Monday, August 6, 2012

WFMAD: Days Five/Six.

(Warning: both of these are very different prompts, but I was behind in posting yesterday. Of course the "write a story from the news" prompt had to happen on the day of the Sikh temple shooting. While writing, I didn't know if writing it was disrespectful or offensive; I obviously hope not, but I didn't know how I could choose anything else.)

Today’s Prompt: Go to the Washington Post or the newspaper of your choice and choose a story from the front page that, for whatever reason, really strikes a chord in your heart. Read the story through twice, then put it away. Don’t look at it again. Write a scene connected to that article. Put your character in the middle of the action. The character can be someone who was actually mentioned in the article, or – more interesting! – make the character someone who has a strong emotional connection to the people in the article. Or insert yourself into the middle of the action and write a scene.

They say that when things like this happen, life moves in slow motion. That's how it's depicted in movies and in books. The author can describe every detail over a number of pages; the film editors slow the tape and overlay dramatic music. You see children screaming but you don't hear them; you see their crumpled angry faces but all you hear are violins. The heroes of the day sweep in to save them all.

It's a lie. There was nothing slow about it.

In the gurdwara a second before the chaos everything was normal; I was ignoring the hymns and staring across the hall at Amar, at her bright yellow shawl. I wasn't thinking about the Guru like I knew my father next to me was; I was thinking about what that shawl felt like. Would it feel scratchy against my fingers if I brushed my hand across her shoulders? I thought about how she looked in Geometry last week, her head huddled over her test, how I stared at her after I had rushed through mine, just as I was staring at her now. She had to notice. Get yourself together, Raj. You're making a fool of yourself, man. But still, I stared at the back of her head, willing her to turn just a few inches, just so I could see the silhouette of her face--a blinking eyelash, the side of her nose, the round of her chin.

And then it started, and it never stopped. I knew what was happening at once. I didn't know why it was happening, but I knew what was happening. That's another thing, people always talk about it being a scene full of confusion, but we're not idiots. We know what a gunshot sounds like. It's not someone slamming a door. It's the loudest thing you've ever heard. It's a gunshot. It's not a scene of confusion, it's a scene of survival.

Things didn't slow down; there were no violins. Instead, everything became acute, painfully. The screams were the loudest screams I've ever heard; the never-ending shots ripping my eardrums; and the colors: all the beautiful colors that fill the gurdwara, that yellow of Amar, the pinks, the reds, the blues. My mother was wearing pink today. Where is my mom? I'm on the floor, covering my head, trying to stay close to Dad, everything is fast and bizarre and loud, but I'm scanning for that pink, for that yellow, but the women seem far away, unreachable, and there is red, that red of blood that's not just plain red, it's darker, it's scarier. The floor feels cold, refreshing and almost comforting in its solidity, but I'm sweating; everyone is sweating; everyone is crying; the hall is full of salt.

The shooting goes on forever until it doesn't. It is the part afterwards that goes in slow motion, when I don't want it to; it is only then that the camera filter flicks on and the color of the air seems tinted, my hyper perception suddenly and drastically blurs, things seem hazy and unreal. It is only when I stand up, only when I realize that I am able to stand up, that the sounds fade, that the screams become a distant din, that I pretend that I must be in a movie. I am in my favorite book, I am staying up too late even though I'm exhausted. I am an actor; I am floating. It is the only option.

Today’s Prompt: For fifteen minutes – without stopping – you will write about all of the ideas and characters and feelings and memories and dreams and people that you want to write books about for the next fifty years.

I want to write a young adult novel. I want to write a young adult novel with queer characters, but I don't know if that will ever happen, because I lack the creativity to think of plots, details, things that would make it unique. The only thing I'm really good at writing about is feelings, and lord knows there's already enough feelings in young adult lit.

I want to write about my family; I want to write about my friends. I want to write about places. I want to write about how important place is, the neighborhoods and cities and towns you live in; I want to travel across the country yet once more or multiple times more and stop in coffee shops along the way and write about the place I'm at right then and have it be published by some website, have each blog entry be finished with a video of me dancing to a random song each day at rest stops, in open fields, in front of mountains. I want to write about America. Yuck, right? Who doesn't want to write about America?

I want to write things that are hopeful and full of joy because I fucking hate reading things that aren't. I am a sucker for the dark and the depressing, sure, but if there isn't any light in your story, then what's the point? What's the fucking point? Thanks for wasting my time.

I want to write about music. I want to write about music so badly, but I can't write about music objectively. Not that reading anything objective is really that interesting, anyway, but that's what people ask for, sometimes.

I want to write about my family. I already said that but I said it so quickly. I want to write about my family and my hometown. I want to write about Skip's Pond, I want to write about my grandparents, about holidays and summers and winters and gardens.

I want to write about trees.

I want to write about strangers that I want to get to know better, that I haven't met yet. I want to write about the people who came so close to my heart and then left. I want to write about the people who I observe from a distance who don't know I'm there but I am, watching like a creeper, observing and thinking.

I want to write my daydreams down, the things I spend most of my days dreaming about, the things I conjur up in my head when I run, but those are the sorts of things that I wouldn't show anybody, even though I would want to.

I want to write non-fiction if I know enough about something, but I don't know if I'd ever know enough about something to feel confident enough to write a book about it. Because Jesus, that takes a lot of confidence and a lot of knowledge. But I like the idea of researching, of sitting in libraries with big dusty books, of traveling around the world to research a setting or a character or a plot, like that author who came to my library class to tell us about going to Jordan so she could know what it felt like to ride a camel, to know the exact color of the sky in the desert and the exact color and feel and taste of the sand, before she wrote about it. I would like that. I would like to say, "I have to go to Jordan and ride a camel--you know, for research."

I want to write about Kathy, because she deserves it.

I want to write about food. I want to write about how I will never go on a diet because food is the best fucking thing ever and you shouldn't deny yourself something when it's the best thing ever. I don't want to write, like, recipes, because right, I don't know recipes. But I want to write about how it tastes and how it makes me feel and why it's important to who you are. I want to write about bodies and how you should be in love with your body and love it everyday. I want to write about how beautiful everybody's bodies are.

I don't know if I'll ever write a book, but if I did, I hope that it would be helpful and that I would be proud of it.

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