Building off of a previous post, I wanted to make Fridays the day of the week that I share excerpts of writing that I’ve done in the past through writing prompts, random stream of consciousness, parts of larger works, or as part of my 100-200 daily word exercises.
The point being to attempt to examine what I’ve done for clarity sake and whether or not I can make sense of it….not only to those who read it but to myself as well.
Lately I’ve been obsessed with atmosphere in prose and how it’s properly set up to give the reader an opportunity to live in the moment that the characters presented in the pages are experiencing right at that time. I think a large part of it comes from just finishing House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (something I plan on writing about in the future when I have time to really process it). That book did an amazing job at inciting strong emotions from you the reader over the scene described in the book.
My excerpt for this week is the following:
The lurching of the bus as it bounced through a pothole in the road brought him back to the here and now. He glanced out the window along the side, hoping to see anything identifiable. Nothing had really changed. The same barren road with flat dirt appeared on both sides of the bus as they moved slowly along. It was a wonder that anyone even came out this way. Considering that only Sam and three other people were on the large Greyhound, it did nothing but confirm what he had already been thinking.
Several seconds later, Sam saw in the distance what he was waiting for. The tip of a small mountain. Then another; then another. Pretty soon, there were several that dotted the landscape, taking up the entire view. He had forgotten how at ease they could make him feel. In contrast to everything else around them being so flat and unappealing, the sight of such impressive landmarks only made it that much clearer to how deep into the edge of nowhere that they were.
At that thought, Sam’s eyes rested on a small windmill and its tower no more than a few hundred yards away from them and getting closer. The tower itself was made of wood, and although no noise could be heard over the sound of the bus, he imagined that it creaked mighty fierce when a large enough gust came in contact with it. He remembered it well. As they passed it, he also remembered what came next after it. The feeling of tension returned. He was back.
This is close to the opening of a novella length story that I had begun last year but failed to finish (made it around 10,000 words in before I hit a steep writer’s block on it). The opening premise was to capture the idea of the reverent ‘return back home’ cliche that I’ve seen so many times in movies and television. I wanted this to be a bit more underwhelming though. Where usually the protagonist is celebrated with open arms and fanfare, this was to begin as a much more quiet moment.
I wanted Sam to be much more thoughtful about his returning to his hometown on that old Greyhound bus. The image of old windmills and open dusty land seeming to represent a location in the middle of nowhere. But it was his middle of nowhere; and that’s important for him to establish as it sets up why later in the story that he’s so adamant on trying to fit back into the life he used to know.
Sam has been away, studying abroad outside the country for four years in a special academic program in college. He had limited communication with his family during that time as well, making this return mean that much more. But there’s more to this reunion than happy feelings. As mentioned in the excerpt, Sam is nervous. There’s some type of tension. Tension that is revealed as the story unfolds.
Describing it right now makes me excited to go back and reread it from where I left off. I’ve left it alone for so long, I’m curious to see if I can salvage the story and continue on with it. Something to consider.
Until next time.