’t necessarily be included within your story but will help frame the character in your own mind. 

  • History, Experiences & Memories
  • Feelings & Desires
  • Language
  • Imagination & Observations
  • Ideas

Character Questionnaire

Below is a questionnaire, similar to that you would fill in for a dating profile. If you’re struggling to create your character then start from here and build on.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Place of birth/ Residence
  • Occupation
  • Appearance & Dress Sence 
  •  Strengths & Weaknesses
  • Obsessions & Habits
  • Ambitions
  • Hobbies
  • Illness/ General health
  • Family – Parents, Kids, Siblings
  • Friends
  • Pets
  • Politics
  • Pet peeves/ tics
  • Diet – Drugs/ Coffee/ Alcohol?
  • Sex life/history 
  • Favorite books, music, movies
  • Desires & Fears
  • Any Traumatic events?
  • Most wonderful experience
  • Struggles past and present

Create a Character Summary

Now you’ve filled in your questionnaire, create a character summary. This is similar to a bio. Write about what they look like, how they think, how they behave, where they live and some info on there back story. Where are they now and why. 

  • Physical description
  • Thoughts and inner life
  • Personality
  • Where the character is located
  • The character’s back story

Framing the character – Creating Reality 

Now you’ve got the basics of your characters it’s time to make them more real. 

  • Consider all the factors that go into making your character. Use the checklist for help. 
  • Know your character’s inner life, everything from how they think and act to the routines they have.
  • Know about your character’s behavior. What they wear, et, buy, how they act at work VS home. How they behave towards specific people e.g. parents VS people they don’t like. 
  • How does your character speak and how does this change according to mood or situation. 
  • Imagine your character and describe every little detail about them which makes them unique. Everything from there hair and moles to the way they dress and what they own. 

Questions to ask yourself 

  • What is your character thinking? 
  • Can you add little bits here and there about there backstory or past life? 
  • Can you put yourself in your characters shoes? 
  • Does how they behave match how they speak? Check for discrepancies.
  • How does your character act in the world? What would other people think of them VS what they think of themselves. 
  • Can you imagine the characters? If not then you need more detail.
  • Are your descriptions predictable and obvious? Are they generalized i.e. stereotypes or are they unique? 
  • How does your chracter contradict themselves. What is there innter turmoil? 

Let me know what you struggle with when creating your characters. Do you struggle to add depth? Maybe you struggle with the basics? For a bit of fun, create your own character using the above information and tell me about them as if selling them to me. 

Whispers in the wind

Waking up screaming. Penelope shouts for her Mum and Dad. She keeps having the same nightmare. A dark shadow like creature chases her. When she tries to escape, it grabs her and holds on until tears run down  Penelope’s chubby cheeks. Enveloping its body around her like a fort made of blankets so all she can see is black. She wakes up screaming, each night thesame as the previous.

She shouts again for Mum and Dad, pulling the bed covers tighter around her small frame. Penelope waits for her parents but nobody comes. Maybe they are still downstairs. Swinging her legs out of bed she runs to the other side of the room before the monster under the bed has a chance to grip her ankles. Grabbing her fluffy fairy slippers and pink dressing gown she darts into the hallway closing the large, heavy door behind her. Pausing outside to push her auburn curls out of her face she pulls on her dressing gown and slides her feet into the slippers. Dad always calls her his little fox because foxes have orange fur like her hair. Penelope sometimes wishes she has a tail like a fox. Dad has grey hair like the stones she picks up on her way to school and Mum has yellow hair like the sun. Penelope doesn’t know why she has orange hair. The other children at school tease her and tell her she’s adopted. She doesn’t like school much.

Nibbling on the ends of her already sore fingers Penelope scurries down the hall and knocks lightly on her parent’s bedroom door. With no answer, she glances around before turning the metal handle. Her parents aren’t in bed. They must be downstairs. Leaving the door ajar she hurries a little as she heads downstairs, worried that there might be someone behind her in a moment of paranoia. Heading first to the kitchen and stepping onto the cold brown tiles she looks around the cupboards, standing on her tiptoes to try and see what’s on the breakfast bar. No signs of her parents. Turning to face the fridge the calendar catches her eye. A cute black kitten is playing with some wool and underneath the word, ‘December’ is written in big letters. Penelope registers it as the month of Christmas. She remembers making snowmen in school to bring home. The most recent date crossed off is 24 which means it might be Christmas today. Funny, Penelope doesn’t remember being told it’s Christmas. The number 28 is circled on the calendar in big red marker. Maybe that’s when Christmas is, maybe it’s too early. Penelope recalls Christmas last year. She remembers having the decorations up for ages because Dad took them down one evening saying that they had been up for too long. Moving her chin to face the ceiling there are no signs of any green garlands coated in Holly or Berries. Panic grips her small heart. What if Mum and Dad forgot about Christmas? She hasn’t yet written her letter to Santa telling him about the toys she wants. How will he know to come? Innocent tears spring to her eyes. The thoughts of no Santa or Christmas this year fretting her young mind. Venturing towards the livingroom she is forced to stop when she loses a slipper. Kicking it in a moment of unnecessary anger she bends down to put it back on. Through her clouded, wateryeyes Penelope can see light coming from the living room underneath thehalf-closed door.

“Muuuuuum?” She cries through stifled tears as she clumsily pushes the dark red door open.

