Words Hard to Work with

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word today is Imperceptible.

This is an interesting word, but a poor choice for a writer’s tool box. Imperceptible means not perceived, neither by the senses — like something no one can see, smell, hear or feel — nor by the understanding. Something sort of “not-there-but-hovering somewhere-awaiting-some-reveal.”

It’s a word writers tend to work around somehow, seeing they have to show in some way, or let their character sense, the emotion or object. Our hero can’t go out in the rain and not see, smell, hear, or feel it, and still somehow know that it’s raining. Likewise they can’t sense a frown or a sneering tone. So authors are inclined to tack “barely” and “almost” onto the word:

 “We expect you gone by sundown, stranger.” Kid Goodson caught the almost imperceptible menace in Black Bart’s tone.
A frown, barely perceptible, darkened the Kid’s brow. “I’m not leaving until I find out what I want to know.” He tossed the bartender two silver dollars and walked out. His ear caught the almost imperceptible sigh of Sally Saloon-Wench.

The thing is, if no one perceives the whatever, there’s not much point in mentioning it, either, unless as a narrator-to-reader aside:

 Indignation, as yet imperceptible to Kid Goodson, was simmering in the bosoms of the town folks. Looks were exchanged and heads silently shook as unspoken sentiments were shared by the listeners. They weren’t going to stand for a show-down in their streets.

No, imperceptible isn’t a word story writers are apt to employ very often. News commentators, on the other hand, may use it at times.

Initially the jury seemed completely swayed by Slick Lawyer’s defense presentation, but at some point an imperceptible shift took place. When the jurors returned from deliberation the defense was shocked to hear their unanimous. “We find the defendant guilty as charged.”

 “While Governor Lord ruled the state, the majority of voters seemed quite content to let him. However, when his successor Tyson Rant took office, an imperceptible grassroots discontent soon began to make itself felt.”

Like smouldering coals, feelings aren’t usually unperceived for very long. Sooner or later Ty Rant is going to see signs of that grassroots discontent.
 “One day the Governor found a dozen dead ducks on his doorstep. The next day university students staged a sit-in on his lawn. A week later farmers blockaded his driveway with hay bales while old ladies carried protest signs and boys pelted his house with rotten tomatoes.
 “Slowly, almost imperceptibly, he became aware that his constituents just weren’t happy with him.”

And thus ends my discourse on this unusual word.

Poor Planning

Ragtag Daily Prompt word today: ARCHITECT

Poor Planning

He hired a trendy architect to design a beautiful, large house with an open floor plan and lots of windows, for he loved the sunlight.

Architect

The crowning touch was his spiral staircase winding up to a brilliant skylight.

A Spiral.stairs (2)

Yes, it was a house anyone would be proud to own, and delighted to live in. His guests oohed and ahhed.

The only thing he never factored in was the weather. He built his house on the Canadian prairie and the very first winter the thermometer dropped to -40F/C and hovered there for ten days. January was warmer, -30 C. By the end of Feb is was all the way up to -20 C and by April 15th it hit 0 C. On June 1st, after he paid his heating bill, he was bankrupt.

Images courtesy of Pixabay.

In actual fact we do have some very nice houses and office buildings here, but serious consideration is given as to how we’ll keep them warm in winter.  🙂

Writing Prompts & Asteroids

“Hey, Nix.” Tanner watched his brother punching the keyboard with his index fingers. “Finally working on that bestseller?”

“Nah. Just doing a bit of writing exercise…in preparation for the day. I googled ‘writing prompts’ to see if I could find one that would light my fire.”

“Well, miracles still happen, they say.”

“Talk about overload! Here are eighteen pages of writing prompts. A few sites give 365, one for every day. And here’s another with 101 writing prompts. Some are specifically for fiction, some for journal, some to use as story starters. Hey! There’s even one called ’40 really awful writing prompts that no writer should use.’

“Cool! Everybody’s gonna want to check those out. So, what do they call a really awful writing prompt?”

