No Two Writers


Several years ago, I was invited to join a group of people who were working on a shared story.  The characters were already created, and the basic plot had been laid out, and we were supposed to claim a character and run with his or her part of the tale.  I leaped wildly into the fray, and was having a wonderful time writing my character, until one afternoon when another member posted her portion of the story, which included my character.  His dialogue was all wrong, his behavior was odd and his motivations seemed to have been turned upside down.  I complained, and was told that as long as another writer didn’t kill my character, everything else was fair game.  I didn’t write another word in that world.  Not that I was flouncing away…rather the opposite.  I didn’t know my character anymore.  The goals I’d had in mind for him weren’t going to jive with what the other writer was thinking, and we’d have probably spent the whole time pulling him in different directions.  That was the first time I truly understood that no two writers see a story idea the same way.

Think about all the romances you’ve ever heard of.  Generally they’re only interesting as stories if there’s some family issue or social problem to keep the lovers from their happiness.  You won’t ever read a romance in which boy meets girl, they fall in love and get married with the happy support of everyone around them and live happily ever after.  It’s lovely in real life, but boring as hell in fiction.  We want a little pain and conflict so the love was earned.  Just like Elizabeth and Darcy…. except Jane Austen wrote them already.  So does that mean no one can ever write another romance?  Of course not.  The trick is doing it your way, in your voice, and remembering that your story may have similiarities, but it’s still your story.

Today I have an assignment for you all.  I’m going to write a short paragraph, and I want you to come up with what you think comes next.  Don’t worry about what you think I might have been thinking.  Don’t try to build on other peoples’ tries.  Write what comes to mind (a paragraph at most, please) and have fun.  You might even find yourself coming up with a whole story out of it.  Ready?  Here we go.

Raymond tried to open his eyes, blinking against the shimmering brightness above him. Was he dead? The last thing he remembered was the storm, its driving wind whipping the lake into immense waves that broke over the sides of his fishing boat like the hands of some water giant, grabbing, pulling him down into the inky cold. His cheek pressed against rough sand, and he pushed his tired body to a sitting position.


22 comments to No Two Writers

  • Or tried to. The hands beneath him no longer had fingers, but black claws separated by webbing — thin brown flesh that moved elastically when he flexed the serrated claws. His gasp came from above, from the top of his head, and his eyes widened as he looked down his body to see fifteen feet of brown-skinned, muscled torso. No legs. And one large flipper-tail.

    (Just my inner little girl and the amalgam of Flipper and warrior I wanted to be. 🙂 )

  • Well, crud. Ended up writing three…but I’ll just post the one. 😉

    His vision swam, not helped a bit by the heat-shimmer distortion rising from the hot sands as far as he could see. He touched his forehead and winced, drawing back to find his fingers caked with a mixture of blood and grit. There was no telling how long he was lying there before waking, but he could already feel the heat of the sun beating down upon his skin. He tried to stand on legs that didn’t want to cooperate and almost fell on his face again as a loud huff, accompanied by a blast of hot, fetid air, came from behind him, followed by a voice with an unfamiliar accent.

  • Cool paragraph! I actually had that dream (sort of) this morning… that I was on a boat overwhelmed by a wave.

    The heat of the sand burned Raymond’s face. The brightness flickered, danced. Not sunlight–flames. The whole beach was on fire. A few paces ahead of him, a figure stood, red skin shining in the fire light, black leathery wings rocking in the light wind. A whip waited, coiled in his hand. Turned out that “fate worse than death” was more than a boring cliche.

  • Chris Branch

    He shook his head, flinging water droplets that seemed to hang in the air before falling, too slowly, to the sand. The gravity was strange here – weaker. That much he’d become accustomed to, along with the flickering light of the exotic sun. But violent storms? They were unheard of on a terraformed world such as this. Scanning the deserted beach, Raymond saw no sign of his boat – not even wreckage – but then something gleamed at the waterline. He crawled slowly to the spot where the dark water gently lapped the sand, and when the water receded, he scrambled backward in surprise. The piscine form emerging from the lake was like no fish he’d seen – it had fins, true, and shining scales, but its eyes… they met Raymond’s with a look of what could only be intelligence – of a starkly alien variety.

