How to Keep Married Fictional Couples Interesting Without Splitting Them Up

A Writer's Path

glasses married marriage

by Stephanie O’Brien

You’ve just spent an entire novel bringing an amazing couple together.

They’re passionate, fun and fascinating to watch, and their chemistry has fans raving about how wonderful they are.

They’re so great that you’ve decided to write a sequel starring them… but there’s just one challenge.

You went and let them get married.

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#FamilyLegacy Short-Story Chapter 4

I see the hill that starts Highway 13, through the middle of town. I’m less than a mile from home, a feeling of relief passes through my entire body as I flip my turn signal to the right and gently tap the break for my turn.

I don’t see the car that rams into me from behind. I slam my brakes into place, the tail of the car skids around, another jolt farther to the side as a second car hits the first. Metal scrapes against plastic. Now facing the opposite direction, I see the eighteen wheeler slam on his breaks but unable to stop.

Time seems to have slowed down. I dig in my pocket for my phone and press 9…1…1.

The last thing I hear, before the world goes dark is my cousin asking, “911, what is your emergency?”

#FamilyLegacy Short-Story Chapter 3

Jack pauses to cough into a handkerchief. “It might sound cliché, but the weather wasn’t that good that night either. Dark clouds covered the stars, thunder rolled, the lightning crackled but rain hadn’t come yet. It didn’t drop until after the car fire got going really well.” He zones out, not seeing me. So far gone in the past that I can almost see ghosts flit across his eyes.

My voice comes out soft and breathless. “That’s horrible.”

“Yep, but it wasn’t like your mom had the best beginning to life either.”

“How so?”

“Well you know how your grandma died with Tasha Raelynn’s brothers and sisters in the train wreck yea?”

“Yea.”

“Well she ended up in her grandparents care after that. Her dad was a criminal that was in and out of prison. Your strict great-grandmother swore Tasha would never be raised by him. He died in federal prison of prostate cancer or something.”

“That would explain why I never got to meet him.” I bite my lower lip in surprise.

“Then your great-grandpa still has some PTSD from WWII.”

“I know that. It has gotten better over the years, but he still has some bad days.”

“Who wouldn’t after taking shrapnel from a grenade from the wrong side of Normandy Beach?”

I gasp. “Wait, he took friendly fire?”

“Yes, ma’am. He hasn’t told you?

“No. He doesn’t talk about the war and no one else will talk about family history at all.” That would explain the deafness in his right ear.

“No one thinks it was on purpose, but it still happened.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“Your mom and I did some digging into the family for a school project.”

“Neat.” I saw solemnly.

“Well I better be off. I just came by to say hi to Tasha. If you need me, you know where to find me.”

I give him a quick hug. “Ok. See you later.”

He dusts off his pants and leaves with a quick wave. He stops and turns back, “you know the saddest part of this mess is the wreck happened just one week after you were born.”

“I hadn’t realized it was that soon. I didn’t get any real time her after all.” Shock.

I get up and stretch. “I need to get back to Shayla before your grandparents scar her for life.

Bye Mom, I’ll be back to see you, maybe next year. I will make sure to bring Shayla too…at some point. Probably not until later when she can fully understand death, but still she will come to know you. We have all the hours of home videos for her to go through.” Out of selfishness, I decide that I will keep the gory details of mother’s death to myself.

My little girl never needs to hear of how her grandmother died in a fiery car crash that threw her from the Trans Am because of her lack of seat belt. Or how the drunk driver got away with murdering her and three of her best friends.

One last look at the pink quartz tombstone in the shape of a heart, then I am on my way home and back to my daughter.

Tasha Raelynn Smith

Daughter and Beloved Mother

1975-1991

#FamilyLegacy Short-Story Chapter 2

We sit in perfect silence for a bit. The judgy brunette from earlier, dragged her husband back down the aisle and left. I guess their family time requirement is done for the year. The late summer air breezes around us, setting off a light shiver through my body. “I hope you’re warm enough Mom, it’s awfully cold for this time of year.” I pull my knees up and wrap my arms around them.

A soft hand settles on my right shoulder. “It’s funny that this place is named “Cope Cemetery” since we have to learn how to “cope” without those that are here.” Jack Jones comes to sit next to us. He looks nice in his new Amish clothes.

