100 Days of Writing: Day Nine
Hobbling along with 100 days of writing, @the-wip-project and tagging my fellow participants @she-who-the-river-could-not-hold @thelittlefanpire and @hopskipaway.
Structure as offense and characterization as defense, or the other way around. Is this something you think about? Do you have other metaphors when you think about your stories and how they work?
Picking today’s prompt to reflect on as the path of least resistance because I do not feel well and creativity is just not on my mind.
I don’t get this metaphor at all lol because I don’t know anything about sports but also... I just don’t think of my writing metaphorically I guess. I’ll be even more honest and say that I just don’t think structurally in this manner at all, like, how are the parts moving and what is in opposition to what and what’s the motivation and what’s the driving force or whatever.
I guess to some degree I approach writing like I do interpreting written works--but from the other end, of course. What works in the writing I love, and how can I create something that makes me feel the same. I was very into close reading in college and I like working on the micro level. Every sentence and every image needs to be precise and clear; the atmosphere should be well-defined; the actions should be easy to picture. Atmosphere and emotion is created by sentence structure and pacing as much as by vocabulary or literal description. Everything should flow.
I mostly write specifically to create A Mood so I would be lying if I said I always cared so much about crafting a great plot. If I’m writing something on a deadline, then I basically decide what the absolutely essential plot points are, and I narrow it down to just those. I do something similar for my non-deadline work--but not as well, because those stories tend to ramble, sometimes to their detriment. I do think it’s important to know what a story is ABOUT, and I don’t mean that in the ‘well duh’ sense, I mean that the central conflict must be resolved, the central lesson learned, the central mystery answered, and anything adjacent can be left more open or ambiguous. In other words, I think the structure itself should alert the reader to what a story’s central plot and/or purpose is.
However, I am often just in it myself to tell a nice yarn or to examine particular moments or feelings.
I definitely think that writing is a craft, but for me it’s also an Experience. It’s something I create partly through decided effort and careful (fore) thought and partly through impulse and and subconscious work. Good writing sessions can feel like trances or out of body experiences, at least in retrospect. I often discover something new while writing
It doesn’t speak to me to break writing down into like the Elements of Proper Storytelling I think in part because it takes some of the mystical element out of the experience. For me I guess it’s... I’ve read so much and thought so much about what I’ve read, and talked about it and discussed it and written on it, that I just inherently get (imho) story/narrative/style components. At least, as far as I care to get them.
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Maddie Fenton woke up on the worst day of her life with a headache. That wasn’t at all unusual, Jack’s snoring could be grating even when asleep. Combined with too many late nights in the lab, too much coffee and just general stress about her work and her kids... it seemed Maddie woke up with a headache more often then not. Jack was the early riser of the two of them so he was already awake and likely starting work in the lab. He’d knock on the kids’ doors to get them up but Danny always needed a special touch, or an aggressive shove, to get up.
Maddie got up and dressed and made her way downstairs, Jazz’s room was cracked and she heard her daughter bustling inside. Danny’s was still shut tight. She knocked forcefully on the door. “Danny honey, it’s 6:30, you need to start getting ready for school.” She got no answer but she didn’t always get one. She had a feeling it was going to be one of those mornings. Setting downstairs, she’d just started the coffee machine when the phone rang.
“Now who is calling at this hour?” Maddie asked herself, picking up the phone. “FentonWorks, this is Maddie Fen-”
“You tell my daughter to come home right this instant!” Pam Manson’s shrill voice came over the phone. Maddie winced and pulled the phone back from her ear. “And you tell her she can kiss that horrible death metal whatever concert she was going to on Saturday goodbye! I will not have my young, impressionable daughter thinking she can tramp around god knows where-”
“Pam, slow down,” Maddie interrupted, irate as always when dealing with the woman. “Sam isn’t here, I didn’t see her at all yesterday or today.” Or Danny, Maddie thought privately with a frown. Pamela’s fury and frustration was understandable in a way. Maddie also had no idea what her own child was up to most days.
“She’s not there?” Pam said quietly after a few moments of silence. “Are you sure?” She added a bit more frantically. “Because she’s not in her bedroom and her bed looks like she never slept in it. She’s not answering her phone but she sometimes doesn’t when she’s sees it’s-” Pam took a deep steadying breath. “Can you check and make certain she’s not there? I’m going to call Angela.” Pam hung up suddenly and Maddie pulled back and looked at the phone, biting her lip with nerves. The coffee maker screeching to life behind her startled her so much that she jumped.
