Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Monday, February 28, 2011

Plot vs. Spontaneity




While reading On Writing, Stephen King challenged my process of writing, “Plot is, I think, the good writer’s last resort and the dullard’s first choice.”  Damn.  Apparently, I've been writing pedantic stories.  Doesn't bode well for a successful career.  

By nature, I am a control freak and prefer to plan everything out, albeit day trips, vacations or my novel.   Back in November 2010, when I embarked on the insane NaNoWriMo challenge, I created an outline of my entire mystery novel.  Being the first time I’d ever written anything so long, I felt safer with a plan.  As I wrote, my story deviated from the plan.  I listened to the story, letting it lead the way, but still knew what I wanted to happen in the story. 

Of course you will find many writers split on this topic.  Some contradictory advice I’ve read says writing without an outlined plot leads to bird-walk writing.  Presenting you with the task of cutting large parts of your prose because it doesn't having anything to do with the story. 

King on the other hand believes stories “pretty much make themselves.  The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow (and to transcribe them, of course.”  He puts his characters into a situation and allows them to work out the solution on their own with no input from him. 

He admits some of his novels were written based off a plot outline, but he really tries to avoid these situations as much as possible.  Rose Madder and Insomnia, products of plotting, were “stiff, trying-to-hard novels” he feels.  Personally, I really enjoyed Rose Madder.

 Stories are fossils, according to King.  They are found, not created.  The stories come to a writer through dreams or everyday observations, but they already exist.  “And none of the story’s details and incidents proceeded from plot; they were organic, each arising naturally from the initial situation, each an uncovered part of the fossil.” 

So, I’m left to mull over my writing process.  The only way I can really decide between plotting and spontaneity is to give the latter a try.  I know removing the safety net of an outlined plot will produce an eye twitch or two, but what have I got to lose? 

Do you prefer plotting or spontaneity when writing?    

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Grey Day

Today.  The streets are wet, puddles lingering waiting for a tire to splash them away.  The wind is blowing through ripping off the last few remaining yellow leaves clinging on to the branches.  Determined little leaves having made it through the winter.  A slow day.  A day for refection.  A day for writing.  No words of wisdom from me. 


I leave you with the slow, whiskey soaked words of my favorite poem written by Langston Hughes.  You can feel the heat of the South.  The sweat sliding down your neck.  Smell the cigarette smoke swirling around your head.  Eyes closed, you sway back and forth, listening to the thick, raspy baritone of pain and sadness.   




The Weary Blues


Droning a drowsy syncopated tune, 
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon, 
I heard a Negro play. 
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night 
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light 
He did a lazy sway .... 
He did a lazy sway .... 
To the tune o' those Weary Blues. 
With his ebony hands on each ivory key 
He made that poor piano moan with melody. 
O Blues! 
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool 
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool. 
Sweet Blues! 
Coming from a black man's soul. 
O Blues! 
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone 
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan-- 
"Ain't got nobody in all this world, 
Ain't got nobody but ma self. 
I's gwine to quit ma frownin' 
And put ma troubles on the shelf." 

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor. 
He played a few chords then he sang some more-- 
"I got the Weary Blues 
And I can't be satisfied. 
Got the Weary Blues 
And can't be satisfied-- 
I ain't happy no mo' 
And I wish that I had died." 
And far into the night he crooned that tune. 
The stars went out and so did the moon. 
The singer stopped playing and went to bed 
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. 
He slept like a rock or a man that's dead. 
       

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wanted: A Set of Balls

I found this anecdote in a tiny book filled with wisdom from Mister Rogers.

A young apprentice applied to a master carpenter for a job.  The older man asked him, “Do you know your trade?”

“Yes, sir!” the young man replied proudly. 

“Have you ever made a mistake?” the older man inquired.

“No, sir!” the young man answered, feeling certain he would get the job.

“Then there’s no way I’m going to hire you.” said the master carpenter, “because when you make one you won’t know how to fix it.”


Mistakes.  Everyone makes them.  I'm bogged down with them every day.  
Mistakes are a given in a first draft.  
So, explain to me why I push my writing assignments off in fear of handing in something horrifying, embarrassing and badly written.  

