“More Than a Blank Page” Short Story

I’ve been sitting in the same corner of the same coffee shop staring at the same page for hours now. I’ve reached the dregs of my coffee (and swallowed them too for good measure). I’ve started to massage my neck, praying my back won’t kill me later (though I know it will). The page is still blank.

It takes me a minute to notice he’s standing there. He’s striking, but he has a goofy grin – and he’s awkwardly staring at me. I look around, but no one else seems to notice he’s there.

“Can I help you?”

“Just stopped by to talk with you.” He sits down across from me.

I raise my eyebrows and point to my nose.

He nods, and lifts my coffee cup. “You had to drink it all,” he says on a heavy sigh. Then he extends his hand to me.

Reluctantly, I take it and shake. Then he starts to talk. And he talks.

He tells me where he was born, how many siblings he has, how he grew up, why he enlisted, his deepest fears, his first love, his longest love, his path of self-discovery, and his newest love. Then, after a deep breath, what he will be, where he will be, who he will be with, and why.

I nod, my eyebrows creased, still reeling from the fact that this radiant, golden stranger is talking to me at all.

But someone clears their throat next to me, and I don’t have time to process before I am thrown into confusion again. She smiles brightly, runs a hand through a messy mane of hair, pushes into the booth beside me, and speaks as if we’re old friends.

She keeps asking me about moments as if I remember them… As if I was there with her. And oddly enough, I find I do remember them. And vividly. All of her moments: the joyous, the fun, the hilarious, the heart-breaking, and the tragic. Right up until her death.

“It was fairly gory,” she says matter-of-factly. And I blink, startled, because at first I think she can’t be serious. But then I remember it. Vividly. And I’m glad I’d already finished my coffee, because my stomach is so knotted at the thought that I think I wouldn’t be able to drink anymore.

But I don’t even have time to dwell on it before two more people show up. A boy and a girl. He is a simmering fire, and she is as relaxed as the breeze. Still, his arm is slung protectively around her. She’s confident, but I can tell in an instant that she is genuine and kind. She is someone I would aspire to be.

They’ve been through more than I ever have. Their stories soar and then plummet through successes and then new trials. And they all treat me like I’m worth something more than a blank page. And the constant confusion I’ve had since the golden man first approached me starts to clear enough for me to find my words.

At the next pause in their steady recollections, I break in, “And what did you say your names were?”

The first stranger nods at my computer, drawing my eyes back down to the forgotten screen. There are words on the page. Their names, their histories, their loves, their deaths – their stories. My story.


A few weeks ago, someone posted in our writers group on Facebook asking about how characters work, everyone’s process for creating them. Or meeting them, as it were. I tried to write it out in a paragraph, I really did. But this happened instead.

And I should also probably say it wasn’t always like this. I used to do 50 page long character sheets, asking questions – trying to figure out how they fit into the world, into the story. I wanted them to be different and unique, and creating them didn’t come naturally. And in all honesty, I have no clue why it changed.

But one day, I woke up from a dream, and my head was a lot more crowded. They’ve been the most talkative cast of characters I’ve ever met. And they just keep coming. (I just met a whole other group of people in this universe, and they’re being just as nosy and invasive as everyone else in this world.) But everyone’s process is different, and frankly the assertiveness of these characters still confuses me, because I don’t quite get how it works.

But I’m grateful for them, however confusing their creation and existence might be. Hopefully I can pay them back by making sure their story is told. 

“That of the Moon” Short Story

So this has nothing to do with D.C. except in that I wrote it on the plane ride here. It is inspired by and dedicated to my good friend, Nick Koontz. Much love goes to him from up here, and I’ll be so glad to see him again in December. While I had said half-jokingly that I was going to write him a short story, it ended up being such a fun writing exercise so I’m glad I did it. Though I hope the piteous amount of sleep I got before the flight doesn’t affect the quality of the piece. Anyway, I hope you enjoy, and feel free to leave a review!


The silver of his hair was that of the moon. Though the silver disk never dropped below the surface of the ocean, he’d long stared at it and admired it’s might. The ocean obeyed the moon, and so did he. There was an awesome power the moon possessed that moved the waves toward shore and churned the currents in the depths of the sea. Every night he glimpsed it, he reached out his hand to touch the hanging medallion, but it always eluded his fingertips.

Air stung harshly against his gills, even on the peaceful nights like these. His trips to the surface were few, far between, and only to witness the glory of the night sky. The sounds were different up here too. Instead of muffled noises of an underwater world, this side of the sea was stark and clear. Waves danced against each other with quiet splashes of delight, making him long to join them. Once, he’d even heard the tremendous crash of thunder on a stormy night. Though, admittedly, it had terrified him then, he reveled in the memory now.

The world above held little appeal for him. Water was his comfort; when it enveloped him, he felt at home. He put up with the stinging air, but he hated it. He admired the sounds, but no more than the familiar song he heard under the sea. No, the only reason he visited the sky at all was to see the glorious moon.

