Tag Archives: Free Fall

A Tentative Excerpt from Free Fall

I’m not going to lie, I’m normally very cagey about what I post with regards to NaNoWriMo. Most of the time, whatever I do share, in terms of excerpts, can already be found on my NaNoWriMo profile, under the Novel Info. These are, of course, the only excerpts I feel somewhat confident in sharing. They are also, usually, the first part of the first chapter, or something to that effect. So, guess what I’m going to be posting here?

I have other reasons for this, though. The main reason this year is the difficulty I have in trying to find an all-ages-appropriate excerpt, because there always seems to be something with me. Anything. If I was a director, I’d be notorious for getting my films an 18 certificate or above, I’m almost sure of it, and my novels, I will admit, have this tendency to go a similar way. This year, this is especially prevalent. More so than any year before, and most of my novel thus far has been laced with … well, we’ll call them ‘literary nasties’ shall we?

So yes, indeed, this is the excerpt from my profile, possibly with more to come as the month goes on, however, this is entirely dependent on 1. my cumulative word count at any time and 2. whether or not I feel it’s appropriate. I’m also doing this, somewhat, to see if I can clear my name, perhaps? What I mean is that I don’t think that this excerpt is terrible, but alongside the rest of the novel, it needs work. I like it better than some of the things I’ve written, which says a lot, considering this was a part of what I wrote on the first day … and the general consensus seems to be that writing 17,000 words in a day cannot possibly yield results.

I’ll leave that up to you to decide, however. Critique, criticize, something else beginning with C here and feel free to rip this to shreds if you do so desire!

“Courtney smiles at the woman opposite, wearing nothing but a satin gown, one elbow resting on the counter top while she sips her coffee the way she’s always liked it: black. Her short, blond hair is a mess, poker-straight layers curling at the ends, at the edges, the bottom layer falling in soft waves. Every morning, and he knows this because he’s watched her do it, still feigning sleep, she gets up a half-hour earlier than he does to put on a thin layer of make-up, the layer she’s wearing now. Her second skin. The only face she wants him to know, a fake beauty that he can wake up to every morning.

Her nails, manicured, on her free hand, they trawl through her hair, feeling for split and damaged ends, the ones she cuts off after she colors. She could almost look as though she doesn’t quite know where she is, as though the world is a new, foreign experience for her, every morning waking up to the early noise of a city just taking its first steps. Taxi cabs and cars stuck in traffic. A crash that almost happens, but doesn’t. She uses her free hand to pull her robe back onto her right shoulder, then to check her cell phone resting at the edge of the counter. She purses her lips, takes another sip of coffee, and says nothing.

She could be any other girl in the city, looking this way, only Courtney doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want her to think that there are a million others like her, even though this is a cruel truth that both of them know. It’s why she bleaches her hair lighter than the rest of them. It’s why she tries to make sure she’s the best dressed at every work function, every dinner party. Every time they go out for sushi, she goes the extra mile. And he loves her for it.

Courtney’s tie hangs loose about his neck, silver-gray, looking almost as though it’s attached to his pinstripe white shirt. Some object, some accessory, that doesn’t move. A different tie for every day of the week, a new appendage that flaps around while he looks for more coffee grounds, while he offers to cook the bacon, Monday morning’s treat that Alison insists he cut every last sliver of fat from. Most days, she leaves it there in the middle of the plate, not as an insult, but because she just can’t take the risk. Because just sniffing it piles on calories.

He runs a hand along his shaved, stinging face. He checks for stubble. He knows there’s an ingrown hair or two, but he can’t do anything about it. This is something he realizes as he checks his watch. His hair is dry, now, combed flat, not blown dry. His pants are neatly ironed with the creases perfect, meticulous, like some invisible housekeeper did it in the middle of the night, rather than him doing it, in the evening before he slides into bed. All part of the same routine. He doesn’t quite know why it is that they keep doing this same thing, over and over again, but the fact remains that they do, and he doesn’t see sense in refusing to go along with it; they have a good life. Whenever things start to seem wrong, this is what he tells himself.