Pushing the door, a little too aggressively, it knocks against the doorstopper on the opposite side. Penelope stops for a moment expecting to be told off. When it doesn’t happen, she ventures across the wooden floor, into the middle of the room, stopping on the oval red and white rug and rubbing her eyes in the process, half from sleep and the other from crying. Dad is lighting the evening fire. Poking at it until orange flames reflect off his glasses as it crackles and explodes. Mum is sat in the armchair by the fire with her long curls hanging over the edge of a big dusty book she’s reading. Her legs are crossed, and she has an old grey blanket over her shoulders that normally covers the back of the sofa.

“Muuuum. I h-had a bad dream” Penelope cries through stuttered breath and fat tears.

Her pleas are greeted with silence. She tries Dad instead. She tries to nudge his shoulder with both hands but somehow falls to the ground. Now crying from the pain she uses all the breath in her lungs to show how she’s feeling. Her little heart full of so many negative emotions. Her parents pay her no attention. Mum has stopped reading and places her head in her hands. Dad goes to her side, kneeling on the floor in front of mum. Penelope looks at the large fireplace in front of her. Large orange flames flicker in the middle, surrounded by large bricks and a white mantlepiece. Penelope is confused when she recalls the month on the calendar. There is no milk out for Santa and no stockings hanging from the mantlepiece. No signs of Christmas at all. This is a disaster. Her unfocused tears stop falling. Her concentration only on Santa. With sagging shoulders and a hunched back, she scurries to the other side of her Mum. Inching forward in her bare feet and white nightdress. She wants to cuddle with mum until she falls asleep or she can sit on dad’s knee and be told a story. However, halfway across the short distance, the door to the living room swings open slightly as if pushed. Penelope thinks she sees the shadow and its dark movements, she leaps towards her Mum and lands just centimetres away from the comfort of her parents embrace. 

“Mum! Dad!” Panicked, terrified breaths rush out in little gasps as Penelope bobs up and down trying to get her parents attention.

Flinging herself onto the chair she hopes to feel the envelope of her mum’s soft dressing gown or her Dads warm, large hands grabbing her own. She doesn’t feel anything. When she leaps on them they seem to disappear into thin air. Penelope lands on the floor, back where she started at the end of the armchair as if she never moved. Her eyes dart frantically around the room searching for her parents. She takes the time to look behind the sofa and curtains in case they’re hiding. Shouting over and over for her parent’s she huddles into the corner of the living room. She cocoons herself into a ball, hidden from the world. No Santa and a monster after her. This is helpless. Burying her face into her arms, she cries. She considers all the things she won’t enjoy this year. Pretending to be asleep so Santa will deliver the presents. Waking up Christmas morning, running downstairs to open the presents that are always adorned in beautiful wrapping paper under the tree. Then, after a quiet Christmas dinner, her parents would take her to the city centre. They would ice skate under the giant Christmas tree, Mum holding one of her hands whilst Dad holds the other. She would twirl around in her red Christmas dress like a ballerina. Wearing the latest handmade scarf from Great-aunt Sicil. The floor would sparkle underneath her skates like someone had dropped a tub of glitter and the big baubles on the tree would shine and twinkle like stars. All the time they’re ice skating Penelope would make sure to look up to catch sight of Santa just in case he’s late delivering presents one year. The city would be filled with smiling busy faces. Penelope would often get pushed or shoved and have to hold hands tight. Some strangers would smell like Christmas trees which always reminded her of the day they collect theirs from the tree man. She would be so excited to pick a new one out each year. She always picked the smallest one because she would feel sorry for the baby one left on its own. Then they would rush home and drag the dusty boxes from the attic full of tinsel, spiky garlands, shiny baubles and beautiful ornaments to hang around the house and on the tree sitting in the corner of the living room by the fireplace. The decorations always smelt like old people, but Penelope loved decorating the tree and would always get the important job of putting the angel on top who she had named Sophie. Sophie was a beautiful angel. With a golden-brown dress and agold trim around the bottom. Beautiful gold leaf wings. Short curly brown hairand bright red lips with a yellow halo on top of her head. Holding a sparklyjewel-crusted vine between her outstretched hands with tiny little leavesattached. She was beautiful. Penelope sometimes pretended she was the Angel andran around the room with her arms outstretched, leaping over imaginary cloudsand pretending she was sprinkling angel dust on children’s heads to grant themtheir Christmas wishes.

Penelope stops crying in aquestioning pause. Maybe there’s no Christmas in the house yet because they’ve lost Sophie. It happened last year when they were putting the decorations up. Penelope always finds Sophie first to play with her before she goes on the tree. Only last year she wasn’t in her red box. They couldn’t find her anywhere. Penelope remembers how upset she was. Mum and Dad turned the house upside down looking for her and eventually found her in an overlooked Christmas decorations box up in the attic. Maybe that’s what’s happened this time. Maybe they can’t find her at all. Penelope stands up, unsure about whether to find her parents or the angel. Retying her dressing gown as tight as she can pull, which isn’t very tight at all.

