Tag Archives: Murder

Friday Fiction – A Rare Kindness

For the last few weeks, my Friday Fiction entries have been a bit of fun – a nod to our beautiful hostess, Rochelle, and an admission from the heart of a struggling procrastinator. But this week, I wanted to go back to real story-writing. Then I saw the prompt from Erin Leary and it made me think of a couple of things. Initially, it reminded me of the third FF photo I ever responded to, but then it made me feel much bleaker and darker, helped no doubt by the fact I’m currently reading Cornell Woolrich’s ‘Four Novella’s of Fear’ and getting back in touch with my dark side.

It was the dark side that won out, and I’d love to hear her well (or not) this story works for you.

copyright-erin-leary

A Rare Kindness

The weather is so rarely kind. But when I passed the spot next morning, I was pleasantly surprised. The rain in the night had fallen on saturated ground, there and upstream, and the field beside the road was now just more river. No evidence of my labours remained.

Tomorrow, perhaps, or next week, or next month, when the waters recede, her grave might be visible. The water might even reopen it and free her body the way I freed her soul. But for now, my crime escapes detection. And tomorrow I will be far enough away to do the same.

Advertisements

41 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Inspiration Monday – Second Bookmark

Finally, back to InMon and what fantastic prompts this week. One of them, second bookmark, reminded me of this picture that’s been doing the rounds on facebook etc recently. In addition, I’ve talked to a lot fo my fellow writers recently about editing and it seems the highs and lows of pride and doubt are fairly universal. And so my story below was born. I’d love to hear what you think, if you ‘get’ it and if you like it.

***WARNING: Mild offensive language***

Second bookmark

Warren picked up the pad of sticky notes and peeled one off. The only other one he’d used so far flashed at him from the second page of the print-out. He knew exactly what it highlighted: a piece of epic description about Briggs’ descent from low self-esteem into madness. He was no longer certain it was any good, but he’d thought it was at the time, back when he was expecting to need pads and pads of sticky notes.

45 pages further in, it was still the only flag on the manuscript.

He stopped, the single sticky note held in mid-air, somewhere between the pad it came from and the wedge of paper he was going to stick it to. His mind flashed back to the image on Facebook where he’d got the idea: George R R Martin’s Fire and Ice series, with every death labeled by a luminous sticky note. He’d liked the look of it. But his manuscript looked nothing like that picture. And Warren wasn’t flagging deaths. He was flagging passages of excellence. Places he didn’t feel needed radical editing. Parts he was really proud of.

“Parts,” he muttered with a low chuckle. “The part.” The only part so far that hadn’t made him want to throw the entire thing out of the window and sit with his head in his hands rocking and crying and wondering why he’d wasted all those hours on writing this steaming pile of crap.

But now there was a second brilliant passage. He read it through again. This was where his hero, Castor, and his villain, Briggs, came face to face for the first time. It was the scene that had made him want to write the novel in the first place. It was a denouement of sorts. It was the part when he’d really felt as he wrote it, like he inhabited the characters. Briggs especially, who was only the villain at this stage and would later turn out to be the one in the right.

He held his breath as Castor opened the door and saw the whole of New York City set out below him; as Castor searched the penthouse apartment for the man he’d thought was dead; as Briggs – hiding in the shadows of the perfectly-appointed kitchen, his hand resting on the knife block – watched his old friend and sometime rival complete a circuit of the main open plan living / dining room…

The sticky note gradually descended as Warren lowered his arm. It was all too melodramatic. And that New York penthouse was such a cliché. At least he could have chosen a more interesting setting: a city no-one ever used, or a different path for Briggs’ life that hadn’t left him a millionaire.

He put the note back on the pad. It didn’t stick properly and the slight angle it made to the rest annoyed him. He’d drunk so much coffee while writing that now he was on a detox, but the lack of caffeine made him tired and irritable and he could smell it wafting through the apartment. Warren prowled into the kitchen.

“How’s the editing?” asked his wife, her fingers wrapped around a mug. Warren’s eyes flashed to the knife block, then back to her.

