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:
- If you choose to try the assignment, do not read the comments section before you post yours.
- 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!