No one would have thought that Tasha’s best friend in high school would have joined the local order of Amish, but when you live so close to Missouri’s northern Amish country anything is possible. He still comes into town every once in a while, but no longer frequents the Southside bar or chases every skirt he sees. At one time there was some speculation that he is my father, but he would never own up to it.

“Hey Jack. How’s the farm?”

“Same old, same old. It’s never dull, but duller every day.”

I giggle. “I think the country life seems interesting, but I don’t know if I would be able to survive without indoor plumbing.”

He sighs and folds himself down next to me. “It takes a bit of getting used to, but it’s not too bad.

Awkwardly, we fell into a short silence. “You were Tasha’s best friend in high school right?”

“Yes, I was. I was also in the car crash with her.” his sandy brown hair falls in front of his eyes as he bows his head.

“Can you tell me about it? No one in the family will say anything.”

“I don’t think your family would appreciate that.” We look over at Tasha, but she doesn’t object.

“She won’t mind. Now that I’m old enough.”

Jack rubs the back of his neck. “Well it was amazing that any of us survived in the first place.”

“I figured it was bad. I know…three people died?” I think that is right, but not sure.

He nods his head in confirmation. “The drunk driver, however, got away with a slap on the wrist.” After all these years, there is still a lot of anger in his voice.

“Wasn’t there some kind technicality, because it was a blind corner or something so the judge was lenient?”

“Yes, as you come out of Jamesport, there is a wide high corner with a wrought iron Horse and Buggy statue. Both the hill and monument block the view of oncoming traffic. Our driver, best friend Sadie, didn’t see the dim headlights in time. If I wasn’t on the passenger side, I wouldn’t have survived. The driver’s side had it the worse.”

On Writing With a Purpose

A Writer's Path

writing pen judge



by Meg Dowell

You likely learned in school that writing an essay begins with defining your target audience and purpose for reaching out to them. We all wrote that essay about whether or not our school should or shouldn’t have uniforms (did schools who already had uniforms still argue this?). Audience: school board. Purpose: convince the authority figures that we should or should not all dress alike.

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#FamilyLegacy Short-Story Chapter 1

I trap my daughter’s hair under a worn-out handkerchief. I will fix the small Afro when I get back, I think I’ll try cornrows this time. “Shayla, please try not to scratch for mommy.” I sigh, she vigorously rubs her arms instead. I have to clip her nails too. I don’t want her to get scars, something else for her father to blame on me. My great-grandma hands me two large oven mitts. “What do I do with these?”

“Put them on her hands.  I’ll give her another oatmeal bath while you’re gone. We will beat these chicken pox, eventually.”

“Thanks GG. Need anything while I’m out?”

“No dear. Tell Tasha we said hi.”

I wrestle with Shayla as she doesn’t like wearing the mitts. “Will do.”

As I pick up my keys my little girl runs to me, “Pwease don’t go mommy!” Clinging to my leg, she starts crying making me feel worse for leaving. The large oven mitts are almost comical on her tiny arms, going so far up they almost touch her shoulders.

My scrawny ninety year old great-grandfather strides over and picks her up. “Get going. She’ll be fine.”

I hide my tears and turn to walk out the back door. The only door we use now so my little girl doesn’t fall off the six-foot high porch.

My stomach is churning more with each step I take to the old clunker I own just for making this trip once or twice a year. I go through my pre-check ritual, making sure the tires and lights work. There’s nothing leaking or the well-kept engine isn’t making any funny noises. “Either would be a no-go until it’s been sent to the shop.” We don’t take chances with cars in this family. There have been too many car accidents, it’s almost a family tradition. I chuckle at my own morbid joke as I turn the ignition over.

Trying to calm my nerves, I start to sing a jingle from elementary, as I pull out onto highway 6. “G-A-double L-A-T-I-N spells Gallatin, Missouri.” My singing is horrible, but it does the trick, soon I am able to glide cautiously down the road and not be as paranoid as usual. I move to the “Bulldog Fight Song” we sang at every pep rally, as the car eats away the miles at a steady pace.

 

The freshly re-rocked drive to the gate feels as smooth as a gravel road can get, but the anxiety and nausea returns as I pass under the wrought-iron gate. Only one word between its pillars, “Cope,” but it feels as if there should be more and give entrance to Auschwitz itself. I park the car, take a deep breath…then step out into my own personal hell.

