View Full Version : Writing exercise (some Violence)

December 10th, 2010, 07:57 PM
Lately I've been reading a lot of writing books, and I'm currently on Stephen King's On Writing. Towards the end, he challenges the reader to an exercise. He gives a short back story and then inverts the protagonist and antagonist, we are to finish the story with no plotting.

I thought it was an interesting assignment, especially being my first time writing in the genre, and I would love some feedback.

There are major flaws in my writing in general, and I would like to pinpoint them. If you could point out some examples of my flawed writing in this short story, and why it is flawed, I would be deeply indebted to you.

I've noticed some problems myself as I read through this finished story. I have a hard time knowing exactly when to put in the good'ol gooey description, the kind that plays with the senses, and brings the story to life. It seems like my sentences aren't varied enough, I generally stick to the same structure throughout--this may come from weak grammar & vocab-recall, but I'm working on that too. Thanks for your time, as always.

Dick Vandenhose kept a happy home, Jane—his loving wife—stood by his side, offering him man’s most valued treasure in a relationship, support. He wasn’t the best looking man, incomparable beside her, but he was loyal; he never questioned the virtue of his relationship, nor did she. At first.

Dick’s daughter turned seven today.

“Daddy hurry. I can’t miss my own birthday party,” said Maggie. Jane wasn’t there, she had not been there to spoil and pamper Maggie as a mother should. not for the last six birthdays.

“Ok-ok, I’m coming, you know how I gotta have my tea ready,” he said as he set the stove dial to low. He was great at timing such things always having what he needed when he needed it, Rose isn’t far, it won’t take too long, he thought.

Dick refused to leave the house if he looked any way but perfect. His stiff button up shirt steamed in perfection; the iron lay plugged in at the furthest reach of Dick’s room—prepared for the next morning--as it always had. Dick considered himself a clean man, but Maggie had another word for it, “stickler”. Such a young age, and she already had the mouth of a lion-for-insult.

“Just like your mother,” Dick always said at the worst of them. Maggie would fire back with a question designed to stump her father, she was naturally curious about the mother she couldn’t remember, and rarely satisfied by her father’s answer. Dick understood that, but he only ever gave one response: “She got very sick when you were little, she’s not with us anymore.” He understood it was a lie, but such a young girl couldn’t comprehend the truth, let alone accept it.

Dick despised strangers coming into his house, keeping it from the way it’s supposed to be. Rose Dawkins’s mother insisted Maggie have a proper birthday party, but Dick endured one full week’s groaning from his daughter before he finally gave in. He wanted Maggie to have lots of friends, the new house loomed in brilliance among the rest on Shanty’s Corner.

“Is that house ours daddy?” Maggie asked as the sun trickled among dawn’s clouds and they pulled into the driveway for the first time. “Hmhm…Yes baby. The whole thing,” he said. Taking up all roots and leaving behind a life, a childhood, it was painful. But Maggie hadn’t been safe there anymore, not even the white padded rooms of the institution had stopped the terrorizing letters. Somehow Jane was still sending them. When he requested outgoing mail to his address be checked, he was obviously not taken seriously. each day Dick dreaded opening the mailbox.

Despair seeped from the small vanilla envelope—in the form of a return address—Dick’s day was destroyed each and every one of them since the day she was locked up.

Edgeview Hospital
33 Groomut Dr.
Greensburg, CO 38337

“Luv you daddy,” called Maggie as she clambered along the flowerbed of a women who clearly thrived on others opinions, a woman who lived to please the world. Dick felt a little better as he pulled away from the curb, she’s in good hands he thought.

Midday traffic pained every driver, lunch hour had never been a time to travel, but unfamiliarity tightened the tension. Dick missed his exit, it wasn’t even his fault. The driver—of all idiot’s this one had to be given a bomb on wheels--decided the traffic was too slow for him, or maybe he was late for a delivery, it didn’t matter; next thing Dick saw as he carefully pulled into the exit lane, was a barreling fuel truck hogging his rear-view mirror. Seconds from a catastrophic accident, Dick merged back into the bubble he had already been stuck in for nearly an hour, and the idiot driver blasted down the shoulder, Dick swore he saw paint chips fly off his car in the small sonic boom.

Eventually, he arrived home in tact, but late. His frustration was already at its maximum, and the doormat had been moved. Something changed, he could sense it. A faint smell of smoke, not unusual with the bloated garbage fees, but it was gaining hostage of his nose, and it was too strong for burning garbage. Soon he noticed the smoke was leaking out from the bottom of his door, it was in his home.

