Necessary Torture

Torture with a deliberate purpose (as posted on The Missing Comma Club blog)

Main characters.

They steal the show. A ton of time and effort is spent finding them suitable names, the right appearances, and personalities that will turn these figments of the writer’s imagination into believable people. Once they are fleshed out and filled in, they are a writer’s pride and joy. Depending on the work—a short story, a book, a book series—a writer should expect to spend weeks, months, or even years with these characters. It’s a long-term relationship. Unfortunately, for the most part, it’s also an abusive relationship.

Physical, emotional, and psychological pain are all in a writer’s demented arsenal of torture weapons used against their very own creations. The ways in which writers inflict this torment would normally be considered illegal if used outside the realm of literacy. These may include actual injury, the killing of loved ones, mutations, consistent anxiety, or even the extinction of the entire human race. Writers are sick people, right?

Of course, what would a story be without a little suffering and angst?sorrow

Given, a writer has free reign on how to make their characters suffer. But, if a character suffers for the sake of suffering, it creates a certain numbness in the writing. Their pain must mean something and must be done with a deliberate purpose.

PLOT

A character’s suffering must add to the plot. Characters don’t always want to go where the writer wants them to, so a simple nudge (or a violent shove) might be needed to get them heading in the right—or wrong—direction. This can be anything from burning down the character’s house, to making the character an orphan, to maiming said character. Tragedy is a very motivating factor but it must be used sparingly. Again, too much will deaden the emotional impact of the event.

ADD REALISM

Doling out physical harm to main characters is a good way to remind them they are not invincible. In the real world there are very few folks who fight in a battle and come out unscathed. Why should main characters be any different? Injuring main characters adds realism to the story. So, in this case, battle scars are a good thing.

UP THE THREAT FACTOR

Also, physical pain can add to a story’s threat factor. Who doesn’t like the heart racing moment when a main character trips and gets impaled in the leg as they are running from some man-eating beast? The sight of blood or the crack of bone makes the danger feel more real and will convey a sense of urgency into a scene.

DIMENSION

Sadistic obstacles placed into the story to frustrate a character’s goals are fun. No story is complete without them. Perhaps the loss of a mentor, the pain associated with a car accident, or being at fault for the death of another will affect a character. Their personalities will determine if these obstacles will ultimately crush them or drive them forward. Although these setbacks can be incredibly painful for the characters, they are expected. How the characters handle them will add texture and dimension to not only the characters themselves, but to the story as well.

EMPATHYsad baby

Brutalizing the main characters of a story may also be used to create empathy. Everyone knows what it’s like to experience loss or pain. If written well, a reader’s heart will go out to them for what they are suffering. They’ll feel sorry for the pain the characters are feeling and become more attached.

CHANGE

A main character who stays the same during the course of a story is boring. Writers allow pain, sorrow, and suffering to shape and condition their main characters. Torment can make characters pliable—just right for reshaping and improvement. In the same way, the identical circumstances may cause the character to become angry, bitter, or jaded.  Either way, suffering brings ample opportunity for change.

WRITERS ARE HAPPILY SADISTIC

In closing, writers are unapologetic murders, kidnappers, arsonists, robbers, sadists, and torturethemtormentors. They take joy in the suffering of their main characters. As long as all is done with deliberate purpose, it’s all good.

(Photos from Bing images license: free to share and use)

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Playing Pretend

compassion-imagination

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In Case of Huggers

 

In Case of Huggers

“Who goes-a-calling before noon?” Maggie grumbled as she shuffled across the living room.

The grungy terrier tagging along at her heels let out a short yip as if in answer.

 “You’re right, Mr. Dickens,” she said, acknowledging the dog. “It’s downright rude.” She stopped at the window beside the front door and pinched a corner of the curtain. She moved it a half an inch—just enough to see the offensive soul who thought it proper to knock so early. “Uck,” Maggie said, making a face. She let the curtain fall closed. “It’s a Hugger.”

Mr. Dickens growled, showing his black gums and what was left of his pocked, yellow teeth.