  
 
The process starts off encouraging.  The minute the assignment is posted my mind begins creating characters, designing settings and plotting.  Then, the fear creeps up.  I wait and wait and wait until the very last minute to scribble everything down.  The fear is tightening its grip around my fingers.  Then, I race the clock to revise.  The fear is in control now.  Finally, posting it with no time to spare, actually twenty minutes late. 

I’m no a fool.  I know it's my fault for letting the fear take over.  It needs to stop.  The twisting of mind and emotion will have me in a straight jacket in a matter of months. 

What I need to do is embrace my writing when it’s good.  Get over the fact that mistakes will blemish my first draft.  Have confidence my peers will point out my inconsistencies, lack of detail, weak sentences, unbelievable characters, etc.  Then take the time to absorb all the feedback and fix the mistakes.  Talent helps, but revisions are the true path to greatness.    

Mistakes teach you to write stronger; teach you to edit better.  Fearlessness gets the words on the page.  A gun to the head is a reliable kick in the pants. 

For the times mental discipline, mantras and Mister Rogers fails, a talisman could help me push past barriers.  Perhaps, the brass balls adornment for trucks.  I’d attach those bad boys to my laptop.  A daily reminder of all the talent and fearlessness I possess.  Or I could just shut up and write.           

When everything else fails, a little bit of liquid courage can’t hurt.  So, I raise my shot glass of golden goodness to confidence.  Fuck fear.  Bring on the literary acclaim.    

What’s been weighing on your mind lately?    

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Playground Power Struggle": An Exercise with Status Play and Dialogue Tags

Two boys playing on my street inspired me to write this week's assignment, which required me to dive deeper into dialogue, experimenting with as few dialogue tags as possible.  The few tags employed act as anchors to inform the reader which character is speaking.  Any other attributes to inform the reader are through description of action. Enjoy.  Your feedback is always appreciated.  

