Thursday, January 10, 2008


I spent an hour or so today working on a piece that started out as a flash fiction challenge sent by a friend of mine. Here's the original:

Amy was having her favorite breakfast – strong dark coffee and a lemon scone, iced and flecked with bits of zest, big as a man’s closed fist. She walked every day to the bakery around the corner, dressed in various mismatched layers, to buy the scone. The coffee she brewed at home, using glossy dark beans she ground herself. Since the glass for the French press broke she’d been using a contraption that made enough coffee for just one person.

While she ate, chasing bits of melted icing around the plate with pieces of scone, she thought of the dream she’d had the night before. It was her mother again, telling her she wasn’t doing it right, although what the what was had gotten lost in the dream’s ether. But the feeling hadn’t. It was a kind of simmering anxiety, a not-rightness that she couldn’t place. Amy had been told by ten thousand dollars worth of therapy that she was OK and still she didn’t feel it. She’d had enough therapy to know, too, that it wasn’t her mother she was dreaming about but some hidden aspect of herself.

Amy paused and took a bite out of the soft warm center of the scone, closed her eyes as she chewed. Remembered the day two years prior that her mother had chased her around the kitchen screaming and slapping at her; she’d scurried like a mouse being thwacked with a broom, searching for dark corners. Couldn’t find any. Couldn’t understand why people still thought it was OK to hit her. Wondered when she’d ever stop flinching whenever anyone raised their hand.

Recently she’d dug through a musty trunk in which she stored her old yearbooks and some photos and letters; there, at the back of a small photo album, was the last remaining picture of a time she’d tried hard to forget, this in a life filled with times she’d rather not remember. She was good at dropping the bad things and pedaling furiously away from them without looking back, but terrible at making a plan to go forward. She didn’t know where to go, or what to do with what was left.

She did know some things. She knew she needed to strive, not rest. She knew that she wasn’t to feel that it was her fault. She knew that she loved her mother, desperately.

But she couldn’t move as quickly as the world seemed to want, and she couldn’t stop feeling it was her fault, all of it, and nothing she’d done, good or bad, over all the years of her life, not the inflating and shrinking of her physical body, not the meditation, not the medication, not all of the hugs and love, had done anything to change that. What was left was guilt and bad dreams and fears of inertia. So she sat, and sipped her coffee, and spun her wheels, and tried to feel hopeful, because at least that was movement.

This is the problem I have with fiction: I am super good at beginnings. I get inspired to write beginnings all the time! It's the rest of the story where I have trouble. I want to write an entire short story and send it in somewhere; I'm starting to get a feeling for this character. But it takes a long damn time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

reminds me of an Ann Packer character, but maybe that's because i just read her book 'Songs Without Words'.

3:12 PM, January 10, 2008

Anonymous brandyholt said...

It IS a great beginning...I enjoyed reading it as I saw Amy...she feels familiar

Thanks for sharing your fiction!

5:13 PM, January 10, 2008

Anonymous brandyholt said...

To clarify the above comment...Amy does not remind me of another fiction character

5:15 PM, January 10, 2008

Blogger xianfern said...

That felt like the beginning of a book that I wouldn't want to put down.. keep it up, I want more!! Really good job!

5:59 PM, January 10, 2008

Blogger laura_didyk said...

Maggie! Great stuff! Keep writing...I have the SAME issue. Very good at beginnings...A writing teacher of mine, when I'd get stuck, would suggest proposing hypotheticals: what if she went online to check the bad boyfriends web page and found someone she didn't expect (her brother? her father?) what if some interesting/intriguing person moved in across the hall--a teenage woman...? What if her father gave her a pet chinchilla? Oh the options are endless (which I realize is what makes the beginnings so easy, and the middles so hard--true about life, too, I guess)...What other material might come out if you switched to the second person just to experiment? what if your writer friend just shut her trap and enough with all the suggestions?!...maybe then things could get really smokin'.

11:57 AM, January 12, 2008

Blogger McPolack said...

Thank you, everyone! I am going to keep working on this. And to my writer friend, I appreciate all your suggestions; keep 'em coming.

7:40 AM, January 17, 2008


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