I was trying Write or Die, and gave myself fifteen minutes to write 500 words. This happened. I’m kind of curious about it now.
Over the river and through the woods, there was nothing left to see. All the little soldiers had wandered home years before, through the empty lanes and over the dry riverbeds. There was hardly anything left to see in the woods, which had been demolished to make fires and pyres and battering rams and arrows. What twigs were left over were not enough for the remaining creatures to thread together into shabby nests and homes.
Amongst the rubble lived a little girl with shabby clothes and ragged nails. She ate the gravel and drank the sap from the bleeding vines. She lived in a trench and slept under a covering of abandoned machinery. She washed her hair in the dirt and scrubbed her face with the stones from the fields. Her friends were the skeletal birds and the bones of the woodland animals. She had elaborate conversations with the puppets of the dead and made herself castles with the remains of the empires long fallen. She was happy, because her world was complete.
Away, there was a little boy who ran through green fields and played in babbling streams. He stalked the little creatures of the thickets near his home and watched as the birds of every plumage took to the air and flew into blue skies. He was cleaned in the clear water and pressed into clothes dried in the sunlight. He was happy, because his world was complete.
In between, there was a soldier. He wore his uniform as though he had forgotten he had skin beneath. His cap sat on his head where his hair once had been, and his rifle filled his hand as though the two were made for companionship. He breathed the air so long as it was there to be inhaled, and he gave it no other thought. He groomed his shoes and his shoulders, but a beard grew on his face where he no longer investigated to see what he looked like. The soldier was neither happy nor sad, because his world was not meant to be complete.
At the end of the world, there was a woman. She brushed her hair from her face, but did not perceive its hue. She brushed her hands of debris, but did not note the nature of it. Her eyes were always lifted to the empty sky. She was neither happy nor sad, because her world did not exist.
In the world, there are barren lakes and lush valleys. There are clean brooks and polluted eddies. There are snow-capped peaks and frozen basins. There are parched buttes and inhospitable deserts. The world is neither happy nor sad, because the world is complete.
What became of the girl and the boy and the soldier and the woman was the world’s business alone.
I’ve had a couple of Thursday Quotes get hits before, but the Steven Moffat one today seemed to strike a chord with folks, especially with the couple of people who took offense/got riled at the concept in the quote.
So, here’s the thing. My take on the quote was that just adding a bunch of swearing to dialog to make it “adult” is a cop out on trying to spin a good phrase. Not that swearing isn’t a natural part of conversation or that it’s always better to steer away from it (I swear all the fucking time and incorporate plenty of cussing in my writing, so clearly that’s not what I believe), but that just tossing in a couple of swear words to make a PG sentence an “adult” sentence is lame and phoning it in. It’s not trying to get anything extra across, it’s just shock value for the sake of upping some perceived rating or maturity level.
Also, Moffat writes for TV. Admittedly, he writes for Brit TV where cursing is a little less risque than in the States, but he still probably has to deal with censors, producers, and the like who need whatever show he’s working on to stay in X or Y speech boundary. I mean, he’s not going to insert the same kind of dialog into Doctor Who as he did in Coupling, right?
So the other side of what he’s probably referring to is having to find ways to talk around censorship, so that characters can have the conversations they need to have in the contexts they need to have them.
Feel free to continue to disagree with the sentiment. It’s no skin off my nose if people do disagree with the quote, but as for the sentiment that cursing in dialog should be telling you something about the character or the extremity of the situation as opposed to just being a “fuck,” “shit,” or “assballs” thrown into “Jack went to the store to get some milk,” then yeah, I agree that cursing just for the sake of making something seem “adult” is a cop out.
And now, have a funny: History of the Word “Fuck”
So this is a story idea that came to me on Sunday while driving to my 9am call. This scene took me about an hour, but it doesn’t fit into the story as I eventually plotted out. But because I like it, I thought I’d share.
Triggers for military risk, family issues, death and lack of editing.
Deleted scene from Report For Duty
“Ryan, this is your mother. I know you’re in class right now, but— Ryan, it’s your sister. Georgia— You need to come home.”