Maggie’s growl matched her dog’s. She hated the Huggers. Poor Mr. McNearson. Surely, he’d rolled over in his grave the day they moved into his former house, blasting their hippy music about sunshine and rainbows and waving at everyone who dared walk past. Surely, he’d sat up and waved a fist the day they had a group of muscle-bound workmen paint the abode a ghastly sunshiny yellow. To add insult to injury, the Huggers had Mr. McNearson’s practical concrete yard jackhammered out and a manicured lawn laid down as if it were carpet. Maggie hadn’t even known people could do that.

Maggie peeked out the window again. Standing on her unwelcome mat was the worst Hugger of all—the one who always smiled—the one who always waved—the one who always had to wrap her creepy, spindly arms around everyone she met—and she was holding a tin of cookies and a clipboard. Maggie had heard about this. The Huggers were pushing a petition for a Crypt Street beautification project—as if 1015364216_0aac8271dcCrypt Street needed improvement.

“This won’t do,” Maggie said to Mr. Dickens who was gnawing at the bald spot on his tail. Maggie’s gaze drifted from the dog to the shadowy space beneath the sofa. A smile crept across her face as an idea took root in her brain. She bent down and pulled an aluminum baseball bat from under the sofa. The bat had always been a practical means to rid her doorstep of pests. The bothersome Huggers deserved no different.

Maggie placed a hand upon the doorknob and balanced the bat against a shoulder. “Forgive me if I’m wrong, Mr. Dickens,” she said as she plastered a smile on her face, ready to greet the Hugger in the other side of the door, “but, I do believe the only good Hugger, is a dead Hugger.”

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The Writer’s Bookshelf

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Thoughts on the written word.

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Hard Time

As a felonious toothfairy, Miss Anug is serving hard time as a preschool teacher at Billy Bob’s, a Program for Gifted and Talented Preschoolers. She’s about to attempt an escape when the perfect set of chompers walks into her classroom.mobile-phone-791644_960_720

My phone vibrated noisily against the desktop. I snatched it up as fast as I could, silenced it, and then glanced around the room. The sea of pastel blankets remained motionless. I exhaled in relief. Naptime at Billy Bob’s, a Program for Gifted and Talented Preschoolers was my time. That’s when the little rodents drifted off to la-la land and I was free to plot my escape.

I checked my phone.

TONIGHT!!!!

I couldn’t help letting out a hoot of excitement as I read the text. That one word meant the world to me. It meant freedom. It meant the end of this horrible torture. It meant step one of my plan was going into action.

The sea of blankets began to undulate. My time of relief was over for now. Little, messy-haired heads began to pop up as the little creatures blinked back into consciousness. Sleeping dust only works for small amounts of time—never long enough in my opinion.

“Good morning, Miss Anug,” the little pigtailed one called. Its name was Jayden, or some other awful name the parents these days thought was a suitable name for their offspring.

As I always did, I smiled brightly in return, showing the little urchins what the perfect smile entails. “Put your blankets in the hamper and get ready for snack time,” I said, keeping my tone light. If you get too harsh with the little creatures they started blubbering. That’s the worst.

After the cockroaches were done stuffing their faces with graham crackers and apple juice, I sent them out to the playground to let the schoolyard aide deal with them for a while.

I strolled back to my desk and again read the text.

TONIGHT!!!!

It wasn’t a customary text, but a self-reminder I’d set up exactly a year ago. It had been twelve years since I started tending to the drooling, lisping, potty-training little devils. There were eight more years left on my sentence, but I wasn’t about to stick around for those. As a toothfairy, I needed teeth, and the little three and four-year-old varmints weren’t losing theirs anytime soon. As of tonight, I would ditch my phone, slip into the woods, and go off the grid. They’d never find me in the mountains.

Why The Organization of Toothfairies and Hygienists (or TOOTH) thought twenty years as a preschool teacher of human ankle-biters was a justifiable sentence, who knows? Without a stable supply of lost teeth, it should have been placed under the category of cruel and unusual punishment. All I did was collect a couple gold caps and half a dozen silver filled teeth. I’d even left a bright, shiny nickel under their owners’ pillows, as any good toothfairy would. The TOOTH Board of Judgement had barely even listened to my defense, arguing that prying teeth from sleeping citizen’s heads was a first-degree offense.