She forgot about the shadow monster. It’s now floating by the fire with its sharp-clawed hands hanging by its side like tentacles. It has no face, only the shape of a rounded head on top of its hovering body. It has no legs either and its torso is shaped like a Halloween ghost. Facing towards the fire, it’s clear that it hasn’t yet noticed Penelope’s small frame in the corner. Going onto her hands and knees she creeps around the back of the sofa. How she wishes her parents were here to help her. Her mind is confused by their disappearance when they seemed so real sitting by the fire. Even more confusing is the lack of preparation for Christmas, very unlike her family. Losing her slippers in the progress of moving along the walls, edging along on the cold hard floor she gets as far as the wall directly opposite where the fireplace is. The noises from the monster mean that she’s been found. It’s a noise she’s familiar with. It starts off as a deep sound as if someone is humming near your ear, then it gets louder and shriller until you can make out the sounds of the children screaming. The humming sounds like it’s behind her. Penelope jumps to her feet and runs straight for the door, but the shadow gets to her first. It engulfs her in darkness as her screams become part of the thousands of screams of children. The darkness is all she can see, throwing her arms out around her seems to make no difference. Her skin itches as if covered in a thousand insects, working their way into her mouth they create a bitter taste and tighten her throat making it difficult to breathe. Penelope tries to tell herself it’s a dream in hopes of waking herself up, but her breathing is becoming more strangled by the second.

Suddenly, there’s a light in the darkness, a small splinter of light where she can see the door. With all her might she forces her feet forward; the shadowloses its grip on her and she runs. Pulling the door with all her strength sheglances over her shoulder. The shadow is moving along the ceiling, scraping itslong claws with one hand and reaching towards Penelope with the other. Shepushes the door closed and slumps against it for a moment. Her whole body isshaking, and she feels very cold as if she’s been out in the snow too long.Looking around she realises it’s daytime now, but not daytime like earlymorning. More so the afternoon. The sun shines through the tall windows andlights up the hallway. A moment passes, Penelope catches sight of somethingshiny underneath the staircase. Red paper glistens. The familiar site of a goldbow and matching gift tag entice her toward it. It’s a Christmas present. Mum andDad must have placed milk for Santa. This present is a little dusty. Using her sleeve,she wipes it clean and checks the label.

“To Penelope. Love from Santa”

Ripping open the wrapping excitedly, the anticipation of receiving the doll she’s been asking for causes a flutter of butterflies in her tummy and distracts her from her most recent terror. Her childlike innocence captivated by a small gift. Throwing the paper to the side she opens the box to reveal its contents. Inside is a wonderfully handcrafted teddy bear with grey soft fur, a pink nose and black eyes. It smells dusty and reminds Penelope of the Christmas ornament boxes. Without warning, Penelope hears her Mum and Dad coming down the stairs. They’re shouting at each other and Mum is crying. They are dressed very nicely as if they are going to a party. Mum has on her favourite perfume and Dad has on his blue bowtie which he only uses for special occasions. Penelope puts the present down and covers her ears, she hates it when they fight. Dad is walking behind, moving his arms a lot as he’s talking. Mum is walking away from him but stops abruptly and turns around shocked at something he has said before bursting into tears and covering her face with her hands. He hugs her before they head towards the front door. Penelope steps forward and tries to hug Mum and make her feel better but her actions go unnoticed. As she tries talking to them, their voices seem muffled as if behind an invisible wall. They look sad. They seem sad a lot recently. In fact,Penelope can’t think of any recent time when she hasn’t seen Mum cry. They go outside by the large oak tree in the garden after shrugging on their winter coats and scarves. Penelope notices something soft on her hands, looking down she’swearing some multicoloured striped mittens. Her thick matching scarf hangs from her neck. She’s wearing her favourite red coat with black fur trim and gold buttons and on her feet are some warm brown boots with owl shapes on them. When she looks up again she can see her parents through the glass window of the front door. They are stood side by side at the tree looking down at the snowy ground below. Dad has his arm around Mum and they both have their shoulders hunched over.

Sudden faint sounds of humming can be heard, like whispers in her ear at first. Her heart beings its palpations when she remembers the shadow behind the living room door. The mahogany door which is now opening as the gold doorknob is turning. Penelope catches sight of the shadows claws before she turns on her heel and runs to catch up with her parents. Stopping only when she reaches the tree. Panting and shivering in the snow she tries one last time to get her parents attention, but they are too focused on the ground. Looking behind, there’s no shadow following so at least she’s safe for now. Averting her eyes, she focuses on what holds her parent’s attention. The grey teddy that she just unwrapped sits on the floor in a layer of thick white snow, by the side of a bouquet of pink roses. Laid on its back in front of that is Sophie. A shocked gasp escapes Penelope’s innocent lips. The once beautiful angel looks damaged and broken like she’s very old. Tears roll down Penelope’s flushed cheeks. There’s a card sticking out the top of theflowers.