Nixon clicked on the site and scrolled down. “These were written by Kim Z Dale and they are…yeah…some are pretty awful.

“Like?”

“Here’s the first: Write a story set on another planet exactly like our own. Call that planet “Earth’.”

Tanner moaned. “Okay. A definite lack of imagination. But you could embellish it, right? Make it Earth, but have everyone get along, people all bubbling with goodwill. The Fountain of Youth has just been discovered and the world is full of happy, smiling faces.”

“That would be a mega-miracle. I think this is supposed to be a regular Earth with everyday people living normal lives, going to school or rushing off to work, roaring along the freeways, pushing and shoving for bargains and fast foods, eyes glued to their phones.”

“How boring is that? You need some high adventure, some major catastrophe. Hey, I know. You could have a regular Earth, with normal people doing their stuff, then they find out a giant asteroid is streaking toward the planet and it’s going to blow the world to smithereens. People all over the world stop to watch the skies.”

“Um…technically only half the world would be able to see this at any given time,” Nixon reminded him.

“Spoilsport.”

“Anyway, they wouldn’t just stand there watching the skies for months. From the time we first knew it was coming, it’d take at least half a year to get here. We’d have months to get ready.”

“But what else would we do? No point working, buying stuff, putting money in the bank. No point planting a garden or anything if the planet was going to blow up. Maybe a great time to travel. See the world while it’s still intact.” Tanner chuckled, then thought for a moment. “I suppose religious folks would spend the time praying the world would be spared.”

“Hey, I’d be joining them!”

“And some folks might decide to make peace with their relatives. Write about some guy making peace with his family because they’re all about to be wiped out.”

“That’s an idea. ‘Sorry I’ve been such a pain, everybody.’ Lots of hugs and kisses. Nah, too intense.”

“Hey, it sells. People nowadays love intense.”

 “But you know, Tanner, the government would be saying ‘Not to worry, folks. We’ve got this.’ Calming everybody down, and NASA would be figuring how much to hit it with, long before it gets here.”

“Right. Most people would expect to survive somehow, though they’d be stocking up on survival rations, just in case. That’s what I’d do, trusting this would all blow over but ready for some fallout.”

“Yeah, a lot would say ‘It’ll never happen.’ After Y2K, when all the electronic and financial systems in the world were supposed to crash and things carried on like always, people have become cynics.” Nixon shook his head melodramatically.

“So are you gonna write about all this?”

“I dunno. It’d take hours. I see the Ragtag community does a prompt and their word for today is Embellish. And the Word-of-the-Day challenge is Miracle. Maybe I’ll try one of those and keep it short.”

😉

Grandpa’s Bedtime Story

My muse has been fluttering around today, checking out all the prompts and spinning a tale, so I’ll post it while it’s fresh, even if I’ve already done another.

The Word Prompts are Word-of the Day’s LIGHT
Ragtag Daily Prompt’s DEEP
and Crimson’s Challenge #52, this photo:

https://crimsonprose.files.wordpress.com/2019/10/flixton.jpg\

Grandpa’s Bedtime Story

“Deep in the woods you must go
to find the golden sword
but you must never forget
the helpful magic word

for only this word can smash—
all other attempts are vain—
the seal of the calabash
and break the binding chain.

Into a cavern of stone
in the depth of the darkest night,
and you must go alone,
you may hear the call tonight…”

Suddenly the door opens. Mom eyes her two sons. “Not sleeping yet?”

In a voice a-quiver with awe her youngest answers. “Grandpa’s telling us a bedtime story.”

She takes in their excited faces, their wide-open eyes. “I see. Well, now it’s time for lights out.”

“What’s the magic word, Grandpa? Tell us quick,” they plead.

Grandpa tousles their hair “It’s ‘Good night’.”

“Awww….” The two boys groan loudly.

Mom grins. “I think we’d better let Grandpa tell morning wake-up stories from now on.”

