Saturday, September 17, 2011

Journaling the Impossible

Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said, "one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." -
Alice in Wonderland.

The other day I was thinking about inspiration. Thinking about where the ideas for stories come from. And something I've heard from many parents sprang to mind. The statement that their children have helped them see things in a different light. That old, familiar stories suddenly become new again when they see how their child reacts to them; that walks in the park suddenly become a venture to a far away land; that shadows (unfortunately) become monstrous creatures ready to devour you whole.

It's not surprising. When you're a kid, everything is new and fascinating. Sometimes strange and scary. The world is bound only by your imagination.

And when you're untried, your imagination is limitless.

If you're lucky, you'll have quite a few years before people start telling you that something just isn't possible. To get your head out of the clouds. To stop acting silly.

Growing up with parentsone of whom was a big readerboth of whom had active imaginations and lots of ideas, I don't ever remember the word "impossible" passing their lips, except in jest. I don't ever remember being told to come back down to earth. (At least, not for a permanent stay. Occasional jaunts to the soil were required for things like cleaning rooms or scooping litter boxes.)

But getting older is inevitable. And the older you get, the more the world changes.

Bereft at the more of less in the world.
Only...not really.

To crib a line from Captain Sparrow, "World's still the same. There's just less in it."

We're the ones that change. With age, come knowledge and experience. Obligations. Responsibilities. And if you're not careful, with all of those come boundaries.

I'm reminded, at random, of a scene in one of my favorite movies.

In Labyrinth, as Sarah sets out on her quest, she finds it impossible to find her way into the maze. All she sees is a long, seemingly endless corridor. Until a little worm says the labyrinth's full of openings, it's just you ain't seein' em.
I'm just a worm. But I see things you don't.
When we get older, we stop "seeing" the things we did as children. Maybe out of some misguided idea that "growing up" means putting away our sense of wonder. Maybe because we just don't have the time. Or maybe because our knowledge and experience are at war with our imagination, telling us that such things "just aren't possible."

That rabbit hole is not a doorway to a strange land. That toadstool ring is not evidence of nightly dancing faeries. That light in the woods is not a will o' wisp ready to lead you astray.

But it's important as a writer—especially a fantasy writer—and as a human being, to be able to see these things.

To look at the world with the same untried eyes you had as a kid. To ask "What if?" To see the world for what it is and then envision what it might be.

And I've gone through this long winded spiel to say that I've taken "believing the impossible" on as a journaling exercise.

The goal is simple: Every day (at least), in the journal I've identified for the task, I write down six impossible things.

The "Six Impossible Things" journal
Sometimes what I write down is a simple statement.
Trees have secrets.
Other times, I get a little more in depth.

Mirrors have memory. They've seen many things. Sometimes, if you look just right and quickly enough, you'll be able to see what they've seen.

But I never go further than a basic idea.

Because the purpose of the Six Impossible Things exercise is not to write a story or even the humble beginnings of a story. (And it's sure as hell not to get caught up in the logistics of why something is the way it is.) The purpose is to open your mind. To take a brief respite from the demands of daily life and look at the world as if it's your first time seeing it.

In the end, you'll have another resource to turn to when you're having one of those moments where you feel like the well of inspiration has dried up.

And something to rejuvenate your mind when the world starts to seem a little smaller.

Friday, September 9, 2011

100 Word Challenge: Some Days Alice

The doctors encouraged familiarity for calmness.

Mom had never seemed more at peace than when Alys was a girl and they curled together in her room, giggling over nonsense words. She’s thankful she saved Mom’s battered old Carroll book, her own Alice-Blue drapes and antique Sweetheart Mirror with its White Rabbit decal.

Tea for Two.
Via Laura Mardon - Flickr
Mom shifts suddenly, says “Tea time!”

“Yes, Mom. It is.”

Their places are set.

Alys pours tea, holds out a saucer. Mom plucks the two pills, crunches them and says “I do enjoy these cakes.”

There are worst places, Alys supposes, for her mother to be than Wonderland.

This week's entry for the 100 Word Challenge at Velvet Verbosity. The word was "whismy." As I've recently had my brain sucked into Burton's rendition of Alice in Wonderland, this is what came to mind.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Flicker of Inspiration: A Cure

"A Cure" - Emilie Autumn

"Alicia Hankins.'re a doctor?"

"I was. Before."

"And now...ha. I guess it's like one of those old Buddhist riddles or something: is a doctor who has no patients still a doctor?"

"Something like that. How's your arm doing, Sergeant?"

"It's...good. I can move. And the pain is... How? That thing felt like it'd ripped it out of the socket."

"Strong pain killers. Antibiotics. A stitch and a prayer. You're lucky I found you when I did. You might have died from good old fashioned infection."

