Rough Work


Rough Work

by Adam Huddleston

 

Here’s another taste of dystopian story that I’m working on.

 

Scene 1-Introduction

“Ben. Go ahead and close the blinds.”

I stand up on legs that are a little shaky and make my way across the carpeted living room.  There is no movement from outside, so I quickly draw the blinds, casting darkness over our meeting.

“Thank you son,” he says.

My father stands tall in the center of our circle, looking around at each of us with a firm and steady stare.  He raises a smooth, long-fingered hand and smiles.

“I’ll Fly Away,” he whispers.

We begin singing the familiar first verse, piano, so as not to draw the attention of anyone walking down the sidewalk in front of our house.  My father directs us in 4/4 time, marking each downbeat with a pop of the wrist. When we reach the chorus, I struggle to resist the urge to raise my volume.  Father, sensing my hardship, grins wider while using his other hand to direct our small congregation to sing ever quieter.

“…When I die, Hallelujah by and by, I’ll fly away,” we finish in not much more than a whisper.

We sing another handful of hymns, all from memory of course. Decades before my dad was born, the government enacted the Freedom From Religion Act.  All religious books, hymnals, pamphlets etc. were banned.  Any public displays of faith were prohibited as well, so no more churches, synagogues, or mosques.  Praying before a meal at a restaurant warranted the same punishment as any other infraction.

My father removes a cloth covering a brass plate.  Resting on top of the plate is a thin, round loaf of unleavened bread.  Beside it sits a bottle of homemade wine and a few small cups.

“In times such as these, we still remember our Savior.  His body was broken and his blood shed so that our sins would be forgiven.  No matter what dangers we face, we will partake in this supper until the end.”

Father didn’t have to explain what the “end” meant.  It could be our individual deaths or the death of the world.  Either way, Paradise awaited.

He breaks the bread and people outside begin shouting. I run to the window and gently peek between the blind slats.  Two houses down from us, Mr. Langston is being dragged out of his house by two men wearing black, armored uniforms.  One of the officers steps away and the other pulls a sidearm from its holster.  Our neighbor holds his hands up and shouts something and that’s when the officer shoots him in the forehead.  I see a brief cloud of blood in the air behind his head and he slumps forward onto the ground.  His wife and sons are standing in their doorway screaming.  I turn back to the dark room and begin crying.

My father leads me to the couch and sits beside me.  He wraps a long arm around my shoulders and pulls me close.

“I’m sorry, son.  I’m so sorry you saw that.  George was a good man and I’m gonna miss him.  I’m proud of his resolve, too.  Like us, his family never stopped worshipping.”

This makes me feel a little better but then my mind begins forming a scene where something similar happens to us.

“What if the Agency ever discovers us?  I’m scared, Dad.”

He looks away for a moment and I follow his gaze.  On the wall across the room is a picture of my mother. She was killed a few years after I was born when an Agency officer suspected her of trying to evangelize while shopping for groceries in town.  My father, who speaks often of her, but rarely of her death, says that he doesn’t know if that’s true or not.  Part of me hopes that it is.  If she had to die, I want to think that it was for a noble cause.

He sees me looking at her picture and hugs me tighter.

“It’s alright, Ben.  The government is strong.  Our family is stronger.  God is the strongest.”

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A Few Words on Adverbs


This week I wanted to submit a throwback to one of my first blogs!

 

A Few Words on Adverbs

Adam Huddleston

 

It has been said that the road to, well, let’s just say a rather “toasty” destination, is paved with adverbs. While I don’t harbor a fierce hatred for those “-ly” words, I do see a glimmer of truth in the proverb.

One of the basic precepts of writing is to keep it short and sweet.  Why use three weak words when one strong one will do?

For example: The man talked quickly.  How about: The man babbled.

Or: The deer swiftly ran.  Instead: The deer galloped.

Eliminating needless words will make your work cleaner and your chosen words stand out.  That being said, you don’t have to be an “adverb Nazi”!  There are many lonely adverbs out there looking for a loving home and many verbs which cannot be changed so easily.

My advice; read through your writing a few times and see if it sounds too wordy or cluttered.  If it does, start chunking those adverbs and see how “quickly” your work improves!

Happy writing!

