Welcome to Telling Tuesday, a day reminiscent of those in school when I looked forward to seeing what everyone brought for show and tell. This weekly feature was inspired by an article on WriteToDone.com, called “How to Show (Not Tell): A Writing Lesson from John LeCarre.”
It is one of the best articles I’ve seen on the rule all writers know–show, don’t tell–because it doesn’t just tell us how not to tell, it shows us some of LeCarre’s very own examples.
As always, I invite you to leave a link to your website or blog with your comments.
THIS WEEK’S PROMPT:
She’d never been so afraid.
She tiptoed, slowly, slowly, hoping he would not hear her. She’d even murmured a prayer, though she wasn’t sure if she’d said it right. And if she said it wrong, would God hear her?
She was afraid of the dark, but grateful for it, too.
A leaf crunched–screamed–below her foot.
He turned toward her.
Did he see her?
She froze. All except her heart. It pounded so hard and loud in ears it might have smothered the sound of his footsteps . . . if he wasn’t getting closer.
Should she scream?
No. He’d hear her. Then find her.
But, it was her only chance. Surely someone would hear, come to help.
She opened her mouth, and prayed she could make a sound escape it.
I'll play today 🙂
The sound of her voice wound away from her, traveling down the throats of yawning, black corridors, probing into unknowable and forbidden places where she might not dare. But only her own voice filtered back to her, different somehow, expended and parched, like motes of dust sifted through haunted history.
She saw a wrinkle of darkness at the top of the staircase, and through the buttress on the second floor landing, a ghostly-white oval materialized. Small black eyes set deep in folds of doughy flesh, jet lips stretched into lascivious sneer, the thing was hairless, its bald head seeming to float free of a determinate body. A terrifying apparition. Or a pitiful sideshow attraction. It hissed like a snake.
“. . . . sssuccubusss . . . .”
Vanessa’s body wrinkled with goose flesh. Surely this hideous creature couldn’t be Missus Wyndham. It was like a demon, spat from Hell to possess this grotesque human shell. True fear clutched her heart, throat, nerves, the very mass of her trembling intestines.
It began to rise, to take formative shape at the top of the stairs, seeming to draw from the black air around it, infusing its bulk with the purest dark. It inched from the shadows, tentative yet confident, real and unreal at once.
Vanessa’s heart skipped, fluttered, threatened to stop.
When at last it emerged into the light, merely a woman after all–a very large and bald woman–Vanessa felt the pull of relaxing muscles throughout her entire body. Yet in the next instant, they tightened again in cramps of renewed fear.
“You stink of Him,” the thing that was a woman spat, approaching by yet another step down.
Vanessa took a reflexive step back.
“I can smell the devil’s cold, curdled seed inside you now,” she intoned, small black eyes glazed from within by a depthless darkness.
Vanessa couldn’t even summon words to try and choke out, overcome at the horror that was the dead plantation’s reviled mistress.
Again, the woman descended a step, and again, Vanessa reacted with another reflexive retreat as the tight-packed meat of her intestines quivered. A moment later, she realized she wasn’t breathing. She let go the dead air from her lungs, drew in another, and although imbued with the same heavy sense of doom, the breath was enough to force oxygen to the brain.
Crap. Really screwed up my formatting 😦
Thanks for coming out to play, mgmillerbooks. Aaaugh! You pushed my scary button. Nothing freaks me out like beady black eyes. Glad it's daylight. 🙂
Forgot to tell everyone I'm on the road today, but look forward to reading and commenting when I return to my computer. 🙂
He rattles the ice in his glass, releases the smell of whiskey into the darkened room. The smoky-sweet lullaby floats through the veil of time, clings to deep shadows of a past. Like a magic trick with veils and smoke and mirrors, buried memory wraps vaporous arms around me and squeezes. My breathe catches, my heart slams against my chest. One thought consumes me.
