Friday, April 26, 2013

Story: Woodman of the World

This is a flash fiction that I included in my creative portfolio last term. Originally, it was part of a writing exercise my instructor assigned. We went to Pioneer Cemetery (our local cemetery on campus) and walked around, finding names for potential characters. Our assignment was to find a name and create a story with them as the main character. At first, I really wanted an unusual name and I did find some really wacky ones, but then I came across a tombstone with a wonderful inscription on it that made an entire story come into my mind. The name was Joseph S. Stiles and the inscription was: Here Lies Woodman of the World.

How could a story not come from that?


Joseph lowered his axe and wiped sweat from his brow. The men were concentrating on their work, chopping away at the trees that had stood for hundreds of years. Maybe longer. When he was young, he had run through these trees with his brothers, laughing and running, imagining they were hunting bears and lions. Once he had grown up, married and had children of his own, these trees remained his friends. He cut firewood and lumber, but never took more than he needed and always silently thanked the trees for their gifts. Just like his father taught him. The day Joseph’s father had given him his first axe, he had said, “Joseph Samuel Stiles, remember that this forest is older than you. It was here before you were born and it’ll be here after you die. Show it respect.”

He had, up until now. But there was nothing Joseph could do. The lumber companies had finally found this prize collection of timber and began their destruction. It almost happened over night. They offered jobs to the townsmen, ordinary folks who, like Joseph, had lived and respected the forest all their lives. They had all jumped at the chance to make more money than they had ever seen at one time. Joseph had done the same. Soon, he’d be able to buy a brand new truck. His family had more food on the table and his wife even mentioned that, in a few years, they could move to another town, a bigger town, and not have to live in the backwaters anymore. It would be better for the children, she said. Joseph agreed, but as each day passed, the weight of the axe in his hands grew heavier and it became harder to look at the trees.

“You all right, Joe?” His head jerked and Joseph realised that he had stood still for far too long. Walt Humphrey and Nick Reynolds stared at him with large concerned eyes, axes raised, ready to strike the tree again. They were worried. They had all seen men who fainted from overworking themselves, squeezing in a few more hours each day to earn a bit more money, forgetting to drink water or eat food and eventually collapsing, almost catching themselves on the sharp edges of their axe. It was a scary thing to witness, the look some men got in their eyes when all they could think about was getting a few more dollars.

Joseph shook his head. “I’m fine. Just need some water.” As the other men nodded, Joe stepped away, keeping his eyes off the mangled tree, and moved to the bucket of water. He lifted the metal ladle to his lips and closed his eyes, feeling the cool water bathe his parched throat. But when he closed his eyes, he was not greeted by comforting blackness. His mind’s eye filled with guilt in the shape of trees. Firs and spruces, their needles the rich blue-green of the ocean. Their limbs shifting and creaking in the wind. Their fresh scent of winter mornings. They called to him, spoke to him, asked him why he hurt them. Joseph tried to explain that there was nothing he could do, that even if he were to lay down his axe and never pick it up again other men would still come and cut them down. But they did not care that others would continue the work he was only a small part of. They cared why he did it, why he chose to break his promise.

Was it the money? No, Joseph never cared for the stuff, never thought he needed much of it to live. Before the lumber companies came, his family had lived comfortably off of the few dollars he earned selling wood in town.

Then what was it?

Joseph felt a hand on his shoulder. Nick stood beside him, concern in his face. “You sure you’re okay, Joe? You not gonna pass out or anything?”

Looking at his friend’s face, Joseph could see the beginnings of the money thirst in the other man’s eyes. They glinted frantically, they darted from one point to another, never staying in one place for long. Soon, Nick would work past sunset and come before dawn, his axe becoming an extension of his arm. Joseph was scared. Scared of what he had gotten himself into. He knew why he had begun work with the others. These men, he knew them all. He had trusted them when they told him this was a good thing. But now, all these men were strangers. Joseph did not want to become a stranger to his wife, to his children. To the trees.

Joseph looked Nick straight in the eyes, managing to lock the other man’s flighty gaze. “You know what, I think I need to leave. To rest.”

“You gonna be okay?”

A smile spread across Joseph’s face, an action he had not felt in many months. “Yeah. I’m gonna be all right.”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Writing Thoughts: Where Do You Get Inspiration?

First, I appreciate so much anyone who follows me, so here's a quick shout-out and thanks to SiderealMidnight for becoming my second follower! And now, to the post...

As I am struggling to figure out a plot/topic for my next story (a flash fiction for my creative writing portfolio), I decided this would be a perfect time to explore the topic of where one gets ideas/inspiration for writing. I’m sure everyone has a number of things that work for them, so here is a list of things that work for me. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll work for everyone, but I hope that at least one will prove to be useful to at least one of you.


