This one is difficult…
Ugh, that feeling of impending… well, I’m not gonna say, because it’s up to you to show us.
DREAD Definition: anticipate with great apprehension or fear.
Yep. That’s it all right.
I think they key element that separates fear and dread is anticipation. It’s coming, you know it’s coming, it’s gonna be horrible – and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Make a scene where the character is DREADING something. Make us squirming on our seats for the character. Make us hating to read the next word.
Tests in school. Bad news from the doctor. Relatives vising for Thanksgiving.
D.. R… E… A… D!!!
Put it out there. (Some of you are dreading this challenge. Good. Use that.)
One way to GET THERE is to think of a time when you were dreading something. Maybe you were bad as a kid and had to sit in your room until Dad came home. Maybe it was a trip to the boss’ office. Maybe an incident involving the police. Maybe an ugly situation with the spouse.
In my new book The Water Castle, fifteen-year-old Gina did – and kept doing – something her mother Nikki seriously disapproved of.
Gina checked the time on her phone. Barely 4pm. Plenty of time to get home for dinner.
So much to do, so much to do!
She ran up the steps and shoved the dress into her backpack. The nightly routine would go off as usual. Take-out dinner, X-box for her younger brother Kyle, computer for Nikki…
A quick day at school and then back to the tower.
She grabbed the bike from wall.
I wonder how many dresses Stacie has. And where can I learn a really good poem?
She walked the bike down the outside stairs, contemplating lyrics and what she might wear tomorrow that wouldn’t be so stifling. The heat had been unbearable
“There she is.”
Gina stopped, nearly dropping her bike. Her mother stood in front of her, arms folded, face in a scowl.
Well, we’ve all been in a situation like that, right? Think about when it happened to you. The embarrassment, the awful waiting. And while you don’t really need that first part of The Water Castle to understand the dread shown in the second part, I included it so you’d have some perspective on my story. How do these characters feel? What’s going through their minds?
Here’s one of my takes on dread in the book (there are others):
Nikki spoke through clenched teeth. “Get on that bike and get your butt home as fast as you can pedal.”
That was it.
That was enough.
Gina didn’t say a word, just swallowed the giant lump in her throat and got on her bike. Aunt Sam and Nikki followed in the car.
The ride home seemed to take days. Gina tried to think through scenarios to prepare herself, but they all blurred together. She didn’t know what her mom would do. She didn’t dare think it.
All she knew was how happy she had been a short while ago. It seemed like a different life, erased from reality like a big wave washes away a sand castle. The fear of her mother’s wrath was so large it overwhelmed everything else.
Gina rode up to her house, going around back by the patio, and leaned her bike against Kyle’s. She waited a moment, not even sure if she was supposed to go around front or be let in.
Car doors a slammed in the driveway. She waited to hear some kind of indication of what to do from noises at the garage door or the front door, but none came.
When she heard the front door open and close, she knew it was time. She pulled her house key out of her pocket and let herself inside.
The house was dim, since no one had been home to turn on any lights. The trapped air smelled a little musty, because the air conditioning hadn’t been running yet, either. All that would have been done by Gina by now, typically, in the bright after-school sun, and not the sidelong shadows of the coming evening.
Gina stood in the living room while car keys clanked on the dresser in the master bedroom. Aside from that, the ticking of the kitchen clock was the only noise in the house. Bits of dust floated by in the sunbeams as the willow tree swayed outside. Green and bright out there, dim and stale in here.
When her mother emerged from the bedroom, her eyes were tired. Older than before. Worn down. But she still had the look.
Nikki glanced at Gina and nodded to the couch. “Have a seat.”
The position Nikki took would say a lot. Side by side on the couch would mean compassion. Sitting at her desk would be authoritarian. The love seat might actually imply a pardon.
Aunt Sam appeared in the hallway, her hands in her pockets. Her expression said volumes. She looked worried.
Nikki stared out the window while Gina went to the couch. She lowered herself slowly onto it as though the very act of sitting incorrectly might make her mother even more upset with her than she already was.
Courtroom theatrics were a tool of Nikki’s employers, though, not her. She would be blunt.
Watching her mother, Gina folded her hands in her lap, looking for any signs of what was about to come.
Now, this is a first draft of The Water Castle, so it is lacking things, but you get the idea. In this challenge, you are setting a stage, not writing a whole scene with a beginning, middle and end. (You can write a whole scene if you want to, but take your 500 words of dread and pull them out for us.)
If you don’t wanna write your own – because you’re busy, or shy, or whatever – then do this. Enhance my scene. Where would additional words and emotions play well in the piece above?
You’re not gonna hurt anybody’s feelings. Part of writing is editing. And putting your stuff out there for the world to see (and possibly not like). Have a whack at it. See where YOU think the scene needs a dash of salt – or a major overhaul. Rewrite the whole thing if you want. That’s what a Flash Fiction Challenge is; there really are no rules.
Either way, put your emotions on the page and have your character show it all to us.
BLEED into the typewriter, as ol’ Hemingway used to say, allegedly. (He gets a lot of attribution; who knows if he said any of it?)
Or make something up. Here’s your random character generator. THIS is your victim who is involved in the scene that will paint the walls with DREAD:
Use the random number generator HERE to place your character into a setting using the list below:
- parking lot at night
- big, open office with lots of people
- aboard a lifeboat from a cruise liner
- street corner in a bad part of town
- free pick – you get to pick your own from the list (but not number 10)
- doctor’s office
- outside a burning or burned down house
- morgue waiting room at 2am
- abandoned shack in the woods in Fall
- wild card – make up your own setting or use one you like in the above list
NO CHEATING! One spin of the wheel of fate for your character, one for your setting!
You know the drill:
- Use the Random Character Generator to pick your character
- and the Random Number Generator to get your setting
- Write a scene up to 500 words AND NO MORE, that is obviously written using both the character, setting and this week’s emotion. (No, it won’t be emotions the Flash Fiction Challenge from now on. They’re gonna get much harder.)
- Or rewrite mine, above.
- Post your story below in the comments with a link to your blog where
- You also post it on your blog (No blog? Just copy paste the whole thing here.)
- Mention ME and
- what the heck this is so people don’t think you’ve gone schizo
- Please read and comment on OTHER people’s entries. That makes it fun. Allegedly.
- You have one week. Noon Friday a week from this posting date, sunny, warm Tampa, Florida, USA time. (Today’s it’s 36 degrees, so not so warm, but still plenty sunny.)
Get to it!
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.