Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Writer's Image Prompt!"

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There are a lot of great writers out there that tune in to this blog, but never chime in. I'm going to post a little story to go with this image prompt and hopefully some of you will feel comfortable enough to critique it. I know it's missing a lot, so please feel free to flex your "editing muscles." I don't take criticisms as personal attacks--I see them as learning tools. Have fun!

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One day a girlfriend of mine from school told me that she thought my parents looked like they must have come from Hollywood, and I cried my eyes out. However, as I watched them with their arms around each other that morning, I could see what she was talking about.

My father was a well-muscled man who stood six feet four inches tall, with an olive-colored complexion, and a head full of thick, wavy, dark brown hair. He had hooded, dark brown eyes; deep dimples on both cheeks; and a cleft chin that finished off his classic movie star looks to a tee.

By contrast, my mother was like a porcelain-skinned doll, with thick masses of golden-blonde locks that hung down past her slender waist. Her heavily-lashed, big blue eyes were a perfect compliment to her rose-colored, heart-shaped lips that were drawn into an inevitable smile whenever my father entered the room.

"It's a beautiful day for a picnic, honey," my mother had said, smiling up into my father's twinkling eyes. "Want to pack a lunch and take the kids somewhere special?"

"I think that would be a great idea, sweetheart”, he had answered. "Ruth can help you get Amanda and Miranda ready while I call the office and tell them that I won't be in today. Then we'll head out for Moon Rock Park."

I could not believe my ears! Daddy was going to play hooky from the corporate law firm that he worked in and spend the day with Mommy, my twin and me. That also meant that my mother was taking time off from writing her next book, which was something she almost never did. My heart was racing so fast that I felt dizzy as I ran up the stairs to tell my sister. The horrible butterflies that I always got in my stomach at the mention of Moon Rock Park had returned, but I had decided that it was best to keep that to myself.

"Miranda! Hurry up and get dressed! Daddy is taking us on a picnic," I said, pulling her bedcovers down to the bottom of the bed, which in turn caused her to shiver and dive back under the covers again.

Miranda always liked to stay in bed until Ruth, our mother's office assistant, came and helped her to get dressed. Ruth was quite a bit younger than our mother, but she was still too old to play with us, so we just settled for thinking of her as our aunt or maybe even an honorary older sister, because she was part of the family now. I didn't let her help me get dressed anymore. I thought it was high time we should be getting ready by ourselves! After all, we were seven years old; we weren't babies anymore!

Presently, there was a knock at our bedroom door. "Come on in” I said.

Ruth entered and smiled sweetly at me. "Good morning, Mandy," she said, as she kissed me on the cheek. She always smelled of vanilla, and her happiness to see us appeared to be genuine. "Is Randy awake yet?"

"Yes, and the little mole has been waiting for you," I answered in a sing-songy voice. Ruth smiled as her ritual with Randy began.

An hour later, we were well on our way, having left Ruth in charge of our home, while she also finished editing and typing rewrites, the station wagon was loaded with goodies, and as Randy colored in her coloring book, I contented myself by looking out the window, watching the world fly by.

My butterflies were gradually getting stronger the closer we got to the park. The doctor they had sent me to for counselling said that, even though I had always loved picnics, I must resent all the attention that Miranda was getting during our family get-togethers, to the point that it made me anxious, but that wasn't it at all! I tried to tell him that it had something to do with Moon Rock Park. He wouldn't listen to me, but I know I'm right!

"Are you positive that it's safe for us to go to the park, David?" Mother had whispered to my father.

"According to the newspapers, those disappearances were hoaxes”, he answered.

"Yes, but you know how our Government is. They cannot be trusted to give the full story, can they? she asked.

"It's so hard to tell. The Government's findings are so thorough and believable, yet that family's story about their loved ones' vanishing was so compelling. I'm just not sure what to believe, Cathy," he said, frowning.

"Maybe we should take them somewhere else, and then we won't have to worry if the reports were truthful or not", she replied.

"And disappoint the twins when that's their favorite place to go in the entire world?" he asked. "We've taken the girls to that park dozens of times and nothing bad has ever happened. But, hey, if you want some headline-seeking news hound who sees aliens behind every tree to run our lives, then..." His voice trailed off, and then he glared at my mother. I was shocked at how mean he could be sometimes.

"I didn't mean it in that way, David," my mother said, as she retrieved her embroidered handkerchief from her purse. With small, dainty motions, she dabbed at the tears that had stolen their way down her flawless cheeks, plus the ones that were threatening to spill from her huge, azure eyes, while my father fought hard to keep his gaze on the road instead of on her exquisite profile, like he had wanted.

"I'm sorry, honey," he pleaded. "I knew exactly what you meant. It's just that it's so seldom that I have a day off with you and the girls, and I wanted to make it memorable, if we can." He reached over, squeezed her hand, and then they smiled at each other as if in some kind of secret agreement.

I listened closely while they talked some more because I did not want to miss a thing, when all of a sudden, I had to blink my eyes, then rub them for good measure. My mother and father were fading in and out of view, right before my eyes! I held my breath, then grabbed for Randy's hand out of fear. When Randy turned to look up at me, I let out the breath I wasn't aware that I had still been holding and asked, "Can you see me alright?"

"Sure I can, why?" she asked, perplexed.

"I was just checking, that's all”, I answered, with my heart beating so fast I thought it would explode right out of my chest. My butterflies were doing somersaults, and I knew something wasn't right, but I was afraid if I mentioned it to Mommy or Daddy, they might call off the picnic. I closed my eyes to calm myself.

Within minutes, we had arrived at the park. My mother turned to look at us from her place in the front seat and said, "We're here, girls."

