He wrote, she wrote.

Category: Weekly Challenge

He Wrote, Week 7

by Dave Smith

The garden store opened at seven o’clock in the morning. Its large, glass storefront displayed a variety of manual and gas-powered garden tools and overlooked the cemetery across the street. Cassie, a new girl in town, was shivering in the cool air of an early spring morning. She had arrived a few minutes early, hoping to make a good impression on her first day at work. She was waiting outside for Amanda, the store owner, to get there and unlock the door. Her eyes were fixed on something in the distance.

“Hey, Cass, whatcha staring at?” asked Amanda.

Cassie, lost in thought and suddenly jolted back to the present, jumped at the greeting.

“Oh, hey, Amanda. What’s up with that old guy over there?”

“That’s Arnold. He and his wife, Dora, used to own this store.”

“Why’s he in the cemetery this time of morning?”

“He’s done that for years. That’s Dora’s grave. She died on her way here one morning. A dumptruck swerved to miss a kid on a bike, overturned, and crushed her car,” Amanda explained.

“Oh, God, that’s horrible!”

“Yeah, it was. Arnold never came to terms with it. He sold the store and pretty much barricaded himself up in their house. She was his best friend, so he comes back to her grave every day at five in the morning, the time of her death. Rain, snow, ice – doesn’t matter. He always stops, spends a few hours, lays a single lavender rose – her favorite – from their greenhouse on her headstone, then leaves quietly.”

“He ever come in here? Y’know, to chat or see if the business has changed?” asked Cassie.

“No. He’s never been back in. Hardly ever see him in town for anything anyway. Just necessities. He mostly just isolates himself. I think he’s afraid of making other human connections, just in case he loses them too. But what do I know.”

“Such a sad way to live,” concluded Cassie, as she straightened up the window display.

In between customers, Cassie watched Arnold through the window.  She saw him talk to whatever part of his wife might still be there listening. He kissed the headstone, left the rose, then walked to his pickup truck and drove away. Cassie surprised herself when she felt a teardrop, ever so  slowly, creep down her cheek.

Probably just from allergies, she thought. Read the rest of this entry »

He Wrote, Week 06

by Dave Smith

Dallas Reed and Craig Paulsen were classmates in film school and graduated together, tied for tenth spot in class GPAs. They went separate ways for a few years before serendipitously meeting again at Comic-Con. Over cocktails and heavy appetizers, they caught up with each other. Craig worked as storyboard artist and assistant script writer for a small video game company. Dallas had spent his time after graduation writing scripts for local television station commercials. It kept bills paid, but was far from exciting.

Craig, seizing an opportunity to work together with Dallas again, offered an inside tip on a game tester position coming available. It hadn’t been made public yet, but would be advertised soon. He gave Dallas the contact details for Mr. Brantley, the head of quality assurance, and suggested he get in touch before the applications poured in from the public. Craig promised to put in a good word for him.

Dallas knew that as an entry level video game tester, he’d bear the grunt work of endlessly inserting and ejecting disks, booting and rebooting games, or repeating the same in-game interaction hundreds of times and writing reports before he moved up any rungs on the job ladder. Sure, boring at first, but, in the end, the potential for new and exciting things was better than local commercials, so he jumped at the chance. Read the rest of this entry »

Week 6 Challenge

by Christine Hawks

Admittedly, we’re late in posting this week’s fiction fortune generated by the Storymatic.  This week, seemed tailor-made for He Wrote, though we have admitted to each other that this week’s character and plot have led us both into dead-ends.  Fear not!  We are both at our respective keyboards hunting for and pecking out some sort of tales featuring a video game tester and a note on a windshield.  It is Sunday, deadline day, so look for our posts to appear here sometime between dinner and Dexter tonight.

And, in case you missed Week 5 – now’s a good time to catch up while you are waiting on the new material.  Don’t let your chance to vote for your favorite gravedigger from last week expire!

Always Bury Your Mistakes (He Wrote – Week 05)

by Dave Smith

The ballasts buzzed for a few seconds before the fluorescent lights flickered to life, slowly brightening as they warmed to operating temperature in the chill of an early fall morning. Ansel Greenwood, clad in his Dickies work uniform, dark brown trousers and khaki shirt, stood by the switch, clutching a beaten red lunchbox with his name permanent markered on the side.

He laid his coat down on the wooden workbench, slid the lunchbox into the mini-fridge, and opened the metal overhead door. His boss, Pete Hammond, was standing just outside. Read the rest of this entry »

Week 5 Challenge

by Christine Hawks

Another week and another challenge issued by the Storymatic!  So, I ask you, what do a gravedigger and obvious plastic surgery have in common?  I have a couple of ideas, but the final answers won’t be revealed until we publish this week’s finished stories.  See ya Sunday!

Ticket to Ride (She Wrote, Week 4)

by Christine Hawks

As David, who always beats me to publishing, mentioned earlier, this week we added a twist to our usual challenge.  Still two short stories, still using prompts to build our tales, but this week, we participated in Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge over at terribleminds.com.  Out of a list of 10 possible random items, contenders pick 4 to feature in their short story of about 1,000 words.  Ironically, David and I both picked the same 4 items – the unopened envelope, the rocking chair, the horseshoe and the child’s toy.  Really!  We did not plan that and, as usual, neither of us knew what the other was writing about until the big reveal here.  Great minds…?  Polls will be opened shortly and new prompts selected on Sunday.