I looked through the window just in time to see one of the little pests pitch forward off the slide and land on its face. A well of excitement flooded me as it came up bawling, snot and mulch stuck to its face. The excitement faded quickly when I noticed there was no blood, no chance it had knocked out a tooth.

The rest of the day dragged on slower than normal, but three o’ clock finally came. The little whipper snappers’ parental units started crowding the entranceway, collecting their little ones to go home.

“Goodbye, Miss Anug,” the pigtailed one called, waving. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Not likely,” I mumbled too low for her to hear, as I waved back and chucked my cell phone into the waste bin.

Then, he walked in. His dazzling smile seemed to light up the entire room. He was a dream with naturally straight teeth and bi-cuspids that dropped just a tad bit longer than the lateral incisors and first premolars beside them—vampire style. It was hard to tear my eyes away from his magnificent mouth but I did, just long enough to check for a wedding band. Nope. The blood in my veins tingled as I strolled across the classroom.

“Hello,” I said to him. He looked up from zipping his kid’s sweatshirt. “I don’t believe we’ve met,” I added, extending my hand.

“Oh, hi,” he said, flashing me a luminous smile and taking my hand in a quick greeting. “You must be Miss Anug. I’m Chris—Aidan’s dad.”

“Aidan?” I glanced down at the child by his side. The little snot-slinger had his dad’s dark eyes and hair, but his grin was full of spaces. Eck. “Oh, yes, that one.”

“Yeah, my sister has handled the drop-offs and pick-ups up ‘til now, but she got a job so it’ll be me from now on.” Chris’ bright-beamed smile brought my eyes back to his marvelous maw.

“Is that so?” My stomach did a flip-flop. This carnassial Adonis would be gracing the entrance of the classroom twice a day? Awesome!

“Yeah,” Chris said. “Well, it was nice to meet you, Miss Anug. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“I look forward to it,” I replied.

I stood there in the middle of all the going-home chaos and watched him steer that Aidan child through the crowd and out the door, making my day a little dimmer for the loss. I ignored the goodbyes the other little heathens called out to me as I drifted back to my desk and sat down, thinking about Chris’s glorious set of chompers. It was dark outside when I finally finished making my decision. I fished my phone out of the waste bin and set another reminder for a year’s time.

TONIGHT!!!!

 

 

 

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Fit body – Fit mind

barbell

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Be a book person

All my life, I’ve loved books and the attachment has only increased as I’ve gotten older. I can not end a day without an hour or two of reading. Now, I am branching out and writing my own. Fantasy-Books-fantasy-15760653-1356-858.jpg

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Troll Hunting

youngspellwritersawardTroll Hunting is a short story in parallel to the novel Youngspell – both written by J. Rae Moore.

“Cagord ‘ears ya, chicken,” a deep voice bellowed from the dark depths of the cave. “Ya shall suffer for da murderin’ of da daughters,” it continued. “Cagord will grind ya bones to make me bread, ya hear?”

Juliana shivered. She knew the words were directed at her. She glanced across the rocky terrain at the three stone figures in front of the cave. “Daughters?” she muttered. Until then, she’d thought the petrified trolls were boys. Their exaggerated, wart-heavy features showed no sign of femininity. She shrugged. “Who knew?”

It had been her folly that brought Cagord’s daughters to their ends. She hadn’t meant to harm them—not to the point of death anyway—but the potion she needed to complete called for troll beard stubble, and she was going to get it. Since both male and female trolls grew facial hair from the age of two, it should have been easy to collect. After a long and weary night of trying to convince the young trolls to come out of the cave, it was the offer of human flesh for their tasting that finally did it. Success fluttered in Juliana’s chest as they’d tiptoed out, but, unfortunately, the sun had decided to break over the horizon at the same moment, petrifying the youngsters before Juliana got a chance to swipe her blade across the bristle covering their faces.

“Ya get ya sleep out there, chicken,” Cagord hollered. “Tonight Cagord hunt ya.”

Since she was forced to wait, Juliana sat back and noted the position of the sun. It had passed its zenith and was drooping toward the west. She had a few hours until sunset. She shoved a rolled up shirt behind her head. Cagord was right about one thing. She needed to sleep. As she settled in and closed her eyes, she also realized that the troll was also wrong. He might think he was going to be the one after her, but in reality, it was Juliana who was going to be doing the hunting.