 

The Anti-Hero


The Anti-Hero

by Adam Huddleston

 

The anti-hero is a literary device where the protagonist does not possess conventional hero characteristics.  For example, most heroes are seen as brave, strong, ethical, and intelligent.  The anti-hero, while still playing against the antagonist, may display features opposite to these.

Nobody is perfect.  Having a protagonist with internal and/or external flaws makes them more relatable to the reader.  Part of enjoying a story is putting yourself in the hero’s shoes.

Famous anti-heroes include: James Bond (border-line alcoholic and womanizer), Jay Gatsby (over-extravagant and obsessive), and Severus Snape (dark and malicious).  I highly recommend utilizing this literary device in your writing.  It definitely adds more depth to your craft.

Favorite Lines from Films and Television


Favorite Lines from Films and Television

by Adam Huddleston

 

This week I wanted to share just a small sample of my favorite lines from films and television.  In no particular order:

“Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” – Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption

“I wish there was a way to know that you’re in “The Good Old days” before you’ve actually left them.” – Andy Bernard in The Office

“A dream is an answer to a question we haven’t learned how to ask.” – Fox Mulder in The X-Files

“You clearly don’t know who you’re talking to, so let me clue you in. I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot, and you think that of me? No! I am the one who knocks!” – Walter White in Breaking Bad

Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.

Rumack: I am serious…and don’t call me Shirley.  – Airplane

Critiquing


Critiquing

by Adam Huddleston

 

Although it’s (regrettably) been some time since I’ve met with them, I’m a part of a writers group that gets together to read and critique each other’s work.  It is extremely beneficial to gain both positive and negative feedback concerning the craft that you’re working so hard on improving.  Recently, one of the members asked me to critique a few pages of her writing and it got me to thinking: What would be considered good etiquette when it comes to this process.

  1. Always be truthful. It may sound like something you would teach a child but it still rings true to the critiquing process.  The writer may be your closest friend and confidant, but you won’t be doing them any good by lying about what you feel could be improved upon.
  2. Try to include positive reinforcement with the negative. Tell the writer what they are doing right, what you enjoyed, and how it makes you feel.This will go a long way toward encouraging them and making their work stronger.
  3. Make sure your advice is clear. Plainly state what you don’t understand and if you are critiquing by hand, make your notes legible. Insertion arrows, punctuation changes, and paragraph signs should be easy to see.

This list is far from exhaustive.  Hopefully it will help you if you find yourself facing the rather enjoyable task of helping another writer with their work.

More Rough Work


More Rough Work

by Adam Huddleston

Here is the next scene from last week’s submission.

Several rats scampered in front of Jack’s cart as he wheeled it behind the tiny shack.  Before he had even rounded the corner, a rough voice growled at him from inside.

“You better have had a good day, Boy, or this whip is gonna drink tonight!”

The hairs on the back of the young man’s neck stood out and he flinched.  He had suffered Carson’s beatings for several years, and unless he was blessed with a miracle from the royal court, he would continue to; possibly until his miserable life ended and a new slave took his place.

“The day was profitable, sir.  I nearly sold out of the jelly-fruits.  The middle of the day was too hot to-”

“Shut your mouth, whelp! I took a trip into town today to witness your fine vending skills.  All I saw you doing was eyeing the little tart across from you!”

Jack’s face reddened and he took a half-step towards his master.

“Oh?  So the little spit wants to fight me?  You forget your place, but that’ll soon be remedied.”

Carson grabbed a thick, leather whip from a hook on the wall and a fireplace poker that had been resting in the hut’s modest hearth.  He took a threating step toward his slave and held the weapons up.  Jack could see the poker’s red-hot tip reflected in Carson’s eyes.

“Which shall it be?  Leather or fire?”

Jack lowered his head and backed up until he bumped up against the door.

“My…apologies, sir.  I meant no offense.  I know my place, I do.”

Carson lowered the items for a brief moment, then rushed forward with them raised.  Jack spun and ducked, at the same moment grasping the doorknob and twisting it fervently.  Carson slammed into him and the pair went sprawling out onto the front yard.

The poker landed in a dry patch of grass and in an instant, the lawn was ablaze.  Carson jumped on top of his slave and began choking him with hands that were seemingly too large.  Jack’s eyes bulged from their sockets.  A loud crack came from behind the struggling pair.

“The hut,” Jack gurgled through his ever-tightening throat.

