THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
April 9, 2016
Greetings! This week, I take pleasure in presenting a collection of 99-word stories sent to me by folks who read this blog and (it’s obvious) take pleasure in writing. This month’s theme is “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.”
Whether or not you are a writer now, the chances are you were a writer as a young child, and chances are that you began by writing something along this order:
Thank you for the toy fire engine. It’s just what I wanted for my birthday…
My assumption is that you are old enough to have been required to write thank-you notes for gifts you received through the mail. That doesn’t seem to be the case in this modern age of email and text messaging, but the art of correspondence was important back in the day. (When was “the day” for me? A hint: you could send a thank-you note through the mail with a three-cent stamp.) I can remember complaining about having to write a letter to my grandmother, and I complained that once the obligatory “thank you” was down on paper I had nothing else to say. “Write about the weather,” my mother advised. “Grandma loves to talk about the weather.”
So I wrote about the weather, as did a lot of you older writers when you were young, and for some of us, the habit took hold. Weather comes in handy for writers and tellers of stories. Think of the tempest in King Lear. Or the nonstop monsoon tattoo in Somerset Maugham’s Rain. Jack London’s To Build a Fire (brrrr!), Irving Berlin’s lyric “Isn’t this a Lovely Day to Be Caught in the Rain?”
But remember: the weather has to be important to the plot of your story. It has to have a powerful effect on the characters. Weather must be responsible for change. You shouldn’t just describe the weather to fill space in the narrative. If you waste paper on inconsequential meteorology, you might just as well still be corresponding against your wish with your grandmother.
Keep this rule in mind as you read this month’s 99-word tales. Note that weather matters in these stories.
Note: I thank Eileen Obser for encouraging her writing students to participate in this game. Judging from the stories they send, I can be sure Eileen is a fine teacher.
a mini-anthology of 99-word stories
SPRING CAN REALLY HANG YOU UP
by Lydia Stewart
March began in winter, and Leo roared in angry. But when spring came, I lay down for him like a lamb in a field of flowers.
Young and foolish, we married on April first. Our honeymoon lasted two weeks, and then, on April fifteenth, we had our first and last fight. Money.
Leo took the month of May to mean permission to stray. He left me for June.
I’ve come to accept that I’m better off without him, but come August every year I miss Leo, and on April Fool’s Day, rain or shine, I weep showers of loneliness.
SPRING CAN REALLY HANG YOU UP THE MOST
by Jerry Giammatteo
Ah, springtime, he thought, strolling on this warm day in early April. People were meandering through the park as the dormant warmth of the sun emerged from winter doldrums.
He sought something to do tomorrow as spring fever enveloped him. He had an inspiration. He’d fill a backpack with provisions and hike along Fire Island.
Unfortunately, he didn’t consult a forecast. Upon awakening next morning there were six inches of snow on the ground and the wind blowing a gale.
Sighing, he made some cocoa and selected a book. Spring can really hang you up the most, he mused.
NO APRIL IN PARIS
by June Hannay Kosier
April, for me, means working in the garden. I get all entangled in overgrown wisteria vines, my clothes get ripped by the thorns while I prune the roses, and my arms get scratched while I’m cutting back the wild raspberries.
April showers bring puddles and mud to fall into and slippery slopes to slide down, resulting in ruined shoes and pants. My back aches from carrying bags of fertilizer and mulch, and my hands have blisters from raking.
But April showers will bring May flowers, and after that there is the best month of all in the garden—June.
by Jim Gallagher
The long, cold winter had finally given way to mild weather that was perfect for a drive on a country road, with the top down.
Ignoring the potholes, we drove happily along, with the CD player blasting our favorite tunes.
Sadly, we soon realized it was all too good to last. After hitting a huge rut and one final bump, the convertible sagged, scraped the pavement, and ground to a halt. The mechanic determined that a suspension component had broken. He said the repair would be costly.
by Diane Hallett
I sought the wizened woman, the one with the globe and cards.
“Can you help me?” I asked. “I’ve lost my way in love.”
