Posted in Editing

Adverbs and Your Writing

I have read quite a bit regarding the usage of adverbs when writing fiction. Most of what I’ve read says not to use them. Period. Yet, I still see adverbs in fiction. Can we catch them all. Hmm…maybe. I think the key is to go back through during your edits and look for those and those alone and nothing else. Yes, do an edit just for searching out adverbs in your writing. When you do your initial search for them, circle them, then go back through and rework the sentences they’re in so that they aren’t there at all.

What do adverbs do that are so bad? They make the writing sound amateurish and unprofessional, they take away from any real action going on, and they take away the show out of the “show don’t tell” rule. There are better ways to say/write something.

Example 1:
(with adverb) Jason stepped lightly across the room to surprise Jill.
(without adverb) Jason tiptoed across the room to surprise Jill.

Example 2:
(with adverbs) Max’s harshly spoken words undoubtedly jumpstarted angry thoughts within Jason’s own mind.
(without adverbs) Max spat his words out.
Jason glared back at him, as angry thoughts jumpstarted within in his own mind.

After reading each example, how does each sound to you? The sentence with the adverb doesn’t do much for the reader at all. Plus, the action that should be there isn’t because the adverb throws “water on it” so to speak. But, the examples without the adverb creates more feeling, action, and pictures within the reader and makes for a better reading experience. You may have to play around with the words and create more than one sentence when you move to fix it without the adverbs. That’s ok, as long as it sounds better. Hence, the “show don’t tell” rule.

Posted in Short Stories

My Treasure (Part VI)

A week later Grandpa was settled into his new room at Fairbanks Nursing Home in Tawas City. Grandma and mom took me to see him for the first since he’d been there. The electronic door opened its mouth to welcome our arrival. After I entered, the door shut behind me with a strong force, like a door of a prison. The whole building was in the shape of the letter X. The halls were painted sickly pink, and an odor of antiseptic danced about. Grandpa’s room bragged pictures of all his grand kids, get well cards, and pictures hung on the wall that were drawn by some of his great grandchildren. In one corner was his cane, a sad reminder of what once had been only last week. Outside his door other tenants lurked. Some of them didn’t know where they were, and others knew all too well and wanted to leave. I couldn’t blame them. Their lives had come to a halt the moment they stepped in the door. I watched my mom as she knelt in front of her father.

Taking his hands in hers, she asked, “Are you okay, dad?”

“I want to go home. This isn’t home. Will I ever go home?”

She hung her heat and tears started to run down her cheeks. A few moments later she picked up her head, faced her dad and said, “I’m so sorry dad, but you have to stay here until you can walk again. It’s very important that you do as they say, so you can walk again. Then you can come home.”

His eyes moved from hers to his frail hands in his lap. His head nodded. When he looked back up at her again, he had the same sad expression on his face that he did last week when he had been on his riding lawn mower. The sadness on his face spoke its silent feelings. Deep within him he knew he wasn’t going home.

“Jill, could you stay here with Grandpa while your Grandma and I quick run and take care of some business?” mom asked me.

I looked nervously at my mom, and then at my Grandma. Both of their faces expressed concern. As I turned and looked at Grandpa, I felt a sharp pang of grief. Turning on my heel, I ran out of the room. Tears gushed from my eyes, and I began to sob. I couldn’t stand seeing him like that. I felt his pain, I felt his dismay. Grandpa would never be the same again, and that was hard to accept.

(To Be Continued)

Posted in Short Stories

My Treasure (Part V)

Grandpa’s downcast face and gentle eyes looked troubled. In a small voice he said, “I’m 87 years old, and I have nothing to show for it.”

“Sure you do,” replied Grandma.

“No, I don’t. I don’t have a lot of money, and I’m not able to buy you everything you want.”

“Ben,” said Grandma. “You have five healthy children, sixteen grandchildren, and twenty great grandchildren who love you. You have a wife who loves you, a house you own outright, and no outstanding debts. Ben, you’re the richest man in the world.”

Later that afternoon, I watched Grandpa mowing the lawn on his riding mower. His cheeks drooped with an expression of sadness. His eyes reflected melancholy. It was as though he knew something upsetting about himself. Around in circles he went, sometimes mowing the same patch of grass twice. This can’t be the same man that used to be so strong long ago. I felt his sadness, but there was nothing I could do to change the fact that he was getting worse.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, inhaling the smoky, rich scent of the pine trees along the edge of the lawn. This smell I knew all too well. The different campgrounds Grandma and Grandpa used to take us to when we were kids boasted the same fragrance. But the camping stopped as we all grew older, and soon Grandpa sold his trailer. It’s hard to bear the thought that all things are forever changing, and that nothing gets stuck in time. When I opened my eyes, Grandpa was still sitting on his mower. He had a smile on his gentle face. I smiled back and took in the memory of his smiling sweet face. I would always remember this moment.