“To our little girl Penelope. You may be gone but you will always be our Angel. Mum and Dad miss you very much”

Reading the card and seeing these items brings back the memories like being pushed to the ground. After waking up after a bad dream close to Christmas Penelope wanted to find Sophie. They had spent the day looking for her, but Penelope went to bed in tears and empty-handed. She remembers how scared she was, it was so dark outside and the snow felt cold underneath her bare feet. A chill runs down her spine as she remembers how cold she felt and how much she shivered. Eventually, though she stopped feeling cold and felt tired and warm, so she laid down in the snow holding the grey teddy that Mum and Dad had given her as an early Christmas present. All she remembers after that is falling to sleep. Other memories fill her mind. Memories of when she had to go to Grandma’s funeral. Mum made her put some flowers on her grave and the message sounded just like the message on this card. Mum told Penelope that she has gone to heaven, but Penelope wasn’t in heaven. Turning to face Mum and Dad she cries her heart out for their comforting words or even any acknowledgement that she’s there. Her cries are worthless, and her parents head back towards the house just as the shadow heads straight towards her. Crying loudly, she screams, shouting over and over for her mum and dad as she’s left standing in the snow on her own. Penelope can only watch as the shadow’s claws grab hold of her and everything goes dark again as her innocent screams areengulfed until nothing more than a distant hum of the wind can be heard.

Copyright 2018

Writing Engagement – A checklist of what you should be doing

In the previous week, I shared with you my checklist of things I try to avoid as a writer or be aware of in my words. It will most likely be of no surprise, to now expect a list of what you should include as a writer. This is of course just my opinion but you may find some use for it never the less. 

Feel free to print this off and use it as a guideline.

  • Dramatic Characters – Especially if there are many. e.g. a fat man could cause the room to shake as he slugs down the stairs. 
  • Good description – Weave it in. Choose the right detail. What makes them unique? Use the character’s viewpoint and personality. Minimum, relevant details allow the reader to use there imagination.   
  • Like a film – Tell the story like you’re watching a film or looking through a camera. All you’re doing is saying what you see. Good characters have the control. 
  • Work in reverse – A handy tool if you’re struggling to create your plot. If you know what the climax or end of your story is. Write that first and work in reverse order. 
  • Use yourself – Using your own fears, desires, passions etc is a great way to create depth in characters if you’re struggling. An overly descriptive person (me) who doesn’t understand the meaning of words but uses them to be important (not me), see how you can create from yourself.
  • To begin with – Try to use different ones such as, I imagine, I feel, I picture, I can picture, I think.  
  • Be precise and exact with words – Don’t waffle. Get rid of anything that doesn’t directly add to the story. If you love what you’ve written, save it for another story where it fits better. 
  • Be creative – Think outside of the box.  
  • The fourth wall – A handy technique in some stories, breaking that fourth wall and talking to the reader is a great way to keep them entertained and adds wonderful depth if done right. 
  • Italics – Use italics for someone’s exaggerated wording in speech. 
  • Set up expectations – Make the reader continue to read in order to find the answer. E.g. refer to something that happened in the past but don’t tell the reader what it is. Keep them guessing. 
  • Fitting naturally – Anything you write needs to fit naturally in the story in order for it to flow well for the reader. Don’t write random accounts of a past memory if nothing the character is doing would cause the recollection to appear. 
  • Foreshadowing – Foreshadowing focuses on dropping hints about certain things that the reader may or may not pick up on. If done well it can really bring the ending together nicely. 
  • Prologue – Prologues are sometimes a great way to begin a story. Whether it’s the beginning of a romance in which someone gets divorced or the beginning of a horror where someone wakes up on the floor, covered in blood. It can be a great way to engage the reader. 
  • A good plot – Character + Problem = your plot. Meet the requirements for a story. 
  • Twists and turns – This goes unsaid. You want an exciting story. Otherwise, you might as well be writing a dictionary.             
  • Character profiles – Create a profile of a character and stick to it. Write every little detail. The evilest of people make sense in their own head. 
  • Use the five sensesSight, sound, smell, taste, touch. 
  • Living to the scene – Live to the scene and character. An old lady, for example, might notice someone not wearing a coat if it’s raining out. Simple things like this can remind you of the character and connect to them more. 
  • Metaphors – Be clever with your words. 
  • Words saying more – Create hidden meanings with your words for example through attitude, beliefs and feelings. 
  • Fewer words – It’s better to have fewer words that are more relevant than to drone on.
  • Make it obvious when speaking – Don’t make readers have to use there brain too much. They will lose interest. Use hints, yes, but don’t make things difficult for your intended audience. 
  • Write like you’re having a good day -Try to write like you’re having a good day. Put 100% into your work to create good work. 
  • Something happens often – Something exciting needs to happen fairly often to keep the reader turning the pages. Every 250 pages minimum is a good guide to keep people interested in the story. 
  • Trends and fads – Try to avoid writing about specific trends and fads to avoid the story seeming outdated and not connecting with younger readers. Usually, there’s no need for such specifics anyway. 

I will continue to add to this checklist as I add more into my notes. Writing is indeed a learning curve and it never stops. If you think of something you feel like should be on the list or perhaps you disagree with something. Comment below and let me know. I’ll reply ASAP to your comments.

Writing Avoidances – A checklist of what not to do

When I first ventured forth into the world of writing I had a lot to learn and made a lot of mistakes. Over the past year, I have begun compiling a checklist. This is something I use as a guideline to follow when checking overdrafts. It’s quite simple, a list of things I like to make sure I avoid. Some points are what most writers would also recommend avoiding whilst other points such as ‘Offensive language’ isn’t a rule as such and many writers including myself will use certain language if they feel it’s needed as part of the story. For example, I felt that swearing in Detective Mentis added to the development of the detective and detailing for his personality. 

Feel free to print this off and use it as a guideline.