Whenever things start to go wrong, this is all a part of what Courtney thinks to himself. Death and destruction in the news once again. Gunshots. Sirens. Things he knows he’ll end up dealing with in the morning, in the evening, whenever he gets that call. If he’s not due to do it, he sits behind the same desk all day and files the same paperwork, trying to remember a time when his life wasn’t made up of the same routines. As a kid, all he did was stare at the television screen. He’s still staring at it, only now, it’s a pile of papers that need to be signed, or the raw ingredients he needs to cook for when the girl, the blond, Alison, gets home from work late, or the pants he needs to iron before he goes to sleep, or his girlfriend waiting for him in bed. Do something too many times, and it all becomes a part of the same ongoing routine.

When she’s done with her coffee, Alison gets to her feet, hopping off the high stool with the gown fluttering around her thighs. Courtney, he finds it difficult to care about it anymore, but then he reminds himself who he’s looking at. Alison. It almost seems impossible for him not to love her, he’s been doing it for so long.

The two of them, Courtney and Alison, they’ve been living in the same co-op building, the same apartment, for a decade. They’ve had the same décor since 2001; the same off-white that never dates or goes out of fashion. The two of them, they’d like to live in a home that’s on the cutting edge of the latest trends, but the fact of the matter is, they have better things to spend their money on. A cabinet behind the dining table displays an array of vintage wines, spirits matured for half a century or more. They live on a diet that, over the years, has come to cost more than the rent on the place. They try to eat out more times a week than they eat in, so Courtney knows which days he’s going to be preparing a meal, and when they do eat out, it’s never takeaway or pizza. Sometimes this is all Courtney wants.

Courtney and Alison, they’re both the ailing product of a world raised by pop culture. A world that refused to look on in shock and awe, and instead either turned away or joined in, aware of how the depraved were now the center of attention. In a world where indecent exposure and lewd behavior became common practice. After Courtney turned seventeen, he stepped into this world and now he can’t get out. He can’t escape it. He grew up in a decade of unrest and dissatisfaction, where he never could see why everyone was so distracted by their finances. Where he never wanted for anything, except his parents.”


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Filed under Excerpts & Short Stories, NaNoWriMo

Two Hours Until NaNoWriMo 2011

That it is. So, with only two hours left until the madness begins, I’d like to say a few words.

I am possibly more excited for NaNoWriMo this year than I ever have been before, although exactly why is difficult to say. Every year, there’s a fantastic energy about the forums, so huge that it’s impossible not to get excited over the thought of this 50,000 (or in my case, 200,000) word venture.

Naturally, I have my concerns. This is the first year I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo that I haven’t had other things to do simultaneously – by other things, I mean coursework and other such commitments, as opposed to the social aspects. For this reason, I’m terribly frightened that I won’t fully take advantage of this opportunity, as though I’ll have too much time on my hands. Without that constant battle, finding times and places to write at every given moment, I fear I might slip off the beaten path and into procrastination hell. I mean, what’s stopping me from just writing for one or two hours a day and just sleeping for the rest? I can’t afford to do this, of course … I need a routine!

On the other hand, this might just be the concentrated effort I have been in need of. What I mean by that is that it’s simple enough for me to sit down and hammer out perhaps a thousand words in a few short sittings, and do this maybe two or three times a month. It’s not so much that I lose my way with projects is that I’m easily distracted, and yet every November until now, NaNoWriMo has ensured that I am not nearly as easily distracted as I usually am. Sitting down to write, knowing that I only have thirty days in which to write all of it, and seeing my stats page come to a standstill is unsettling enough to give me a brief kick and force me to get on with it. Perfect, in other words.

