Earlier this week I taught my first adult writing class. It was definitely a switch from teaching middle schoolers. It was low key. It lacked the teenage angst and drama. It was anything but intense. I sat rather than stood. I participated during free write time rather than reminded others to stay on task. I still provided instruction. (Heck, I still provided a pen and paper.) It was different, but it wasn’t. I loved it.
The workshop focused on short stories and what we can do as writers to improve our storytelling craft. We used two different idea generation activities to build our foundation and then further fleshed out our story by further digging into the story elements of character, conflict, dialogue, and resolution.
My favorite part of the two-hour workshop was the community that we quickly built. I did not know the workshop participants prior to their walking through the studio doors, but within minutes, we were word nerds on a common journey. Writers ready to commit to improving our craft. If this sounds like a road you’d like to travel, email me and I can let you know about my next workshop offerings, or start a conversation about planning a new event for you and the word nerds in your life.
Here is the prompt and story I polished up during the workshop this week.
P.S. If you are looking for some story starter ideas, join my writing eNewsletter for five free writing prompts.
a short story by Amanda Zieba
** The bolded words at the beginning of the story are from the writing prompt book: Complete the Story, as mentioned in this previous blog post. It was one of the idea generation activities we did in the workshop. It was amazing to see the plethora of different stories that came from the imagination of the participants and these two incomplete sentences. Romania, World War II, a survivalist reality show, YouTube and a medieval wall complete with a guard were all represented. How amazing our minds and language can could create all of this in just two hours! **
The darkness was dark and suffocating, like a heavy blanket had been thrown on the world. He had to get over the wall, had to get across the border before the sun rose. The morning light would doom his mission for sure.
Gideon adjusted his night vision goggles, said a silent prayer to a God he wasn’t sure he believed in and then ran. His arms and legs moved in a tandem synchronization, and pushed him through the dense curtain of night and closer toward the looming wall. The dust rose from each footfall, but otherwise the world was silent. The busy city in the distance a few miles behind him still slept. Its occupants did not know he was escaping. When they woke and found him gone, he wondered if they would care.
Although it was just a dark mass before him now, he knew what the wall looked like in the incriminating light of day. He knew everything about this wall. He read a dozen newspapers a day that chronicled the politics surrounding it. He knew how long it was, how tall, when it was built and why it would not come down. At least not soon. He had stared at that wall for months, hating everything about it. He hated the mismatched materials that conglomerated to keep him from his desired destination. The original wall of expensive and finely crafted brick could barely be seen anymore, but it was there, peeking out from additions later affixed. Poorly applied concrete and mortar held together additions of tile and cinderblock and even in some cases plywood. Barbed wire poked out at random heights, marking where the top of the wall had previously been before it was made higher and higher, and higher.
How such an ugly and haphazard obstacle could stand in his way for so long was the bane of his daily musings and complaints. There was no room in his brain for complaints now. Every single fiber of his being depended on successfully mounting and overcoming this wall. He ceased his head on run and transferred his momentum into a giant leap. He flew silently through the night and landed skillfully on a precipice of the foreboding wall.
Gideon reached a hand up to grab for the wire he knew hung just over his head. Using the strength of his well trained arms and legs he pushed and pulled himself upward. Push, grab, pull, breathe. He moved up the wall in a systematic fashion. His confidence grew with each inch traveled upward. He was three feet from the top when he slipped.
For ten perilous seconds he hung from the wall, his sweaty handgrip on a piece of wire the only thing keeping him and his mission alive. He would have sworn if his racing heart and ragged breath would have allowed him the pleasure. After his sheer panic subsided, Gideon swung back and forth, attempting to create a momentum that would bring him back to the wall. Back to safety. Back to surefooted hatred of this brick and mortar monstrosity, rather than viewing it as a lifeline as he did right now.
Gideon’s foot found a hold. A board, a piece of cement, a brick. It didn’t matter what it was, his toes were curleld around it and he was using it to stand. Legs shaking, lungs burning, fingers cramping, Gideon stood pressed against the wall, his smooth cheek exfoliated by the course materials that both cursed and saved him. Three more feet to freedom. He did not think. He did not pause a second longer. He surged up, up, up. Within seconds he made it to the top of the wall. He lay there on his back panting and praying.
He decided at that moment there was a God and he believed in him fully. He was a conqueror of tyranny and fear. “Thank you,” he breathed as he looked at the night sky. Now that he could take a second to appreciate his veil of protection he noticed the abundance and beauty of the stars. Had they always been there, he wondered. He would never take them or their creator for granted again.
After another fulfilling deep breath Gideon slid off the backside of the wall, his feet hitting lush green grass, enough to both cushion and muffle his landing. He snapped his head up and scanned the open terrain and then he began to run.