Playground Power Struggle
By Laura M. Campbell

School bus 81 pulled into Willow Hill Estates just before four o’clock.  The weather unseasonably warm for a Friday in February filled all the children with hysterical energy after a long day of classes.  Laughter and chatter floated out the cracked windows while they grabbed their book bags and lunch boxes preparing to get off the bus.  Andy pressed his face against the window, scanning the crowd of parents for his mother’s red coat.  His gaze moved over to the playground.  Only a few young children were running around. 
His friend Chris leaned over his shoulder.  “Do you see your mom?”  He leaned back and bounced in his seat as the bus driver turned the corner near the community pool.   
“Yeah.”
“Do you think she’ll say yes?”  Chris stood up, holding on to the back of the seat as the bus driver pressed on the brake.    
Andy shrugged.  “I don’t know.”  He stood up and slipped his arms through the straps of his book bag.  Then, fell back into the seat when the bus came to a stop.  
The children’s voices grew louder while they pushed one another down the steps and out the door.   
The bus driver shook her head.  “No pushing.” 
Andy’s foot hit the ground and he ran towards the parents.
“Mom.  Mom.”
“I’m right here, honey.”  She waved.  He couldn’t see her face through the light brown hair blowing around her face.
“Mom, can I go play with Chris?”
“You have karate tonight.”
“Please Mom.  Just for a little bit?”
She placed her hand on his boney shoulder.  “Ok.  Under one condition.”  He nodded.  “When I say it’s time to go in, you can’t give me a hard time.  You need to eat dinner before you go to class. Ok?”  She ruffled his brown hair.
He pulled his head away.  “Ok.”  He tore off his book bag and handed it to her.  The bag hit the ground before she could grab it.  He dug the rubber sole of his black Converse sneakers into the sidewalk and ran towards the play set.  “Chris.  I can play.”
The two boys met at the edge of the play area.  Chris stepped up on the wooden barrier surrounding the enormous playground as Andy approached.  He swung his arm over his head towards the play set. “Let’s go.” The eager little boy followed him to the metal cargo net, kicking up wood chips.  
Andy pointed at Chris’s feet.  “Your shoes are untied.”
“Who cares?”  He didn’t stop running until he stood right in front of the metal net. 
“I usually climb into the tree house here,” Chris said.  He put his foot on the chain mixed in the wood chips and leaned over to place his hands on the chain in front of him. 
“This is a tree house?” He watched as Chris climbed.  His head moved side-to-side, taking in the entire structure.  It didn’t look like a tree house.   The three slides reminded him of a stairwell or an escalator in a building.  The bridge looked as if it connected to separate buildings.  A little blonde girl climbed onto what looked like a fireman’s pole, but there were discs evenly spaced on the pole to the ground.  She sat down and spun with her legs stretched out in front of her down the pole.  His forehead wrinkled as he figured out what it could be.   
“Yeah.  That’s the game we play.” Chris’s hand slipped and his face fell through one of the open squares.  Some of the other children laughed.  “Shut up.”  He regained his grip and climbed the rest of the way to the platform without falling.  Chris looked down at his new friend as he climbed onto the net. “Don’t worry if you can’t get up.  It takes a while to get used to.” 
Thirty seconds later, he was standing on the platform.  Chris put his hand on his hip and frowned.  “Whatever.”
Andy used the railings to pull himself up to the higher platform.  Overlooking the structure, his imagination redesigned the play set, creating a new game.  “I think this would make a great space station.”
“This is a tree house.”  Chris curled his fingers. 
“Yeah, but it might be fun to try.”
Several other children shouted in agreement.  Chris looked down and kicked his foot across the platform.     
“And, anytime you’re on the wood chips you have to walk real slow and jump around like they do on the moon.”
“That’s stupid.”
“And this slide here will be our emergency escape chamber.” 
“It doesn’t look like a space ship.” Chris’s cheeks flushed red as he listened to his friend lay out the rules to the elaborate game.
“No, a space station.” 
“Whatever.”  Chris stared at his feet.  “I don’t know.”
“We can use this pole with the discs as a ladder to reach the control panels, if the station breaks down.  And the bridge leads to another station.  So, you have to walk slow there, too.”
“What happens if you don’t walk slow?”  Chris’s face scrunched together, his eyebrows creating a “V.”
“You’re sent to the sick room.  You wait a minute, then, you can play again.”
The knuckles on Chris’s hand were turning white.  “Who’s in charge?” 
“We can take turns.”  Andy smiled at Chris, hoping he would agree to the game.  Several other children asked if they could play. 
Chris turned and ran across the bridge.  Half way across, the planks of the bridge caught his foot and he fell.  He picked himself up.  “This game is stupid.  I don’t want to play it.”  He whirled around and jumped off the stairs.  “I’ve got a better idea.  Why don’t we have a jumping contest?”
The smile on Andy’s face drooped.  “Ok.”  He walked across the bridge, dragging his feet. 
“Come on, it’ll be fun.”  Chris ran towards the swings.
With each step, Andy made sure both feet hit each stair before moving on to the next one.  He stared down through the round holes in the brown rubbery material, counting each individual wood chip.  “How does the contest work?”
“What?  I can’t hear you.”
He looked up to see Chris waving his hand through the air, trying to get him to move faster.  “I said, how does the contest work?”
Chris spent a minute explaining the rules.  “Basically, you swing as high as you can.  Someone counts to three and we jump off the swing.  The farthest jump wins.”
“I guess I can do that.”
Chris saw Jimmy climbing up the twisty slide.   “Hey, Jimmy.  You be the judge for our jumping contest.”  The little boy lost his grip, slid down and flew off the slide.  He brushed the wood chips from the back of his jeans, and ran over to the swings. 
Chris held his arm out with his index finger pointing towards the wooden barrier.  “Stand over there, Jimmy, so you can see who jumps the farthest.  You count to three when I tell ya.”
“Ok.”  He smiled and ran to his position, his sneakers squishing into the wet grass.
“Andy, you take this swing and I’ll take this one.”  Chris sat down and situated himself. 
Andy sat down.  The seat felt lopsided.  He looked up and saw a kink in the chain. 
Chris smiled as he kicked himself off the ground, pumping his legs to get moving.   “Are you ready?”
“I just need…a minute…to fix…my swing.”  He jingled the chain hoping to undo the kink. 
“That swing is always like that.”  Chris leaned back on the swing with his feet in the air and smiled up at the sky as he swooshed past.
Andy’s hair tickled his ear while he shook the chain around, but the kink wouldn’t come out.
“I don’t have all day.”
“I guess I’m just going to have to use it broken.”
“Don’t worry.  I always win anyway.”  He laughed under his breath.
Andy kicked off the ground.  The swing jerked every time he passed under the pole.  He didn’t let it deter him.  With his lips pressed together, he pumped his legs harder.
“Ok, Jimmy.  You can start counting to three, now.”  Chris pushed his chest out to gain more height. 
Andy shimmied towards the edge of the black rubber seat.  He dug his legs deep to get the speed he needed to launch himself.
“One.”
Chris moved to the edge of his seat and turned his head to check out his opponent.  “Good thing the grass is soft.  That way you won’t get hurt when you fall.”
“Two.”
Andy ignored him and kept pumping his legs.  His t-shirt fluttered around him from the speed.
“Three.”
Both boys passed under the pole.  As they approached the highest point, they kicked their legs and jumped from the swing.  Their arms flailed through the air.  Thump.  Thump. 
Andy teetered on the balls of his feet.  He gained his balance and looked to his right.  He saw Chris lying on the ground behind him. 
“Andy wins.”  Jimmy jumped up and down with a toothy smile. 
  “That’s not fair.”  Chris picked himself up.  “I wasn’t ready.”  He tried to brush the grass stains from his knees.    “Redo.”
“Andy.”  A familiar voice broke through the sound of blood pumping in his ears.  He glanced towards the melodic voice.  “It’s time to go in,” his mother said.  She waved to him as she walked across the grass with his book bag. 
He started running towards his mother.  Stopped.  Turned his head.   “Listen, I gotta go.  My mom’s calling me.”
Chris leaned towards him with his arm stretched out.  The elbows of his shirt wet.  “Wait.”
“Maybe we can play again tomorrow.”  He waved goodbye.           
The hot redness crawled up Chris’s throat, spreading across his face.  His hands balled into fists.   “Sure.”  The word barely made it through his gritted teeth.  He stomped away, pushed Jimmy and climbed back on the play set.    
  
