Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stop Torturing Your Characters for a Moment – Writing Prompt #36

I recently spent an amazing weekend at the beach and got to spend time with 2 of my favorite guys. Well, one of them was my bulldog Buri, but, he still counts. Despite chilly water temps, we bundled up in wetsuits and went for a SUP (stand-up paddle board) session on the water. The wind was quiet, the waves mild and the beach was nearly deserted. It was just us and the water in the mid-afternoon light. Here’s a shot of me enjoying myself. I entitle it simply, “Happiness.”

Too often my writing prompts center on something negative. Maybe that’s where all the conflict is, and conflict is the heart of story, but that isn’t all there is to life. Even if that’s all I seem to write about. ;-) I challenge you to write something positive for your character, to draw a moment that could be titled simply, “Happiness.”


Here’s mine:


Inrialan summoned a touch of frost and pressed a fingertip to her burning earlobe. A snagged earring dangled from the lacy edge of the handkerchief she’d tucked into her sleeve, glinting in the magelight. She plucked the bit of metal and threaded it back through her ear with a frown at the handkerchief.

“Blasted thing.”

She shook her fiery , chin-length hair back over her ear. Perhaps something a bit longer? Her mirrored image confirmed her initial choice. Beaten mithril peeked from beneath the blunt edge with just the right amount of flash. Perfect.

Silk slid against silk as she smoothed a gloved hand over her scarlet and deep violet robe. Sweet luxury, oh how I’ve missed you. Homespun and wool garments had suited her purposes for the arduous week. They were, however, infinitely better suited to their current purpose: as bedding for her kitties. After that she’d donate them to the orphan matron.

Sorintha blinked at her from her perch atop Inrialan’s velvet dressing chair, yawning in feline somnolence at her activity.

*surely we’re not going out again*

“Must you sound so disgusted, Sori?”

Sorintha bent to lick a paw. *I’ve had all I can take of that dreadful flying carpet of yours. The thing smells like a yak in the rain.*

“Suit yourself.” Despite her determination, Inrialan was loathe to leave her rooms in the Mage Tower today. She’d had enough of being jostled by grubby peasant children stuffing their faces in the candy-filled pumpkins she was trying to extract treats from. One more day of that and she might scream. One more day of dressing like a farmer and going town to town to trick-or-treat and someone was getting lit on fire.

She could have bought that demanding little brat a barrel-full of marzipan from Dalaran’s confectioners, enough to keep him high off the sugar for a month, but no. He wanted the disgusting taffy the commoners made during the holiday and only passed among each other. So it had been a week full of dressing in costume, resurrecting the hated vernacular of her former life and begging treats.

“Ridiculous.” Worth it, though, assuming the child honored their bargain. Even Sorintha agreed on that score.

Inrialan selected her violet velvet cloak from the stand and swirled it around to settle on her shoulders. She spent only a few minutes perfecting the fall of the fabric before grabbing the offending sack of candy and heading for the portal. Time to trade.

* * *

Inrialan minced along the sidewalk, careful to keep out of the dusty street. She had the perfumed handkerchief pressed to her nose and the hand holding her candy plucked at her skirts to keep the hem from trailing. Acrid orange fog rose in patches along the broad thoroughfare, gifts from the Horde. At least the fiends had left off tossing their stink bombs, for the moment.

She hurried along. Slippered feet made no sound against the red brick walkway. The few shopkeepers brave enough to open their doors to the noxious fumes dipped her polite curtsies as she passed, some smiling, some avoiding her gaze. She passed through the portcullis of the inner wall and paused. Blue sky spread in an arc between the inner and outer curtain walls, normally a welcome sight. Today she scanned instead for the disfigured blot of an orc or Forsaken against the morning sun.


She wouldn’t for the world do something as undignified as run the length of the Heroes’ Walk to the city’s front gate, but she couldn’t keep a scurry from her step. The relative shelter of the gate beckoned. Beyond she could see the first of the tents were Elwyn’s peasants had gathered for their Hallow’s End celebrations.

He had better be there.

She wove among the people until she found the cluster of orphan children playing on the edge of the commotion. Barefoot girls in tattered frocks chased each other around wearing masks while the boys set fire to crude wickerman dolls.

There he was. The tow-headed one with the crooked teeth, shorter than the rest. His face was suspicious until his gaze landed on the full sack in her hand. All thought seemed to flee his mind and he almost looked wondrous.

“You brought the taffy?”

Inrialan tucked her handkerchief away again and opened the sack, letting him peer in. She kept a grip on it when he reached out a brown hand. “Where’s Findarae?”

He gestured absently behind him, eyes full of the candy.

Huddled against a bush, his abused tail curling behind, sat a tattered cat missing one half of an ear. His sable coat was spotty but his green eyes glowed like none she had ever seen. It let out the tiniest “mew” in her direction.

*Help me*

Inrialan dropped the sack to the child and knelt in the mud, her arms held out. Findarae, as the kitty called himself, ducked farther down into the bush, hiding, his eyes flitting between the scampering children and her welcome. She waited unmoving. A minute. Two. One of the girl children let out a shriek that sounded like “where’s kitty?” and Findarae flew from the bush. He hurtled himself on Inrialan like a furry comet and burrowed against her cloak.

Inrialan clutched him to her. She smiled, rubbing her cheek against his head. “I’ve got you now,” she murmured. He trembled as the kids started to protest her taking their cat away. Fire crackled on her palm when she reached out one hand toward the brats. “Back off.” The bravest looked like he might still approach. She launched a flurry of sparks at him, just enough to singe his clothes and hair. And eyebrows.

Findarae hissed at the pack of children and she whirled to carry him away. It wasn’t until she was halfway back to the Mage Tower that he finally relaxed. Then he melted against her, a ragged purr vibrating in her chest.

*Thank you* He nuzzled her chin.

She hugged him and scratched his uninjured ear with a finger while she hurried. He was hers now. In her life of fire and ice she knew much of rage and much of silence. Most other emotions eluded her, but this, this was what they called happiness.


  1. I like this prompt a lot. A book of tragedy after tragedy with no uplifting moments is very draining for this reader. I require a chance to see a character happy, even if the purpose of the happy scene is to yank it all away for the movement of the plot. :)

    Also . . . That picture must have been taken Saturday because Sunday the waves were ferocious.

  2. Jen -- The picture was taken the week before. The waves from the storm over the weekend were insane! 10 foot+ at times I think.

    And you make an excellent point of giving the character some happiness as a way to create an even more painful moment after that! Why am I not surprised you were thinking of using it like that... :)