  • Gradually it came back to him: the tortuous struggle to get the corpse unseen into the boat, the cautious tacking around the basalt outcrops that lined the bay, the increasing panic as the storm built, pressing the boat back to shore. He remembered the moment the hull had splintered beneath him and the horror of the boy’s garotted body floating from his grasp as they were hurled inland by the surf. It could be anywhere by now, and if it had been found… The dread settled in his guts like a stone, cold as the seawater, hard and unyielding as grief, as guilt.

  • The first thing he noticed was the shell. Sun-bleached, a faint, swirling pattern etched into its surface, it was half embedded in the sand. It looked like every other shell he had ever seen on a beach. Except that it appeared to be at least ten feet wide, its opening gaping at him like the entrance to a two-car garage.

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Water stretched to the horizon too far to be the lake he remembered, and tinted with a strange, reddish hue. He squinted upward. Light came from too many directions, as though the sky swarmed with a hundred miniature suns. Perhaps he *was* dead. Then a dark head broke the surface of the water before him, mouth gaping wide with many teeth, and the adrenaline that surged through his body told him still lived – for the moment.

  • BillSmith

    First comment, so let’s see.

    He kept his eyes shut against the light, gritting his teeth against the headache that threatened to split his skull. Opening his eyes, he squinted against the glare to see what was shining so bright. Fear. Fear was all Raymond felt as every fiber of his being screamed that what he saw was wrong, a wrong that violated the very essence of the world. Above the lake swirled a storm, swirled around what appeared to be crack in the air, and it was from this the light was coming. Raymond knew then, that he was screwed.

  • His arms trembled with little after-shocks from the effort. Half his face felt gritty, the rest tight and burned from laying in the afternoon sun. How long had he lain on the rust-red sand? And where was he? His stomach churned with apprehension. Had he escaped the Necrolian priests to the shores of Varun, or was he back where he started? Had the giant hands been his imagination or had his masters actually summoned a dead water titan to capsize his boat? Would they rather their pupil than give him freedom from the order? He needed answers. Thirsty and exhausted, Raymond delved deep to his core and brought his curse to bear.

  • Then he heard it, a song that he last heard in a distant college dormitory, “Margaritaville”. The steel drum drone rose from a small silver transitor radio next to a blonde goddess in a yellow polka-dot bikini. She wore bright pink rimmed sunglasses and sipped on a frozen concoction with a matching pink umbrella.

    When she caught sight of him on sitting on the beach, she smiled, “Care for a sip?”

  • He sat motionless — the steady roll of the waves and the shushing of the wind is only companions. He squinted against the bright sun, looking at the ocean for some feature he might recognize, but other than a few chunks of rock poking from below, he saw nothing but endless waters. With a huff, he flopped onto his back, letting the hot sand soothe his aching body, and watched the clouds drift by. That’s when he saw the two moons.

  • Unicorn

    Ooh, this is fun! Can I play too? No magic horses, I promise. (The variety is amazing. Everything from polka-dotted bikinis to morphing seal-men.)

    At first he was sure it was midday, but when he looked up, it was the moon he saw. It was closer, huger than he’d ever seen it, and he’d seen it many, many times. Sometimes it was his only companion out in the great lake when he fished at night. People shook their head at Raymond, who was able to go out on the haunted lake at midnight. Personally, he found nothing spooky about it. But there was something very strange about the moon tonight. He looked around the beach, and was gripped by fear as he realised that the beach illuminated in the rich moonlight was not a beach that he knew. That fear was nothing to the terror he felt a moment later, when the wolf’s cry rang through the silver night, bright and sudden as summer lightning.

    Whoa, I got a little bit carried away. Thanks for a fun exercise, Misty.

  • Poor Raymond … Lemme see, what else can we do to him?

    Under the weight of his body, his hands sank into something warm and ooze-like.
    He groaned
    “Oh, no. Not Again!” He said, more in resignation than anything else. He pitched forward and the ooze covered him completely.

    I agree with Unicorn, this is definitely fun!

  • I’m glad you guys are having fun! And what’s really neat is that so far, none of us have duplicated each other, but they’re all intriguing story ideas.

