You've Come A Long Way Baby! Blogfest: Snowstorm

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I've only been back and serious at the writer's game for about a year and half--so it's not hard to look around and see tons of folks who've been working with nose to the grindstone much longer, and to admire the wherewithal with which they've continued to pursue their craft, come thick or thin.

One of those folks is Christine H over at The Writer's Hole.  Christine has been working on the same WIP for over four years, and she's refused to give up or give in to the many voices telling her to start a  new project.  That's commitment, folks.  Christine has devoted herself to her inner writer and stayed with this project--and promises to see it through to the end.

To celebrate, she's hosting the You've Come A Long Way Baby! Blogfest, with prizes!  The point of the blogfest is to take a minute, smell the roses and realize how much we've grown as writers.

As part of the blogfest, we're each to post something written far in the past, to highlight how bad things once were--and I tell you, for me it was really bad.

Prepare yourself.  Or if you prefer, skip to the end!

I dug out this old chestnut from my "JP's Papers" file, a short unfinished piece of fiction titled "Snowstorm."  Since most of North America appears to be under a white blanket, it seemed apropos. 

I have not even reread it, but memory is enough to tell me it wasn't good.  Not even close.  And I'm not going to edit it at all.  I'm just going to type it into my post straight--although my wife will likely hear some groans and howls of laughter.

So here it is: Snowstorm.

    A sugar-spray of snow blew across in front of the headlights.  Up ahead, the bend of the road dissolved into the snowstorm and John realized he was lost.  Where the hell am I?
    The party would have started by now.  He imagined Justin laughing and playing with his friends, Veronica looking on with a forced smile.  In his mind's echo chamber, Justin said: "Daddy, you have to be there on time.  Please!  Promise me, OK?"
    "OK, Tiger.  I promise."
    He rounded a Rubbermaid trashcan that had blown into the road and gunned the engine, pushing up the hill in search of Garvey street.  Veronica and Justin lived in a 2/1, three from the end.  Red shutters, grey roof.  Veronica had brought Justin here after the divorce because she wanted Justin to go to a good school.
    The corner ahead looked familiar so John slowed the 'Vette to peer up at the street sign.  No luck.  This sucks...Who the laid out these subdivisions anyway?  Normally, he would never have gotten lost, but in this weather...he jammed the gearshift down into first and barreled on.
    He was late.  Veronica would be hot about it.  He imagined her pacing the living room.  Every two minutes, she'd check her watch.  John swore again.
    It wouldn't be the first time he'd been tardy.  Justin played drums in the band at school.  In the last four months, he'd been late to two of Justin's concerts, and missed a third completely.  There had been too many parties, too many late nights--always home before dawn with some girl he hardly knew, up early afternoon.  The guys at the construction site hadn't missed him.  He told Maria to tell them he was gone up north to Baltimore to buy sink fixtures, or to Philly to pick up the newest order of tile.  No one noticed.  Funny how it hadn't been hard to fall into that routine.
     He had sworn to himself that this time would be different.  If was Justin's 12th Birthday for God's sake!  he was going to open a few presents at the house with some friends, then head off to the skating rink.  He should have focused on  the importance of making it on time, this time.  Instead, he had spent the afternoon in a hot tub with a few of his closest friends, and a few drinks--way too many banana daiquiris--and he hadn't glanced at his watch until it was too late.
    Coming over a rise, the road dipped suddenly and John felt the steering wheel go loose in his hands.  The car spun left, then right, then back to the left as he tried to get it under control.  The wheels skidded in the salt and sand lain down by the snowplow crews hours before.  He pumped the brakes and watched in detached amazement as a sidewalk and someone's yard drew up in front of the car as the car came to rest, headlights illuminating the ketchup red front door of a house.  John sat there, looking out, his heart beating.
    Veronica would never forgive him.  He let go of the steering wheel, the engine purring quietly.  She'd meet him angrily at the door, pull him off to the side so she could hiss in his ear and start in the way she always did when they were married: "Why can't you do anything you say you're going to do?  Can't you see what you're  doing to this child?"
    John gunned the engine and turned the wheel hard, straightening the car.  He smiled grimly, feeling  the worry come over him like cold water.  Justin was different.  He'd waited.  A couple of years ago, right after the divorce, John had gotten a flat tire.  His cell was dead, so he couldn't call.  By the time he got the tire changed, it was after 10:00.  Still, when he pulled into the driveway, Justin was there waiting for him.  "He's been there for three hours," Veronica had told him.  "Do you hear what I'm saying?"
    "Yeah."  He had given the boy a hug, and it was like Justin never wanted to let go.  The same thing had happened at Justin's concerts.  He'd ignored his friends, everyone, even Veronica and waited for his father.  The night he didn't show, Veronica had been in tears, trying to drag him home.  Loyalty like that had to come from somewhere.  John didn't understand it, but he knew his son would wait for him.
    John tapped the gas the 'Vette started rolling forward.  The snow wasn't coming down as hard now, but still drifted like confetti falling from a black syrupy sky.  he could make out the houses--a blue one with a straw colored roof, another with a green Volvo in the driveway.  Then he saw one with a silver Mercedez Benz with personalized plates that said: "BE-ATCH."  John recognized that car.  Justin's house was around the corner.
    He pulled into the driveway, ready to see his son, expecting to see Justin standing on the front porch, expecting to see the lights on inside, even ready to take whatever Veronica had to dish out.  Instead, the house was dark, and the only light John could see were flecked with shadows cast to the ground by the fallinng snow.