With his face upturned, he offered a short prayer. His hopes were not grand, his faith not sure, but that didn’t matter. The moon would listen, and that alone was enough. Webbed fingers brushed his lips and raised the kiss in farewell to the sky, the waves, and his moon. With a last forced breath, he combed his hand back through his silver hair and dove again beneath the black.


Love you, Nick! Hope you liked it! Stay genuine!

The Wretched Redemption of Writing

Writing has incredible healing properties.

And it can tear you apart limb from limb.

At least my broken hearts can be put to paper, my tears turned to words. At least chaos can turn inspiration, dreams can spin a story. I am happy with being a writer. I love finding creativity everywhere I look as I walk through my day.

But there must always be a shadowed side to balance the good.

I can use my pain to provoke a plot, but very rarely do I allow myself relive the experience entirely. Change the names, create the scenes, sprinkle in the symbolism, add some drama, make it fiction. Sometimes, even though the scenarios have evolved so drastically from an original occurance, the events hit too close to home.

A fictional character struggling with cancer can feel like an IRL family member fighting to live in the hospital.

A fictional suicide can be reminiscent of an IRL friend who could have easily succumbed to the depression and been lost.

And – my greatest problem right now – a fictional sacrificial killing (that I’m supposed to be covering in the next chapter of my novel) only makes me think of my beautiful cat that was brutally murdered this weekend.

I love writing. It is my escape, my gift, my passion. But every time I think of the fictional scene, reality invades in a fury. I don’t much like to skip around in this process but the scene is simply impossible for me to write right now.

And any tragic event is difficult enough to write into a novel already. I cry every time I kill off a character. I mourn every time a relationship ends. And I struggle to write fatal illnesses, miscarriages, and depression.

“Write what you know,” they say.

But if everyone followed that advice, we’d have no fiction to read because writing what you know is painful. Every fiction story we hold dear would simply be a conglomeration of non-fiction events. Nothing would provide our escape from reality anymore. Reading things I relate to is hard enough. Writing close to what I know borders on unbearable. There is a fine line between writing the real and writing real life. Crossing that line can be hugely detrimental to the writer (and sometimes the reader, but that’s our evil master plan anyway).

So the larger challenges we face: how do we write a real story without putting reality on paper? And how do we heal ourselves by writing through the pain?

Of Dragons and Men

At night, my blanket is tucked under my legs, the air on full blast. My weapon is in my hands and I find myself fighting dragons.

All of my imaginary friends are dragons. I suppose they represent different things. This sounds so silly if you don’t appreciate the metaphor. As a writer, I live in a fictional world. I see the little things around me as inexplicably magical. It’s like my imaginary world is imposed on the reality around me. My problems appear as fearsome dragons. And currently, my dragon is writer’s block.

Every time I face the beast, I end up getting burned. I’m exceedingly disappointed in myself for failing every attempt. I can make no progress in my quest — writing a novel — until the serpent is slain and I can proudly stride over it’s hollow carcass.

Okay, I think my metaphor may be getting a bit frightening.

In the process of editing my novel, I keep encountering these obstacles that protect the rest of the story, but don’t allow me to reach it. I have a readership group that is waiting on me to finish another few chapters so they can read and give me feedback. And here I stand, just staring up at a scaled dragon. And I’m so prepared: I’ve got my wooden sword in one hand and my tin-foil shield in the other. Wow, writer’s block can make you feel helpless.

So I finally got past the particular instance of writer’s block that was really getting to me. I aimed high. I wanted to be able to complete the novel by Halloween. Now it’s looking more like it will be Christmas. (But that’s with NaNo sandwiched in there too.)

Really quickly though, I’m not addressing ways to get around writer’s block. There are tons of suggestions out there and everyone differs on which tactic is best for them. No, my encouragement of the day is more along the lines of: just because you feel helpless, doesn’t mean you are. I felt so useless up against this block. It wasn’t coming to me. Even the characters, who have lives of their own, weren’t helping. But I’m the freaking author! I control this world. I can make it happen. I can put them through hell or I can get them out of it. I have the power to say yes or no. The writer manipulates the story and the world.

My wooden sword became a sharpened blade, my tin foil a refined shield (maybe with a little inkwell crest on the front). And I can slay the dragon.

Zutara Week 2013 Compilation

Not everyone on my blog may be interested in reading the fanfics I wrote for Zutara Week 2013. Still, I figured it’d be good if I compiled the links to all of them. Of course, I have no rights or claims to the characters, but it is a cool experience to try and get in their heads. And, seeing as I posted my thoughts on fanfiction already, with reference to this week-long project, I figured I’d share.

Calor “Heated Words

Euphoria “Heritage of Water and Fire

Voices “If Not for the Voices

Gravity “Alone in a Nation

Bound “Save the Cabbages

Soothe “Searing, then Soothing

Spark: I’m afraid I never quite finished the last one. My job got so hectic and it was the only one I didn’t get around to in time. It’s halfway finished, I’m afraid. If I get it up ever, I’ll fix it here.

