Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I've been a little thin on the posts lately because I've been so busy at work.

When you write news stories for a living, sometimes it's difficult to pivot your mind to climb inside a character's head. The same is true when you take a long vacation, do nothing but write fiction for an entire week, and then try to write news stories again.

That's what happened over my Christmas break last year. I had nine days off from work. During that time, I decided to get a little farther into my character's head by writing some scenes from the backstory. I'd recently added a character to the book, which changed the dynamics in some of Heather's (my MC) relationships. I needed to figure out where, when, how and why events in her life occurred to put her where she is at the opening chapter.

So, what I've decided to do is take some of the best snippets from that backstory and post them here. They were merely attempts to hone my craft. So, feel free to offer opinions, critiques, glorious reviews (hehe) or whatever in the comments.


Scene set up: Seventeen-year-old Heather and her sweetheart, Chris, have just made probably the biggest mistake of their lives. The rest is pretty self-explanatory.

“I’m sorry, Heather.” Chris Carsen’s apology sounds sheepish. As he sits behind the steering wheel of his old man’s pickup, I realize he hasn’t yet grown into the man I just made him. “I meant to pull out.”

My guts burn with worry. On the couch at his parents’ house, he presented only arguments for losing our virginity to each other: “We’ve been together a long time.” “We’re getting married in May.” “It’s gonna feel so good.” “I love you so much.” He never mentioned a downside, and I managed to mute those voices, too.

Now they scream at me: “You’re only seventeen, and if he got you pregnant, the next five months will be the longest of your life.”

If father finds out, his hands will do more than dole out the beatings to which I’m accustomed. He will kill me. And probably Chris, too.

“I’m way past my curfew.” Reaching for the door handle, my eyes avoid Chris. He broke his promise; I have no desire to be near him now.

Contrition resounds in his voice as he calls my name, but the slamming door makes it easy for me to pretend I can’t hear him. Chris won’t follow me; he’s seen the strength of my father’s fists.

I slip through the front door of the story-and-a-half farmhouse where my nightmares become frequent reality. Father’s truck sits cockeyed in the snow-covered lane; New Year’s Eve provides a good cover for me. Certainly, making love to Cutty Sark took him out of commission before everyone else welcomed 1975.

Catching a glimpse of my own reflection in the bathroom mirror, I realize I’ve been crying. Vague tracks of mascara tell a story I don’t want anyone to hear. I wash them away and brush my teeth before combing my long, red tresses. All the while, I ignore the uncomfortable sting Chris created between my legs and wonder how my friends think it’s pleasurable or mind-blowing or erotic.

It’s uncomfortable. And awkward. And gross.

A heavy-handed knock scares away the silence after I resolve not to let Chris touch me like that again.

“Where the hell have you been all night, Heather Marie?”

While I curse my noisy bedtime routine for pulling my father from his whisky-induced coma, my eyes scan the room for a cover story. I yank a dirty housecoat from the hamper and ignore the stench of sweat and diesel as I slip my arms in the sleeves.

“Asleep.” My voice feigns an air of lethargy for which I congratulate myself. “I’m just getting a drink and going to the bathroom.” I drop my jeans and toss them into the hamper but recoil at the blood stain in the crotch of my panties. I fold them to hide the spot and tie the bathrobe to disguise the blouse I’m still wearing before opening the door.

Father’s gray eyes look through me. His proximity to the door frightens me.

“Do . . .do you need in here?” The tremor in my voice tells him I'm weak.

Instead of answering my question, he pushes past me and forces me out of the room. On any other night, his brash treatment would send me into a spiral of depression that would make me lie awake and wonder why he doesn’t love me. But I already know the answer, and tonight, I have other worries to burden my mind.


Anonymous said...

Brutally honest.

Only thought was that you mention slipping through the door of the house, but then reference objects outside (father's trust sits...). If you want to keep it sequential...might start out with father's truck, then go inside. Just a thought though. I got nailed for that a lot on my novels, so that's why it popped out to me.

Very expressive writing.

Kat Harris said...

Thanks Lynn!

I find myself correcting that mistake in my own work all the time. I'll write a paragraph only to discover later that my sentences are out of order. Or I'll write a scene and realize my paragraphs should be shifted.

Your suggestion definitely makes it stronger.


Anonymous said...

Rock on, sista.
I just got back from attending my first writers conference EVER. Holy-scary-freakin'-cow. Got some good advice there as well. Glad I could help, us writers gotta stick together. I'm posting my first chapter on my blog next week, so it'll be your turn to hack on mine:-)