He’d already known it was an emergency when he’d seen the missed call when he got back from lab. His mom knew his class schedule better than he did most of the time; she never called when she knew he was in class. The tight, choking voice in the message drove the icy prick of fear straight through his gut, bending his imagination around possible scenarios. But he knew when she said it was Georgia. There could only be one kind of disaster that involved his little sister, and it was unthinkable.
She’s hardly looked at him since he became alive. Not that he’s complaining. The world is too full, too powerful for him right now. Any added regard would be unbearable, an iron weight about his neck.
Instead, they take him away and teach him things; things he’ll need to know to best please her. How to stand, how to speak, how to work and anticipate and obey and every other thing they can think of. They say he is very well taught, but he worries it will not all fit in him for very long. They laugh and say he cannot forget unless they tell him to.
She is important, they tell him, but he knows that already. She picked him, made him alive. He must be the very best he can be, so they fuss over him and try to make him better. She has others, they say, and he must measure up. The joy from his first alive moment is fading; he worries that being picked was maybe not so certain and true a thing. He worries and the accidents begin.
They do not like the accidents and scold with anxious voices. There is no more laughter as they teach him more and more and he remembers less and less. He tries, but is never quite perfect.
She comes while he is sleeping and they bring him out to show her. They make him show her all his best lessons, his most successful skills. He does well, but he is afraid of her. He makes a mistake, and then another. They are angry and he worries and tries again.
She stands and they leave with her. He is sent back to his place, but he cannot go back to sleep. When they come for him, he is awake. He goes, but they are no longer kind. He worries and tries to be what pleases them.
They go to a place he has never been before and have him stand in the dark. They are gone before he can show them how much he has learned, how correct he can be. They do not return.
He stays in the dark for a long time. When the light comes, so does noise and smell and terror. When he is in the dark again, he is almost relieved.
He does not feel as he once did, and he is frightened. He wishes they would come back. He does not like it here. Eventually, when the light comes again, he must leave the place where they put him and told him to stay. He does not like making a mistake on purpose, but he is weak with fright and confusion. Perhaps he will find them if he follows the way they went.
There are so many more of them than he remembers and they are all loud and quick and terrify him. He hides when they spot him, even when they make all the faces and noises he remembers from when he came alive. These new they do not smell quite right.
The dark comes more slowly in the places where they move, but he finds a corner of it and hides there. He is tired and thinks that he will not be able to find them if he goes much further from the place where they told him to stay.
When the last of the light is stopping, a new they comes near. This new they moves slowly and quietly, and he is too tired to look up to see them pass. When the new they touches him softly, he thinks that this they smells better than the others. He tries to do one of his good things from when he was first made alive, and while he doesn’t manage it very well, they doesn’t scold and seems to be pleased enough.
He is lifted and this is new. He has been picked up before, when he was brand new, but they wanted him to do his good walking quickly, so he does not remember the flying feel of it very well when he is awake. It works better when he is asleep, so he sleeps.
When he is awake again, he is in a warm, light place that is quiet and still, full of the new they’s smell. He is down on something soft and he likes it. The new they is somewhere just out of sight, making small rumbly noises inside itself that he likes. There is another smell that he likes coming from a plate near his soft down place. He looks to see if they is watching, then inches off the soft down place and goes closer to the good smell. He decides to eat it.
When most of the good smell on the plate is gone, he feels the they touching him again, soft little touches that he likes. They make more of the rumbly noises and he looks at them.
They He speaks,
“There you go. Good dog.”
Today’s 30 minute drabble became a little back story scene from a short story called “Walkers” that I’ve been working on. This isn’t so much lifted from the story directly as it is a little tool I use to help me firm up the character’s initial situation in my mind.
“Walkers” preview: Amelia
by Helen Doremus
Amelia had been dying for a long time. Long enough that she knew the med staff at the field hospital no longer made regular rounds. Long enough to know they were letting the long-term effects of starvation and infection take their course, that the only thing in her IV was saline solution.
None of these were conscious thoughts. Her mind wandered over the notions of these realities dimly, through a daze of fever and pain in the brief moments of lucidity. She could not concentrate hard enough to fear the oncoming of her death; she could only register the muted sparks of surprise that she had woken at all. She did not fight the oblivion of unconsciousness when it claimed her; there was no fight left in her frail, battered body.