  • Mikaela

    This turned out a bit long, but I like it! 🙂

    The first thing he saw was the silhouette of the ship. Stranded, tossed up by the sea. Just like me. He glanced around, searching for the rest of the crew. The sea churned behind him. Swallowing a pang of sadness, he looked at the ship. Common sense told him to get over to the ship, and grab as much as he could carry. The Hestals will catch me, a part of him protested. They need to find me first. He stood up, on wobbly legs. He took a couple of steps, and stopped dead. The ship had started to hover a couple of feet above the ground. He stopped dead, and listened for the sound of chanting Caetians. The sea pounded against the turf, but he thought he heard male voices chanting.
    He glanced at the sea, for a moment tempted to jump back into it. The sound of sandals slapping against sand told him he was too late. The Caetians had already spotted him.

  • A cabin cruiser lay nearby, not his boat, but a simple tourist boat, buried on the sand. The noon-time sun beat down, leaving little protection but the shade offered by the bleached hull. Noon? He’d set course for the harbor early evening with only an empty cooler of beer and a single Sunfish. How many days had it been? It shouldn’t have taken more than three hours. He crawled to the boat, hoping to find some sign of life. There was nothing but a small white hat hooked over a cleat. And a sign hanging from the rail. S.S. Minnow, Island Charter.

  • Razziecat

    He wiped his gritty eyes on his sleeve and looked up. Above him, pale stone turrets rose into the dark sky. Cold silver light poured from the crown of the tallest tower, rippling down the cliff like water, and he shivered in stark disbelief. He knew this place. He had sworn he would die before ever setting foot here again.

  • His flannel shirt clung to him like some animal skin he was sloughing off, and the damp of his clammy jeans made the tops of his thighs one big itch. The weedy smell of the lake water filled his senses—indeed, he could taste it in his mouth, but he did not have the queasy stomach that would suggest he’d swallowed any of it. He remembered holding his breath, wondering how long he could hold his breath. And a light—no, lights, two eyes…. His mind strained after the memory as it withdrew from him, just as the light above him withdrew. He turned to look up, blinking as sand fell from his hair into his eyes, and saw—or imagined he saw—the last of the blue shimmer vanish from the sky to be replaced by the grey light of the moon behind roiling clouds.

  • Oh, wicked Misty! This is too much fun!

    “What the hell?”
    All around him on the shore, in poses natural and tortured, were people. Well, statues of people, anyway. Crystalline statues. Men, women and children. A family having a picnic; a man on his knees, hands raised, his face drawn tight in pain; a woman, face soft with joy, holding a rose. And others, so many, many others. The silence of their company was deafening even as his question hung, unanswered, in the still air.

  • Shamus

    As soon as he moved, the light moved. Ray realized that it was a flashlight aimed at his face. When he raised a weak hand to block the irritating light, the boy moved the light out of his eyes. No sun was visible, just bleak twilight – dawn or dusk, he could not tell – for as far as he could see. Raymond looked around at the beach, the ominous gray clouds remaining from the storm, the choppy water and the scattered debris on shore. He hoped that none of the flotsam was the remains of his boat, but held little hope there. It wasn’t until the boy spoke, however, that Ray realized that something was terribly wrong.

  • The earth swung this way and that and then rushed back up to catch him with a thud. Stars swam in front of his eyes and for a moment wrongness wrapped its black arms around him as his lungs fought for air. But then his lungs began to win the battle and the stars cleared away. The sky seemed very large as the sun crossed it. After a time the feeling of wrongness passed away and thoughts began to trickle back into Raymond’s head. Success curled his lips upward. He found the strength to sand and look out over the water for a few moments before turning to begin the long walk back.

  • Young_Writer

    Just as Raymond got himself upright, he felt a hand on his back. He was slammed face first into the sand. His arm was twisted behind his back. A woman’s voiced barked at him, “Who are you, and what are you doing here?” Raymond turned his face to look at her. She had iridescent skin that complimented her plae green hair. Her grip tightened. “Who are you?” The creature demanded again.
    Raymond didn’t know where the heck he was, but he had a pretty good feeling it wasn’t Earth.