During revisions, I toned down the excessive use of Andy's name.  I'm wondering if it is still used too often.


Are there enough physical traits to picture the characters?


Is the dialogue fluid?


Is the weather prevalent enough to complete the image of the scene?          

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

NCF Tuesday: A Poetry Retrospective, Contests, The Hardy Boys Tips on Writing Success

News

livingabundancewithgreglunger.com
Hooray, protesters make a difference

In England, authorities are rethinking the funding cuts to libraries which caused closures after the Feb. 5 countrywide protests.  Talks with the impassioned public brought about reviews to find a way to keep the libraries open.  The public outcry and donations saved a few, while many libraries remain in jeopardy.

Has your local library seen any changes lately?



Movie adaptation set to divide audiences

The movie adaptation of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged is due out April 15.  The news is already a buzz with conflicting perspectives.  Part 1 of the movie is expected to garner reviews split down the middle, mirroring the reviews of the novels debut in 1957.

Will you go see Atlas Shrugged: Part 1?

Looking back at poetry

February through April 2011, the National Book Foundation will examine the past 61 years of American Poetry through blog essays; a category the foundation eliminated for six years.  The program allows for a look at how poetry has evolved and where it might be heading in the future. 

Who are some of your favorite poets?   

Contests
Glimmer Train Literary Journal
-       Short Story Award for New Writers
-       First Place Prize: $1,200
-       Deadline: February 28, 2011
-       Details here 

Narrative Magazine
-       Fiction and Nonfiction
-       First Place Prize: $3,250
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

Writer’s Digest Magazine
-       80th Annual Writing Competition
o   Fiction and Nonfiction
o   Grand Prize: $3,000
o   Deadline: May 2, 2011
o   Details here 
-       5-Minute Memoir, “Tales From the Writing Life”
o   Personal Essay (600 words or less)
o   Prize: Publication in Writer’s Digest magazine
o   Deadline: Rolling submissions
o   Details here 

American Poetry Talent Search Contest
-       Poetry (100 lines or less)
-       First Prize: $250
-       Deadline: March 31, 2011
-       Details here 

A List of Upcoming Creative Writing Contests
-       Details here 

Fun

Stephen Langlois channels Franklin W. Dixon, author of The Hardy Boys series, with a few funny tips on how to sell your novel.  The article comes from the literary magazine dedicated to humor, Defenestation.

By Stephen Langlois

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Are You Reading?

Happy President's Day.  


I'm taking a bit of a break today from blogging to get some reading done.  My focus on writing keeps me so busy I've slacked on my reading list.  


