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Clarion Call #1: Embark

January 8, 2011

Not long ago, my father emailed me a photograph he took of me when I was twelve years old.  In the photo I’m at an airport, planning to board a plane by myself for the first time.  My father has always had a gift for capturing “worth a thousand words” moments with his camera.  Instead of posed photographs in front of tourist traps, my childhood family albums are full of shots like this: candid emotional moments, subjects caught gazing at something off the edge of the page.  As a result, each photograph is a rich vein of detail.

What strikes me, when I look at this particular photograph, is how strongly it brings me back to the moment.  My carefully planned outfit, my brand-new purse.  That ring on my right hand, not the sort of colorful trinket you expect a child that age to wear.  My tense posture and strangely hypnotized expression – I’m already far away.  You can see without need of words that I’m going somewhere important, somewhere I desperately want to be considered a grownup.  And apparently, somewhere without air conditioning.

The place I was headed was Duke University Young Writers’ Camp.  Until Clarion twenty-two years later, there was no more pivotal summer in my life, and I knew it even at the time.  I knew I was about to experience something I would forever after look back on with nostalgia.  These are some of the most fascinating moments in any life, when we stand blindly on the edge of something that we know we will change us forever.  These moments are saturated with untapped potential; they are treasures held in our hands but wrapped up in paper.

For me, speculative fiction is all about recreating that sense of limitless potential, of uncharted territory.  Standing just outside a doorway, knowing that what’s inside will be grand but not yet fully understanding it.

In that spirit, and in the spirit of journeys just begun, your assignment for this week is to write a few words about just such a moment in a character’s life.  Borrow a character from a work in progress, or make up a new one just for the exercise.  Place the character on the verge of something magnificent, immerse yourself in the tension that character is feeling, and see where it goes from there.  Don’t feel pressured to give it structure or find a conclusion.  Just write until the words run out.  If you’re proud of what you come up with and don’t plan to sell it in the foreseeable future, feel free to post it in the comments section.

There are only two rules for Clarion Calls:

  1. If you choose to try the assignment, do not read the comments section before you post yours.
  2. This is a critique-free zone, and that includes critique of your own offering.  Save your analytical skills for Mondays with Linda.

With that in mind, I invite all of you to give it a try.  At the end of the year, I have a special honor in mind for the person who most often posts an answer to our weekly Call.  So have fun, and stay inspired!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2011 5:42 pm

    Trina saw her first god on the corner of sixth north and second east on a snowy January morning. She tried to convince herself the one-eyed man wearing the fuzzy purple robe and standing guard over his newspaper was not Odin, but her heart knew otherwise. His single eye followed her as her red sedan rolled past his driveway. She shivered, a crawling sense of foreboding darkening the already dreary day.

    It was not Zeus walking his dog along the icy sidewalk of second south as she pulled into the parking lot of the local cafe. No, despite the mane of golden hair and the handful of sizzling thunderbolts and the dog’s three heads, it could not be Zeus. She locked her car door, refusing to look though she felt his eyes watching.

    Trina hurried through the frozen day into the steamy warmth of the cafe. Linda waved from the far corner. Trina wove her way through the patrons to meet her friend.

    “Hi, Linda. How’s your cat today?” Trina slid into the booth, setting her red purse on the table.

    “Better. Considering how old he is, it’s amazing he’s still alive. You have to try the cinnamon buns today. The new baker is not just talented with dough.” Linda leaned across the table. “He’s hot.”

    Trina looked, though she should have known better. Agni, Indian god of fire, waved from the kitchen window, his red hair aflame. She smiled a tight little smile and nodded.

    “What will it be today? Coffee with a side order of destiny?” Aphrodite cocked one hand on her shapely hip and snapped her gum.

    Trina’s fingers tightened on her purse. “Do I have a choice?”

  2. Mishell Baker permalink*
    January 8, 2011 6:41 pm

    Hmmm, now I have to think of a little something to give the first person to post each week… nice job!

