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My Short Form Fiction In Response To: Wednesday’s Visual Writing Prompt

The foliage hung there, wet and rancid, rotting the log it clung to. Nothing could outlast the grip of the swamp, it would devour everything it touched sooner or later. Anne Alice admired the darkness that concealed small places and the water that would wet her shoes everywhere she walked about. The swamp smelled of moss and decay that suited her morbid personality. She was a courageous eight year old who was rare to fright. She never mourned for the sun, on summer days it showed itself at the brink of morning and she avoided the added heat it brought at all costs.

The swamp was her dreary playground where she dreamed up monsters and played out stories she’d stolen from her mother’s book shelf. A murderous plot made for a fun afternoon when the snails where the enemy and her bare feet were the victims. She’d often wander out to the bogs or to the shack across the stream to visit with her uncle Greg. He was fond of ghosts and had endless tales to tell her. She fantasized what it would be like to come upon a ghost in the dimly lit swamp. How amazed and curious she would be in the fading light, she thought she would be sure to chase it down and force it to answer a barrage of ridiculous questions.

The property where she lived was deep within the murky swamp. She could imagine ghosts out on the bogs, especially with reports over the years of all the people who’d gone missing. She let her thoughts drift to the stories of the lost and looked about for a place that would easily conceal a dead body, and there were many.

Dinner was not far off and her stomach reminded her with a deep growl. They ate chili with cornbread which wasn’t one of her favorites. The chili was bland and the cornbread was dry, but she devoured it thankfully. Her parents largely ignored her presence and each-others as well. It was a typical evening and she was used to the silence. She did her chores with little enthusiasm but tried to remember that helping others and giving were what her father called “two of the best darn traits a person could practice”.

Nights in the swamp seemed to drag on forever since Anne Alice’s parents had restricted her from video games, something about them rotting her mind. So she made the time pass by sneaking books from her mothers bookshelf. It was exciting because her mother had forbidden her to take books from the top shelf, and it was always the top shelf she chose from. She was reading a book called Frankenstein and couldn’t take her eyes from its pages. She fell asleep with her flashlight still lit and the story still playing out in her mind. The night was eerily quiet and the flashlight shone dimly into the corner of her room, blocked out for just a moment by a darkness that crossed the beam. She slept soundly, unaware of who’d come calling.

The shadow moved in silence, creeping close to where Anne Alice slept. It drifted eerily from side to side creating a chill where it lingered. The ray of the flashlight bobbed steadily up and down to Anne Alice’s breathing, almost touching the patch of darkness that had worked its way to the front of the bed. She wriggled under the blankets, her face scrunched in discomfort, she rolled to her other side. The shadow drew nearer still, bending over her tiny body in a smothering fashion.

There was no telling what it came for or what it had in mind for Anne Alice. The creature clung so close as if to consume her very breath. She shivered slightly against the cold and brought the blankets up close to her face. There was a clicking and turn of the door and the air rushed back out of the room into the hallway. The shadow was sucked toward the door with a force and made quickly for escape. Anne Alice’s mother entered the room and found her breath stole away. The feeling lasted only a moment when a movement from across the room had caught her eye. She shrugged it off to her tired mind playing tricks on her and so the shadow was away without much notice.

Across the swamp toward the not-so-far-off bogs it retreated. The mist didn’t stir in its passing but clung low to the watery ground. The moon shone down lighting up the low-lying fog and gave the swamp an unnerving look of gloom. The shadow soaked in the uncomfortable night and grew even darker. It clung closely to the long overgrown path that led to its dreadful residence within the bogs. The air was thick with melancholy and it slowed its forward momentum to a crawl. Weaving slowly in and out of the trees, making for a blackened stretch peat that smelled strongly of lingering decay. Into its murky depths the shadow stopped to stare. In this lonely isolated patch of the bog, within the darkness of the standing water it lay sheltered by the rotting peat. The shadow gazed upon the tiny mummified face of the little girl it once had been. A deep consuming sorrow enveloped the shadow as it looked upon the small body of her six-year-old self. The body shone, reflecting the glances of the full moon between the layers of the clinging mist. Almost aglow in the depths of the water, she resembled a long forgotten doll. If she had the means to cry, her tears would shed for the tragic truth of her fate and might never stop flowing.

In the purgatory of this place her spirit had wandered for years. The man who had abducted her was long since gone. There would be no reckoning for the evils he’d put upon her. What she longed for most was her family who had once kept her safe and warm. And by the grace of all that was good, she might have finally found someone who would acknowledge her existence and get her back where she belonged. Back in the room she had found the young girl, the sleeping Anne Alice, a girl who might hear her plea and take up the quest to find her remains. It was this curious girl who might finally return her weary spirit home. So now she would haunt her without rest in hopes of her rescue.