Last week I visited Restless Spirit, J. M. Leotti's fantasy writing and art blog, where she listed a few novels she planned to read in the upcoming weeks.  Red Riding Hood stood out.  The novel is based on the screen play for the movie set to come out March 11, directed by Catherine Hardwicke and staring Amanda Seyfried.  Well, I love Amanda and after reading the synopsis on Amazon I couldn't help myself.


So, I ignored my over crowded shelves, set out for Barnes and Noble and bought myself a copy.  At first it was difficult to get into the novel.  I couldn't get my mind off my own writing, but I pushed through.   It tells the tale of first love, death, arranged marriages and the big bad wolf.  The setting really draws you in to the seclusion of Valerie and her home. The village priest just called in Father Solomon to deal with the wolf problme. Hopefully I'll finish it today.  


As I snuggle back into bed, tell me what you're reading.  Not reading a novel?  Tell me what interesting newspapers, magazines, journals, blogs you are reading.          

Friday, February 18, 2011

Editing vs Critiquing



Is There a Difference Between Editing and Critiquing

As a member of two writing groups and a creative writing class, I am responsible for many critiques.  I want to give my peers thoughtful and constructive feedback; help them improve their writing.  What should I actually do while I’m reading?   

Since the groups are focused on critiques, editing isn’t necessary.  

What’s the difference?  

First, the critique and editing process require you to read through the piece and decide what works and what doesn’t.  A critic brings attention to areas in need of improvement and offers solutions allowing the writer to make the changes.  An editor provides a solution by making the change in the actual writing.     

Edit
An editor has the authority to actually make the changes.  The writer accepts the changes with the understanding it’s the best solution.  They must trust the editor to do what’s best for the writing.  

Critique 
On the other hand, a critic provides the writer with their observation of the piece.   They evaluate the positive and negative aspects.  Start out with big things like structure and style.  Then move closer to sentence structure, description and dialogue.  Finally, point out any spelling, punctuation or grammar mistakes.   

Here are a few generic examples:

1.    What did you like about the piece?  Be specific.
a.     “The description in this sentence created a vivid image.”
b.     “Your dialogue makes me feel like I'm overhearing a real conversation.”
c.      “The setting really brings me into the story.”

2.    What improvements did you observe? Be specific.
a.     “I don’t understand what’s going on here.”
b.     “This sentence sounds awkward.”
c.      “You’re shifting tenses here.” 

Your observations allows the writer to determine if their intentions came across in their writing.  If they didn’t, it’s their job to go back and fix it. 

Don’t let your inexperience keep you from giving strong feedback.  Be confident in your ability to recognize good writing.  You also know when things aren’t working.  Your unique reading experience is important to the improvement of the piece.  It’s up to the writer whether they take your advice.  Let them decide.  

Still stuck on what to say?  Respond to the story itself by jotting down your feelings while you read.  Let the writer know when something surprises you or makes you laugh.  This allows the writer to know if their writing is evoking the right response.   

Not sure what to ask for when presenting your work for critique?  First and foremost, do not apologize or attempt to defend your work.  There’s always room for improvement with a first draft.  Let your peers help you.  It’s your decision to take the advice.

Be clear.  Inform your group of areas you feel need extra attention.  Perhaps you tried something new and want to know if it worked.  Amie Kaufman goes into detail on this subject in her blog post 3 Steps for Improving Your Critique, by a Conflict and Communication Professional.

It’s difficult to put your ideas and work on display for judgment.  The critique process helps writing improve.  The changes don’t need to happen right way.  Push it aside while you toss the feedback around in your head.

As the critic, it’s your responsibility to give the writer an honest observation of their work.  You, as the writer, possess the final say about what does or doesn’t get changed.  So, jump in and help each other take our writing to the next level.    

What critiquing advice do you have for fellow writers?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pen Pals of the Future




Pen pals.  People you’ve never met in person.  Living in different states and towns.  You write back and forth sharing details of your life.  I still have the picture and letters from my pen pal from elementary school.  She lived in California.  Her name has faded from memory and the pack of letters is hiding in a box somewhere, but the experience has stayed with me for 19 years.  

While I was teaching middle school English, I realized my students didn’t have a clue about writing a letter.  How could this be possible?  Students were guided through the education system, graduating with less knowledge than I had when I was 11-years-old.  This could be a teachable moment.  Through a pen pal project my students would learn the proper letter format and conversational skills to keep their pal interested. 

