Maggie Robinson

Jan 14

Those of you who frequent the Eloisa James/Julia Quinn Bulletin Board know all about drabbles. They’re mini-stories of not more than 500 words, with a specific quote inserted spoken by a character. Each week there’s a new quote and a new challenge. I got hooked as a regular visitor on the board once I wrote my first drabble, and lots of good things have come from that first attempt: FanLit, online friendship and writing support, reading tips, prizes, this blog (I hope you think the latter is a good thing!).

I haven’t been drabbling much lately, because I’m trying to write for real, and sometimes the quotes don’t inspire me. But I’ve always tried to use them in a unique way, and I couldn’t resist this one:

Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell. ~Emily Dickinson

What do you think of when you read that? Yeah, me too. The lovers are separating, perhaps never to see each other again. Dickinson is my favorite poet, and in those 13 words she has encapsulated anguish and longing. And knowing Emily, in the context of the poem she’s probably talking about death, anyway, but I haven’t looked it up.

So, did I write a moving, angst-laced drabble this week? Nope. I took that quote and poor Emily is spinning in her grave. The challenge for me is to see exactly how much fun I can have, turning the expected into the unexpected.

Hair Today, Groom Tomorrow

Sandra slipped the plastic apron around her last customer of the day, Rick Somebody. The salon just used people’s first names when they signed in, and she’d never seen him before. She’d remember. Her hands shook a little as she fastened the Velcro around his nape. Man, he was hot. The temperature in the shop must’ve gone up ten degrees when he walked in, not to mention Sandra’s hormone levels. He was tall, dark and handsome. Chiseled cheekbones. Full lips. A killer smile. And his jeans fit him just right.

So, his hair was receding a little. Well, a lot. She could fix that. Put some layers in. Try out the new product the UPS guy brought in this morning. She was very good with her hands. And other parts of her, too, although she hadn’t been around the block in a long while.

“So, what would you like me to do?” she asked, her voice ridiculously breathy. Her eyes met his in the mirror.

“Take it off.”

“E-excuse me?”

Rick grinned at her. “My hair. It’s time. Bruce Willis and me—parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell. There’s no point trying. Give me a Britney, Sandy.”

So, he’d read the framed certificate at her station and jumped to conclusions. “It’s Sandra.”

“You look like a Sandy. Cute.”

Sandra blushed. “Thanks, I guess. I’ll tell my mom and dad they made a mistake.”

“No they didn’t. Looks like they got it just right to me.” He leaned back, looking relaxed while she plugged in the clippers.

“Are you absolutely sure?”

“Look, Sandy, I’m a guy who knows his own mind. When I say something, I mean it.”

“O-okay.” She got to work. This wouldn’t take long at all. Which was a shame, because working on Rick’s head was a heady experience. He smelled so good, clean with a little waft of mint.

“Want some?”

“What?” she asked, startled, almost nicking his ear. She sure did, whatever it was he had.

“A Lifesaver, Sandy.” He was holding a roll out to her.

“Uh, sure.” She put the razor down and took one. What do you think?”

“I think I want to take you out to dinner. If you don’t have plans.”

“I’m free.” She saw his bad-boy grin in the mirror and set him straight. “But not cheap.”

“You look worth every penny, Sandy.” Rick rubbed his bare head. “I can get used to this. But I don’t think I’ll ever get used to you. Is it kosher to tip the woman you’re going to marry?”

“You’re crazy!”

“Am I? I mean what I say, Sandy. I knew the minute I sat down in the chair this was it.”

“I think we should have dinner first. Then we’ll see.” Sandra picked up the broom, feeling like Cinderella, before and after. Prince Charming looked good bald, too. She wondered what her last name was going to be happily ever after.

Granted, it’s not perfect. I did it in about 20 minutes. And if I were Sandy, I’d be very afraid. Drabbling has reminded me to take nothing at face value. That sometimes when you are writing in the hero’s POV, it really should be in the heroine’s. Flip stuff around. Take a chance.

I recently got this feedback from a contest I finaled in: The first page presents a well-worn plot device. To hook me into the story, I need to read something different, unexpected. I’m wondering how I finaled now, but no matter. *g* What do you do to set yourself apart from the pack, either in your writing or real life? What’s the hook to your book?

13 comments to “Headstand”

  1. terrio
     · January 14th, 2008 at 10:38 am · Link

    What is this hook you speak of? LOL! Whatever it is, I’m sure I don’t have one. Nice drabble. I haven’t written one of those in forever. I need to get back over there.

  2. Ladytink_534
     · January 14th, 2008 at 2:40 pm · Link

    Your drabble sounds very intriguing! Let me know if you ever expand on the idea, I’d love to read the book!