Fears and aims aside, I feel reasonably at ease with the prospect of starting my project within the next two hours. I haven’t prepared as much as I usually do, though I put this mostly down to the fact that, in the cases of most of my characters, I’m starting from a single idea and just running with it throughout their stories. The direction is always a killer for me; as long as I have a fairly concrete plot, which I do, I feel ready to tackle that mountain of words!

Or fall from halfway up said mountain. We’ll see what happens.


Filed under NaNoWriMo

Free Fall Fridays #2

First of all, yes, I did forget to do this last Friday, but honestly, there wasn’t much of an advance in plot anyway.

Last time, I mentioned how this story has hijacked my thoughts. This has only gotten worse over the course of the past couple of weeks, to the point that, not only am I dreaming about people falling from great heights, but my subconscious appears to be leading me to watch television shows where a similar thing happens. This most likely isn’t great for what little sanity I still have … I am looking forward to NaNoWriMo quite a lot, but it’s almost as though my mind sees fit to remind me that, ‘hey, you’re writing about people jumping off buildings this year’ every chance it gets. This would be fine … if I wasn’t almost done plotting. By almost done plotting, I do mean that the basics are all done; I have my short stories, and I have the story that ties them all together written down.

What comes next? Characters! I feel that it is more integral that I know my characters well this year than it has been any other year, or with any other project at all. This is not to say that I’m normally lazy when it comes to character construction – it’s a process I genuinely enjoy, half the time I create characters without needing to, so it’s not as though I find this an arduous task. There’s a whole other level of engagement I’m going to need with them, this time around, though.

My usual style of narration is third-person, past tense; this doesn’t discount the need to get to know characters so well, but it does mean that the narration is, distinctly, in my own style. I use language as I usually would, without too much deviation from what would be considered the ‘standard rules’ of grammar and spelling. While not being necessary for spoken exchanges between characters, it fits in well enough with the style of writing.

For a series of short stories, each centered around a rather different character each time, however, I feel that this has to change. I plan on playing around with the narration in each story; most being first person, some being second person, and the storyline that runs throughout being third person limited. This means that I am tasked with making each character ‘seem’ different, or taking into account the fact that not every character will narrate their own story in the same way. What does the way in which their story is written say about their personal background? Their level of education? Their career choice? Does it suggest an accent other than where the story is set? Why or why not? For the most part, these are things that I’m taking into account as I embark on the next step of my novel journey; characterization. It’s normally something I do right away, but in this case, is that much better left until last.

For me, creating a character starts, primarily, with a character sheet. How detailed the sheet is is mostly dependent on the character and their role; a primary character will usually have a more detailed sheet than a character who only has, maybe, two lines of dialogue and a paragraph description in the entire novel. That said, I usually try to avoid characters that are this minor, unless I’m placing my main cast in a densely populated area; a packed out bar or club, a roadside, a protest march … other than that, I don’t see the point in needlessly inserting ‘that twenty-something with the blonde hair who Bryson glimpsed once and never saw again.’ The things I like to get down first are their personalities, and how I think they might react to a certain social situation. The Myers-Briggs personality test is a handy resource for this, as are the multitude of personality tests floating around on the Internet. Of course, the results don’t always have to be followed to the letter, and the tests always work best if you have some idea of the character beforehand, but they can give some useful insight; for example, my primary character this year, Courtney, is an ESTJ, the polar opposite to my own result of INFP. This does not mean that all I need to do is make him react in a directly opposite way than I would to certain things. It just means that he might be considerably more impulsive, and self-confident than I am, and these are things I will need to bear in mind while writing.