Again Anne Alice stirred in her bed, dreaming of a little girl who’d come to play with her in the swamp. She smiled in her sleep, she somehow knew she would not adventure alone in the days to come.


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MichelleRene004Published by: M.R. Goodhew

Michelle Rene has been involved in the publishing industry for over twenty years as an author, designer, and illustrator. She is an Indie Author Advocate who volunteers her time to give back to the Indie Author Community by offering her design services four times a year, free of charge.

As an author of nonfiction, Michelle Rene writes books that serve to assist the independent author in developing their platform, discovering their brand, and creating the right look that will draw readers to them. She discusses how to navigate social media and addresses marketing tactics. For the author who sets up their web presence independently and does not wish to hire a designer, her books offer a wealth of start-up information, graphic design templates, and give crucial insight to the designers thought process which assists in the creation and design of the author’s platform.

Michelle Rene also writes fiction which falls under several genres, including: Fantasy, Drama, Young-Adult Fiction, Mystery, and Thriller. She is currently working on a series of novels whose main theme involves the mysteries of death and the afterlife.


 

Why You Should Be Writing Short Stories

If you’re a writer, you’re most likely writing for the shear love of it.

You’ve spent countless hours honing your skill and developing your stories.

The drawback to being a writer is the amount of time it takes to write your rough draft, complete your rounds of edits, and then set to work on publishing.

It can take years to complete a worthy story. Many stories never make it to the finish line. As a writer, you are left unfulfilled for horribly long amounts of time. This can be frustrating not to mention emotionally distressing.

The good news is that there is a solution to your troubles. You can take all of those brilliant ideas that invade your mind while you’re trying to focus on your main story, and map them out. You can write short stories and develop those great ideas as side projects.

Untitled-10Why Short Stories

  • Today’s readers want shorter reads.
  • They satisfy an immediate need for the reader
  • They are a quick fix for a frustrated author
  • You can offer your short stories in exchange for email subscriptions
  • You can promote your upcoming novel with a free copy of your short story
  • The more books you have published, the more books you sell
  • Your short story will become a part of your body of work
  • Short fiction contests can build your bio
  • Your network will enjoy seeing that you’re a writer who has new stories to share with them often

How to Begin 

Brainstorm: Take the time once a month and do a brainstorming session. Write down all of your story ideas on small pieces of paper, fold them up and put them in a container, fish one out and you have your idea. Or, you can take the story idea that most resonates with you and move on to the next step.

Map out your short story: Get ready to make a list. This is the fun part. Now you get to map out your story and you’ll be surprised how quickly the ideas come for something you know will be only 5,000 to 30,000 words. Don’t worry a ton about the logistics, your first draft will be crap anyway. But not to worry, by the time you get to your last round of edits, you’ll have a great short to share with your readers or to sell to an audience that’s eating them up.

Not sure how to set up your map, I’ll show you:

The Map

  • List the beginning, middle, and end of your story in three acts. Here is your main story idea, a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Write down your idea and think about how you’re going to hook your reader with the beginning. Who is your protagonist, what are they doing, what are they going to be confronted with, how is this going to trip them up.

In the middle everything is a learning experience, this is where your character learns all of their lessons. Leave them nearly defeated.

In the third act your protagonist is ready to really go for their goal. Here is where they will end up, after a few minor successes, facing down their antagonist, win or lose.

  • After you’ve decided what your main story arch is, you can move on to the arch of each act. Divide each act into chapters. Typically it’s best to go with the same arch so splitting your acts into three chapters works well. You want to keep  the story flowing within your chapters and entice your reader to continue on to the following chapter. So here it’s not so much about a beginning, middle and end. You do, however, want to follow an arch that builds excitement and the need to know more.
  • Take each chapter and split it up into three scenes and repeat the above process, writing down the arch of the chapters. Keep the momentum going.

There you go, easy peasy, you have outlined your short story and have a compelling map to guide your writing process.

 

Ultimately, it pays to write short stories. You can use short story writing to explore different genres that you might not try otherwise. Your shorts can attract an assortment of new people to your network that may not have found you beforehand, this can lead to some really great feedback on your weekly posts. It’s acceptable to jump genres as an author within the short story realm. Writing in several different genres gives you the freedom to sharpen your skills as a writer by diversifying your writing.

I like the idea of trying your voice in different genres, it strengthens your creativity and provides a platform for you to have fun with your writing. I suggest writing at least one short story to see if it’s something that might appeal to you. You might decide you enjoy the process so much that it becomes a part of your regular writing habit.

What are your opinions about short stories, would you ever try writing one?


book-wall-1151406_960_720Check out:

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Good Short Story

9 Ways Writing Short Stories Can Pay Off for Writers