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Things A Scene Needs
Each character in a scene needs a goal. Obviously the main character’s goal is the most important, but every character should be aiming for something, and those goals should be acted on and in doing so affect one another.
This doesn’t just refer to the protagonist/antagonist relationship, it should be true of all characters in a scene.
“A novel should be an experience and convey an emotional truth rather than arguments.” ”—Joyce Cary
“We would be worse than we are without the good books we have read, more conformist, not as restless, more submissive, and the critical spirit, the engine of progress, would not even exist. Like writing, reading is a protest against the insufficiencies of life. When we look in fiction for what is missing in life, we are saying, with no need to say it or even to know it, that life as it is does not satisfy our thirst for the absolute – the foundation of the human condition – and should be better. We invent fictions in order to live somehow the many lives we would like to lead when we barely have one at our disposal.”—Mario Vargas Llosa
“We are all our own graveyards, I believe; we squat amongst the tombs of the people we were. If we're healthy, every day is a celebration, a Day of the Dead, in which we give thanks for the lives that we lived, and if we are neurotic we brood and mourn and wish that the past was still present.”—Clive Barker
“A lot of people proclaim a need for independence, for space. And while I could attest to that, more than anything, I was a tiger dying amongst the sprawling jungle. I longed for a cage of my own. My apartment, a two bedroom overlooking the gentrification of Philadelphia, had a décor of my design. I picked out the furniture, including the Ikea futon I dubbed “death trap,” and gave every trinket and knick-knack their designated spots: high school diploma and Bachelor’s degree over my black computer desk, novelty shot-glasses along the top of my bookcase and various Buddha figurines, from flea markets in South Jersey, on my dresser and nightstands. And of course, my vinyl collection, a two hundred piece of my heart that took me to the dustiest, most allergenic music stores on the East Coast.”—Longform Fiction is featuring my short story (and first ever publication) “Saturn Return,” originally published in 2008 by Up The Staircase.
bless me father, for i have sinned.
i can’t even remember when my last confession was. i think i was with jess. she used to make me go to church with her… every sunday. Pastor Warren. Said I was his favorite boy that Jess had ever brought with her.
I’m not confessing that murder is my greatest sin. You can scrape the souls of the murdered off of someone. they stick with you. those you’ve lost still linger. they latch on because you’re the only thing they have left to latch on to.
in my whole life, there was… one thing. just one, that i knew was my job. dean had “watch out for sammy.” it was always watch out for sammy and make sure sammy eats his dinner and don’t forget to help sam with his homework even though you have homework of your own, even though you’re ten, dean, and you have your own life, sammy comes first.
no, my job was to make dean proud. to make dean happy. to make things as easy for dean as possible.
i got killed because i couldn’t kill someone, and then a year later watched dean die for me. i couldn’t even listen and stay away from the demon blood, no. it was all to get dean back because i loved him so much. i do love him. i love him so much that it gets me killed, i love him so much that it makes me crazy.
my greatest sin isn’t murder or fucking a demon or drinking or cursing.
bless me father, for my greatest sin is letting down the only person in my entire life that i’ve ever loved.
She gleans daisies because it reminds her of him. She sits at the coffee shop twirling its delicate stem and watching the petals glide onto the table, in a motion much like her heart, as the hours pass and he does not appear at the door she watches so intently. She continues to wait, and in an overstimulated state from too much caffeine, she changes her order to distilled water. This is her ritual every Friday afternoon. The staff call her “Patience.” Here is where they met; here is where they fell in love; here is where they parted ways. She often thought of never returning, but the walls are still seeped in their laughter and endless hours of verbal exchange in the form of childhood stories and their adoration for each other. She can still hear the conversation clearly amidst the atmosphere of clinking coffee mugs and the hushed murmur of blossoming love from the other patrons. He would bring her daisies when they would meet once a week for their ritualistic Friday afternoon coffee. It is the only flower she purchases now. She feels it would be a betrayal to look upon any other petal. It is the same reason she continues to return to this place. To go anywhere else would be a slap in the face of their time together and the bond they had formed which she thought would never disintegrate.
I wonder if I were to look through the window of this coffee shop 10 years from now on a random Friday afternoon if I would witness her sitting there, twirling a daisy and nursing her fourth coffee cup. How we hold onto hope to the point of never moving on. I nourish the vision of her twirling a rose one day and truly smelling it as she walks away.
“I will tell you something in that area, if you like a theory, which I may have come up with after I wrote the book—I’m not sure. It is the notion that the reader is brought in almost as a collaborator in creating the picture that emerges of the characters, of the situation, of what they look like—everything. So this authorial absence, which everyone from Flaubert to Barthes talks about, is the sense that the book is a collaboration between the reader and what is on the pages.”—William Gaddis
I remember when I was a kid, themed birthday parties were all the rage. There was one in particular that was strict on costumes. “Get a freaking suit and you’re worth it to be inside,” she said. What I wore were ragged clothes. Not ragged, as in a ragged costume, but ragged in place of extravagance. I was wearing clothes I could have worn on any other day and apart from wimgs I bought at a nearby store, nobody could have single-handedly pointed out that I was a fairy. But it’s okay. Because I felt like a fairy. All night long, I kept staring at this one girl. She was wearing a fitted bodice which traced a plum blue around her body, ending as a corset with a thin-laced ribbon at the back. The sleeves of her dress fell down to her elbows, fit around the shoulders, and flowy as it goes down. There were fine ivory details around the dress and there were gold embelishments on the right places, not too many but enough to make the ballgown stand out and sparkle even under the white fluorescent. I, on the other hand, only standed out because I was the only one who wore trash. We had always been a poor family and what I wore now was the closest luxury our family had. It took my parents a week of picking up trash. As the night dipped into even more darkness, the brghter her dress. Everybody couldn’t keep their eyes off her. They followed her even when she stood next to me and said, “Hi. Thank you for letting me borrow your dress at the expense of your clothes right now. It’s beautiful. I could never thank you enough.”
Of course, everybody heard her and of course, everybody’s eyes turned to me with appreciation. It was the first time somebody looked at me with a hint of praise instead of the counterpart. What I could never figure out at the end of the night was her identity. I never let her borrow that dress. It was never mine. She was a complete stranger, and what she said were the things I could have said to her if ever I see her again: I could never thank you enough. Thanks to you, whoever you are, nobody ever looked down on me again.