Except I cannot move, cannot breathe. The smothering smell of scotch mingles with the suffocating scent of testosterone infused sweat and the tang of fresh semen.
Between one breathe and the next, I leave my body.
Awesome scary, Pam! I like the way you separated “hide.” Great emphasis on her desperation!
You do this very well, mgmiller. It's so scary I almost marked my laundry.
Hey, M.G., your passage seems like one out of “Her Grave Embrace” though it has been awhile since I read it. Good stuff but I'm looking for your next level of horror.
And who knew Pamela could do such a good job in this genre?
You got it. HGE it is. But I'd never post my “next level of horror” on Jan's blog.
My daughter says this is not terrifying enough to qualify for the prompt, and I'm leaning toward agreeing with her. Perhaps it is that earlier day, the one this scene evokes (if it does so), that holds the moment of perfect fear? I'm posting it anyway. 🙂
5 inches of metal, give or take. 5 inches between her and the world, between her and life. 5 inches and the demons that held her, their whispers reminding her of all that lay beyond that 5-inch threshold. The day was bright, the breeze fresh and welcoming—come breathe, live—carrying memories of summer grass and sunshine. Then why had she stopped breathing? What was the other scent on the seducing breeze? The tang of metal. Summer grass, sunshine, and steel. One step would take her across the threshold, would deliver her, but the demons reminded her and the breeze reminded her and she knew the world was a dangerous place.
Oh so creepy. You know how to twist the viscera, MGM. 🙂
Terrifying. I want to leave my body, too.
Jan, I don't know if I'm hoping she gets a sound out or not. Maybe that's a key to terror–being in a no-win situation, doom on every side, with the protagonist in the middle trying to maintain sanity?
Jan, yours was scary and I was tense. Mike you went beyond scary, lol. Here's my attempt with a different sort of afraid:
The distant rumble started from above, so high she couldn't see to the top. She only wanted one tiny stone. She didn't know it was the one holding all the others in place. Vibration moved from the ground into her feet and she couldn't make herself move. One rock bounced down, then another, then tiny rocks hailed down around her until the air was filled with them. The ground swelled around her until it became too hard to breathe and running was no longer an option.
Yes, Jan. Black, soulless, empty eyes. Told you I'd remember 🙂
Now I'm going to have to read Her Grave Embrace. Got anymore copies, Mike?
I can take it–as long as it's still light outside and I'm not alone when I read it.
Keli, it was plenty scary for me. I like the way you kept repeating “5inches.” Like a bad dream your character couldn't wake from.
Madison, now THAT'S terrifying! I can feel the rocks pounding against me and already feel myself suffocating.
And now it's dark outside!!
Good one, Keli. Isn't 5 inches the width of a threshold? Is her husband about to carry her across?
Now, I'm scaring myself . . .
I took the five inches to be a blade. But threshold sounds good, too. Keli? 🙂
5 inches is the width of a threshold (at my house, anyway. Yes. I measured. It was actually a little over.) I was attempting to recreate agoraphobia, but a justifiable case founded on a previous experience. I was imagining that experience involving a blade. Nice that you picked up on both ideas. 🙂
The husband/wife idea hadn't occurred to me, but it opens up even more terrifying possibilities… Hmm…
Jan – I'm late with this, but wanted to play…
She'd never been so afraid.
The blue sky dome stretched overhead and around her. Corn stalks stood taller than her brother Abe. The green corn leaves rustled, their whispered chorus growing louder and louder. She covered her ears and turned in circles. The forest of corn fingered out in all directions.
Somebody find me! Her mind screamed, but her voice would not. She tried, and tried again. Three years ago when she'd stopped talking, it had been a game. Following through day after day, month after month, had taken discipline. She had not known that eventually her voice would petrify in her throat.
Her heart hammered. Sweat formed on her brow and trickled down the sides of her face, stinging the corners of her eyes. Her breathing grew faster, faster. She uncovered her ears and listened.
Abe hadn't told anyone that she had gone Into the Corn.