  • Unnecessary Description – Don’t describe how someone got to the door. It’s not worth the words. Leave such things to the imagination of the reader. 
  • Don’t be afraid of ‘said’ – Sometimes we feel like using ‘he said’ ‘she said’ dulls our writing. Not at all. By avoiding these you may find yourself overcomplicating writing and using unnecessary wording. 
  • Predictability – Don’t be predictable in a story, it’s just boring. Wallpaper could be skin. A lamp could be a portal to another world. 
  • Be strict – You have to be strict on yourself when writing. Cutting over the unnecessary parts and only using things that are relevant to the story and add something to the plot. It’s easy to get carried away with words if you’re not careful.  See what I mean? 
  • Bad Grammar and Punctuation – This is a given. If a reader spots any mistakes then they may not read on. Whether it takes 1 draft or 20. Make sure you keep your readers turning the page. 
  • Too many characters – If you have to keep a record of the characters you’ve used then you most likely have too many. Simplify the amount you use. Characters can play multiple roles in a story. 
  • Write for the intended audience – Keep in mind who your audience is.  There’s no point writing a story about a loveable giraffe if your audience is middle-aged adults. 
  • Characters not being unique – If you create flat, boring characters then the pillars of your story will not be able to hold the weight. 
  • Overusing speech tags – Every writer has ones that they favor. Watch how often you use them. ‘He said’ ‘She said’ are your basic speech tags.
  • Using names too often – If you mention Derick at the beginning of the paragraph you don’t need to remind people of his name 4 times over in that same paragraph. Once is plenty. 
  • Inconsistency – People’s names, behaviors, habits occupations all need to be consistent throughout your story. Don’t make Derick a salon owner and then change it to Dennis the golfer halfway through.
  • Being too experimental – It’s good to be different but don’t go so far outside of the box that you can’t even see it. Remember your audience and don’t overcomplicate the story. Different, not confusing. 
  • Character Actions – Derick is a vocal, no-nonsense character and yet he’s just kept his mouth quiet when someone had a go at him. Would Derick do that? Don’t make your readers think “Why the hell would they do that?” Characters actions need to fit.
  • Stakes need to be high – All plots have a cliffhanger or problem that needs solving but for a story to work the stakes need to be high (and make sense). Derrick isn’t going to risk his own life to save a fish, however, he would risk his own neck to save the life of his child. 
  • Backstory/memories – These are important components to add depth to characters and a storyline. However, don’t info dump. You have to weave these details in.
  • Don’t add random characters – You may have a problem in your story that has created a plot hole. Don’t take the easy route and add a character to fix the problem. That ruins the story. It might take another edit but it’ll be worth it. 
  • Offensive language – Back to what I was saying about your intending audience. Don’t swear in a kids book and don’t put gory scenes in a romance. Focus on your audience. 
  • Don’t use a simple plot – You need to make your story seem new and fresh. Like nothing that has been done before – even if it has. Without being too out of the box. You need to find a balance between simple and complicated. 
  • Don’t make it too long and wordy – Sentences should be short and to the point unless necessary. Keep an eye on your word count for your genre and only use what is relevant to your story. (The joys of editing)
  • Bad structure – Don’t put all the best bits of the story in the middle. Spread out the good bits to keep the readers going.  Again, who is your audience? 
  • Italics – Sometimes you may use italics to set something apart on the page which is fine, just don’t do it too often. No more than one line should be necessary. 
  • Don’t stereotype – Generally, you shouldn’t stereotype unless it’s obvious i.e. someone fat making a lot of noice coming down the stairs. Don’t stereotype other than in the simplect form otherwise you risk being called out by the reader and that can easily effect reputation. 

This is the checklist as it stands now but I will without a doubt add to it as and where from my writer’s notebook. The great thing about being a writer is that the learning never stops.

Meanwhile, if you think of something you feel like should be on the list or perhaps you disagree with something on the list. Comment below and let me know. I’ll reply ASAP to your comments.

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 5

Charlotte draws her attention back to the present. Lenita has disappeared. She must have been stood there for a few moments but it felt like an hour the way the dream replayed in her mind. I must tell someone. Is Charlotte’s first thought. She doesn’t care anymore if they think she’s crazy. She must tell her parents, even if it means being taken to the place where the screams come from. How did it have today’s date on it? I really must be crazy. Many thoughts are running through Charlotte’s head as she scurries towards home, hoping her parents will be there. Reaching halfway across the field, Charlotte isn’t sure why she does it but something compels her to look back. The familiar sight of Lenita is walking out of the park and speedily walking, almost jogging, straight towards Charlotte with what looks like a large kitchen knife in her left hand. Horror grips Charlotte’s heart and she runs. Her feet drive her forward to the closest place where there might be people, the new park. She isn’t the fastest runner so she knows she won’t be able to make it home or even to town before Lenita catches up with her. The park is her only option. She tries forcing thoughts of her dream and its resemblance to reality from her mind as she runs but the date on the newspaper terrifies her. Reaching the park, she tries to look for anywhere to hide other than the wooden climbing frame but she has no time and she can feel Lenita getting closer. Clambering in as quietly and quickly as possible, slight relief befalls her shoulders when she finds it empty. Crouching in the middle of the box shape, Charlotte forces her breathing to slow down as she hears footsteps crunching on the bark covered playground. This park is smaller than the old one and the footsteps are getting closer. Charlotte holds her breath and covers her mouth. 1,2,3,4,5,6. She counts in her head to stop herself from screaming in panic. The footsteps begin to sound further away and she relaxes.

