My Writing Prompt – Meeting the Man in Black

baddie

It has been some time since I was able to sit down and get some quality (or not so quality) writing time in. I thought of different ideas for writing prompts, then stumbled upon the above picture, which gave me a couple of ideas. So, my writing project for the day is below. Here goes:

Sean heard the footsteps, slapping against the pavement behind him. He dared not glance back. He could hear two men – no, three men – pushing their way through the crowd on Mayfair. If he hadn’t been paying attention, if he had been absorbed in the open-air market, or the festivities of the harvest festival, he would not have noticed his pursuers until they had pulled him away. That would have been the end of it, of him; if the Reapers had taken him, no one would ever see him again. Not Natalie, the children, or Granny James. He would be only a distant memory.

He passed the livestock stall, the odors of pig, cow, and chicken mingling into a putrid stench that made him heave. No, it mustn’t happen. He was still far enough ahead of the men. If he could make it to the end of the street, There were hansoms passing through all day, eagerly picking up new fares.

Sean moved faster, his jog breaking into a full run. His earlier attempt at blending in abandoned. A gruff voice shouted from behind.  “Oi, He’s running!” Another voice, high-pitched and angry responded. “Quick, boys! Nab him now. Spread out!”

Sean sprinted, weaving his way in and out of the narrow gaps between happy revellers. The occasional gentleman or young woman would shout in surprise, but he paid them no mind. The end of the street was only mere yards away. Freedom was only a few short steps in front of him. Except-

A huge mountain of a man stepped between him and freedom. He recognized the barrel chested creature as Nelson. He worked at the pub. His glowering face, and truncheon in hand-made it clear that he was not standing there to help Sean to safety. The small man whimpered, glanced around the vicinity, and hoped.

Off to the right was an alley. It was narrow, dark, and unpleasant. Much too narrow for Nelson. In an instant, Sean veered to the right, and sprinted with all of his energy into the alley. “With any luck, they will lose me in the crowd.” he thought, his spirits rising.

He passed through the alley, reaching a darkened side street. More of an alley, it ran between the rear of the buildings on either side. But, to his delight, he saw a network of alleys that ran between each building along the stretch. He would be quite safe. As a precaution, he ran past several tenements, removed one of his leather gloves, and dropped it at the entrance.

He continued to run, seeing light at the far end of the street. It should take him back in the direction he came. His pursuers would not expect that. He was safe.

An arm shot out from the alley he as he passed, grabbing him by his collar. The force of the grab yanked Sean back, and he fell to the ground, breathless. He looked around, eyes wild. Finally they landed on…him.

The man stood to his left, dressed in a long, black coat, black gloves and boots, and a black mask. The black mask. The Phantom of the Lower Quarter. Sean wheezed as the man stepped forward.

“Greetings, Mister Mahoney.” The voice was a cheerless rasp. “I was afraid that we would miss each other in the – mob on the street.” The man held a hand out to Sean. Sean trembled, tears forming in his eyes. He had only peeked  at the cards. Not even a real cheat. Why would those goons send this man after him.

The man held his hand out for several seconds before sighing. “Honestly, if you don’t want my help, you can stand on your own. But be quick about it. I haven’t got all day.” The terrified young man sat up, pulling himself onto hands and knees, before reaching a standing position. He stared at the man in black. He had heard stories. The Phantom of the Lower Quarter. He had a habit of finding those down on their luck and  – disposing of them.

This man however, seemed less a monster, and more a frustrated businessman. He seemed annoyed with Sean, rather than filled with murderous rage. Seeing that his prey was standing, The Phantom spoke.

“You know why I am here this afternoon.” It was not a question.

“You have been accused of malfeasance by the establishment known as The Cracked Jug.” Sean nodded, whimpering.

“As you are well aware, the proprietor, a Mister…Levinson, I believe, is a just, moral man.” Sean’s eyebrows raised. “Well, moral for a pub owner with a gambling license.” The man conceded.

“Nonetheless, it falls to me to bestow justice, and punishment for the crime that has been committed.” As he spoke, the man in black unbuttoned his coat, and reached inside. Sean began to cry. a trail of hot, dirty tears streamed down his face as the man in black removed a curved, shining blade.

Sean Mahoney sobbed, realizing the end was near. The man in black took him by the shoulder and guided him to the brick wall of the tenement to the left. He consoled his bounty, as best he could.

“This gives me no pleasure, Mister Mahoney,” he rasped, a sudden sympathetic tone descending. “I promise you, it will be over before you know it.” He turned the young man, so that he faced the wall. “Now, Mister Mahoney…may I call you Sean?”

Through his sobs, Sean managed a tiny “Yes,” and a nod.

“Good,” said the man in black. “Now, Sean, please place both of your hands on the wall in front of you.” The young man did as he was told, his shoulders heaving as he tried to catch his breath.

“I know that this is difficult. But it must be done. All debts must be paid.”

Sean nodded, not hearing a word that was said.

The man raised his blade above his head. He paused, and asked, “We cannot make any exceptions, you know. It wouldn’t do to look weak in front of my employers. Unless…”

Sean turned his head. “Unless?”

The man tilted his head, deep in thought. “Unless, you could be rehabilitated. If you were willing to sign on as my apprentice, I might be able to spare you. I cannot guarantee that you would be allowed to live, but I could try to convince my superiors of your…value.”

Sean wailed. “Yes, anything you want! I’ll be your apprentice. I promise I will never commit a malfeasance again!”

The man chuckled, amused at his bounty’s eagerness. “Very well my young apprentice. Your training will begin in one month.”

Sean couldn’t believe his luck. “A month? of course, but…why so long?”

The man bowed his head. “You will need time to heal.”

