Building a short story (#2)

Where do our ideas come from? Anything and everything. My last short story, (even though the last post said ‘final’ Gunther McWilliams is far from complete) was inspired or driven, I would say, by the NYC. It was a fun story to work on but not my choice of genre or subject matter. I am much better at watching science fiction than writing it.

This story, in its very raw form, was created from a series of nerdy writing exercises I like to do. Taking the last line from a novel, 4 random vocabulary words, an object in the room, a sound, and a smell or a taste, I then sit down and write for a total of ten minutes and try to incorporate all the images and words from my list.

In this blog exercise, I’m posting the very first draft, misspellings and all. Between my own re-working and hopefully the editing and writing help of CP, and anyone else that wants to contribute, we can turn this piece into a submission worthy work.

Inspirations list:

Marguerite Duras’ The Lover:

Told her as before, that he still loved her, he could never stop loving her, that he’d love her until death.

Vocab: baroque, labile, machination, obeisance.

Sound: clapping

Smell: feces

ten minutes


There was a stench that filled the room and she could not describe it as anything other than shit. Marguerite stepped over the piles of clothes and papers, the stacks of books, strewn newspaper articles, shredded bits of card board, the yogurt cartons, the bottles and cans of beer, the accumulated mess of months of a recluse; a terrible, terrible recluse.

In a way she felt that he had done this to her on purpose, that all the while he had her in the forefront of his mind. She could picture him moving about his space planning it all out, the machinations of his movements laying each step like a brick layer building his invisible wall. Her invisible wall was more like it. Sure he was the one dead, but she was the one still alive, still walking around in his swinging shadow, still listening to his clapping as he laughed at her singing, still watching him build his studio like a baroque palace of trash. She was angry with him for leaving her such a mess -such a mess it was- the stench was nauseating. He had had two cats and they must have shit somewhere in the studio. All over the studio, she thought.

She moved to the window and pushed it open. A rush from the afternoon traffic fought its way past her face. He was like a ghost even when he was breathing. He told her he would love her till death. The bastard, she thought. She pulled a cigarette from a silver case that had a printed copy of Venus Rising on the lid. She brushed her finger over the image then snapped the case shut and dropped it into her coat pocket. She tapped the cigarette on the windowsill, two times, then lifted it quickly to her lips, and held it there as she searched her pockets for a lighter. The air felt warm on her cheeks and helped to relieve the smell. She cupped her hand over the lighter and cigarette till the tip glowed amber. She tossed the lighter onto the floor to join the trash. That’s all it was trash, garbage, a huge mess, a nasty hassle. She stared towards a neighbor’s window and slowly exhaled. The smoke lifted from her lips like thin webs and quickly vanished into the rising dusk of the evening.

She was not going to obeisance to him or his space or even the memory of him. She was labile at this point, and had no room to honor him in anyway. She could drop from the window as easily as he did, and with that she let the cigarette lit, and hot fall from between her fingers. She pressed her head against the windowsill and stared at the wall directly across from her. There was writing on it, she hadn’t noticed it earlier. It was in dark charcoal badly faded and smeared but she could still make it out even in the distance. It said, for you, and underneath the words an arrow pointed down to a sheet of paper thumb tacked to the wall. This won’t make it better she thought as she pushed herself from the window, and toward the paper. She tore it from the wall and began to read:


Such love has always been unknown to me, until I laid my eyes, my hands, and my mouth upon your very name. How you rolled over my tongue, your flesh in my nose, your heat in my eyes- I think love means Marguerite- The heart is dark  and full of such dangers that so many fear to even step to the edge but you Marguerite sailed through my body like a seasoned explorer, an adventurer of the heart. I love you Marguerite but I cannot kick the darkness away. When I am alone, my skin sweats and I have to touch the wall to prove that I am real, but I feel my hand pass right through it. My transparent flesh passing through wood, and my voice is fading. I fear never loving you again, but I’m fading even as you stand in the room. I love you Marguerite, but not this world, and it’s hard for me to believe I was ever even in it. If there is something beyond death I will love you there.

She returned to the window. It doesn’t make it better, she thought. He never even knew her. Then crumbling the paper into a ball she looked toward the sky and with that she dropped the letter.


3 responses to “Building a short story (#2)

  1. You’ve got a lovely bit of detail here, but not much in the way of substance. You may want to extend this a little bit, just long enough for her to discover something or change in some way. She discovered the letter, but she didn’t learn anything from it.

    I hope this helps. If you’d like, a bunch of us writing bloggers are putting together a writing support group on the forum for my novel. You might get a good crit there if you look it up. (Or you can point and laugh at the shredding my first chapter got. Ouch! >.<)

    We’d love to have you. 🙂

    • Thanks. I’d be delighted to stop by and start reading. I hope you don’t mind but I’ll be using your comments to workshop the short story, its exactly the feedback I was hoping to get.

  2. Pingback: Finding substance « My Short Story Workshop

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