Thud! 

A long, cold arm pounces through one of the gaps in the climbing frame and grabs Charlotte’s arm, causing her to hit her head on the roof. She screams in alarm and grapples at the arm, pulling at the fingers and the death hold they have on her. Somehow managing to free herself Charlotte climbs through a connecting tunnel and jumps off the climbing frame and onto the floor. Stumbling as she falls, she quickly scurries to her feet and carries her weight forward. Running as fast as she can without paying attention to where she is going. She’s most focused on getting away from the sound of the loud ‘Thump’ of the footsteps behind her. Within five minutes she runs back up to the familiar sight of the derelict park. 

“No! This can’t be happening!” 

Charlotte breathlessly shouts in a panicked acknowledgement of her dreams substantial resemblance to her current situation. Reaching the rusty slide, she stops and turns to see if Lenita is behind her. Not yet, she still has time. She looks for somewhere to hide but unlike the new park, this place is just a foundation of what it once was. Charlotte weighs her options. If she runs for home Lenita is sure to catch up with her. She could possibly make it to some of the shops on the outskirts of town but they’re a bit further out than she would feel comfortable running. Her only option is to hide, she thinks to herself as she spots a selection of shrubs to her left. 

“Charlotte?” 

Lenita’s voice floats in a wave of terror towards Charlotte’s ears. Looking up towards the sound, Lenita is walking towards her with a haunting expression of calm on her features. She still carries the knife in her hand. Charlotte tries to run but her legs are stuck as if she isn’t in control of them. She can’t drive them forward. She focuses her attention and all her efforts on trying to move her feet. They feel like stone, so heavy under their weight. Charlotte feels her fight fading and her grasp on what’s real begins to fizz into the air. 

“Lenita. Stop!” 

Charlotte shouts at the looming figure. Crying, large tears splash onto the ground in waves. 

“Why are you doing this! Please stop!” 

Lenita’s steps toward Charlotte don’t hesitate. A target in mind. She has her victim in her sights. 

“Help!” 

Charlotte looks around for help, screaming at the top of her lungs in what can only be described as a child’s plea for help but it’s too late. She feels a sudden pressure in her chest like she has been punched. Looking down, Charlotte can see the knife being forced into her chest. It takes a moment for Charlotte to feel the pain. It’s excruciating, like nothing she’s ever felt. Her life ebbs away as she tries to focus. Blood is on her hands, dripping from her fingers as she tries pulling the knife. It’s futile, Lenita is strong and pushes it further in, forcing Charlotte to fall back on the ground. Her mind becomes filled with a fog. Things begin to darken. Vaguely aware that someone is knelt over her she focuses her attention. Lenita is looming over her. Her cold eyes are focused on Charlotte’s as if sucking the energy from her. Charlotte begins to feel tired. She can smell death and decay. She can also smell iron as a taste of metal fills her mouth. The last thing Charlotte remembers is the feeling of silky hair on her face as Lenita whispers in her ear. 

“My turn”

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 6

“Girl commits suicide in abandoned playground” The newspaper header would read. 

“Parents reported Charlotte Evans missing after three days without an appearance. After an afternoon of searching, police find the decaying corpse in an old playground next to a dilapidated slide. The single stab wound was categorised as being self-inflicted due to the lack of evidence and the young girl’s previously diagnosed problems. Parents are distraught over the loss of their daughter. School friends of the deceased, Dorothy, Hannah and Tony tell of Charlotte’s creative and beautiful personality” 

The article became front page news that week. Charlotte’s parents made sure to keep a clipping of their 5-minute fame for future boasting opportunities whilst the girls that bullied Charlotte became more popular for being able to tell so many stories of the girl who committed suicide.

Charlotte’slife and death became nothing more than a leaf in the breeze. There was neverany mention of Lenita, the blonde girl with no teeth. If anyone had takenthe time they would have noticed other newspaper articles with worryinglysimilar characteristics. One tells of two boys who committed suicide in anabandoned house, three towns over. Nobody ever knew of the others, just likethey never knew the truth in Charlotte’s sad ending, and with Charlotte’sdeath, the stories end.

Copyright 2018

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 4

Three weeks later and Charlotte’s nightmares and everyday eventualities continue in her life. Dorothy, Hannah, and Tony have been creative with their most recent advances on Charlotte. Most recently, they tricked a fellow ridiculed victim into punching Charlotte every time she walked past, and, as a result, Charlotte has an impressive purple/black bruise on her upper arm. Yet another thing to hide from her parents. Meanwhile, her parents continue their ignorance of Charlotte while Charlotte continues hiding her nightmares.

She is still dreaming about the playground, it forms in her head like broken glass. She can’t yet figure out the order the dream is meant to be in but she can picture each section of it in her mind. It always begins at the playground, she pictures waking up with blood on her hands. There’s a ghostly figure or presence that she can feel but can never fully make out the features of, she knows she’s scared of it though as there’s a lot of running in the dream. She also hears things. Boys laughing and shouting at her. The part she can remember the most detail of is the same thing that forces her awake. Someone or something stabs her in the chest with a knife, this part feels scarily realistic. Charlotte can feel the pain as the knife slides into her chest, she can smell her blood pouring out of her, but then everything goes dark and she always wakes up at the park.