“To heal? What do you-”

The man brought the curved blade down with all of his might, severing Sean’s left hand, which caused the young man to collapse to the ground, screaming in agony.

The man calmly produced a cloth from a pocket, and wiped the blood from his blade. He returned the blade to the interior of his coat, and tossed the cloth to Sean. “Bind yourself with that. I will ensure your safe transport to a hospital. There is always a price for malfeasance. Be glad that I was in the need for an apprentice.”

He turned, and walked back into the alley from whence he had appeared.

“Oh,” he said, turning back one final time. “As I am now your employer, I suppose I should introduce myself.  I am Mister Grim.” He disappeared into the alley, leaving his new apprentice. For now.

 

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Writing Prompts

steampunkskyline

Create a world from a picture.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Or so I have heard. Occasionally I find myself at a loss for how to proceed in a given story, and I have found that sometimes a little writing prompt can help to get the creativity flowing again. Sometimes it involves looking at websites that offer writing prompts for those truly in need of inspiration (this includes me far more often than I’d like); sometimes I set up “what if?” scenarios in my head, and try to write my way into or out of the situation I create (Once I successfully got myself off of an imaginary deserted island); But the type of writing prompt I enjoy the most is the simplest: find a picture and write about it.

I find a picture to be the easiest way to get into the heads of my characters. I can more easily develop them if I can relate to them. I am more easily able to relate to them if I can visualize them. Or, at the very least, their world. This photo gave me a bit of inspiration earlier today, because it shows a world that is easy to create, to imagine; a world of two levels.

The first level is the easiest to see. It is a world of rooftops. Bridges and walkways connect the tops of the buildings, allowing a society to exist that may never need to visit the world below. Airships fly so close above the people, that they can almost reach out and touch the hulls of the ships as they pass overhead. It is not such a stretch of the imagination to envision lush rooftop gardens, forming lovely parks for those that live up above to spend their days, enjoying the fresh air. It is an existence available to those that can afford it. Tycoons and politicians overlooking the city, quite literally. It is an enviable life. However, this type of lifestyle belongs only to a privileged few. For the rest of the city, a darker existence awaits.

On the ground is the undercity. The laborers, the impoverished – they live here. It is a perpetual dusk, due in part to the shadows of the buildings that tower above them. Thick black smoke from factories contribute to the darkness of the world below. Men go from home, to work, to the local pub, and finally back home each day, their only respite from their bleak existence in the bottom of a mug. Women that can afford to, stay home, venturing out into the noxious dark to purchase the goods needed on a daily basis. Those that cannot afford to stay home go to the work houses each day, toiling away at machines from dawn to dusk.

The sooty fog that persists in the undercity obscures the poorly maintained buildings, the illicit activities of those not fortunate enough to find a legitimate means of earning a living. Law abiding citizens keep their heads down, try not to draw attention to themselves. What law enforcement there is spends most of their time following the more suspicious characters that stick to the alleys and quiet streets.

Those that live above are blissfully unaware of the suffering of those that live below. They don’t see the thick smog that flows through the streets below, nearly a liquid, it is so thick. No, the people above see themselves as living so high in the sky that they are looking down at the clouds below them. It is an existence that is to be envied, and they cannot imagine any other type of life.

The visual of the picture gave me some great ideas for stories, I may actually use a couple of them as I continue writing. Does anyone have any other writing prompt ideas they use when they need to help get the creative juices flowing?  I’d love to hear them.

Writing Rituals

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I spent several hours last night writing. I started with a quick blog post, to get the creative juices flowing and then followed that up with some time on one of my current projects. It was strange, after the post here, I just started typing in the story, and before I knew it, I had written a little over 1,100 words.  I was quite pleased with the progress. Most days I’m lucky if I have the time or inspiration to write 500 words.

This got me thinking. I know that when I write something other than one of my projects, it does seem to help me to maintain a longer writing session. Usually I’ll write a little in a word file – what happened at work, or things I would like to accomplish. It seems like if I get my real-world concerns down on paper (or in a document), I am able to focus more on the task at hand and worry less about what else is happening in life.

I have a few writing rituals that get me in serious writing mode. If I don’t perform a few of those rituals, I can still write, but the more I don’t have done before sitting down to work, the less focused I am, and my writing session ends up much shorter than usual.

I always have to have my notebook by my side. My notebook is the home of all of the little notes I jot down. I have a horrible memory, so if I get an idea for one of my stories, or for a new project, I grab my notebook and scribble it down. The notebook was where I jotted down my idea for Captain Drayton’s funky eyeball, and where I initially decided to change my rough idea for a pirate story into something that fit more into fantasy (at that point, I had not decided to try steampunk).

I also have web pages open at all times, so that my research is available immediately. I use scrivener for my writing and organizing, so I have a special folder in each of my projects where I put information as well. I mainly use this for photographs for inspiration, as well as storing all of the links I use for research. In the event that the project is something I want to publish, I’ll also store the links to the store pages for those stories.

There has to be something for me to drink/snack on as well. If I am really in the zone, I will forget to eat or drink, at least for a while. I become a bit obsessive when I’m writing. It is too easy for me to get lost completely in my project, and I won’t even realize what time it is until something distracts me from the writing.

It seems like my little rituals each help individually, and if all of them are performed together, my productivity is greatly improved. If I can continue to write like I did last night, I should be finished with this project in no time. Then I’ll just need to come up with a name, get a cover design I like, edit, edit, edit, and it should be ready to publish.  It’s still a lot of work, but I am looking forward to finishing another project, and getting it out there for people to read, and hopefully enjoy!

For the writers out there:  Do you have any special rituals or habits that help you clear your mind so that you can focus on writing?  Or are you among the lucky that can sit down and write with no problem?  As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.