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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Writing Challenge--Parisian Edition--Your Responses!

From Kate of I Just Want To Sit Here And Read:

They hadn’t seen each other since Paris, almost two years ago.
Francois gripped his coat tighter around him. He looked down. His fingernails were turning blue again. Great, he thought. He scanned the bridge, looking for her. I wonder if she looks any different.
The sky was turning an ominous grey color and Francois gave himself another ten minutes and then he was out of there. On the south end of the bridge, he finally spotted her.
“Clarice,” he breathed.
Clarice was the typical Frenchwoma, dressed head to toe in black. Her heel clicks echoed across the bridge and deep into Francois’ heart. Her eyes never left his. A hint of a smile played on her lips, making him grin goofily. He stepped toward her, insistent on closing the distance between them as soon as possible. Clarice reached behind her and appeared to scratch her back before returning her hand to the front and reaching for his.
Francois saw that Clarice’s eyes were rimmed with red. He lifted her into a hug, wishing that he could dry those tears forever. “Clarice, it has been too-,” he started to say.
A ringing in his ears escalated to a full pounding. He looked around at the empty bridge then back at Clarice. “What-” he said. Clarice backed away as Francois fell to his knees clutching his stomach. He pulled back his hand to see red, sticky liquid pouring from his body. He looked up at the sobbing Clarice, and managed a tiny smirk. He saw the glint of metal as she returned the weapon to its resting place behind her jacket. At last he managed to whisper, “Touche.”

Love, love, love. I love how Kate tells a complete story, and I love how she subverts our expectations of what is going to happen when Clarice and Francois meet. And the fact that she manages to actually "touche" in a literal sense? Hilarious.

From William White, proofreader extraordinaire, of William White Books:

We hadn’t seen each other since Paris almost two years ago. I had hoped I would never see her again. It had only been one night but in the hundreds of long nights since I found myself unable to erase her from my memory.
I had been in Paris during a layover flight from Cyprus on my way back to the United States. In those days I flew the pond quite often. I planned upon visiting my old friend Nicoli and enjoying several bottles from his families’ impressive vineyard. Unfortunately Nicoli had been called away suddenly to attend the funeral of the Ukrainian Prime Minister, killed in a train crash two days before. With no one else to call upon that evening I took up residence in the airport’s ‘Salon Exutive’ and resigned myself to an evening alone watching television at the hotel. It was during my second cocktail that a fellow traveler, a somewhat inebriated Irishman, engaged me with pictures of his rather large family. While the man was enlightening me as to his reasons for naming all the male children after long dead Irish saints I happened to look up from the photos and see her.
As she walked into my life.

One of the great things about this piece, other than the elegance of the prose, is the way it immediately engages the attention by offering a full, well-rounded sense of world and character: the protagonist is a traveler, someone who rubs elbows with the high and mighty; it seems as though we are stepping into a narrative that is already fully imagined and realized.

From Lizzy Douitsis, "Shoebox Memories"

Covered in dust and hidden from sight under my bed was a shoebox of old things I could neither bring myself to look at nor force myself to throw out, things from my past. An old faded candle, a small braided basket, a wilted blue flower, these weren’t just things. These were memories, memories that caused a sharp ache in my heart whenever I thought of them, which is why I kept them shut away. Out of sight out of mind is what my mother liked to say. But she was wrong. I couldn’t escape them.
A steaming, home cooked meal set on the small round table by the window with the moonshine seeping through the dark night, and the candle, burning bright and orange on the centerpiece reflecting the light of his deep, dark eyes; eyes that always sent shivers down my spine; eyes that I could have stared into forever. Curled up together on his living room couch by the flickering light of the TV, a gentle hum in the background, all focus intent on the small braided basket we were making, that he was showing me how to make. A basket to put my car keys in when I got home because I was always losing them. Lying down in a field in a mess of green grass and tangles of rainbow coloured flowers, staring up at the sky and making pictures in the clouds, whispering that we would never be apart, him pressing a soft blue flower into my hand and telling me that my eyes were the exact same color, except prettier.
Things, memories, shoeboxes, my heart beat faster as tears pooled in my eyes. We hadn’t seen each other since Paris, almost two year ago. If I could have stuffed that memory into the shoebox I would have, but I couldn’t. I only wished I could forget. Waking up in the middle of the night listening to him breathing beside me, gallivanting through the streets, hand in hand, lying on the hood of his car and staring up at the stars, seeing all the sights of Paris, we acted like a pair of silly tourists who had no clue what they were doing but having a great time doing it. Those were the best times of my life. And then there was the last memory, the one that changed everything one bleak August night. Screaming, crying, fighting, everything exploding and falling, and coming undone, feeling like my life was shattering in front of my very eyes, and there was nothing I could do about it, the night I lost Julian forever. I thought my heart would stop.
And now I was going to see him again, and I didn’t know what to think because until now I had kept all of our memories hidden away in a shoebox, pretending that they didn’t exist, that they had never happened at all. But my efforts to erase the past were useless because I still thought of him every time I saw a candle, or a basket, or a flower. Julian was alive in my memory, just as alive now as he was the summer we spent together two years ago. And I still felt the exact same way. A shoebox could never contain my feelings. Because despite everything that had happened, despite everything that had gone wrong, despite even the scattered remains of my broken heart, I was still in love with Julian Johnson.