    • January 9, 2011 7:33 pm

      I had the inspiration for the story start and would have written it anyway. Your prompt just got me writing it sooner. Now I have to figure out the rest of the story…

  3. Kari T permalink
    January 10, 2011 6:28 pm

    hi, OK, I’m new here, so here goes (this is from my first draft)

    Jonathon had imagined this moment since age six, when he had been frightened so badly by the story that he slept in his mother’s bed for five nights straight. His mother was so angry with the two disheveled visitors that she never allowed them in the house again. But now Jonathon realized that his mother had been too harsh on them; these creatures, he realized, would haunt you to your grave.

    And by the expression on her face, the grave was where he was headed. Despite the fact that her leg was inextricably entwined in the heavy rope her hands were free, and one was already reaching for the dagger attached to her thigh. Jonathon stood two arms lengths away, frozen in fear. He was so close that he could smell the salt emanating from her skin. The men had said their skin was silver, but he could see that it was not. It was pale like his, but had an oily sheen to it that reflected the blue light from the sun’s rays. They also said that their eyes were like fire, but he saw that they were the color of and angry sea.

    Jonathon took a deep breath and stepped forward. He hoped that the men were wrong on other accounts too; like their ability to kill a man with one touch of a finger nail, which were rumored to be dipped in poison. This hope was what he clung to as he reached out and grabbed the rope that secured her leg, lifted his knife to it, and began to cut her free.

    • Mishell Baker permalink*
      January 10, 2011 6:39 pm

      Nice! Welcome to the Clarion Blog, Kari, and thanks for playing! 🙂

      • Kari T permalink
        January 10, 2011 6:53 pm

        Thanks, I’m really excited to have found Clarion. Thank you for your efforts on this site. Kari

  4. January 10, 2011 10:33 pm

    Introducing my new heroine, Samanda O’Pearl … a less confident “on the brink of a new adventure” moment than yours, Mishell.🙂 This is from my latest book, Avim’s Oath.

    Princess Samanda O’Pearl opened her eyes and blinked up at the face of the transport pilot leaning over her.
    “We have arrived, Your Highness,” the nobleborn pilot said with an amused smile.
    “Oh,” said Sam, then cleared her throat and made an effort to drop her voice to match her man’s clothing, stolen from her brother’s wardrobe at home on another, gentler world. “On Gelion?”
    The pilot straightened up. “I certainly hope so, Your Highness. Gelion was the planet I was aiming for. I could go check, to reassure you, although seeing as the other passengers have disembarked and not returned to berate me for setting them down on Monitum or Tark, I feel fairly safe confirming — yes, it’s Gelion.”
    I ought to box his ears for such insolence, Sam thought. A real man probably would. All she said was, “Er, no. Thank you.”

    • Mishell Baker permalink*
      January 11, 2011 7:51 am

      Ha! Lovely. Thanks for joining us! By the way, I looked through “Throwing Stones” for dialogue sentence fragments to share for WC#2, but apparently in Jiun-Shi everyone is terribly proper.

  5. January 17, 2011 12:40 pm

    (I’m late to the party, but I wanted to try this on a character I’ve had around for a while. It turned out shorter than I expected, but here goes… )

    The contours of the bridge curved around Heath Rider and he tried to stay on his feet as the Plebian ship entered atmo. On either shoulder, the glaringly new command epaulets felt heavy, very heavy. Over and over again he replayed his new title in his mind as the consoles beeped and flashed for his attention. Colonel Heath Rider, Plebian High Command. Colonel Heath Rider, Plebian High Command. Unreal as it still felt—youngest Colonel in the fleet! Not ready for this command! Too brash and headstrong! the voices had said—he fought to make it ordinary, as if he were five years into this position already and was old hat at all of it. I’m a seasoned old colonel, he told himself. Seasoned. Old. Wisecracking. Clever. Respected. RESPECTED, dammit.

    Outside, the bursts and explosions of a war zone speared his vision. The ship lurched under her first impact. Here we go, he thought.

    All I have to do is get through this one battle…

    • Mishell Baker permalink*
      January 17, 2011 12:48 pm

      Better late than never! Glad to have your contribution.

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