Parts of the dream are missing and muddled up in her head, especially at the beginning. Charlotte feels like she’s losing her hold on reality. She’s pretty sure she imagined that blonde lady in the park. She still thinks of her often, more from confusion and a lack of answers. Maybe seeing that lady along with these dreams are just obvious signs of Charlotte’s poor mentality and she’s just ignoring them because she doesn’t want to end up in the Asylum. All Charlotte knows for sure is that she hasn’t seen any evidence, other than the footprint, that the lady even existed. She made sure of it, checking the local paper and even going as far as checking the public records at the Town Hall. No evidence of a mysterious blonde woman with no teeth hanging around town or the park. Charlotte has returned every afternoon to that spot, even on weekends, but she hasn’t seen any glimpse of the familiar figure.

Today is no different. It’s Saturday, Charlotte’s mother and father are out for their usual trip into town. They always dress in their finest clothing to smile and greet their neighbours and then go for lunch in the fanciest restaurant, making sure to get a seat by the window where they are seen by passers-by. Charlotte is never invited. Not like she would go even if she was. Pompous swine’s. Charlotte grumbles under her breath, kicking dirt out from under her feet, picturing her parent’s upper-class noses hovering over the heads of the just as cold-hearted townsfolk. She walks up and down the non-existent fence line of the park just like she has every day since seeing that lady. Pacing back and forth. As her legs begin to ache she is tempted to sit down but then shrugs off the feeling and continues. Afraid to sit down in case she misses sight of her. Charlotte feels drawn to her, she can’t stop thinking about her and needs to know who she is. Letting out a sigh of exasperation on her 67th lap of the playground’s edge, Charlotte stops abruptly when she reaches the spot where the lady’s footprint once was, now only a flattened level of soil can be seen. Halfway across the large open field, walking towards her is the lady.

She recognizes the way she’s walking and her blonde hair, this time it sits prominently on her front at her waistline. The wind is still today and the sun is setting. Charlotte stands motionless as the figure descends towards her. She looks as though she’s gliding rather than walking as the long tartan skirt she wears skims the floor. On her top half, she wears a white blouse tucked in. Charlotte feels a pang of jealousy as she sees the lady’s breasts bouncing under the blouse, the moment is quickly ridiculed when she remembers the woman’s lack of teeth though. Staring straight at Charlotte with no expression the woman continues her fast approach. Charlotte questions herself about whether she should stay or not but no matter her choice her legs feel rigid like stone removing from her the option to leave.

Reaching only a few feet from where Charlotte stands the lady stops, still with a lack of expression or emotion on her face. She is close enough for Charlotte to finally get a good look at her face. The first thing Charlotte notices though is, in fact, the smell. Rotten Flesh. Her mother once bought a chunk of ham from the butcher that she forgot about and left in the pantry for months. After that time, it was infested with maggots and let off an exuberant smell of decay. This beautiful jealousy invoking lady standing before Charlotte now reminds her of that smell and she breathes through her mouth to try and avoid throwing up. Other than the loss of teeth she’s seen and the retch-worthy smell. The lady is breathtakingly beautiful. More beautiful than the Barbie look-alikes at school and the models in magazines. With sunflower golden hair tumbling over her sleek shoulders. She has glossy and somewhat light undertoned skin like a china doll. Slender eyebrows sit above larger than average sparkling hazel eyes with largely defined eyelashes attached which flutter like silk threads. Set in the middle of her elongated face is a dainty button nose, either side of that sit dotted shadows of freckles, perfectly formed and symmetrical on either side of her high cheekbones. Almost like they have been painted on. Charlotte notes the plump rose colour showing through their surface. She looks like an angel. Charlotte silently acknowledges in her mind, she carries an untoward aroma of elegance and beauty cemented into her skin. However, Charlotte’s nerves feel ravaged by the arrogant imperfections she has seen on her. The lack of teeth, the smell and Charlotte can also see dirt coated fingernails on her slender hands. This angelic woman comes across as somewhat ambiguous and yet, still hasn’t spoken a word. Charlotte takes a deep breath through her mouth to avoid the stench and gives herself a moment of courage before diving into her words.

“Hello. Are you lost?” Charlotte asks in her most approachable yet guarded voice. 

A long silence fills the late afternoon air. Charlotte is about to prompt another question but she gets as far as saying ‘I’ before the woman interrupts.

“I’m Lenita. I can help you Charlotte”

Lenita’s voice is as radiant as her beauty. Soft with melodic undertones. Enough to lull Charlotte into a false sense of security. It almost makes Charlotte forget the stench until she takes a long inhale through her nose. Her stomach quivers in disgust and she bites down hard on her tongue before continuing

“You know who I am? Do you know the girls at school?” 

Charlotte’s first assumption is that she may know the gossipy girls at school. They have more than their fair share of horrid, cruel stories to tell of their antics, starring Charlotte as the main attraction.

Charlotte’s question is met with a blank stare and a smile from the young elusive. Charlotte can confirm she doesn’t have any teeth. It’s like a black hole inside her mouth, who knows where it leads. She doesn’t see a tongue in there either although how the lady is talking without either she isn’t too sure. The sight makes her take a defensive step back a little further. Charlotte can’t think of any positive reasoning why the woman wouldn’t have any teeth.