As promised, Cagord emerged the moment the sun’s rays had extinguished for the day. He was a typical mountain troll with gray, porous skin and a flabby yet powerful body. His neck swelled with fatty bulges as if it cultivated a new one each year. A horn sprouted from the crown of his head and wrapped around his skull twice. Juliana was pleased to spot a thick layer of black stubble covering his chin and cheeks. He shook a fist above his head as he scanned the area. “Come out, ya green-eyed chicken,” he shouted.

Then, there was another troll beside him. Slightly smaller than Cagord, the new troll was the size of a shed with a head of wild, brown hair, a collection of large warts across the bridge of her nose, and a face full of stubble. The new troll pushed ahead of Cagord and touched each of the stone trolls. “Me poors poors babies,” she sobbed. Juliana ducked behind a boulder as the smaller troll swung her large, muddy brown eyes along the edges of the space. “Baloneen gots a pot just right for yas, bawk-bawk chickadee,” the troll called. She continued to bawk like a chicken as if Juliana would be drawn to the call.

Juliana checked her dagger and confirmed that her carpetbag was hitched high on her shoulder. She hadn’t intended on having to deal with two full-grown mountain trolls. This was going to be a bit harder than she’d thought. She was so busy trying to come up with a new strategy she didn’t realize the trolls had found her until she heard Cagord say, “Yas a stupid chicken, ain’t yas?” as he made a grab for her.

Juliana jumped up from her spot and sliced at his large, gnarled hand.

“Owwww!” Cagord bellowed, holding the wound to his mouth.

Juliana scrambled away from him, up the side of the rocky hill behind her only to be seized by the back of her shirt by the other troll. With one arm, Baloneen held her up like a pup by the scruff and studied her—face-to-face. “Yas a bad bawk-bawk chickadee,” the female troll seethed between her teeth.

Juliana dry-heaved as the troll’s breath swirled around her and wrapped her in its fumes. The stench stung her eyes, immediately causing them to water.

“Give Cagord chicken,” Cagord ordered. He reached for Juliana but Baloneen pulled her out of his reach.

“No, Baloneen smash it,” Baloneen argued, still dangling Juliana at arm’s length.

Cagord stomped a foot. “Cagord crush it!”

“Baloneen smash!”

“Cagord crush!”

Juliana saw her chance. She twisted hard to the left and a loud rip split the air. She landed on the ground with a muffled thump and scuttled away, leaving Baloneen holding only a scrap of her dress.

The rest of the night was a series of hides and finds with Juliana and the trolls trading turns for each. It was after another narrow escape that Juliana found herself hiding once again. This time, she crouched between two boulders the same size as the trolls who hunted her. There, she fought to regain her breath all the while listening for the footfalls of her pursuers.

Juliana wiped the sweat from her brow and checked the edge of her blade. Cagord and his wife had proved to be fast for big, fat buggers and they were relentless in their pursuit. It would have been a lot easier if she’d only had to deal with one troll at a time, but whenever she got the drop on one, the other would rush her and she’d be forced to retreat. “Not this time,” Juliana swore under her breath. She plunged her hand into her carpetbag and pulled out Vena, her magical broom. “This time, I even the odds.”

Juliana tapped the broom twice, bringing it to life. She swung a leg over to straddle it then silently levitated into the sky.

On the other side of the boulder mound, the husband and wife team were searching a small clearing for her. Baloneen pushed apart the branches of a large pricker bush, bawking, while Cagord was looking under the rocks.

“Dat chicken ‘ere somewhere,” Cagord commented, picking up a large boulder and peeking beneath it. He grunted when he realized he’d guessed wrong and chucked the boulder behind him. It landed with an earth-quaking thump. Cagord scratched his scalp before he bent down and lifted another boulder. “Nope.”

Now, Juliana thought. With her dagger at the ready, she steered toward Cagord and shot at him at an amazing speed. It would have been a clean shave had Cagord not looked up just as Juliana was about to glaze his cheek. Before she knew it, his giant arm swung upward and knocked her out of the sky. She went sailing into the same pricker bush Baloneen was searching. She landed with a bump and rolled into a seated position, her legs spread wide. A small groan escaped her lips as the pain registered. Giant pricker bush thorns poked into her at every angle.