3 Comments

Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing

Friday Fiction – Justification

Time for another FF story – prompted this week by this photo and led by the inestimable Ms Wisoff-Fields. A few notes and thoughts on process follow the story for those who are interested, but you are welcome to just read the story itself. Critique and comments are always welcome.

gnarled-tree

Justification

“She was beautiful. Gnarled, craggy and deformed, but absolutely beautiful.” He sounded wistful.

“So why do it?”

“It was her time.”

“Euthanasia? You’re telling me this was an act of kindness?”

“In the rainforest, there is so little space, light and nutrients, one tree has to die before another can grow. Every death is a rebirth. A sacrifice of one generation for the next.”

Sparrow had heard enough, she knocked on the door and waited for the guard to arrive.

“Sick bastard,” she muttered as he closed the door behind them.

“Most of them are, ma’am. Most of them are.”

****

When I first looked at this picture, a few ideas sprung immediately to mind – the idea of a crooked family tree, for example, full of dark places and flaws, or an old man remembering all the scenes from his life that the tree had seen. But when I actually started writing, this is the story which popped out.

Until half-way through, I hadn’t actually decided what this story was. I thought it was about a farmer who had cut down a tree because he didn’t think it would be happy living in the middle of a housing estate when the land went to be developed. And then… well, I don’t really know what happened, but we ended up in some sort of Silence of the Lambs scene, with a murderer who believes his own justifications and a still-innocent agent trying to make sense of him. After that, her name was the only thing left to decide, and then a bit (a lot) of tweaking to cut 147 words down to 100.

I actually think any or all of the others might be interesting to write, but it was hard enough to get this one down to 100 words and I think they would all need to be longer. Maybe I’ll come back to them later this week, if I get a bit of time. ***Update: Two other stories  from this prompt can be found here

55 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fiction – Counsel for the Defense

It’s Friday again! OK, it’s not, but it’s Friday Fiction day, and that’s good enough for me. This week’s photo prompt is courtesy of Doug MacIlroy via the ever-awesome(1) Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. I had an immediate idea to write from the horse’s pov, but in the end that just seemed too obvious. This story, written in my head whilst trying to make Sebastian sleep, didn’t have any interesting edits in the writing phase (a few cuts and polishes, but nothing worthy of interest), but a few notes follow it regarding my thoughts during the creation phase.

Feedback is always welcome – good or bad.

thirsty

Counsel For The Defense(2)

Genre: Mainstream Fiction **COARSE LANGUAGE WARNING**

“Gentlemen of the jury, my client’s accused of the most heinous crime: murder! The prosecution(3) say that he deliberately set a trap to kill our neighbor(3a), Farmer Doug(4). Witnesses will testify they saw him pouring water on the ground by the electric fence. The prosecution will ask you to believe that he then toppled the fence – despite the obvious risk to himself – in order to electrify that pool. Finally, they will ask you surmise that, knowing Doug had a heart condition, my client lured him into that pool and to his untimely death.”

“Sit down, Perry fuckin’ (4a) Mason, you’re drunk!”

****

Notes:

1) My husband has threatened to kill the next person he hears over-using this all-American compliment. I’m relying on someone else having met this fate before he gets round to reading this post!

2) It sticks in my craw to spell it this way – in England it would unquestionably be Defence. I feel this is an American story, though, and as such I’ve tried to Americanize the language. On which note, do let me know if you spot anything else “British” in this one.

3) I toyed with the idea of using more slang in this piece generally. For a drunk guy this speaker is very eloquent, but I eventually justified it to myself as him being a bit of a fan of crime shows and therefore knowing the jargon. One place in particular I considered slang was in his description of the prosecution. I wondered to myself whether he might refer to them as “the cops” or some other police slang. Then I realised he could call them “the pigs” (although I’ve no idea of the geographic authenticity of that) which made me laugh, and I almost used it. But then I thought it would all sound a bit Animal Farm, so in the end, the Prosecution remained.

3a) Thanks to moondustwriter for Americanizing my spelling.

4) Sorry, Doug. He needed a name. Think yourself lucky, in the long version of this story in my head, Farmer Doug was a cruel and spiteful man who deserved everything he got!