Something else I’m dealing more heavily with this year than in the past is the idea of family. In every NaNo novel I can remember writing (which is all of them), I have neglected to have characters really interact with their parents and families, the exception being in Contempt for The Blind, however, it wasn’t so much an interaction as Justin fighting his ‘mindless drones of the government’ parents and sister. In some cases, this is because of the lives my characters lead, but more often than not, it’s just because I forget that they need parents and all, my characters being well into middle age themselves. The idea of family is something I started to deal with more extensively in Strictly Business, my as yet unfinished novel chronicling Jannah Reid’s dark past, and even more so in Free Fall. Of course, my biggest fear is that, should my family eventually read it, the less positive elements (most of them) could be seen as a well-aimed kick at them. They’re no such things, of course … but it occurred to me a little late in the day that someone in Courtney’s situation would still strive to have regular contact with his father. Being that he moved across an entire country to escape his past, this will most likely be consigned purely to phone conversations … all the same, however, it counts as contact.

Finally, here I feel that I have a set of characters who are significantly more authentic than I’ve had in previous years.  Butterfly Black’s cast was intentionally zany (mocking Hell, or the idea of Hell, kind of calls for it), Contempt for The Blind’s a stab at reality mixed with a kind of hyper-reality, and Where Jackals Lie mostly consisted of a contrived cast of Noir stereotypes. I’m not denying that this year, I have a set of characters who have been … extremely unfortunate, or made terrible decisions and done terrible things. But don’t we all make mistakes? Here, the challenge lies in trying not to make them, or indeed, anyone in the stories who inflicts suffering, an exaggerated form of villain. Even the worst cast members have some kind of redeeming quality, insignificant or significant, and this is where I think I may start hitting roadblocks. The idea that not everything is black and white.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. On a slightly unrelated note, I’m looking forward to this year’s effort rather a lot, in part because I feel I am trying something newer, more different, than I have ever tried before.

On another slightly unrelated note, I’ve been NaNoing for exactly three years today! Hooray!

Roll on November!


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Writing & Literature

NaNoWriMo 2011

Just because I haven’t harped on about it enough already, the NaNoWriMo website resets today. Planning is well underway already (Free Fall Fridays #1), but I thought I’d basically just copy over to here what is already due to be posted on my profile, as well as a few added extras.

The Word Count

The more I try and think of ways to approach this, the more I’m feeling as though I’ll come off as arrogant for detailing it, but please, please bear with me – I’m not saying it to be cocky, but hopefully, what I’m about to write next should explain it somewhat;

The first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words seemed like this impossible stretch that I’d never, ever, achieve. My longest work up until then clocked out at around 33,000 words, collectively written over a period of two, nearly three, years. I made it, eventually, after about ten days of not writing and simply lamenting the fact that I couldn’t come up with anything to keep the story flowing. I got to around 53,000 words in the end, but the latter half of the story is one of those things; I just don’t talk about it, it’s that bad. Nonetheless, I came away with my first, complete story that wasn’t fan fiction, after a battle with myself to keep plugging away at it. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I didn’t give up.

With this in mind, I came back with a vengeance in 2009, a plot that had been sparked by an advertisement about the Swine Flu vaccination, and eventually, an outline of each chapter, character profiles, and quite a lot to go on. ‘I’m aiming for 75,000, if I can manage it,’ I said. I hit 75k somewhere around week 2 with no idea of how I had done it – last year, it had been so damn hard, so why had it come so easy this time around? In the end, I continued on to the end of the story, seeing as I had the time, which took me to somewhere around 121,000. With the month still not over, yet, I pushed on to 150,000 with a variety of random character background stories, and one of those works I tend to start but never finish.

When it came time for last year’s NaNo event, it only seemed sensible to set myself a similar target as in 2009 – part of the enjoyment, for me, is the feverish rush of typing and frantic coffee/energy drunk guzzling that comes in the last few days of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t quite have that in 2009, so wanted to up the ante this year to 200,000 words. I think I got complacent somewhere around week 3. I’d exceeded my total from last year, I thought, is it really the end of the world if I don’t hit it? I sat back. Relaxed too much and ended up around 20k short of my goal … this would have hit me harder had I not actually finished my story. Which, by the way, is still as terrible as ever.