Carson turned his head to see his home going up in flames. He jumped off of his victim and stood, looking in amazement as the shack and all of his belongings were destroyed.

Jack slowly rose to a pair of feet that were beyond wobbly. With his master’s attention turned elsewhere, he took his once chance to escape.  Stumbling off into the darkness, Jack headed for the woods on the other side of the dirt road.  With any luck, he might make it to Mary’s house before collapsing.

Another Rough Bit of Work


Another Rough Bit of Work

by Adam Huddleston

 

I didn’t have anything prepared to submit this week, so I went with a few paragraphs of a rough draft I’m working on.

Jack sold assorted fruits and vegetables from a little stand on the village square.  Mary sold bread from her own stand across from him.  Although the two had never met (such interactions were strictly forbidden without permission from their parents) he just knew that she was going to be his wife someday.

“We got sweet jelly-fruits here! Crispy, juicy water peas,” he barked to the small, early-morning crowd meandering about the town center.  One older fellow looked his direction, seemed to consider for a moment, and turned away.

“Hot, fresh rolls!  Honey-baked loafs,” Mary suggested to the same group.  Two ladies in the crowd made a bee-line for her stand, reaching into their leather satchels as they walked.

Jack propped his elbows on the hard, splintery wood and watched through half-closed eyes as the love of his life sold her wares and the customers walked away happily munching a couple of glazed pastries.

A little boy, no older than five, tottered up to Jack’s stand and stood there silently.  His eyes widened as he looked over the selection of garden foods.  A grimy little hand slowly reached out for a melon but stopped short when he saw Jack’s eyes watching him.  Jack frowned melodramatically, then tossed the child the piece of fruit he’d been drooling over.  The tot took a large bite of it and ran off at a gallop.

“I saw that,” a voice came to him from across the square.

Jack’s head popped up and he saw Mary grinning at him.  His face turned the shade of the melon he had just donated to the little boy.

“Oh!  Yeah, well, I have plenty of them in stock, so…” he trailed off.

“Those melons are worth five durons a piece.  I can’t imagine your master would be too happy knowing you’re giving away his produce.”

Jack looked at her closely, trying to gauge if she was pulling his leg. Her smile broke into a large guffaw of laughter and he relaxed, laughing back in return.  He reached into his front pocket, pulled out a handful of durons, and dropped them into the clay pot resting on the back corner of his stand.  Then he pressed his index finger to his lips in a hushing gesture.

“Mums the word,” Mary said.

Hours passed.  The sun, which had shown directly into Jack’s eyes that morning, made its slow circuit across the sky and now faced Mary.  Just like their king, even the heavens seemed impartial in their cruelty.

Mary pulled a large umbrella from the darkness under her cart.  Straining under the weight, she gave an awkward attempt at attaching it to the front of the stand.

 

Rough Work Part III


Rough Work Part III

by Adam Huddleston

 

Here is the last part of the first scene that I began posting two weeks ago.

Lucas tossed the empty bottle into his neighbor’s chair and began searching the house.

“Kimberly! Jax! Junebug!” His heart, which was already hammering in his chest, doubled its pace. Sweat streamed down his face and back.

“Are ya’ll here? Somebody holler something!”

He scanned the two guestrooms and the bathroom connecting them. He checked their game-room and instinctively grabbed a pool cue from the rack on the wall.

A muffled yelp came from the bedroom at the end of the Waldon’s central hallway. Lucas ran through the doorway and listened for the sound again. Another cry came from the closet. He yanked the door open and his mouth dropped open. His family sat huddled in a small circle, their hands bound behind them and mouths gagged.

His wife’s eyes widened and something hard crashed into the back of Lucas’s head, turning everything dark.

Rough Work Part II


Rough Work Part II

by Adam Huddleston

Here is the continuation of last week’s story.

Lucas alternated hammering his fists against the Waldon’s front door and jabbing repeatedly at the bell beside it. A minute later, the door creaked open and Fred Waldon stood in the entrance, his massive frame eclipsing the light coming from his small kitchen.

“Lucas? What’s wrong? It’s nearly eleven o’clock.”

“Have you seen Kim or the kids today? I just got home and the car is in the garage but the house is empty. I can’t get ahold of her on the phone either.”

