Along with many others, past and present, I am spending November participating in NaNoWriMo
and attempting to write a novel. Or, at the very least attempting to write fifty-thousand words (yes, 50,000) that could, at some point become a novel.
At the end of today, in order to be on pace to finish my 50k words for the month, I should have 21,671 words. As of right now, I'm at 19,305. I'd like to be a a littler further along, but I am thrilled with what I have accomplished. Now, many of my character's don't have names. Lucy's uncle, at least for right now is named Uncle; her best friend is named Friend; the Friend's husband, his name is FHusband. There's also Examiner, Gran, Nanna, Old Woman, and wife. The whole point of NaNoWriMo is quantity. To put something down on paper, to put anything down on paper so you have something to edit later.
|This is not a cat named Frank|
I have been "going to" write a novel for years. Mostly I never got started because I didn't have the whole thing planned out in my head. What I'm learning as I write this month is that I don't need to have the end in sight. Often, I have heard authors say that their characters take them places they never expected. Until this month, I had never understood that. I had thought the author should be able to control the story. I now understand how the character gets hit with a great idea and that changes the story.
So, glutton for external praise that I am, here is a snippet of Lucy's story. Let me know what you think.
Lucy pulled into the house driveway with a huge sigh of
relief. Seeing Uncle’s old tan and brown
F10 pickup through the garage window she parked on the other side of the
driveway. Gasping as her bladder protested the sudden change in motion, she put the car in
park, turned off the ignition, and raced around the house to the back
door. The Coke she had treated herself
to at the truck stop in combination with the 24oz vending machine cappuccino
she bought as she was leaving were making their presence painfully clear. Knowing that the back door into the mudroom
was always open, even if the house doors were not, and that it was extremely close to a toilet to that door were her prime considerations.
Swinging the backdoor open, forgetting that the
spring was long since gone, Lucy cringed as the screen door handle
slammed into the side of the house. In
years past that would have been cause for discipline. Lucy, more than once, had stood on the back
step in the cold practicing opening and closing the door quietly one hundred
times as punishment for slamming the door closed in anger or even absentmindedly throwing the door open so that it banged against the house. Uncle had no patience for
those sorts of antics from a girl he was trying to teach to be a lady.
Crossing the threshold , Lucy made the turn into the grimy
bathroom, dropped her pants, and sighed as relief burst out of her. Lucy
took stock of her surroundings. Her vomit-speckled jeans cuffs were dragging on the floor of the bathroom. At least their blackish-blue color was a nice complementing to the
yellow splotches surrounding the base of the toilet. The areas that weren't splotched were coated
in a thin coat of mud, almost as if someone had used a trowel to smooth a
translucent layer of dirt-brown glaze over the ancient gray linoleum. Scattered over the floor were of corn kernels, oats, and the odd soybean shell. Lucy heard the old furnace turn on and
watched the grains skitter across the floor as the hot water pipes rattled with
the flow of water.
Pulling up her pants Lucy caught a waft of something
dead. It was not unusual for mice to make
their way into the mudroom, especially as summer turned into fall. As defense, Uncle usually left mouse bait
around and a dead mouse or two
in the mudroom was not an unusual event. Once, one of the rodents had crawled
into her boot during it’s final moments.
Lucy still remembered the squishy feeling that met her stockinged toes as
she pushed on the boot. She never did
wear that pair of socks again and she always made sure to shake her boots out before putting them on.
Walking into the house, Lucy was met by the the smell of cooking dust that comes off
radiators when the first chilly nights and frosty dawns prompt the first furnace use of the season. This was one of the smells of home, or at least the smell of home before someone
had a chance to make coffee or start cooking dinner. Oddly though, the air in the house was exceedingly
dry. Uncle was prone to nosebleeds so he
tended to keep the air in the house well-humidified. There were desk-sized humidifiers in the
dining room and the main hallway upstairs. For what ever reason, Uncle must not have turned them on when he turned on the furnace. Lucy’s eyes burned and lips chapped almost immediately due to the exceedingly hot and dry air in the house.
Yet underneath the smell of the dust burning on the
radiators and the crackly-leaf smell of over-dried air, the smell of dead mouse
continued. This was a curious, new
development. In all the years she had
lived in that house, she could not remember a single time when a mouse, dead
or alive, had ever made it into the main house.
Rounding the corner into the kitchen, she saw Uncle at the
table, his arms folded across his chest, head bent down, asleep in the straight back chair. Lucy stood in the doorway for a moment,
quietly taking in her sleeping uncle.
The hair on the top of his head was the swirled,tangled mat that only comes from going to bed with wet hair, waking up, pulling a billed cap on
over the uncombed hair, and spending the next five or six hours of the day
sweating beneath the hat. The hair below
his hat-line was more or less
presentable, though sun-bleached several shades lighter than the chestnut brown
of the rest of his hair.
Uncle had pulled off the once bright, but now faded reddish-gray
suspenders and let them dangle from his waistband of his work jeans. Most of his blue chambray work shirt was
faded almost to white, but there were criss-crossed stripes of fabric protected
from the sun and the other elements that remained the the blue of an October sky.
The paper, opened to the crossword, was spread out in front of him. The pencil he had been using had fallen from
his hand rolled under the table.
So as not to startle Uncle awake, Lucy called out softly. When he didn’t respond, she walked closer
intending shake Uncle from his slumber. Only when she got closer did Lucy realize
that Uncle’s form seemed puffed up and that he chest wasn’t moving. She tried
to stop her feet from taking the next step and futilely attempted to keep her
hand by her side as she realized the smell of death was stronger in this room. Intent on keeping its original mission Lucy’s
hand reached out to shake Uncle awake only to topple his corpse off
the chair. His body hit the floor with a
sodden thump, and the smell of death exploded into the room.
Not one for hysterics, as Lucy’s legs collapsed beneath her,
she opened her mouth and screamed until the dry air stole her voice away.