While everyone else chitchatted happily, I looked around to see if anything else looked odd or seemed out of place. I felt a cold chill run up and down my spine as I turned to look back at my family who were all seated on the picnic blanket, setting out our lunch fixings. It was as if I were looking at a snapshot of from our album that I had never seen before; it was hard to tear my eyes away. I had thought that I was feeling strange because I was so hungry, so I mistakenly dismissed the warning signals that I had been getting throughout the day, and when I thought back on it later, I regretted not listening to my instincts.

"Don't wander too far off, Amanda”, my mother had called to me. "Lunch is almost ready."

"I won't, Mother”, I had answered. Then as I turned, I saw the most beautiful wild flowers imaginable, off in the distance, across the road that lead into the park. All of the sudden, I was overcome with an overwhelming sense that I had to have those flowers right then!

I scurried across the pavement, with the sole thought of grabbing those pretty posies and the joy of being able to present them to my mother as a gift. When I bent over to pick them for her, I realized, just as it did at Christmastime, that each breath I took looked like a puffy smoke-cloud in the air, yet the sun still shone brightly. What was happening?

The butterflies in my stomach were instantly replaced by a low humming that frightened me, and that I did not understand. I quickly turned back around, because I wanted my mommy. I started to run, and when I at long last looked up, I saw that everyone had disappeared!

"Mommy? Daddy? Where are you?" Tears were streaming down my cheeks, and it was difficult for me to see. "Randy? Are you here?" But I knew that she was gone, too, because I couldn't feel her presence anymore, in that special way that twins do. Something had come and taken my family from me. As I scanned the area, I noticed that they had also taken our car; our picnic blanket; our goodies; it looked like they had taken just about everything; and they had even taken the trees. And now I was all alone.

I sobbed and sobbed for the longest time, until I swallowed hard over the lump that had formed in my throat. With a tight grip on Mother’s flowers, I walked at a steady pace in the direction from which we had all come earlier that morning, praying as each minute passed, that I would find my family and our home, before it became dark.

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Those of you that would like to comment on or critique my story, or even write a story of your own (I would love that!), please "click" below at the spot indicated for comments, or at this spot here, marked for comments, and enjoy yourself, ok?

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Until next time...stay safe, stay well, and may God bless you all.


Please visit my other blogs:

Cynde's Daybook ~and~ Usurper Exposed. Thank you!


Anonymous said...

Hi Cynde!

I think it would be fair to say we're polar opposites, but you seem like a genuine person so I'll give you a genuine critique.

"Shall we pack a delicious lunch and take the children somewhere special?"

In a particular context, I think a sentence like that can work, but it would have to be one of those idealised children's stories with a happy ending. In real life people don't talk like this, though it works in fairy tales. If you just lose the "delicious", you get:

"Shall we pack a lunch and take the children somewhere special?"

Which sounds reasonably normal. But I would prefer:

"Want to pack a lunch and take the kids somewhere special?"

It's not grammatically correct or pretty, but it's how most people talk.

Presently, there was a knock at our bedroom door. "Come in” I said, as I opened it.

This may be a cultural thing, but I think you either open the door, or say "come in", not both.

The doctor they had sent me to for couselling said, that even though I had always loved picnics, I must resent all the attention that Miranda was getting during our family get-togethers to the point of bringing on anxiety in me, but that wasn't it at all!

"to the point of bringing on anxiety in me" is clumsy. Better to say "to the point that it made me anxious".

When I bent over to pick them for her, I realized, just as it did at Christmastime, that each breath I took looked like a puffy smoke-cloud in the air, yet the sun still shone brightly. What was happening?

I really like that line, builds the sense of weirdness nicely.

Overall, for a story inspired by a picture it was interesting. You've a very formal "voice", which would lend itself well to traditional children's fairy tales.

Pam said...

I'm impressed with what you came up with from that prompt! I would never have gone in that direction from that picture.

Cynde L. Hammond said...

Dear Anton,

Wow! A genuine critique. It's exactly what I wanted, even though I was sitting on pins and needles, wondering how painful it would be.
It turns out that it wasn't painful at all!

You were kind when explaining that my dialogue was pretty awful in spots,(I agree, and I hadn't even spotted it before!) and you gave me a new way to look at things.

I gained a lot from the critique you gave me, but the most important thing of all was my respect for you as a writer, plus my gratitude for you as, hopefully, a new friend, who took the time to steer me in the right direction.

I can't thank you enough, Anton.


Cynde L. Hammond said...

Hi, Pam!

I wish you would post your own story--that would be really great to see!

Thanks for stopping by!


Helen Ginger said...

I agree with Anton about the dialogue. Try reading it aloud or even recording yourself while you read. That helps you hear the stiffness. If you stumble over reading something, there's a good chance readers will stumble also.

I'd like to see more of the people in the story before they disappear. I want to know why her parents would take her there even though people have disappeared.

Also, watch your punctuation.

Interesting story. It made me want to go along with her on this journey into another world or realm.

Straight From Hel

Cynde L. Hammond said...

Hi, Helen!

This is exactly what I was talking about when I was asking for some real critiques! I wanted to learn something.

You have given me a lot to think about. I'm going to work on those things that you mentioned, and then go back and fix my story. I hope you'll like it better after that. You've helped me to dig deeper into my stories when, in the past, I've only scratched the surface.

Thank you so much for your input, Helen. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. And I'll check my punctuation over, too.


Jean Henry Mead said...

A nice story and fairly well written, Cynde. Anton and Helen bring up some good points. All it needs is a good polishing, and reading it aloud for sentence rhythm helps a lot.