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August 15, 2022

Tales Untold

By Lydia Manx

The assignment for my writers group landed earlier in the month with a mental twap in my email inbox -- at least that's how I heard it in my mind as I opened it up and began to inspect the seemingly innocuous words.

For next week, start off your assignment presenting your main character with a difficult decision to make (both options have negatives). Then find a logical and more satisfactory third choice to conclude the story.

I read it through twice and closed the email note with an audible groan. I pushed it from my head and figured I'd read it again later. I must have made some sort of mistake. I could overthink a writing piece, I had in the past, and figured it was just another one of those days. I pushed the assignment to the back of my brain and figured I'd slam it out late on Thursday if not early Friday morning. The group needed the email assignments at least a few hours before we met. Not that I always made the meetings, but I hadn't skipped an assignment in as long as I could remember. Damned if I'd let this one go.

Then I peeked back a day or so later to the assignment and the ideas began to twine through my brain. And how they twisted. Round and round -- up and down -- all over the place.

What the hell was I going to do with 'a difficult decision' to make? I mean if I write my vampires into some harsh moral quandary, then I would feel obligated to use it in one of my works in progress. I certainly didn't need any more quandaries. The idea of having more than one theme for my vampires end with something horrid wasn't unknown in my work, but I wasn't ready to go back down that road. Hell, my vamps had been doing a great job of mucking up their universe with seemingly little inspiration from me.

I don't use a lovely checklist of opportunities for my vampires; I have these random pages of notes scattered, and some in the computer in various files. They can be a single line of horror or an entire page of character descriptions and bits. My vampires push into my brain unbidden with their own ideas of who they were going to drain and where they'd do it. No carefully plotted outline of how vampire A will get to chomp on vampire B. There is an overview to all the tales, and they do interweave within the confines of how I see their world, but that's subject to change. Always. One of the 'good guys' back in Harry's introductory story ended up dead! Boy, did some notes get reshuffled with that twist.

I went on with trying to write what I needed for the workshop. Unbidden, the second choice had reared its ugly head in a dream slash nightmare I had roughly shoved into my 'later' files when I woke half asleep and reluctant to rise at o-dark one morning earlier this month. I'd been bad about making the needed sleep time recently. I could list out a ton of valid whines -- remember that the time changed early one Sunday way too early in the year for me -- that stolen hour lost. I didn't bank enough hours and my brain was phoning in some warped thoughts when I finally found my pillow. Add in work has been stressful enough with a tough month end close and everybody and their bosses asking me how some forty one dollar charge was booked to their supply line and they never saw such an invoice. It's amazing how taking an hour out of my day and theirs seemed to make sense when looking back. It doesn't matter that I still have to research it all.

(Nicely I would explain that the business cards they so recklessly ordered in October had finally been paid for and showed up last month in their financial reports. Eventually they would accept that tidbit of fact once I'd researched the amount and begged copies of long invoices and sent the photocopies to the interested parties validating the first email I'd sent telling them that very same thing. It's just the basic work cycle.)

The erotic strange dream had me chasing through the underground of a mall, with creatures eating the humans watching them, and me leaning against a glass open enclosure snapping pictures, unfazed by the screams and blood. I'd picked the dark underground versus buying shoes in that haunting dream. The choice of following this story line had to do with a lover (unknown) with a kick ass body, gold-framed glasses and a lush voice. Bad boys and morally edgy choices weren't ever going to end with cleverness and helpfulness in six hundred words or less in my tales.

Forehead thumps inside my brain as I kept pushing both spinning plates in my mind until something snapped. I was hoping for a third idea to present and solve rather sweetly within the parameters of the assignment. Then it came to me -- I'd explain the process of choosing being horrid! I mean this wasn't something fun, given my characters' dilemmas and my long-winded story style. So I bow out with my words as my gift to you all, and the ending is my explaining a bit of both how I come up with my stories and the scattered bits showing how my brain answers assignments with choices. I chose to end with a smile and two new tidbits for future stories.

-- Lydia Manx

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-20
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