Then the light bulb turned on.  Children—digital natives—have grown up immersed in technology.  Text messages, Facebook status updates and Twitter’s 140-character limit has created short, condensed dialogue.  There’s no need for handwritten drawn out conversations when the information is transmitted with a simple click of the ‘send’ button.  What’s the point in addressing the message with “Dear Sally,” when it's sent directly to the person of choice?  My teachable moment was thrown off the table. 

My thoughts shuffled around.  I’m an inquisitive chatterbox.  Listening to people’s stories, getting the inside dish on what’s happening in their life and offering advice when they need an encouraging word puts a smile on my face.  I wanted to get to know someone again through letter writing even if it wouldn't work with my students.  

HELLO, Laura.  

You are getting to know people, just not the traditional way.  Social media and the blogosphere have put me in touch with hundreds of people who share my love for reading and writing. 

All the effort put into directing traffic to my blog has introduced me to so many other writers living in various locales.  Amie Kaufman, a writer living in Australia.  Anna Saikin, a graduate student living in Texas.  Janet Reid, literary agent in NYC, posts tidbits that make her laugh and smile, showing us writers that she is just as human as us.  Getting to know them and many others through their writing and daily topics on their blogs keeps away the loneliness from working alone all day long.  It's also nice sharing a common bond with someone when most of my face-to-face friends couldn't care less about my writing or what I might be reading.  

Apparently, I’m slow on the uptake with dozens of websites devoted to E-pals all over the Internet.  Clearly, I’m no digital native.  But I’m glad I’ve realized blogging and social media is more than just a marketing tool.  The best part?  I don't have to wait weeks to hear back from my writing pals.  Enjoying yourself while you work is one of the great pleasures in life. 

What perks have you gleaned from blogging and social media?  

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Punishment": A Status Play Exercise with Dialogue

discoveringmandarin.blogspot.com
My first assignment for 200 Proof Storytelling required me to write a scene predominantly dialogue to practice status play.  The character with high status is considered to be in control; the other one has low status.  The point of the assignment was to create more dynamic dialogue, whether funny or dramatic, by tossing the high status between the two characters.

The exercise provided an opportunity to better understand my characters in a short story I've been working on.  I'm struggling with the characters.  Their personality, motivation and how they handle situations is not fully developed.

The scene with the abusive husband and his wife precedes my story and will not be included.  Although the husband is the aggressor, I wanted the wife to exhibit the strength she'll need to runaway in the short story.

Disclaimer: The following scene contains: explicit violence and adult language.