Manor Matters

This week’s Creative challenge from Crimson involves an interesting set of manor gates. My first impression has led to this 150-word tale.

Manor Matters

“Another one asked about the gates, sir. Some old lady from Canada this time.”

“Well, what can they know about history and culture? Living in igloos, running about on dogsleds half the year. EH?”

“Piddly little, I suppose. Gets tiresome, though.”

“True, but they’re paying £25 each to see the place. Our bread and butter, if you will. Stiff upper lip, Witherham. Fall is coming.”

“I’ll do my best, sir. But if I hear one more, ‘Why don’t you paint the other one?’ I may go off my nut. Say, could I perhaps trade with Franks? I’ve always wanted a crack at being the manor ghost.”

“Then you’ll hear a steady stream of ‘Who’s under that sheet?’ and ‘I don’t believe in ghosts.’ Tourists are impossible to satisfy! Franks has threatened to throttle the next skeptic. He’s doing the turret tour now; we’re getting a robot for the ghost.”

Great Opening Lines

Great Opening Lines

The Word of the Day prompt this morning was DESPERATE, so let’s take a look at a few desperate situations main characters have come face-to-face with in some popular novels.

I read an article not long ago saying how important it is for writers to start off with an enticing hook, preferably in the first paragraph. Best-selling author and writing instructor Jerry Jenkins gives wannabe novelists this advice: “Plunge your character in terrible trouble as soon as possible, definitely in the first chapter and preferably on the first page.”

If you can do this well, your readers will start rooting for your hero or heroine right off the bat.

Lewis Carroll wasted no time in his classic, Alice in Wonderland. The story opens with a sleepy, bored Alice, noticing, then following, a talking rabbit. By the fifth paragraph she’s plunging down the rabbit hole into another world.

Jane Austin succeeds admirably, opening Pride & Prejudice with an unknown young man about to enter a tiger’s den of local mothers desperate to gain a rich son-in-law. You know his goose is cooked when you read the first lines.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered as the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

In the first lines of Agnes Sligh Turnbull’s 1948 classic, The Bishop’s Mantle, we get the picture of another desperate soul:
The young man in the taxi leaned forward. “Can you go faster?” he said to the driver. “It’s a matter of life and death.”
The reason for his urgency is soon clear, as we see him arrive at his destination and softly enter the bedroom of his dying grandfather.

Dan Walsh starts out his terrific historical novel, The Deepest Waters — © 2011 — with the main characters in desperate straits indeed, about to be plunged into the Atlantic:
Yesterday, when it had become a certainty their ship would sink, Laura and John Foster held hands, as they had on their wedding day three weeks ago, and made a vow: when that moment finally came, they would leap into the sea together and slip beneath the waves….
But that’s not what happened.

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, CS Lewis introduced his character in a delightfully terse, yet revealing way, guaranteed to spark the reader’s curiosity about this belligerent boy and the troubles that await him:
There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can’t tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none.

I don’t think anyone can beat Canada’s best loved humorist, Stephen Leacock, though, when it comes to painting scenes of desperation and dismay in the opening lines of his short stories. Here are a few from A Treasury of Stephen Leacock, ©1999 by Key Porter Books:

My Financial Career
When I go into a bank I get rattled. The clerks rattle me; the wickets rattle me; the sight of the money rattles me; everything rattles me.

Lord Oxhead’s Secret
It was finished. Ruin had come. Lord Oxford sat gazing fixedly at the library fire.

A Christmas Letter
Mademoiselle,
Allow me very gratefully but firmly to refuse your kind invitation. You doubtless mean well; but your ideas are unhappily mistaken.

How to Avoid Getting Married
Some year ago, when I was the Editor of a correspondence column, I used to receive heart-broken letters from young men asking for advice and sympathy. They found themselves the object of marked attentions from girls which they scarcely knew how to deal with.

Too bad he wasn’t around to give advice to the single young man Jane Austin was about to plunge into terrible trouble in my first example. Oh, well. He came out okay in the end.