  3. Janga
     · January 14th, 2008 at 4:59 pm · Link

    I love your drabble, Maggie–and the ED quote. She’s my favorite poet too. I remember how impressed I was when you first started drabbling. As for me, I have given up on drabbles because I am terrible at writing them. It is almost impossible for me to write anything other than my name in 500 or fewer words, as my posts here and elsewhere in the blogosphere so loquaciously confirm.

    I’m with Terri on the hooks. I fear I don’t have one either. 🙁

  4. Maggie Robinson
     · January 14th, 2008 at 5:57 pm · Link

    LOL, Janga, every one of your words is precious. You bring a lot to the blog table. I have discovered I’m a 500 words or less gal—too bad I can’t get a job as a newspaper columnist. I’d be cheap if they were still paying by the inch as they used to when I first wrote for the Southside Sentinel in Urbanna, VA. But drabbling is not my #1 priority. I have enough distractions.

    LadyTink, Sandy and Rick have no future—at least not from my fingers!

    Terrio, you have a hook–Ms. Robinson’s future is NOT plastics. 🙂

  5. MsHellion
     · January 14th, 2008 at 6:41 pm · Link

    I don’t do opening hooks well. I can do cliffhangers a lot of the time, but opening hooks are hard for me. I’m always starting in the wrong spot or something.

  6. Maggie Robinson
     · January 14th, 2008 at 8:43 pm · Link

    Hellion, I think I do better at the end of each chap than I do the beginning, too. Something to think about.

  7. Santa
     · January 15th, 2008 at 12:16 am · Link

    So, “everyone” tells us we need a hook to engage the reader because if we have no hook, we’ll have no readers. That whole premise scares me to a constant state of inertia. For me it’s another case of new knowledge affecting both my reading and my writing.

    Before I learned about character arcs I had no idea I was reading about one. Now I read and say ‘hey that’s all a part of that character’s arc’.

    I find the same to be true regarding ‘hooks’. Before this pearl of wisdom came into my little world, I never thought to look for the hook. I now find I can recognize it in other people’s writing but I’ll be damned if I’ve hit it with mine!

    Does anyone else find this to be true or am I really screwed here?

  8. terrio
     · January 15th, 2008 at 10:38 am · Link

    Nope, Santa, you are not alone. *cue Celine music here*

    Though I think the more I write the closer I get. How subtle can a hook be? I mean, I have a story idea where the heroine is on her way to meet her fiance and gets a flat tire. A hottie stops to help, sparks fly but they go their seperate ways. Later she meets the fiance’s brother and guess who?

    Is that a hook? Because I really have no idea…

  9. Maggie Robinson
     · January 15th, 2008 at 6:49 pm · Link

    And to complicate things, one person’s hook may be another’s ho-hum. On Word Wenches, they were quoting some of their opening sentences. I now notice them, which I never did before. It’s like you have to have an explosion. There’s a general complaint too that endings fall a little flat. Of course the overall concept has to snag a reader, too. It’s a wonder anything gets published at all…because if you’re too different, that’s no good either! Let’s just jump off the cliff now. 🙂

  10. terrio
     · January 15th, 2008 at 7:40 pm · Link

    Maggie – if you’re trying to make us feel better, you’re doing a bang up job of it.

    The point is, books do get published all the time and often they do not start out with a gunshot, an explosion or an orgasm in the first sentence.

    I think the idea is to mix it up a bit. Write it, then see if you can dress it up a bit. Then keep dressing/changing/mixing until you think you have something somewhat original.

    We all know there’s nothing original anymore. LOL!

  11. Marnee Jo
     · January 16th, 2008 at 10:02 am · Link

    Maggie – Sandy and Rick are great! And I love ED too. What’s not to love about morbid angst? LOL!!

    Hook huh? I think I need to revisit my hook. I don’t know if it’s super hooky.

    I’ll return to that idea….

  12. irisheyes
     · January 16th, 2008 at 10:51 am · Link

    Maggie, that was a great drabble. I think you’re doing a great job when we all want to stay with Rick and Sandy and find out what happens next.

    Janga helped me with this once. I had upwards of 950 some words and had to bring it down to 500! I kept reading and reading it and could not for the life of me figure out how to chop it. Janga chopped for me and then I couldn’t find what she took out. LOL It’s an amazing exercise that I should probably be doing more of, but just like all my other exercising (the treadmill and yoga) I’m just too lazy! LOL

  13. Maggie Robinson
     · January 16th, 2008 at 6:02 pm · Link

    Irish, I’ve always had fun with the drabbles, altho the length makes it tough to do a whole story arc. I’ve had to cut words, but never 450, LOL. They really are a good exercise and have enabled me to write stuff I’d never think of doing.

    Marnee, I find the hook thing very intimidating. But I know a good one when I see it!

    Terri, I live to serve. 😉