“Hello Dick…” came a voice from behind, “Still as perfect as ever I see,” he nearly dropped dead at the familiar terror instilled in the voice.

“Jane?...”He slowly turned but was stopped short, thud! Untamed pain shot through his veins. All was black. Dick began to interpret the feeling in his body as warmth, following this subconscious feat came consciousness. His arms were bound tight, he could feel lacerations on his wrist, he must have struggled unaware in his sleep. His feet were bound as well, but neither of those problems seemed important because a fire burned right on his living-room floor, contained only by a few metal stools taken from the kitchen.

“I see you haven’t read my little girl her letters honey,” said Jane. “Why!” she stood up from her task of emptying heavy-duty garbage bags into the fire, staking no claim to its eternal hunger.

“Surely you can’t think Maggie would want to read those things. She’s a little girl for heaven’s sake?” perfection had gotten the better of him at last; piles and piles of stored envelopes burnt before him. He only hoped the fire wasn’t for him, but Jane had tried worse things after Maggie was born.

“My sweet child, I love you, I love you, I love you, so much. I will come and get you. That man who calls himself your father, he doesn’t know how much I love you. Don’t look at him, he will destroy you from the inside…” Jane was filtering through the letters, each saturated by down pours of deranged affection

“Nothin but lies, Jane. You don’t belong outside those walls anymore. You gave up too much,” said Dick, “and to think, I loved you, the lie you bestowed on me.” Dick labored in tears now, this women, this wolf had pretended to love him. The things he had done with her, the child they had brought into the world. It was too much to bear.

“Where’s my…little…girl…Dick?” Jane was circling him now. Teasing his chair towards the fire, “don’t you want to see her again?” she asked.

Between each question Dick twisted his wrists, the pain was agonizing, but the rope was small. He was nearly free.

“She’s upstairs, locked in’er room—“

“Why would you lock my baby in her room?” asked Jane, her nostrils expanded in rage.

“Because she didn’t clean the bathroom as I ordered her to,” that should work thought Dick. Jane had some delusional sense that he was a mad man, ever since Maggie was born. She swore Dick lived only to kill her and capture his own daughter.

It wasn’t hard to get her admitted into the hospital. Child services showed up weeks after Dick called them, the same day Jane had decided he was too dangerous; he woke in a burst of pain on that morning to find blood gushing from the metal spike in his palm. His hand had been nailed to the nightstand. It was lucky for him child services showed up at that moment; Jane had decided to run, with an unclothed baby, into the dead of winter. She didn’t expect to bump into a police escort. She also forgot to consider a man whose hand had been nailed to his nightstand might scream out in pain.

“If you’re lying to me honey…” Jane stopped speaking and Dicks jaw locked in horror; somehow a large knife had been concealed in her baggie asylum-issue pants, and she pulled it out slowly, each moment of the draw sounded agonizing against the concealed metal sheath.

“I’ll be back shortly my sweet,” Jane turned with a slice of the knife, grazing one long scratch across Dick’s thigh, and trotted up the stairway, calling “Maggie honey, mummy’s coming…” Dick nearly tipped himself into the dwindling flames as he leaned to make sure she was out of sight.

One final twist, and the bindings fell to the floor, his hands were free, bleeding but free. He bent over and worked the master knot’s loose, by now Jane had realized Maggie wasn’t upstairs at all.

“I warned you honey, now you have to accept the consequence. I think a hand will do,” Dick was safely stowed away behind the kitchen door, he could run, but he wouldn’t; this woman had already found them once. Jane’s scream bellowed through the house, every delicate piece of glass-ware wavered close to eruption.

“Jane! ...in the kitchen,” he needed to lure her to a point of advantage. Jane wouldn’t hold back, and he couldn’t either. Violence was not something he took lightly, in fact, he despised it. Her footsteps approached, and Dick could only see one option. He glanced towards the stove, where the teapot he had set hours ago had long since steamed away its contents, but it was red hot, even the blue paint was glowing crimson.

“Where… oh where… could you be honey?” Jane pushed the door open, and Dick almost lost himself in panic. He dove to the stove, just in front of Jane’s blade. Could he make it? Would his once wife really kill him? So many things crossed his mind that if he had been sliced he didn’t feel it. Only the burning metal in his hand seemed real. Dick swung his body at full force, aiming to kill and…wham!

One gasp of pain radiated from the point of impact as the smell of burnt skin filled the air, Dick was on top of his unconscious wife still holding the crimson tea pot to her flesh. “Don’t you ever threaten this family again!” he screamed and lifted the pot to reveal skinless wreck across her face. She wasn’t dead, but Dick would give his life to keeping her locked away, she would be dead to Maggie.