The Journey of a Story – How do you write?
Starting at the beginning…
One of the most common questions a writer is asked is “Where do you get your ideas?” The usual answer – at least for me – is ‘the muse’. It just comes to me as a particular scene, or a character. So, I thought I’d take you – reader or writer – on that journey with me.
This particular story though, came to me a little differently. I had another book in mind – another book in a series – but there was a lot of research involved, and while I was doing that a Facebook friend from the Philippines and I had an intriguing on-line conversation about Filipino demons and witches. By the time we were done, I had the bones for an entirely different story. I knew the leads – they were part of the series – and I had an image of the friend who gets them involved in the situation. And I thought I knew where it was going. (I say thought, because as a pantser – someone who writes by the seat of their pants – sometimes stories go in their own direction.)
This is what I wrote…. (editors, put your red pens DOWN, this is a rough draft!)
The alley was dark and noisome, crowded with old dumpsters and broken pallets. The light from the distant streetlights was thin save for the flash of headlights. Pete no longer noticed the smells of urine and spoiled food. Huddled into his makeshift cardboard shelter, Pete covered himself with more newspaper as supplement to his filthy, tattered clothes.
An odd sound drew him to the hole in the box that served as an entrance.
The thing dropped out of the night with a sound like the rustle of leather blowing in the cold, misty breeze.
Man-shaped, bat-like, it was illuminated by the intermittent light of the headlights, making it seem even more surreal.
Pete stared up at it in drunken fascination. It couldn’t be real. He knew it had to be his imagination – delirium tremens or his meds acting up. Nothing that looked like that could be real.
More than anything else, it resembled a bat-like man. Grayish fur covered every inch of it from head to toe. Even its broad, leathery wings. Its eyes were large black beads in its humanoid face. Eyes glittered red – impossibly – in the darkness.
Its hands and feet, even the tips of its wings, were clawed. Those wings spread, spanning the alley to surround him, cutting off the little bit of light from the passing cars and streetlights.
One of those clawed hands swiped at him.
Sharp pain followed as the razor-sharp talons swept across his upper abdomen.
The surreal was suddenly real. It wasn’t just his imagination.
Warm blood – his blood – ran, coating his belly. He could feel it trickling, smell it.
The thing seemed to smile as it stalked toward him, revealing a mouth full of needle-like teeth. No humor showed in that baring of teeth. Only hunger.
Pete’s bowels seemed to turn to water in the face of that leering, ravening glare. He was used to fear, even sheer terror, but nothing like this horror.
The thing’s toothy smile broadened as it reached for him.
In desperation, Pete smashed the bottle of cheap booze he’d nearly emptied against the wall. Fluid ran thinner than blood, the scent too sweet and pungent.
The memory of a dozen street fights came to mind, but cheap wine and age had slowed his reflexes.
He slashed at the thing, the sharp ends of the bottle tearing through that thin, furred skin. It hissed, but more in fury than in pain.
What flowed from the wound in it looked nothing like blood, it was thick and black in the thin light that made it past the wings, nor did it even slow the thing.
It took him down with one blow. He crashed against the rough brick wall and slid down it.
Wings enveloped him, wrapped around him. The thing burrowed its mouth into his belly even as he fought and struggled.
Pain exploded inside him. He fought still, even knowing in some fragment of his drunken brain that he was already dead – the reality hadn’t yet caught up to his mind. Some part of him retained enough dignity not to want to die like an animal.
He did anyway.
Like any predator, it fed without mercy.
As Pete’s eyes hazed over and his body went still, the thing patiently gathered up the detritus in the alley to fill the now empty torso, leaving a semblance of an intact man behind it amid the blood and offal.
Then it winged into the night in search of another victim.
Where once it had had to be careful of how many it took or risk the villagers taking up arms against it, here it was unknown. Here in this concrete jungle it could eat its fill. There was plenty of prey for it – hundreds of homeless, unremarked, and unmissed.
Intrigued? That’s the point of any first chapter.