I’m not proud of all of them; some of them were pretty rushed. But I had fun and that’s the important part, right? I hope you enjoy these!

Couch Potatoes Anonymous

Oh hey! Did y’all know I have an unhealthy addiction to television shows? Well-written ones, mind you.

I’d laugh, but it really is a terrible thing for a college student. I have far too many. I watch them when I fix my meals and sit down to eat. If I can’t keep up that way alone, I set aside a weekend every now and then to just catch up. It really got me thinking when, just yesterday, I got hooked on Downton Abbey. My Nana is recovering from a heart attack, so my entire family has found themselves butts glued to the couch, eyes riveted to the screen. As this type of drama is typically not my “cup o’ tea,” I didn’t expect much. I was pleasantly surprised to discover, not only a well-written story, but distinct, entertaining, real characters. So, alright, I admit I was wrong to judge by the pilot.

Downton Abbey has added itself to:
The Vampire Diaries
Once Upon A Time
Arrow
Modern Family
Parks and Recreation
How I Met Your Mother
Doctor Who
Sherlock
Grimm
Beauty and the Beast

Not to mention, I am adding the following this fall season:
The Originals
OUAT in Wonderland
Agents of SHIELD

Don’t even start me on the Chinese and Korean “bubble shows” Karen got me started on in Thailand.

Judge me all you want. I realize that’s quite the diverse list and some of them may be considered “nerdy” (but you are never too old for Marvel) but I stand proud. Especially since I count these shows to have some of the most entertaining plots and characters on television today.

It takes a lot for a writer to write a novel. Or a screenplay. It’s effort. So imagine the effort (although often a group effort) it takes to write a story in 20-40 minute episodes, with 16-22 episodes a season that last for several seasons that progresses every, single episode! (Forgive the run-on sentence.) It amazes me to see the plot twists, the complexities of character, the spider-web story-lines, the interactions and emotions that evoke a real reaction from the audience.

In fact, I can’t watch something well-written without wanting to write. I sit down in front of my television with a notepad and pen to start sketching out relationship webs, brainstormed ideas, or preliminary character concepts. Similarly to books, a good story just makes me want to write one of my own. I want those fascinating characters and intriguing stories that keep the audience laughing, crying, and on the edge of their seats.

So, that’s my excuse then. Television inspires me. So an addiction must be okay. If you need me, I’ll be over here, blazing through my massive list of tv shows.

Fan Fiction FTW? (Or WTF?)

Let’s be completely honest: most fanfiction is complete and utter crap.

I’ll be completely honest: I’m not big on the genre.

I mean, to each their own. You like fan fiction? Great! All power to you. I just never much got into it and I certainly never wrote it. The biggest reason for that, though, is that you have to wade through stories upon stories of crap until you finally find a gem. And I never wrote it because the prospect terrified me.

How do you write a story that isn’t your own?

How do you stay true to another author’s characters?

How do you attract the interest of fans?

There are two camps: Fan Fiction FTW and Fan Fiction WTF. FTW updates every week, has a plethora of followers, and religiously reads other stories. WTF – the camp I have always shamelessly been a part of – isn’t nearly as willing to comb through the stories to find the good ones. And sometimes they accuse fanfic fans of extreme nerdiness (which I never did, I am a huge nerd and have no right to call others more nerdy than I). Still, when I thought of fan fiction, it was with a small level of disdain. As if I thought I was better than that. (I know, it’s terrible. Hear me out?)

So, when our last assignment in my creative writing workshop was to write a fan fiction short story, I was beyond stumped. Heaven knows, I have enough games, tv shows, and books I am a fan of and could write about. But to actually participate in fan fiction writing…

I struggled. It was so hard. Suddenly, I understood why so few fanfics are any good. It takes a talented writer to compose a story based on someone else’s ideas. And I believe even experienced writers struggle to step into another author’s shoes completely. As authors, characters live floating around in our heads. Sometimes their words and actions even surprise us. So how do you embody characters that don’t live in your own mind?

That being said, fan fiction has become a new writing exercise for me. Since it presents such a challenge, it stretches me as a writer. I don’t do it often, but I did participate in Zutara Week this year for the first time, writing a different themed short story every day. I have a chance to glimpse how things might have been with characters in a different world. I have to stay true to their pre-existing personalities, adapting them with time, and making sure they remain distinctly their own.

Practice in these areas translates greatly into writing original stories. Sometimes we are unaware when character personalities begin to blend. We have to be consistent with their traits, even as they develop and mature. We have to let them be their own people and do things as they would do them, not necessarily as we would. Practicing this from a fanfic standpoint makes it easier as an exercise. The world and characters have already been created, now it’s up to the writer to manipulate them. It hasn’t been easy for me, but I feel I’ve already seen good results.

When it comes to reading it, I’ll probably stay in Camp WTF, but when it comes to writing fan fiction? Definitely FTW.