“Looky, looky,” Baloneen exclaimed. She wrapped a fist around Juliana’s head, lifted her out of the bush, and held her up triumphantly. “Bawk bawk bawk, Baloneen got it. Baloneen got da chicken. Bawk bawk bawk.”

Cagord cast away the most current boulder and threw his hands up. “Got da chicken,” he sang, shuffling a jig in the dirt. “Got da chicken. Now be time da eat da chicken.”

Still keeping a firm grip on Juliana’s cranium, Baloneen joined her husband’s dance. “Got da chicken. Got da chicken. Now be time da eat da chicken,” they sang together.

Ignoring the pain the troll’s grasp caused through her head and neck, Juliana squeezed her hand. She still held the dagger. Next, she searched the area for Vena. As she was being jostled around in the trolls’ victory celebration, it took a while to locate the broom. It was lying near one of the boulders Cagord had discarded earlier. She narrowed her eyes. She had to time this just right or she’d be troll chow for sure.

“It’s too bad about your daughters there, Baloneen,” she yelled above the trolls’ singing.

Baloneen stopped dancing and let out a tooth-rattling growl. She brought Juliana’s face to hers. “Ya murdered da girls, even da baby.” Baloneen spoke with her teeth clenched.

Juliana fought against the sudden urge to puke at the scent of her breath again. She was just close enough. The pressure around her head increased.

“Baloneen smash…” Baloneen’s threat ended there as Juliana reached out and sliced off a large chunk of the troll’s cheek.

Baloneen screamed, dropping Juliana and grabbing her bleeding face.

Cagord stomped over, nearly stepping on Juliana, and wrapped his arms around his crying wife. He inspected the wound. “Baloneen. Yas beauty face. Oh, poors Baloneen.”

In the meantime, Juliana scrambled to retrieve the pound of flesh she had hacked away from Baloneen. Just as she retrieved the bloody prize and shoved it into her bag, Cagord spotted her. “Ya evil chicken. Cagord crush ya,” the troll bellowed, lifting his hay barrel-sized foot and aiming it at her.

Juliana rolled away just before his foot hit the dirt with a ground-shaking blow. The troll bent low and slowly lifted his foot. As he examined the bottom of it, Juliana made a dash for Vena. She’d made it just as Cagord realized he’d missed her. It didn’t take long for him to find her again.

“Cagord crush evil chicken,” Cagord said, stomping her way.

“Wake up, Vena,” Juliana said. She tapped the broom and Vena buzzed to life. Juliana kicked up into the air but she didn’t get far when the broom stopped suddenly. She glanced behind her and saw Cagord holding the broom’s bristles between two fat fingers.

“Evil chicken no fly,” he stated.

“Get off my broom, you big-headed behemoth.” Juliana kicked at the troll’s hand but Cagord held tight.

Suddenly, a stream of red fire shot from the broom’s end and hit the troll’s hand. Cagord let go immediately, screaming.

Juliana shot high into the sky while Cagord stood below, pumping his fist at her. “Evil chicken come back.”

Juliana cackled. “Not anytime soon, oh Cagord, my pal.”

Cagord’s threats and Baloneen’s sobs followed Juliana as she sailed smoothly through the night sky. She still had several oversized thorns sunk deep into her skin—that would be a pain not soon forgotten—but she was smiling. She patted her bag then the handle of her broom. “Ah, Vena, old girl, you’ve still got a few tricks in you, don’t you.”

She reached into her shirt and pulled out the list of ingredients for the potion. Dabbing her finger into one of her wounds, she sighed as she used her own blood to mark off the box labeled Troll Beard Stubble.

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Never lose hope.

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Even through all the rejections and trials, there’s still a glimmer of hope. That’s what I find keeps me going…keeps me writing. There are days that still get me down. Those are the days I think about giving up. I lived without writing before. I’m sure I could live without it again. Then, I’m drawn back to the typewriter with a new idea or a way to improve an old one. I can’t give this up. What if the next one is The One.

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DREAM

image40…Because we all have a dream.

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