  • Music. For some weird reason, I have a tendency to make up stories to match the music/song I’m currently listening to. Sometimes it’s the sound of the music, sometimes it’s the lyrics, sometimes it’s the meaning behind the lyrics. It can be any kind of music and any kind of story. Let your imagination develop it for you.
  • Non-fiction books/documentaries. Just a few days ago, one of my friends gave me a book on nightmares to read. Let me tell you, now I want to write a story filled with blurred realities, demons, and awfully frightening nightmares that don’t stop when you wake up (unfortunately, I don’t think I could squeeze this into a tiny flash fiction). Just from reading one chapter out of that book. Non-fiction usually doesn’t sound exciting but if you choose the right topic it can be a lot of fun. Same with documentaries. I remember watching one on the History Channel a long time ago (back before they stopped showing shows on history and started that terrible stuff like Axe Men) about Hell, not only the Christian version of it (though that was the main focus) but also the similar depictions in other religions. I didn’t necessarily get a story plot out of that but watching or reading about interesting topics that are not explored often can result in some inspiration for situations to include in stories.
  • Pictures. Go on tumblr or weheartit or whatever website you go for to get pictures. It can even be a simple Google search if you have a certain thing in mind. But browsing interesting or pretty pictures can often conjure up a tone or setting for a story, or if you’re super lucky a story plot itself! I think when we writers/artists run out of inspiration, it’s because our minds are stuck and bored with our usual routine, so just spending sometime doing something different like looking at some nice pictures can relax our brains and stimulate them at the same time. I know that I don’t spend nearly enough time looking at pretty things.
  • Go on a walk. Spending sometime outside with just your thoughts can be refreshing. Look at the world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a beautiful sunny spring day or a rainy winter one. Any weather and landscape can offer any kind of story. Also, it can offer up a nice way to recharge those creative juices. 


  • Cemeteries. Now, don’t just think this is a goth thing. I am a goth and I do love cemeteries, but there’s more to this. Often time, the hardest thing for me to think up are characters, especially character names. You’ll be surprised by all the unusual names you’ll come across if you walk around a cemetery. Not only that, but often there will be interesting inscriptions on the tombstone, some may be specific to the person buried there. A few months ago, I walked around the cemetery on campus and came across a man’s gravestone that had the words: “Here lies woodsman of the world”. That gave me an entire flash fiction about a man who loved the forest but had been roped into cutting them down for the lumber industry and was now struggling with his mixed guilt. So, even if you’re terrified of cemeteries, try walking around for at least five minutes. You may be surprised.
  • Media. I’ve already mentioned music and non-fiction, but even by watching TV or movies, reading, or playing video games can give you ideas for stories. The story I just turned in for class was about a man who runs into his doppleganger and he becomes certain that his double is trying to kill him and steal his life. Where did this idea come from? The Nancy Drew game, [title]. Yes, I’ve loved these Nancy Drew games ever since I was young and I’ll continue to play them with pride. This story, which I consider to be one of my best stories thus far, had its roots in a video game. Any media, even magazine ads, can offer ideas.
So there’s my list. I could probably think up inspiration sources all day, but I won’t plague you with a Top 100 list. But if none of these work, go to the internet and search for ways to get inspiration. In fact, here’s a link to a Writer’s Digest article on the subject to get you started. It’s a short list but I found it helpful and sound advice:

Let the creativity flow!

Monday, April 15, 2013

I'm deeply sorry about the long absence...

As the title says, I'm sorry. I know I haven't posted in a long time and I'll try to explain but I think there is no excuse for me getting frustrated and leaving. That's what happened. As with a lot of things when I start them out, I got annoyed that I felt that no one was reading my blog. Now that I'm back (and see that I have one kind soul who is following me. Special apologies to you OddGhoulOut) I am once again going to try this whole blogging thing. I think, however, I will try to make this more focused on my writing and less an album of my wardrobe (though I might post a few special ones every now and again).


So once again, I'm sorry for being so short focused and easily discouraged. Hopefully, it won't happen again.

In other news, I'm in the final stretches of the school year. Considering how weird and stressful this year has turned out, perhaps it was best I stopped blogging for those few months. My life got pretty wacky (discovering how some of the people I thought were friends were really shallow and untrustworthy people, stressing out about what I should do after I'm done with college, worrying about the future as I sometimes allow myself to do... and I really need to stop that unnecessary stressing). But, one good thing has come out of all this recently. I've been in my university's creative writing program and I can tell my writing has improved (don't worry, I'll be posting some short writing pieces and then, once I get it workshopped, my best short story of this school year). So I guess there's a silver lining to this whole mess after all.

Wow, I can already tell that it's good to be back!
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