I love this piece because Lizzy riffed on the prompt--she did not actually begin with the sentence "We had not seen each other since...", but she allowed it to inform and shape the rest of the piece. Also, Lizzy and I suffer from the same tendency toward getting carried away by our writing and doubling our intended word count! I feel you, L.


From Zoe MacDonald, "Two Years Later"

We hadn’t seen each other since Paris, almost two years ago now, even though it seems like a lifetime. In two years, so much had happened and neither of us were the scared teenagers that lived in the small back road apartment with five other high school sophomores. When we were fifteen, the city was the only place either of us wanted to be, with its sparkling lights and cobblestone streets. Then we turned sixteen and more important things came along and we were back home in our respective countries.
Now we were eighteen, and wiser and had moved on.
Then I saw his face, through the crowd. Out of the hundreds of people on a train platform in Toronto, he was the only face I saw.
After two years, he looked completely different but at the same time, just like the boy I had once loved.
His hair wasn’t in pencil thin dreads, instead fell into curls at the back of his neck. He was no longer trying to be a hippy, so instead of the army pants with flowers and peace signs or torn baby blue jeans, he was wearing a pair of dark pegged skinny jeans and a v-neck t-shirt. His eyes were still the same blue that took my breath away. Even from across the platform I could tell that.
That’s when he met my eyes.
“Caroline,” he said and smiled, making his way over to me.
“Hey Free,” I said softly, looking at the ground, unable to look him in his eyes. “How are you?”
“I’m good,” he said then looked down to my empty hand. “Where’s Henry?”
I bit my lip and held back tears debating whether or not to tell him the truth.

There are two things that really struck me about this submission: 1. That Zoe accurately captured a phenomena I have always noticed when I am in love with somebody--that no matter where you are, in how crowded an environment, you can always seem to locate the person you are in love with immediately. It's passion radar! I love, too, how she named her character Free; it's so unusual, it makes you want to know more about him.

From Paige:

We hadn't seen each other since our trip to Paris, and that was almost two years ago. He stayed away from me, as I stayed away from him. Our trip was fantastic, and that was the way that we wanted to keep it. We broke it off on the plane home from our trip, just so that that would be the last memory we had with each other... keeping it light and airy. My name is Amber Daniels, and his name was Stephen Reimann and he was the love of my life. It sounds weird I know, but we were still very passionately in love when we left Paris when we broke it off in the airplane. You see, Stephen had a brain tumor. Just a few short days after we got back home from our trip to Paris, he died in his parents house as peacefully as possible. I've heard the last words on his lips were my name and Paris.
It brings tears to my eyes to remember it, but as cliché as it is... we will always have Paris. It was his last love-filled, romantic weeks on earth... and it was the best time I've ever had. We didn't talk about his tumor, we didn't talk about sadness or cry in front of each other... we were just happily in each others company. We told each other things that we never wanted anyone to know, because we wanted to know about each other inside and out before he left me. I didn't want him to leave me here alone, but I knew he had no choice. We laughed until we gasped for air and our sides ached, we cuddled until we fell asleep, and we talked until we were hoarse. I love you Stephen Reimann, and you'd better be waiting with flowers at the Pearly gates for me.

Paige did something here for which I have absolutely no talent--she wrote a "short short"! (A very short short story; typically, between 100-500 words). Her submission has a full arc and actually tells the complete story of a relationship!

From Stephanie Sanders:

"Hello my love." Came a horribly familiar voice.
I slowly turned around and there he was. My worst nightmare. The last time I saw him he was covered in my blood.
My knees felt week and I didn't know if I had the strength to keep them steady. He smiled that same dark smile that he had the day he tried to kill me.
I thought I had escaped, I thought it was over. As he reached for my hand, I knew it would be soon.
"We haven’t seen each other since Paris, almost two years ago. I‘ve missed you," he said as our hands met. I felt a tingle run up my arm as he touched me. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, everything that I had worked for to get past the memory of him was gone.
All there was in the world was him and his hand upon mine.
I couldn’t bring myself to run or to scream. I was lost in his murderous eyes. He led me to the ally behind the coffee shop, and still I did nothing. I was tired of running, tired of the nightmares, tired of what my life had become. I looked into his eyes and I knew this was it. My fight was over. I was over.

Ooooh, LOVE IT!! So scary--I'm dying to know what happens next, and I love the way Steph inserted the prompt in dialogue and went in a completely unexpected direction.

8 comments:

Kate said...

I love these prompts! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)

williamwhitebooks said...

What fun! It's like being in a small writing class. Thanks Lauren.
-William

Steph said...

These are all great!! Thanks for posting mine!

Audrey said...

These are wonderful! I feel like I'm learning even though I didn't participate. Love it!

Stinging Nettles said...

These are so cool! I just read your book, Before i fall, and I loved it! I was wondering, are there any tips you'd give a 13 year old writer like me?
Hannah

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