“Who are you? What are you doing here? This park is private property. You shouldn’t be here” 

Charlotte squeezes the sentence out in a single bated breath. A sure sign of her fear and impatience about this conversation and the fact that the woman knows who Charlotte is whilst Charlotte, on the other hand, is ever the more in the dark.

“I’m here to help” the woman responds.

“Help with what?” Charlotte asks begrudgingly despite being pretty sure that she doesn’t want to hear the answer.

A series of strange misconceptions happen at this point. Firstly, Charlotte notices a scar on Lenita’s face, just above her cheek close to the side of her temple. It must be no bigger than a button. She must have missed it before. It draws Charlotte’s attention because it has a strange resemblance to a butterfly. Brown in colour and faded as if old but it has the small body and wings to the side of it marked like a butterfly corpse. The second thing that happens is that Lenita takes a quick step towards Charlotte and reaches for her, causing Charlotte to stumble back to avoid her grasp. Righting herself, moments later a butterfly flutters past her eyes. Charlotte is distracted and watches the emerald green butterfly float towards the tree line behind her and disappear out of sight. As if experiencing a flashback, it reminds Charlotte of her stubborn recurring dream, it moulds the pieces back together like gluing the pieces of a smashed vase. 

Her dream begins with her walking to the abandoned park. A woman is there with blonde flowing hair and a thin, gaunt, yet beautiful figure. An enviable beauty that spikes a feeling of jealousy. The dream cuts to her running away from the woman who is walking behind her, chasing her, wearing a white dress than bounces to and fro at the knees. Charlotte runs to the new park, the closest place that there may be people. Getting there she hides in a wooden climbing frame with a roof where she finds two boys. They look of a similar age to Charlotte but they have scratches on their faces and are ghostly white with petrified faces when they see her. Charlotte tells them she’s running from the woman. The youthful boys tell her ‘Lenita is the bad one’. They then show her a newspaper article. ‘Young girl found with single stab wounds. Police referring to it as a suspected suicide” The paper is dated ’23rd August 1967″. A date that hasn’t yet been. 

Chapter 5 & 6 Available here 

Copyright 2018 

Charlotte’s World – Chapter 3

How long have I been standing here? Charlotte questions herself, partly to distract herself from the situation and partly to secure herself back into reality. It feels like a long time, she’s sure of that.

Trying her best to keep her posture and stern face, Charlotte’s body betrays her as she feels a drop of sweat trickling down her brow. Her hands are getting wetter by the second. There’s just something about this situation that is shouting at her to run but she can’t. No matter how much she thinks it, her legs and feet refuse to move. Almost as if the lady has an aura around her drawing Charlotte’s attention to her and forcing them to stare into each other eyes. If anyone happened to walk upon them at this moment she is sure they would think that they were about to fight. A crazy thought to have regarding a stranger. Charlotte has never been in a fight and hopes to keep it that way. Suddenly, wisps of blonde hair begin moving in the wind again as the lady takes a single step towards Charlotte. She stops just as quick but turns her face upwards into a smile in the process. Charlotte can’t see any pearly white teeth in her smile. In fact, she can’t see any teeth at all. Charlotte screams in a panicked breath and forces her mouth closed just as quick as she tries to hold herself together. Don’t be a stupid girl. Charlotte corrects herself in the voice of her grandmother, an intimidatingly independent woman with only a few stubborn wrinkles to show her age. If her grandmother was here right her she would push Charlotte forward and tell her that she’s being silly. Maybe this has all been a misunderstanding and the young lady just needs directions but is too afraid to approach. Enough is enough. Feeling belittled and increasingly more annoyed at this figure and her encroaching presence as well as the fearful turmoil she is creating in Charlotte’s mind. Charlotte forces her feet and marches toward the woman with vigour.

She plans on demanding why she was here but Charlotte never has a chance to ask her. When she’s just a few yards away Charlotte looks down at her wobbly feet to rectify them, when she looks up a split second later the blonde hair and all that was attached have disappeared. It was an open field and there weren’t many hiding places so unless the lady was laid down in the dirt which Charlotte highly doubted, she must have imagined her. That’s the only plausible explanation for the girls disappearing act. Wrong again though, because where the lady was stood there is now the engraved markings from her feet. 

Dumfounded, Charlotte stands in the marked footprints where the woman was and circles her head slowly trying to catch a glimpse. Even if the lady was running she would be able to see her in the open fields surrounding the park. There’s nothing though. Other than the footprint that Charlotte now skims with the sole of her shoe to make sure it’s real. There’s nothing else that would indicate she was even here just moments ago. Saves me the trouble, Charlotte’s thoughts praise her resilience. Bending her neck down to get a closer look at the footprint Charlotte places her own inside and is surprised to note that they have the same shoe size. Charlotte’s feet lack womanly properties at their rambunctious larger than average size. She’s never met any girl with the same shoe size. 

With a confused last glance towards the spot where moments earlier she recalls the details of the blonde-haired lady’s facial features and her lack of teeth, Charlotte decides it’s best to head home after this afternoon’s suspicious dilemma. 

Unbeknown to Charlotte at the time, it wouldn’t be the only time she sees the estranged woman.

Chapter 4 available here 

Copyright 2018