There’s great-uncle Dean, 35 due to drunk driving. A third cousin, another car accident at just 21. Oh, great-aunt Sherry looks good. Cancer wasn’t too kind to her. “Just a few more feet.” There are more family members here, but I try not to think about the multitudes of others here for one reason or another.

Finally, my mother’s spot comes into view, “Crap.” I trip in a hidden mud hole, but pinwheel my arms to stay upright. I’ve had enough practice thanks to my clumsiness.

The sky is crystal clear today, the opposite of my heart. “Hey, sorry I haven’t been back for a while. I’ve been pretty busy. Your granddaughter, Shayla, turns one tomorrow. She looks just like you did when you were younger.”

I hold the picture of my little girl for her to see that they share the same frizzy dark brown hair and dark blue mesmerizing eyes. Shayla’s hair is obviously curlier thanks to her father’s heritage. Unfortunately, you can’t see the gold specks that flicker in the light when she is up to no good. “She didn’t get your beauty mark though. She does have the slanted line birthmark on her right shoulder, she wouldn’t be family without it.”

Her crystal clear laugh rings through the air brought on by the breeze, but says nothing. Leaving me to wonder what she would think of my child and the situation I have found myself in, and how similar it is to hers back in late 1990.

     I hate this place, no matter how much maintenance the owners do to it, it still smells of death and looks about the same.

“I would have brought her to see you, but the family says it’s not appropriate.” A single tear wets my cheek, “John left last month his reason being that he tried to love his daughter but just couldn’t, so Shayla and I are back to living with great-grandma and grandpa.”

Carefully, I move a vase of old flower stems, the petals all dried and blown away by now, to sit next to her. “You’d be proud of me. I have stopped drinking while I was away. The postpartum has really been kicking my ass… sorry, arse I know how you don’t like the cursing, but the family is helping me get a handle on the depression though. So no plans of taking myself and eight other family members for a ride to play chicken with a train.” A soft chuckle escapes my lips before I can stop it. “Sorry, bad joke, I know. Your mom didn’t mean for it to happen.” At least we don’t think grandma Joy meant to kill six of her seven children, one of her sisters and herself when they were out running errands. The police believe the car stalled and they couldn’t all get out of the car before the locomotive rammed through the ’57 Chevrolet. “Guess crazy kind of runs in the family.”

Silence tears my words from me as I think back to the story my great-grandparents told me last year when I turned eighteen. They were always ranting and raving that I was turning out to be just like Tasha Raelynn and if I wasn’t careful I would end up in the same place she is.

     I think I am off to a better start. I managed to keep my legs closed for eighteen years. Two years longer than she did. My boyfriend stuck around longer as well. No one in the family knows who my biological father is, but Shayla knows hers. Though we did both meet the boys in high school and had children out of wedlock. Which to most of the family, including many who have survived the war and grew up in a more straight-laced time, believe that is a Cardinal sin.

A woman looks at me funny as she passes to visit one of her relatives. I glare back, I’ve not seen her here before, and perhaps her family is new here. She carries a bouquet of red roses and drags a reluctant husband down the aisle. Again I laugh as I picture a similar experience.

Shortly after she got pregnant, the baby’s father disappeared. My great-grandparents were up in arms about it, much like when they heard my news. I remember great-grandma hissing, “Tasha Raelynn came home practically pulling this poor scrawny boy’s arm out of the socket. Proclaiming that he is the one that got her pregnant.” All while she scowled over her coffee at the memory. Great-grandpa just quietly sucked on his corncob pipe, judging me as always.

“I saw the home movie where you brought him ‘round for a time to make it seem like a real relationship. I can’t believe you ever tried to pass that little gay boy off as my dad. Of course the family saw through it immediately, you couldn’t hide the fact that he was wearing his mother’s pearl earrings or beige lipstick.” I scoff at her naiveté, another thing that separates us. I’m not as gullible as she was back then. “Of course the great-grandparents had more colorful words for him, as they have more colorful words for everything they consider ‘indecent.’ You should hear half the things they say about Shayla being half African American.” I push my anger aside, not wanting to mar this meeting with bitterness.

The Technical Aspects of Writing Dragons

A Writer's Path

dragon

by Whitney Carter

Writing dragons is a popular topic here at Invisible Ink, and one of my personal favorites. We’ve talked about general tips for writing them and some of the common types, and today I want to look at some of the more technical aspects of writing these mythical creatures. My number one piece of advice when writing dragons – or any other creature, for that matter – though? Ask the writer. ; -)

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