Yeah.  Right.  I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  Ketchup red door indeed!  But yeah, I am embarrassed to admit that I wrote that, and I can see fifty mistakes/changes in every line, so I guess I have that to feel good about!

What about you?  Do you feel like you've come a long way, (and may I respectfully call you) Baby?

14 bolts from the blue:

Teri Anne Stanley said...

The ketchup red front door jumped right out at me, too (I think it needs to stay). Uh...so what happened? Did he get the wrong night? Was he 24 hours EARLY?

Summer Frey said...

Aww, that wasn't so bad, JP! Not so bad at all. It's certainly got your voice all in it. :)

Christine H said...

I actually agree that I like the ketchup-red door. It's a great image! And you can call me "Baby" any time.

Thank you so much for participating, Jon Paul. I actually didn't think it was that bad. And I agree... what happened? Now you have to post the rest.

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

It isn't so bad, Jon! It just reads like a first draft. There's a lot going on in John's head as he drives, and there were some info-dump paragraphs, but the overall emotional impact was wonderful. I hope you dust this one off one day and tighten it up. The characters are so compelling!

Michelle Gregory said...

since it's too early to say something salient and pithy, i'll just say i agree with Nicole.

Michelle Gregory said...

and i forgot to say, i love the mountains in your header (are those from Lord of the Rings), and your "about me" section. great stuff.

writesbymoonlight said...

I agree with Nicole. I liked the characters and the story is interesting. Not bad for a first draft.

Christopher S. Ledbetter said...

Yeah, I too liked the characters. Fully realized for such a short excerpt. The scene and tension were real enough. Thanks for sharing.

Christopher S. Ledbetter said...

I really like your masthead, btw

Donna Hole said...

"his mind's echo chamber . ."

I did laugh at this JP. I've read some of your later writings, and yeah baby, you've come a long ways.

But this piece has potential. I liked the repetition of "late" and all it meant to both John and his family. I liked the self recriminations. His character flaws are vividly portrayed, but there is also a deep sense of committment to him that makes him redeemable.

One of your writing strengths, in my opinion of course, is your ability to draw a reader deep into the character. This piece was highly successful in that. Well done with the tension, and the end was a perfect red herring.

I kept expecting him to crash the car. And speaking of the car, you dated this expertly. The "Vette" instead of Corvette, the stick shift. If you do clean this up, I'd suggest a minor change from "His cell was dead" to perhaps "his mobile (or car phone) was dead."

A good flash fiction piece - or even the start of a novel or short story. I'm hooked on these characters.

Well done.

.......dhole

Elaine AM Smith said...

"his mind's echo chamber . ."? *grins
It is interesting to see your first draft. You have emotional, description and you are reaching for a unique way to make writing work for your story - you had done some of your learning before you had begun.

Christine laughed at my Potter-isms - or as we like to say - the differences in simple things like how most school are set organised over here. I found this like an alternate reality "Who the laid out these subdivisions anyway?" This is a jibe at town planners; right? ;)

lbdiamond said...

Ok, is that Mt. Cook in your banner pic?! If so, *love* it!

Funny how we see *so* many things to change whenever we read our own work. The thing is, some people will like the ketchup red door & others won't. I like it, lol!

Happy writing!

Charli Mac said...

Rough but the marking of a great storyteller are present. You can't fake that. Good stuff, I want to read more.

Holly_D said...

I have to agree with a lot of the comments here. This is definately worth giving yourself credit for. John is such a 'real' character, one most can relate to. I have to say if I pulled out any of my old cobwebs, hoo boy...I would be laughing I am sure. It does make me feel good to read that people spend years with WIP's, because I am on 1-1/2 years here, going on 2 and I was giving myself heck about it. ;)

Waddaya wanna say?

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