Punishment


It was a chilly Wednesday afternoon. Jenny watched the Cooper family smiling as they piled into the minivan.  They were heading off to see a movie and share dinner at one of the two restaurants in town.  Her smile faded as the pain from her wrists shot through her.  The rope restraints were digging into her skin.  Luckily, enough rope ran from her bound hands to the bed, allowing her to walk around the room. 
Her breathing began to shallow as the floorboards outside her door creaked underneath a heavy step.  She pulled her head back from the eyepiece of the telescope as the door opened. 
“Have we finally calmed down?”
“Yes.”
“What are you doing?”
She tapped the viewing end so it was pointing towards the floor.  “Setting the telescope up for the stars tonight.”
“Why did you move it then?”
“I didn’t mean to.  You startled me.”
“Why are you so jumpy?”
“Just tired I guess.”
“You aren’t trying to hide anything from me are you?”
“No.”
“Why don’t you come sit down,” he said, patting the bed lightly.
She slowly walked over, staring at her bare feet.
“So, have you calmed down?” he asked, hooking his finger underneath her chin.
The black pupils of her eyes swallowed the honey brown hue as she met his cold stare.  She nodded her head softly, to prevent his finger from digging into her. 
He gripped her chin.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t hear you.”
She hesitated.  He moved her head side to side in an attempt to shake the words out.  “Yes, I’m calm now.”
“So, what do you have to say to me?”
“About what?”
“Saturday.”
“Oh.”
“Listen, I will only tolerate your insolence for so long.  Think before you speak again.”
“I’m sorry.”
“For what?”
“My behavior Saturday night at Celine’s”
“You’re damn right.  The restaurant was filled.”  He swung his arm up. “The whole town heard your little tantrum.”
She leaned away from him.
“You afraid?”
“Yes.”
“Behave yourself and there will won’t be a reason to worry.”
“I don’t see why you need to resort to violence all the time.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“You use your fists instead of words.”
“How else am I supposed to keep you in line.”
“You’re not my father, Charles.”
“No, I’m your husband, Jennifer.”
“You should be loving.”
“I buy you pretty things all the time.”
“Love isn’t an object.  It’s soft and sweet like hugs and kissing.  Not pain.” 
“I try to give you those things, but you insist on embarrassing me.”
“How do I embarrass you?”
“You don’t conduct yourself properly in public.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means your attitude towards my friend Anne Marie was uncalled for.”
“You can’t be serious.”
He grabbed the rope around her wrists, causing it to dig deeper into her skin.  “You were completely out of line.”
“She sashayed over and interrupted us while we were eating.”
“I don’t care.  She’s my friend and you will treat her with respect.” He let go of the rope.
“She kept her back to me the entire time.  Leaning over and putting her hand on top of yours, giggling.  I didn’t appreciate the flirting right in front of me.”
“She’s an old friend.”
“Why haven’t I heard of her?”
“I haven’t seen her in months.”
“That doesn’t answer the question.”
“I think you are overreacting.”
“Overreacting?  She didn’t say one word to me.”
“Like I said, we haven’t seen each other in a while.”
“You never bothered to introduce me.”
“She was on her way out of the restaurant.”
“Is there something going on between you two?”
“We’re friends.”
“So, you’re telling me you didn’t flirt with her?”
“Yes.”
“That’s a lie.”  She stood up.  “I saw the way you were looking at her.  Caressing her hand.  The two of you were in your own world.”
His blue eyes were slits as he glared back at her.  He pushed her back down on the bed.  “You better watch your tone.”
“She wasn’t the first girl.”
“You’re being paranoid.”
“Am I?”
“Stop!  Why must you insist on such childish behavior?”
“Seriously?  You make a fool of me in public and somehow I’m the one screwing up.”
He grabbed her throat.  “You think too much.”  He forced her on her back. His musk cologne burned her nose as he leaned over her.  “You’re too pretty to worry so much.”  The soft cotton of his flannel shirt brushed across her nose as he pushed her hair out of her face.  He pressed his lips against her forehead. 
“Do you enjoy staying in this room?” 
“No.”
“Then, stop your nonsense.”  He pushed her into the bed.  Then, he climbed off her.  “I miss you.”
She sat up, rubbing her throat.  “I’m sorry.”    
He joined her on the bed. 
“Charles, I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.”
He grabbed a handful of her hair, yanking her head back.  He leaned next to her ear.  “I just don’t believe you.”
He brushed his lips across her throat, and then bit her.  She flinched.  She reached her hand up to caress his face, and pressed her lips against his. 
“Honestly, I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re not.  Your tone proves you haven’t learned your lesson.” He pushed her away.
“I wasn’t aware you were so threatened by words.”
“Shut up!” He stood up, pacing back and forth. 
“Do you think I enjoy being tied up for days?” 
“I’ll untie you when you learn to behave yourself, you stupid bitch.”
“And since when is tying up another person, let alone one’s wife, ok?”
“That’s it.” He walked out of the room and moments later returned with a roll of duct tape.
“What are you doing?”
“I can’t stand to hear you anymore.”
“Stop.  Please don’t.”
“Too late.  You should have thought about that before you shot your mouth off.”  He placed the tape on the bedside table.  He pulled a pocketknife from his jeans to cut the rope off her hands.  “Stop wiggling around.  I don’t want to cut you.”
“Then stop.”
“You forced me to do this.”
“You have completely lost your mind.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“No!”  She dug her fingers into his cheek, pulling down past his jaw.  His hand shot up instinctively.  There was blood on his hand when he pulled it away from his face. 
“Bitch!”  The back of his hand swung across her face, harder this time.  It left her stunned on the bed.  He took the opportunity to place her hands into handcuffs on opposite sides of the bed. 
The sound of the tape pulling away from the roll brought her back.  “Please don’t do this, Charles.  I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes, I do.  It’s for your own good.  You need to learn.”  He leaned over her again with the strip of tape.  Her protests were muffled as he placed it on her mouth.  He kissed her forehead. 
“I love you.”

Did Jenny come of as a contender against her husband?
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