On my way home that evening, I had an uneasy feeling I couldn’t shake. I needed someone to talk to so I decided to stop off at mom’s instead of going directly home. When I walked in my parents’ house, I noticed my mom’s red eyes.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Apparently, after you left, Grandpa fell,” she said.

“But he was fine when I walked out the door. How did it happen?”

“He was making his usual rounds between the kitchen and the living room, when his knees gave out.”

“So what’s going to happen now?”

“Well, he can’t walk now, which means your Grandmother can’t take care of him. After all, it’s too much for her to handle. The only thing I can think of is to put him in a nursing home.”

“I thought you were against that.”

“I was, but that’s the only option we have.”

(To Be Continued)

Posted in Short Stories

My Treasure (Part IV)

I arrived at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s early in the evening Thursday just in time to join them for dinner. I felt a little awkward and on edge because I didn’t know if I would be able to handle helping to take care of Grandpa. It was my first time, and I didn’t want to get anything wrong.

After supper, we went for a drive near Tawas Lake. It wasn’t a very large lake. In fact, it was very peaceful and quiet. Grandpa always liked driving out there. It was part of where he would do his trapping in the winter. But even now that he was too old to trap, he still liked going there because it was pretty, and he was able to be among God’s beauty. I could see it in his pale blue eyes and the pleasant smile on his sweet face. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for him if he couldn’t have that beautiful lake or his sense of home.

When we arrived back at the house, Grandpa appeared to be more restless than usual. Grandma said he had slept well the last few nights, so his unrest surprised me. It was 11:00 pm, when we finally got him to bed. Two hours later my Grandma knocked on my bedroom door.

“Grandpa wants to tell you something, sweetie.”

“Okay. I’m up. I’m coming,” I relied.

I got out of bed and followed her to their room. When I got there, Grandpa was sitting up in bed, with a concerned look on his toothless face. He said something to me, but I found it hard to understand because he was mumbling. I felt tense at the moment, and I didn’t quite know what to say because I didn’t know what he’d said. Grandma knew I felt uneasy. She looked at me with understanding and said, “You can go back to bed, Jill, it’s okay.”

“Good night, Gram.”

At 3:00 in the morning, the clomp, clomp, clomp of my Grandpa’s footsteps outside my bedroom door woke me. I had to chuckle because, whenever my sisters and I would stay at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house, he used to threaten to pour water on us in the morning if we didn’t get up.

“Jill, Lynn, Gale, get up or I’ll get the water,” Grandpa said.

“No, no, no. We’re up,” I replied.

We could hear him coming, because the clomp of his shoes gave him away. Exactly like I heard it just now. Only now, I knew he wasn’t going to throw water on me.

“Jill, get up and come out in the kitchen and talk to me,” said Grandpa.

“Sure, Grandpa.”

When I got to the kitchen, Grandma was standing there. She said, “Go ahead and lay down on the couch. He really doesn’t need anyone to be up with him. He’ll be okay.”

At 5:00 am I was awakened again by Grandpa. He was in the middle of getting dressed and needed some help.

“Jill, Jill, wake up will ya.”

“Yes, Grandpa. What do you need?” I asked.

“Help me with my shirt.”

When we finished, he sat down in his recliner and looked at me as I lay on the couch.

“I love you, Jill,” said Grandpa.

“I love you, too, Grandpa.”

“Do you really?” he asked.

“Yes, Grandpa. I do.”

I woke up at 7:00 am and found my grandparents sitting at the table. Grandpa looked sad.

(To Be Continued)

Posted in Short Stories

My Treasure (Part III)

The next evening, I sat on the couch in my small two bedroom apartment watching TV. Since I had just moved in, I hadn’t had time to decorate yet, so the place was bare with nothing on the walls. For the time being the couch, chair, TV, and small kitchen table with chairs would do. As I walked across the tiny living room to the kitchen to grab a snack, I thought about my mom and dad. They had put up enough money for the first six months rent on my apartment, so I could find a decent job. I lived alone, so I didn’t have anyone else to provide for. Just then the phone rang. It was my mom.

“Jill, I was wondering if you could do me a favor.”

“Sure, what is it?”

She hesitated and sniffled as though crying. I waited quietly. After another moment, she said, “Could you possibly stay with Grandma and Grandpa over night next Thursday? I can’t because I’m on call at the hospital.”

“Yes, I’ll do it. Not a problem. What’s wrong? It sounds like you’ve been crying.”

“Oh, it’s just so sad. It’s hard to see my dad with the knowledge that he isn’t what he used to be. I don’t want him to grow old.”

“I understand, mom. I feel the same way. I wish I could go back in time and relive all those memories with him all over again.”

After a few more minutes of talking, we hung up. I sat on the couch and wondered where mom’s energy came from. Somehow she managed to work long hours at St. Vincent’s Hospital as a home care coordinator, and then go up north every night to take care of her dad. Not to mention she always found the time to keep herself looking nice. Her brown shoulder length hair was always groomed, her make-up neat, and her clothes washed and ironed. I had to smile because she had displayed the same kind of energy her dad always had.