“Goodness,” She said, setting the phone down and thinking. She was certain she hadn’t seen Sam. The last time she’d seen her son’s friend was the day before last when she and Tucker had dragged a very exhausted, bruised up Danny home. Took a fall down the stairs, they’d said, not explaining why their clothes were worn and hands scratched up. Frowning, she wandered to the top of the lab steps. “Jack, you haven’t seen Sam around, have you? Danny’s friend?”
“Sam?” She heard Jack shout back, he poked his head around the corner. “No, did she stay the night? By the way, did you move some of the weapons. I can’t seem to find a few of them...”
“Jack that’s not important right now, Pamela doesn’t know where she is,” Maddie said sharply. She felt a little bad watching as Jack’s face become pensive but she was too anxious herself to apologize. She turned and walked towards the upstairs steps. “I’m going to ask Danny.”
She can’t deny that a subtle little thrill went through her when she got onto the second floor landing and saw Danny’s door open. The sink was running in the bathroom and she knocked heartily on the door. “Daniel Fenton, Mrs. Manson can’t find her daughter and if I find you had her over without telling anyone you are going to be in so much-”
The door opened revealing Jazz with her eyes wide and a toothbrush sticking out of her mouth. “Waz goin on?” she asked around the brush. She took out the brush and spit out into the sink. “I poked my head into Danny’s room to wake him up but he wasn’t in there.” Her eyebrows furrowed, “they can’t find Sam?”
Feeling lightheaded, Maddie walked down the hall to Danny’s room to find no one there. She can’t put her finger on why but it didn’t just feel empty but vacant. Danny’s clothes weren’t on the floor, his desk was practically clear for the first time since they bought it. His bed was made just as she’d done it the morning before when she’d rousted her son. Distantly, she heard the phone ringing again but Maddie couldn’t bring herself to leave the deserted room.
Danny had several photos on his wall and desk, she couldn’t help but notice that two were missing. A framed photo of the entire Fenton family they’d taken last year for New Years and a particularly nice shot of Danny with his friends Jazz had snapped. They say in a crime scene, something is always taken and left behind. But why... The sound of footsteps approached her rapidly from behind.
“Mom,” Jazz with a small fearful little tone. She was holding the house phone in one hand and her cell in the other, Danny’s contact information open on her screen. It was just ringing through. “It’s Mrs. Manson, not only is Sam not at Tucker’s but... the Foleys can’t find him either. I... I told them we don’t know where Danny is at the moment. I’m trying to call but its just ringing and ringing...”
“Jasmine, calm down,” Maddie said, taking the phone away from her. “Keep trying his cell and go get your father. Pam, are you still there?” Maddie said speaking into the phone. She was met with tears on the other end.
“Where are they? How could this happen? Sammy... she has a sizable trust and could be a target for ransom but your boy and Tucker? It doesn’t make sense.” Pamela paused to take a few loud, sobbing breaths that pounded at Maddie’s headache like a jackhammer. “Unless they ran away but why? Samantha’s always been spirited but nothing like this... God, I need to call the police, we’ll be in touch.” She clicked off without another word.
“-swer your phone, please little brother. Please, I know. Know-know, I was waiting for you to come to me but now we can’t find you, Sam or Tucker and everyone’s freaking out and we just need to know that you’re all okay.” She heard Jazz speak quickly into her cell, curling in on it like she used to do with her old stuffed animals. Jack’s hands gripping her shoulders from behind, taking in the abandoned room just like she’d been.
“Mads,” Jack whispered, “where’d he go?”
Maddie would ask herself that same question in the coming days, weeks, months and years that would pass. Over the course of front page headlines and tv spots begging for information. When they found a large amount had been transferred out of Sam’s trust, when Tucker’s phone and computer was found broken in two near the dump by the interstate, when their weapons catalogue came up short. As more time passed, it became increasingly obviously the kids not only had left of their own volition but it had been a calculated, planned affair.
Maddie would lie awake late into the night and wonder where it all went wrong? What had she, or any of the grieving parents, done to warrant their children to up and leave in the middle of the night. Something had happened, something that had been under their noses, something they’d missed. And they were now paying for it.
Back in the present moment, with her husband’s warm hands on her shoulders, her daughter’s increasingly more frantic voice talking into Danny’s phone that just kept ringing and her headache pounding worse than ever, all she could do was moan. “I don’t know, they’re just gone.”
The worst day of her life was just getting started and was going to continue for a long, long while.
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