He thrust he walker out in front of him, then shuffled his feet two steps to catch up with the contraption before repeating the awkward two-step all over again.  The going wasn’t easy; not only due to his handicap, but also because Sam Daily was traveling on a subtle incline of packed dirt that was his driveway. He made the quarter mile round-trip six days a week to retrieve the mail delivered at the intersection of his driveway and the farm road.  Though the exertion left him needing a nap most days, he was grateful that he was still able to get around on his own two legs, even if it was a struggle. He knew that one day he’d require full-time use of the Gator that he reserved for days when the driveway was mired in mud or covered in snow.

When he had reached his destination, Sam noted that the stray mutt he’d befriended was already waiting there, as usual.  He reached into his trousers and pulled out a few liver treats for the dog.  Despite his apparent homelessness, the dog was always respectful in taking whatever Sam offered him.  Sam reached down to scratch behind the dog’s floppy ear and predictably, after his snack and some attention, the dog continued up the road.  “Same time tomorrow, old boy!”

Sam, now recovered from his journey to the mailbox reached in and retrieved the day’s delivery.  He flipped through, though he already knew what to expect: the current issue of The Farm Journal, the sales circular for the local co-op grocery and the utility bill.  But, there was an addition today that he didn’t expect.  The envelope, addressed to him was accompanied by a return address from the American Planetary Tourism Board.

“What the hell?” he asked, aloud. Read the rest of this entry »

Flash Fiction Challenge (He Wrote, Week 04)

by Dave Smith

As I mentioned last time, this week’s challenge is a little different. We decided to participate in the Flash Fiction Challenge at terribleminds.com. This week, we had to choose only four items from a list of ten, and then had to incorporate them into a story of around 1000 words. I chose an unopened envelope, a rocking chair, a child’s toy, and an iron horseshoe. My original idea was an Amazing Race – Bear Grylls – Survivor meets The Most Dangerous Game (wouldn’t that be a helluva reality show?). Unfortunately, reading it now, I think it steered too far toward Hunger Games. Not at all what I intended. Oh well, enjoy anyway!

Shane knew there wasn’t much daylight left and he had no idea where other contestants were. He was so delirious he really didn’t care. The absurdity of his situation stoked his rage for Mr. Bartholomew. Shane wanted to cut the puppet strings and escape that man’s twisted game, but any attempt at skirting the rules was a direct path to losing.

Shane hadn’t eaten in five days and hadn’t found water in nearly two. His head felt like it was occupied by an army of sledgehammer-wielding dwarves trying to escape. His feet were heavy and clumsy, as if shod with a dozen iron horseshoes.

Weak with a deep, gnawing hunger, a handful of grubs and wild blackberries looked like a gourmet spread. The sweetness of the berries balanced the funky, beefy grubs. Shane was amazed at how so little could boost his energy and spirits. He needed it to find the next waypoint before dark or he’d end up a meal for something else. He forged on in the darkening wilderness, stopping occasionally to check his navigation course.

Panic started to settle in just before he found the familiar yellow and green flags marking the waypoint. There were six small shelters – down two from the waypoint last week – each built from weathered vertical boards like an outhouse, and not much bigger than one. Shane couldn’t see lights inside them, so he couldn’t tell if anyone had beaten him there. Wolf howls and a human scream in the forest told him at least one shelter wouldn’t be occupied that night. Read the rest of this entry »

by Dave Smith

This week kinda fell apart. The challenges were to be entries, using a random plot scenario generator, for the Flash Fiction Challenge over at Chuck Wendig’s blog, terribleminds.com. In characteristic fashion, we fell victim to indecisiveness and real life schedules and just didn’t do it. So, in an effort to maintain writing momentum, I’m reflecting and rambling on my own process as it has manifested thus far.

As best as I can recall, the past couple of weeks have been the first sustained efforts I’ve put into any kind of creative writing since those magnificent days of parachute pants and rat tails. It was assigned work back then and made me want to stab eyeballs. Now, I’m doing it for fortune and glory entertainment and pleasure.

Ideas have never really been a problem. Getting them out has been. I think in what I best describe as movie snippets, “seeing” short, non-sequential scenes play out in my head. But that’s usually where they stay. Writing these stories has forced me to focus on those snippets and record them before they disappear, then organize and make some kind of sense of the mess. It’s like trying to pass a 20lb dumbbell: you get the first part out, screaming and cursing until you find relief. Then you realize, well shit, you’ve still got the ending to push out.

Coming from a background where brevity and economy of words rule the day, building a compelling story has been a real challenge. Making emotional connections between the characters and readers hasn’t been my strongest suit so far (I read encyclopedias for fun when I was a kid, for cryin’ out loud), and my endings have fallen a touch flat, but I hope those will develop with practice.

The single idea behind all of our challenges has been to just write; to get off our asses of pondering ideas and then sitting on them. Get them planted and grow them into a story, good, bad, or indifferent. Three weeks in, I think we’re accomplishing that.

So, what’s in store for next week?

We’re going to give the latest Flash Fiction Challenge a shot. This time we have to incorporate four random items from a list of ten, all in about 1000 words. It’s easy to start and wrap up a story in 3500 or more words, but having to compress it all into only 1000 will be a challenge all on its own. All stories are due by high noon on Friday, so even our deadline gets moved up a bit. It sounds like fun, and we’ve both found terribleminds.com tremendously entertaining, so we’re looking forward to it.

Please, join us back here after noon on Friday, August 2. And if you participate in the challenge too, let us know.

Happy scrivening!

Week 2 Challenge

by Christine Hawks

Since we survived last week’s challenge, we’re back for more!  Without further ado, here are this week’s random prompts:

The Character: An investigative reporter

The Plot: Something to do with a wig

Hmmmm…

Each of our short stories will be posted on Sunday with a new poll to vote for the favorite of the week.

Week 1 Challenge

by Christine Hawks

The Character: A person who is new to the area

The Plot: No place to hide

Check back next Sunday to read how our stories unfold!