So I’m reprising last year’s goal this year. 200,000 words by 11:59:59 pm GMT on November 30th. I have my doubts about hitting it this year, of course; I don’t want to spin my story out to meet my goal, but rather pick up another story if my first one ends in time. I estimate that Free Fall should take me up to around 120,000 if I’m lucky, so the other 80,000 could easily become a short novel in itself, and I’m guessing this is what I’ll do. What has let me down in the past with these post-NaNo Novel Novels is that I haven’t planned them out at all, so I feel that if I have two solid plans (Free Fall being my primary one, the one I intend to focus most upon) I might just make it.

If not, I’ll be downing energy drinks, coffee, and possibly even rum, deep into the night.

The Cover

I enjoy designing covers … not enough to warrant me finishing that Art & Design Btec, but enough to do it in my own free time. Unfortunately, these are a little rough around the edges, being as my Photoshop free trials have all run out now, and I can’t really be bothered to sort it out yet, I had to create them with GIMP. Which is all fine and good, but the image quality always suffers every time I use it, and, oh, yeah … I can’t make more than maybe one or two edits before it decides to inform me that it has ‘encountered a problem and needs to close.’ It took me maybe an hour longer to create these than it should have done.

I had a more complicated design in the works for a while, but honestly, it just looked shabby. The quality of the image I was using wasn’t too great, for a start, so, after putting it through the filter a few times, I came up with something that vaguely resembled the designs below, minus the stick men.  Why choose stick men? I figured that the subject matter was heavy enough already; the stick men seem to lessen the impact while still conveying the message I wanted. I don’t know, make of it what you will.

The Story

I’ve already gone into some detail about this, so I’ll spare the rambling and skip to my synopsis (which is, incidentally, also on the back cover, so you could always just read it there) – please be warned, this most likely contains some sensitive material, or an approach that could be construed as controversial. Skip if you’d like:

‘Just one step, and all your troubles go away.

Courtney Vaugn is familiar with what happens to a human body when it falls from the hundredth floor of some high-rise building. What he saw when he was thirteen, the image still burns, vivid, in his mind, no matter what he does to try and forget it. When he asked his father why someone would do that to themselves, his father explained that the person falling, they probably black out before they even reach the ground, and even if they don’t, it’s just ‘one step into nothing.’ Less painful than bleeding to death. Less risky than hanging. Easier than drugs.

Twenty-three years later, and Courtney is a rising star in the local investigation squad, a college educated crime scene investigator with a reasonably comfortable private life and a series of successful investigations under his belt. Then, what the team thinks is the mangled body of a woman, the pieces of her spread six feet in diameter, shows up. Haunted by what he saw as a teenager, Courtney throws himself into the case with a fierce determination that threatens to unhinge him. He wants answers. He wants to know what happened that night when he was thirteen, when he found what was left of her body.

A series of tales intertwine with Courtney’s own as he investigates the conditions for each suicide, desperate to know what drove them to it. Desperate to finally understand the event that triggered it all, and to face up to a lifetime of denial.’

The Conclusion

I’m looking forward to NaNoWriMo this year, as always, but I think it might be significantly stranger to do … unless I’m employed by the time it rolls around. If not, then every day will most likely be feeling like the weekends always have; wake up, write, shower, get dressed, write, eat, write, sleep (eventually). It’s a bizarre prospect, doing this, the idea that there is little else to do, but at least I’ll be doing something that I know I enjoy. Nobody’s forcing me to do this, after all.

This threatens to break me, though. I’ve never written anything like this before; read plenty of it, yes, which is part of the reason I’m sliding in such a direction. It never has been a case of stomaching it. Just reasoning with myself that what I’m writing actually works on the page.

Nonetheless, roll on November!


Filed under NaNoWriMo

Free Fall Fridays #1

I’m doing this purely for alliteration, can’t you tell?

What Are Free Fall Fridays?