4a) Thanks to various commenters for Americanizing my slang.

72 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fiction – The Sculpture

This week’s FF prompt shows that many writers are multi-talented. Claire Fuller’s photo is of her own sculpture. As ever, other responses can be found through Rochelle’s site.

For me, this one was a bit of a challenge. I had this idea, but I couldn’t think of a way to squash it down to anything like 100 words. It felt like a whole novel. The muse also kept shouting “Cicero”, which is not helpful. Cicero’s story is completely unconnected to the one I wanted to tell, and I couldn’t spare any words on incorporating it, or even on adding a cat called Cicero (Don’t you think it’s a brilliant name for a cat?). So the editing process was a lot less smooth this week, as those who read the previous drafts will see.

I had also challenged myself this week to try to go back to my roots and make this more of a story and less a description, which I feel like the last few have been veering towards. AND I wanted to see what I could do with Rochelle’s motto that the picture is “inspiration not illustration”. Lots of ambitions; I’d love to hear if you think I met any of them!

copyright-claire-fuller

The Sculpture

Lois dropped the chisel into the sink and ran the taps. Warm water flowed over her skin, revealing the fingerprint bruises and historic scars which mottled her arms.

Her latest work, the two-faced man, lay on the work-bench. Cold and lifeless. It was a grotesque vision – too many mouths, slashed into pale white; too many unseeing eyes staring at her.

As a sculptor, she knew that the work of a chisel could never be changed or undone, but this time she felt no remorse. There had been no mistake. And blood, she found, washed off more easily than plaster dust.

Version 1

Lois peeled dusty sleeves from her arms, revealing fingerprint bruises and peeling scabs. She hardly looked at them, concentrating instead on scrubbing at her hands.

“Cicero left his wife for a girl,” she said to noone. “Two-faced bastard.”

Warm water rushed into the sink, washing away the fine white powder which had coated her fingers.

“It seems he might have loved her in the beginning, but

[I stopped here. The story was getting long and I wasn’t getting anywhere!]

Version 2

Lois dropped the chisel into the sink and ran the taps. Warm water flowed over her skin, revealing again the fingerprint bruises and historic scars which mottled her arms. A sculptor, she knew that the work of a chisel could never be changed or undone, but this time she felt no remorse, no mistake. And blood, it turned out, washes off more easily than plaster dust.

 [This was the nub of what I wanted to say, so having gone too long, I thought I’d get it down and then see how much space there was for explanations. And for Cicero! 66 words down, only 37 to go]

Version 3

Lois dropped the chisel into the sink and ran the taps. Warm water flowed over her skin, revealing again the fingerprint bruises and historic scars which mottled her arms.

Her latest work, the two-faced man, lay on the work-bench. It was a grotesque vision – too many wide laughing mouths, slashed into pale white. Cold and lifeless.

A sculptor, she knew that the work of a chisel could never be changed or undone, but this time she felt no remorse, no mistake. And blood, it turned out, washes off more easily than plaster dust.

[At 93 words, this was close to what I wanted, but a few places weren’t quite right. The changes from this to the final version reflect a few added words – in particular the addition of the eyes and making “no mistake” into a sentence of its own – but also polishing of the image. The idea that the mouths were “laughing” seemed incongruous unless the man is still mocking her, and there wasn’t space to show that to my satisfaction so I ditched it. Washes became washed – there is a grammatical argument for either, but I preferred the latter in the end because it felt less like the author creeping in.

The ‘eyes’ sentence took a lot of thinking about. I wanted it to work for either interpretation, but while I could imagine slashes looking like extra mouths, I wasn’t convinced that the attack would have created extra eyes. And then I realised a way that two eyes could still be too many. She’s frightened of him – even in death.]

50 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Friday Fictioneers – A Reminder

This week’s FF photo is Rochelle’s own – taken from the cover of her short story anthology. It’s suitably eclectic for that purpose, so I’m intrigued as to what the fictioneers make of it. My response is below, together with previous editions again. Comments, critique and criticism all welcome.

