Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sooty Update

I only wrote 200 words today. I had revised the first few pages to take to my critique group, and then, working off their suggestions, revised the scene more this evening.

I've been working on the foreshadowing in this scene. Anna starts seeing things in weird new ways, but she doesn't know why -- after all, she hasn't met Sooty yet!

So, here's the current revision of the opening - previously seen here.

Sooty -- Opening Scene

 Anna huddled on her bed, clutching a pillow. They were at it again. Not quite fighting, but arguing. It seemed as if they were always arguing lately. Her tightly shut door couldn't block the sounds from the living room down the hall, voices that echoed in her as if she heard not through her ears but in her mind, and left her stomach churning acid sour. It didn’t take any brains to figure out her mom was unhappy, but why'd she have to make the rest of them unhappy, too?
       In her mind's eye, clear as clear, she saw her dad hunkered down in his big chair, his puff of pale blond hair sticking up over the back. He was holding a book, one finger carefully marking his place. The TV was on, though muted, and he was glancing furtively at the flickering images.
       His image was also flickering, as if she were seeing him through a camera lens while adjusting the focus. And when her mind twisted itself to a slightly new focus, she could see waves streaming out from the lamp beside the chair, and from the television – even from Dad himself. Waves of energy that overlapped in interference patterns like she'd seen in science class.
       Her vision spread. There was Mom, tall, straight. If Dad were flickering, Mom was a laser. Her energy, or whatever it was Anna was seeing, was so intense it was hard to look at her. Anna felt her mind pulling back, observing with something more like normal vision again.
       Despite her anxiety, Anna's curiosity was aroused. She'd never seen anything so clearly in her imagination before. And certainly never seen energy from people and lamps. Was it a stress induced hallucination? In unconscious habit, she filed the puzzling thought away for future consideration.
        Her mom's voice rose, words that sounded like needing to be herself or something. Why? She had a job she loved, a family she said she loved – what more could she want?
       Out of the rumbling that followed that proclamation, her mother snarled, “All you see is boobs. You never think about the person they're attached to.”
       A growling sound. Her father shouting – actually shouting, “I thought sex was what this is all about?”
       Anna's vision of the scene in the living room shattered. She didn't want to hear any more, either, and twisted around to drop face first onto her bed, squashing the pillow firmly over her ears. It did no good; she was still aware of her parents in her head, aware of the tense silence between them as the echoes of her father's shout jostled the corners of mind.
       And then her mom laughed, an awkward, gulping sort of laugh.
       That was a real sound. Intrigued, Anna jumped up and ran to press her ear against the crack between the door and its frame. She could hear their voices, talking now, not shouting, but she couldn't make out any more words. She brushed uncooperative straggles of her soft brown hair from her eyes and shuffled back to sit on her bed.
       She wasn't imagining things now, but she knew from experience that while Dad was listening to Mom, he was also hoping for distractions to save him from having to commit himself to a clear statement. That was how he disciplined her and her brother, Alan, too. Tried to discipline. He'd start by laying down the law, then sidle over to one side, then the other, and end by saying do what you think best. But do think, and do be careful, okay?
       The tight muscles in her face softened in a brief smile and stayed soft even when she thought about her mom. Mom did lay down the law, but, as she and Alan both had to admit, never unreasonably. She rarely issued her decrees, but when she did, what she said was absolute.
        Footsteps in the hall. Anna froze, a rabbit in headlights. The footfall stopped at her door. Someone knocked. Not someone. She knew who it was. Mom.
        She grabbed the pillow again and squeezed it hard If only she had something alive to cuddle. Her friend Jay had a cat, a big fluffy calico. Anna loved to pet it and hear its rumbling purr. Just looking at it made her feel soft and cozy. She could use that comfort right now.
       She'd asked her parents if she could get a cat. They'd said no.
        “Anna?” Just as she'd expected, her mother's voice.