"I'd count my lucky stars but I think all of 'em have burnt out at this point."

"What were you doing all the way out here?"

"Playing at being heroes.”


“Never mind. My men and I.... We were on our way back to Edwards air base. Lost our truck on the road; blown tire and no spare. Of all the fuckin' things to happen. We hoofed it into the canyon and they just came out of nowhere. Like wild dogs. Tore into us before we knew it. Still amazed I came through.”

“I’ve heard reports, on the radio, of the small towns out this way being wiped out completely. That’s probably where they came from. I haven't run across any, myself. But then, I try not to go up that often.”

"And you? How'd you end up out here? Down here?"

"Luck again. My dad used to bring us into these hills when we were kids. To camp. Fish. One trip, we got turned around and stumbled on a door in the hillside. This was a fallout shelter, built in the 50s for military and medical personnel."

"Really? Doesn’t look that old."

"Some of it isn't. From what I can tell, they started doing upgrades as soon as news of the first outbreaks spread. Anyway, when everything started going to hell in the city, I came here and decided to stay."


"Seemed like the best place to go. Unpopulated area. Nearby water supply. Food, storage, and a lab."

"And you've been working."


"On a cure."


"I was looking for something to eat... Saw the blood in the fridge and figured. Didn't mean to snoop. Really."

"It's fine. And...yes. I have been working on a treatment. Something to slow the virus, if nothing else. But it's not going well."

"How come?"

"Aside from the fact that I'm working with a lot of equipment that was obsolete twenty years ago? The black outs are a major impediment."

"No generator?"

"There's a generator. Two, actually. Brand new. But they keep going dead."

"Well…hell. I've been sittin' on my ass long enough. You got a toolbox? Point me in the right direction."


"Only took two days, but these girls are humming like honey bees. Looks like you got plenty a fuel in here to run 'em too. With any luck, grid power'll hold out for a while and you won't have to worry about running ‘em for a while. In fact, why don't--"

"Hold on. I can barely hear you. Just give me—one sec. Alright. What were you saying?"

"This... This was from Reeves. One of my men. What’s it doing here? Where is he?"

"I'm sorry."

"Sorry for what?"

"He didn't make it. I'm afraid. I am sorry. I really thought he would pull through. That I had the compound right."

"What the hell are you talking about? What are you doing? What is—you caught one of the walkers?"

"This is Mr. Hankins."

"Fuck, lady...."

"And, you see, Sergeant. I need subjects—ones who are infected—to test the cures. Reeves was infected. The only one of your men who hadn’t been torn completely apart.”

“He wasn’t a fucking guinea pig.”

“But…so far, none of my serums has worked. One of my recent ones, unfortunately, sped up the rate of infection. Reeves had to be destroyed."

"You've got an infected right here. What the hell did you need Reeves for?"

"I'm trying to cure Mr. Hankins. And I am getting close. While you were banging away down here, I think I finally managed to incapacitate the virus. Unfortunately, you do need to be infected for me to determine if the cure will work."

"Don't come near me."

"And Mr. Hankins needs to eat."

"I told you not to—fuck... What is—"

"A tranquilizer's the least I can do for you. I’m sorry about this. Really I am. But if it works, won’t have to play at being a hero.”

This is my quickly written response to The Lightning and the Lightning Bug's Flicker of Inspiration Prompt #14:

For this week's prompt, we'd like you to tell us a story using only dialogue. That's right. There can be no "he said/she said," no modifiers at all in fact. Just conversation, plain and simple, between quotes. Not that you necessarily have to use quotation marks...just look at Cormac McCarthy, he uses no quotations marks at all. But I digress. Tell a tale through conversation and dialogue between your "characters." This can be fiction or non-fiction...and can even be poetry. Take it anywhere you like, just talk it out and come back here next Sunday to share. 

I pulled a portion of this one from my Morgue File. I'd tried to write a zombie flash fiction last fall for an anthology submission and it just never came together. But I had some dialogue lying around, so I figured I may as well use it as a spring board.

Friday, September 2, 2011

100 Word Challenge: On the Trail

Lightning strike. Via Cafrine - Flickr
Continued from my last 100 Word Challenge: "Game Change."

“We have a deal then, Reyes?”

And she’d shaken her new…Boss’s hand. Thought of old stories. Faust. Theophilius.

Thought more about Rory—who should’ve been west of the Mississippi by then—bleeding on the floor before the Boss’s desk.

She saw his face now, in the churning river beneath the ruin of the bridge. The man had always been nothing but trouble for her; he’d poached her purse last time they were together. Still…

Lightning split open the sky, forcing her retreat to the rotting remains of a nearby house.

Her hunt would have to wait until the storm passed.

All images are copyright to their respective owners and used according to Creative Commons agreements.