Genre: Police Procedural!

menora

The Reminder

“What’s the picture, Guv?”

“That was taken at the first scene I ever investigated. Old Mr Lewinski killed himself and…”

“You keep the picture to remind you of the case?”

“I keep the picture to remind me that even criminals have their own human stories. Motivations that make sense in their own heads.”

“But … you said suicide?”

“Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. Old Lewinski raised the kid. See those crayons?”

“Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

“Sergeant, it was a murder-suicide. The kid was Lewinski’s first victim.”

 

Version 1:

“What’s the picture, Guv?”

“First scene I ever investigated. Old Mr Lewinski killed himself and…”

“You keep the picture to remind you of the case?”

“I keep the picture to remind me that even criminals have human stories.”

“But … you said suicide?”

“Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. The kid survived. See those crayons?”

“Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

“Sergeant, it was a murder suicide. The kid was Lewinski’s first victim.”

[At 84 words, quite a bit too short. I decided to go a lot longer for v2, then cut back, as I find it easier to cut than extend word by word.]

Version 2:

“What’s the picture, Guv?” asked Detective Sergeant Briggs, picking up the framed photograph from his boss’s desk. He’d been meaning to ask for years, and finally plucked up the courage this morning when the old man seemed in a talkative mood. [The easiest way to add words to a dialogue scene like this, is to add narrative. This is the background I’d thought was going on anyway, so I simply put it down on paper]

“That was taken at the first scene I ever investigated. Old Mr Lewinski killed himself and…” [Another way to add words is to cut out the colloquial shorthand of the senior officer.]

“You keep the picture to remind you of the case?” A menorah, a black and white photograph and an old telephone – off the hook as if someone had tried to call for help. [Again, narrative. I would have liked to keep the description of the photograph. I fought myself to keep this in the final edit, but ultimately, it didn’t make the grade, because having cut the rest back to dialogue, this bit of description stuck out.]

“I keep the picture to remind me that even criminals have human stories. Reasons, motivations that make sense in their own worlds.” [There’s a saying “Nobody ever does anything wrong by their own view of the world.” I needed a reason for the senior officer to keep the picture, but also I suspect that saying – fascinating in its own right – would be all the more potent to a murder detective.]

“But … you said suicide?” Something didn’t add up. [If I was adding narrative, I needed some in this second half of the piece, but I was very glad when I could take this out again. It feels very hard-boiled Detective story-ish to me.]

“Lewinski’s depression started when his daughter died in childbirth five years before. The kid survived her. See those crayons?” [Given the ending, “the kid survived” is confusing, so I added her. It still didn’t read right though, hence the change of focus in the final version.]

“Oh God, he was there when the old man did it?”

“Sergeant, it was a murder-suicide. The kid was Lewinski’s first victim.”

34 Comments

Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

Inspiration Monday – Back in the saddle

 

Thanks for bearing with me during my break. I’m hoping to slide back into frequent postings as Sebastian and I settle into our new life together, and I thought I’d start with a contribution to Inspiration Monday this week. It’s not my favourite piece – I am slightly dissatisfied with it as it stands, and if I have chance over the day I might come back and tweak it (or start all over again), but I wanted to get something put up, so here’s the first draft.

As ever, I’d love to hear what you think – good or bad.

The End of the World

The sky was bright and amber, the setting sun glowing  like a blazing fire consuming the city. It reflected in office windows and blinded commuters on the freeway. To Owen, lifting his head briefly from the latest comic to land in his mailbox, it looked like the end of the world, and he glanced over his shoulder to look for the alien spacecraft bringing forth the apocalypse.

But there were no aliens, and the world was no more ending today than it had any other autumn evening in the age of mankind. The world would keep turning and the sun would keep burning and comics would keep arriving as long as there was money in his father’s account to pay the subscriptions.

Distracted now from his fantasies, he stood up and walked over to the armchair where his father’s body lay slumped, as though he had just fallen asleep after a long argument with his son.

“I’ll have to move you eventually, Dad. I need that space for when the back copies of 2000 AD arrive.”

8 Comments

Filed under Inspiration Monday, Writing