        Oh boy. When Mom had been arguing with Dad, she often came in to talk at Anna. And usually it was the same speech. Don't waste your opportunities. Don't try to be someone you're not. And oh, by the way, you need to be more outgoing. Get more friends. Maybe try a new hairstyle. Not that her floppy straight brown hair would hold a style. Even the permanent her mom had coaxed her into a couple years ago had flopped. And she preferred glasses. Putting her contacts in took too long, even if Mom did say her dark eyes were pretty.
        Anna sighed. “What?”
        Her mom opened the door slowly, then peeked around to catch Anna's eyes. "Can I talk to you a second?"
      When Anna nodded, her mom stepped in, her hand gripping the edge of the door as she closed it almost shut. She stood that way, her lips pressed tightly together, her eyes on the floor, until with a visible breath she let her hand fall. She leaned against the door, and it closed with a sharp click. She seemed diamond hard, yet once again shimmering, as if Anna could see the aura of her life force. Her best friend Tai was always on about such things. Maybe Tai wasn't crazy.
       How strange, Anna thought. It's as if I've never seen her before. Or, she reflected, as if I'm seeing her through someone else's eyes. She studied her mom's face, long and thin – a well bred horse, Dad used to say as he tugged mom's long black ponytail affectionately. Thin – too thin, Anna now realized. Just being around Mom was exhausting. She never seemed to slow down, even when she was, in theory, relaxing. And she was always vibrating with energy that, for some reason, Anna could now see.
        “Anna… I'm sorry about the yelling. I've been trying to make a decision. I need to do something.”
        Anna didn't answer; she was waiting for the rest of the lecture. Instead, she lowered her head and made sharp little folds in the sheets.
        Her mom fidgeted around the room, opening and closing drawers, straightening the papers on the desk, twirling the cord of the blinds.
        “Anna, I do love you. And Alan. And I love your father. Please try to understand.” She let fall the cord, turned, and left the room, closing the door gently behind her.
        She was gone. There'd been no time for a reply, even if Anna had had one to offer.
        Anna held held up her hands. She noted, with almost clinical interest, that they were shaking. She let them fall, and turned her head to stare blindly at the closed door. Something was going to happen. She had no idea what, but she knew it wouldn't be good.
        The last few months had taught her how to cope with the turmoil she felt. Turn yourself into a robot, that's the trick. Finish homework, then get ready for bed, everything mechanical, without thought. It got things done, even if it couldn't make things better. Tonight, though, her mind wasn't cooperating as she'd like. She kept going back to that one exchange between her parent, about boobs and sex. Was that what the problem was? It wasn't something she wanted to think about.
        That night she dreamed, a strange dream, unlike any she'd had before. She dreamt she was a ghost, or something inhuman like that. Without shape or form, but not void. She dreamt she looked about her and saw the world as shimmers of energy, as of heat mirages above baking pavements in the summer. Everything shimmered, even the people she passed.
        She wasn't walking. She drifted like a puffball from a dandelion, caught in currents and eddies, not of air, but of energies emitted by people and objects.
Then she slid through a person, feeling in one bright flash all their thoughts, their dreams, their fears. She woke, choking on a scream that wouldn't come out.
        Dawn was barely lighting the window, but Anna didn't try to go back to sleep. She sat on the edge of her bed, pressing her forehead into her hands as if to force her mind to serenity. More hallucinations. I'm really messed up, she told herself. I need to get my act together.
        She pulled on her glasses, stood and stretched tall, then stumbled over to her desk. The internet would distract her, and help her to put her dream, and the visions of her parents that she'd imagined the night before, out of her mind.

Updated: I reread this, and felt it wasn't quite my writing. I keep running into this. I am not a florid, descriptive writer. I am told I have to put more description in, more tags that anchor dialogue to an action. That is not how I like to write. Yes, I need more, but rereading the above, there is too much. It is not me.
Writing is so bloody hard to learn, and it's even harder to find and develop your voice when others want something different from you.
I keep striving.

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