Simply put, they’re Fridays upon which I’ll be posting NaNoWriMo plotting and writing updates.  Sometime in the past few weeks, I decided my novel this year will be ‘Free Fall’, due to the subject matter, and it kind of makes sense to have a set date upon which I post the week’s updates (unless I really can’t wait until the end of the week). I could just as easily do ‘WriMo Wednesdays,’ if I decide that word count relates issues might benefit from being kept separately, but for now, it’s ‘Free Fall Fridays.’ If I don’t feel an update is in order, I may post an excerpt, depending on how I feel at the time … and how quickly I write it, which is directly proportional to how readable it is.

This Week:

The plotting business, it’s getting a little grisly. Luckily, it’s not too grisly for my tastes, but I’m a little bit taken aback by how this particular story seems to have taken hold of me  and hijacked my thoughts, permanently, so that all I’m really thinking about is … well, I’ll let the title suggest what it might be.

It’s coming together reasonably well, though; better than I ever thought it would. When it comes down to it, I’ve never, ever, put my mind to a project quite like this. I had the idea to write a series of short stories over the summer, but the idea never really materialized because there was no concrete plot. I couldn’t put my mind to coming up with one, because I was set in my ways; what I had intended was to create something of a portfolio, as opposed to something in novel format. I had thought to string them together, link them all in some way, but the link was never quite there … it just seemed rather contrived.

What I have now, it needs a lot of work, yes, but there’s something there. Something I feel good about (though maybe I should feel bad about it – it’s morbid as hell), confident enough to put into motion. This has happened once before, concerning a NaNo novel, and the end result can be seen on the right-hand side of this page. This seems like advertising, yes. I assure you it isn’t. If there was still a free download available, I’d restrict it only to that, but I won’t go into my reasons for that work still having a price tag here. The result was Contempt for The Blind; it seems juvenile now, but I was proud of it at the time. I was pleased by the fact that I’d managed to write something with an actual plot. An actual storyline. Dear lord, this had never happened to me before.

Last year’s novel, Where Jackals Lie, never had a plot. Not in the six years, from conception to writing it at fever-pitch in less than a month, did it ever have a plot. A friend asked me what its plot was. ‘Um, well …’ with the conclusion being that it never had one, and probably never would. It was fun to write, though.

Anyway, digression over, I’m significantly used to writing traditional ‘novels’, chapter by chapter novels that unfold in this way. In part due to the influence of reading Haunted, and in part stemming from my initial desire to write a set of short stories over the summer, this is what I set out to do. In terms of format, something I did learn from Haunted was that you can have a set of extremely different stories told from varying perspectives, by extremely different characters, and still work them into something with a more linear narrative. Stories within a story, I suppose you’d call it.

No, I’m not rehashing Haunted, and I do understand just how risky me citing it as an influence is, believe me.

So step one of plotting this novel was; a set of short stories.

Step two; a very strange, disturbing and slightly depressing, fascination of mine that I won’t detail just yet.

Step three; conditions to trigger each scenario.

Step four; plotting being entirely derailed by a rather bizarre but hugely useful dream I had about my parents’ marital status. Little did I know that this would provide what is, essentially, my novel’s conclusion, as well as something of a background for my central character outside the individually narrated short stories.

Step five; considering a way in which to piece this all together.

Step six, the step that I’m on now; developing a series of characters and their own individual stories.

The intention with this? Nothing more than to try something new. I’d be lying if I said I  didn’t want to be published … some day. I understand that there are a lot of things I need to do first, a lot of ideas I need to develop, and I most definitely need to get a grip on the real world. Which is to say, I need to make sure that I know what shocks others, not me. Pushing the boundaries is an incredible idea, and one I admire … for someone who is already a well established author.

So I’ll settle for growing as a writer, this time around. Taking a leap (a completely lame and ironic pun given what I’m working on) and not playing it safe any more.

Besides, I hunger for a challenge.


Filed under NaNoWriMo