Fred took the frightened man by the elbow and led him into his home.

“Sit down, son. You want a drink?”

“No. No, I’m fine.”

Waldon grabbed a couple of longneck bottles from his fridge and sat down in the chair opposite the younger man. He twisted the caps off with large, calloused hands, handed one to Lucas and waited for him to speak.

“She didn’t say anything about going anywhere tonight. And the Suburban is in the garage so someone must have picked them up. I mean, the kids have school tomorrow and all, so why would she take them somewhere?”

Fred remained silent, sipping his pilsner. When his visitor had quit speaking for a minute, he cleared his throat.

“Relax, Lucas. Drink your beer and relax. What if I told you that your family is alright? Would that calm you down some?”

“What the hell, Fred? What’s going on? Where are they!” Lucas started to get up, and with a speed belying his size, the older man sprang to his feet and pressed Lucas back into his seat.

“Be still, son. Finish your drink. They’ve been chilling all day.”

Lucas kept a firm gaze on his neighbor and did as he was told. When the only thing left in the bottle was a thin line of foam, he lowered his eyes and began slowly peeling off the label. Feigning what he hoped was calmness, he began making an inventory of his surroundings. If the situation turned south, he wanted to know if he could escape. Regardless, he planned on keeping a firm grip on his empty bottle.

The older man nodded at Lucas’s free hand. “You cut yourself?”

Lucas looked down and reflexively closed his hand into a fist. “No sir. Been painting.”

Fred gave a small grunt and continued drinking.

“Okay, Fred. I gotcha. Everything’s cool. We’re good.”

The older man stood up and leaned over Lucas. “Damn right we’re good.” He reached one grimy hand behind his back and that’s when Lucas made his move.

Holding the glass bottle by its neck, he swung downward as hard as he could in a large arc. Fred’s eyes went wide for a moment, then the bottle connected with the top of his balding scalp and split the skin open. Warm blood splattered Lucas’s upturned face, running into his eyes and mouth.

“Whaaa-,“ Fred moaned. From a holster attached to his belt, he pulled a small pistol. Lucas swung the bottle again, this time cracking his neighbor’s left temple. Fred dropped to the floor, twitched twice, and lay still.

A Bit of Rough Work


A Bit of Rough Work

by Adam Huddleston

 

This week I wanted to share a small portion of a suspense/thriller/drama I had tucked away from awhile back. Enjoy (if you want), or don’t, whatever.

Lucas pulled his car into the garage and killed the engine. His thoughts were on the last email he had received before leaving the office; a not-so-lighthearted scolding regarding sales vs. purchases. He never noticed the light that usually filtered through the bedroom window blinds was absent.

He popped the radio button and slid his thin frame out of the sedan. The door leading from the garage to his family’s laundry room was locked.

Great. I always leave it unlocked for her…

Lucas turned his key, wincing as the tumblers gave a tiny shriek. He rolled his eyes at the new project his wife would be laying on his shoulders that weekend.

He opened the door leading to the kitchen and stopped. No lights were on. The house was almost completely dark. The only light he could see was the digital green glow coming from the clock on the microwave above the stove.

“Babe!” he yelled. “Ya’ll already in bed?”

Nothing.

He flipped the switch on in the kitchen and moved from room to room, turning on lights as he went. His house was empty. No children. No wife.

Lucas thought back to when he pulled into the garage and remembered seeing the family SUV in its usual spot.

Well, where was everybody?

He pulled out his phone and hit his wife’s number under the “Favorites” list. Five rings later, her voicemail informed him that she wasn’t available and to leave his message after the beep.

He sat down on the soft leather sofa in the den and grabbed the remote lying beside him. His palm pressed into something moist and sticky.

“What the-“

He pulled up his right hand to reveal a dark red substance smeared across its surface. He swallowed hard and heard an audible click in his throat. His stomach seemed to twist on itself and he feared he might vomit the fast food burrito he’d scarfed down in the car all over the den’s tan carpet.

Lucas leaped up and took a long look at the remote control that had fallen to the ground. It sat there staring up at him with its numerous eyes. The top was covered in what looked like raspberry jam.

Without another thought, he spun on his heels and ran out the front door. He went straight to the Waldon’s house across the street, absently rubbing his stained hand against his slacks. It never occurred to him that this would be the worst decision of his life.