Here at Pen and Kink we understand that you would much rather hear from our authors than from us, so we invited the contributors to Legendary to stop by and write a guest post for our blog.
For our final day we’re hosting T.R. North whose story, “Vanishing Point” has some lovely imagery that will linger long after you’ve finished reading it.
The Secret of Writing
by T. R. North
It feels like there should be some great secret to writing, but there really isn’t.
Start with words. Put them on the page. Make something happen. It doesn’t have to be grand or important. It doesn’t have to be a dark and stormy night. The narrator’s name doesn’t have to be Ishmael. All work and no play doesn’t have to make Jack a dull boy. It doesn’t even have to make sense, not right now, not when you’re first writing it. How about the oldest phrase known to typewriters?
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Congratulations, all your keys work!
But… it’s a little judgmental, maybe, don’t you think? Maybe the dog is old. Maybe she’s had three litters of puppies. Maybe she kept a flock of sheep from harm for ten years, until her eyes got bad and her legs got too stiff to run after them first thing in the morning, when the air’s still got teeth and the damp holds a grudge. Maybe her children take care of the flock now, like she raised them to. Maybe she’s earned the right to be just a little bit lazy, sometimes, when there sun’s shining and there’s a soft patch of grass and no one seems bothered if she takes a nap.
Does the fox know he can get away with it? Has he done this a hundred times before, thrilled with his own daring and getting too confident by half in his luck? Or was it an accident, a one-off, a zig when he should have zagged on his way out of the hen house? He’s quick, we know that.
Maybe he has plans a fox shouldn’t. Maybe his ambitions outstrip his station. Maybe this fox is wicked, or brilliant, or some admixture of the two. Maybe this fox’s mother grew up in the city, sat in great halls and greater tunnels and watched people go about their lives, ate what she pleased out of their garbage bins, got trapped and relocated by animal control. Maybe this fox’s mother never forgave those gods for casting her out of the garden. Maybe this fox’s mother raised her kits with those sharp, cruel words in their ears, teaching them her anger better than she could teach them to hunt wild things.
Does the dog understand this? She’s old, you know. She’s seen things, so many things, more things than she can count. She was good at herding sheep. She could feel it in her bones when things were going sour. Her eyes are good enough to see that this fox moves strangely, a little too proud of himself, and watches too keenly when he should run. He reminds her of an animal she saw only once, one winter, when it raised its bloody face from a dead porcupine’s open belly and watched her that same fearless way. Maybe this fox worries her. But maybe she’s smarter than this fox, who doesn’t have the sense to be afraid of a dog just because it looks like it’s sleeping. Maybe there are things this fox’s mother didn’t–couldn’t–warn it about when it comes to sheepdogs.
Is the fox old enough to have learned caution? Is the dog too old for one last fight? Is there a serpent on the grass, unseen, whose fangs will ensure the contest never happens?
Keep typing. Finish the story. More words, more pages, more things.
Do you want the farmer at the door, lifting the latch, shotgun ready in one hand? Do you want the dog to feel a spark of pity for the fox, one last fatal weakening? Do you want the fox frightened out of his wits and giving up a dream that was never, after all, actually his? Does the snake coil, ready and careless of the drama playing out around it?
I take it back: there is a great secret. But it’s one you already know. You just have to decide to tell it.
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