After consideration, the visionary replied, “Seek your pleasure in summer, heat ignites your soul. The brightness of fall promises paradise, don’t hesitate, be bold. Be cautious in the white of winter, problems go unseen. Don’t tantalize your dream. Beware the cruelest month, its reputation is foreboding. Spring can really hang you up the most.”
Now my dream has ended, yet I tremble with fear. It’s the first day of April and a rope lies near.
MAINE-LY BLACK AND BLUE
by Diane S. Morelli
The throes of winter made Jared, a Malibu native, question why he’d traded his surfboard for a snowboard and moved in with his fiancée, Emily, from Bangor.
Jared loved jogging almost as much as he adored Emily. He sprinted each morning on the state-of-the-art treadmill in her Victorian’s home gym. Trotting indoors made him miss sunlit jogs along the Pacific all the more.
The first dry dawn in April lured Jared to a nearby outdoor track. His run ended abruptly.
When the ambulance arrived, the paramedic said, “Surprise! Black ice in spring can really hang you up the most.”
by Christine Viscuso
“Spring can hang you up the most.”
“In what way, Des?” Tom slammed the door on his gym locker and the two men headed for Tom’s car. “Are you referring to taxes, love, or the Easter Bunny?”
“Love. I’m engaged to two women. Both want to get married in April; both booked the honeymoon in Paris; and both are going to the same catering hall today, as we speak.”
“Geez. You do have a dilemma.”
“Problem is, I met a great girl at the gym. She wants to get married ASAP, in April. You know I’m a snow guy!”
Calling all authors—
I feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at email@example.com.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for May’s 99-word story submissions is May 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for the week beginning Saturday, May 14.
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Think of something you feel strongly about, an opinion that defines who you are—or who you are not—politically, spiritually, economically, professionally, or any other important way. Why is it important? When did this self-knowledge come to you, and how did it change your life? Show (don't tell) this in the context of a story. Hint: if you don’t want to share the details of your own life, write fiction.
And now, in my continuing celebration of National Poetry Month, a plug for my second Guy Mallon mystery, Vanity Fire. Guy, as you may remember if you read last week’s post, is a collector of poetry and a publisher of poetry collections.
A Mystery Novel
Buy or order Vanity Fire from your local bookstore,
from one of the online booksellers,
or direct from the publisher:
Poisoned Pen Press or call (800) 421-3976
This book is also available in ebook format:
Kindle edition: http://www.amazon.com/
When the phone rings in the middle of the night, publisher Guy Mallon learns his book warehouse has burned to the ground. Rushing to the scene, he and arson inspector Rosa Macdonald see a total loss. And a burned body. Guy Mallon Books faces bankruptcy and the probable dissolution of its partnership—Carol Murphy, Guy's lover and business manager, fed up, had already split. But why is her car spotted parked nearby?
Guy begins the story lunching with retired businessman Fritz Marburger. Like the devil himself, Marburger tempts Guy with a proposition: to publish celebrity jazz singer Sweet Lorraine Evans' novel, which he will underwrite. It's the first step in a Faustian bargain that finds Guy getting a whiff of the sweet smell of success, followed by the increasingly noxious fumes as the crass Marburger becomes Lorraine's agent, rents Guy's warehouse space, and saddles him with an amoral co-tenant: Roger Herndon pornographer turned vanity publisher. All Roger needs is ace computerist Gracie Worth to help set up his operation.
Supported by two Santa Barbara poets with strong backs and by the sometimes puzzling actions of Gracie and her friend/lover Kitty Katz—two strippers forming the core of Roger's stable of porn stars and production assistants—Guy first tries to make a go of the new venture and then, post murder, to bring Roger down and reclaim his own soul, not to mention Carol.
Read reviews of this book: http://www.danielpublishing.com/jmd/vanityreviews.html
Thanks for stopping by. Tell your friends! And I hope to “see” you next week, when we’ll have a guest appearance by writer Anne Schroeder. Meanwhile, don’t forget the Joy of Story.
|photo by Clark Rohr|