Posted in Short Stories

My Treasure (Part II)

My grandparents’ cottage was simple. The back door opened into a small utility room with a soft yellow carpet, bare walls, and a washer and dryer. To the left a door led to the cozy kitchen/dining room that bragged soft brownish hues. Off the kitchen was a tiny pink bathroom and two smaller rooms. One of them was used for storage, while the other was used as a sewing room. At the front of the house the living room sat next to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s bedroom.

When I arrived at their house, I found them sitting at the dining room table grinning widely and looking out the large window next to them. I was surprised to find my Grandma’s hair still black after 78 years. Of course, she was part Canadian Indian. Grandpa still looked the same. He had all of his hair, which was a light sandy blond with flex of gray, and his kind, gentle eyes were a baby blue. The only difference was his cane, but that made him look more distinguished.

“Hello, sweetie. It’s so good to see you again. You look great. Have you been working out?”

I gave them both a kiss on the cheek and a hug and said, “Yeah, some.”

“Oh no. You cut your hair. It used to be so full and long,” said Grandma. “Why did you cut it?”

“It was in the way, and I got tired of putting it up every day for the army, so I decided to cut it short. It’ll grow back,” I replied.

Grandma smiled and said, “I know, love. Say, would you like to play a game of Scrabble with me?”

“Sure, I’d love to.”

As we sat and played, I noticed that Grandpa got up from his chair at the kitchen table, walked to his recliner in the living room, sat down, then got up a few minutes later and made a return trip to his chair in the kitchen.

At one point, while Grandpa was sitting his recliner, I asked, “Grandma? I noticed Grandpa keeps making trips back and forth from his chair in the kitchen to his chair in the living room. How come?”

“I’m not sure,” she answered. “I think he’s trying to reassure himself that he is still able to walk without falling over. He’s so afraid of falling. It seems like he’s getting weaker every day.”

The rest of the day we watched television, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company. That’s all I really wanted anyway. That evening, as my mom arrived to spend the night, I left and drove home knowing I had just made some of the best memories of my life.

(To Be Continued)

Posted in Short Stories

The Perfect Woman (Part VIII)

“I’m sorry for intruding like this, but I just wanted to apologize for earlier,” said Bryson with upturned brows and innocent blue eyes.

“What do you have to apologize for? I’m the one who should say I’m sorry. I interrupted your date. I was just nervous to talk to you is all, so I thought I’d get it over with. I was thinking about my own feelings and not about yours. I’m so sorry. But couldn’t have this waited until we get to work tomorrow. One-.” She glanced at a nearby clock on the wall. “Well now it’s two in the morning. Anyway, now isn’t the time.”

“What’s the matter? You need your beauty rest or something? I’ll never talk to the likes of you again. I come here to say I’m sorry, and this is how I get treated.” He turned back toward the apartment door and grabbed the handle.

“Wait! I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gotten upset. You can come by any time. I mean…”

Bryson remained where he stood for a minute. Then, “Ok. I accept your apology. Look, I really want to get to know you better.” He turned and faced her then reached a finger up to her cheek and ran it lightly underneath her chin. Her shiver permeated through his touch. Oh yes, this one is going to be pudding in his hands.


Posted in Short Stories

The Perfect Woman (Part VII)

That night, as Jean lay in bed, thoughts of her untimely attempt to talk to Bryson earlier that evening continued to play in her head. What was she thinking? Jillian had been right, of course. Introducing herself while he was on a date was the wrong time to talk to him. She sighed deeply. Wanting to get the whole thing over with had been at the forefront of her mind, so she jumped in.

“I should have waited until he was alone…at work…or something like that,” she said aloud to no one. Glancing at the digital clock on the night stand, she cringed. One o’clock a.m. She rolled over, hunkered down under the blanket, and shut her eyes to attempt sleep.

Minutes went by and limbo started to rock her to sleep, when a knock on her apartment door rendered her wide awake once more. “Seriously?” Flipping the covers back, she swung her legs over the side of the bed, slunk her feet into their slippers, and threw a housecoat around her shoulders.

At the door she looked through the peephole. It was Bryson. “What the hell?” she whispered. At this hour? Maybe she had an effect on him after all. Her heart raced as she placed her hand on the door knob, twisted it, and pulled it open.

“Bryson? What are you doing here at this hour?” asked Jean.

“What. You’re not pleased to see me?”

“Well, yeah, but…”

“Then what’s the problem? I wanted to see you.”

Before she knew it, he had crossed the threshold and clicked the door shut.

(To Be Continued)

Posted in Short Stories

The Box (Part III)

The silhouettes faded as they reached his face, and the small room filled with tiny boxes. Chris reached for one but drew back just as quick, remembering what happened when he tried to take a box the last time. Tucking his hands into his chest, he shrank against a wall and slunk to the floor in a seated position. The tiny boxes continued to fill the room, getting ever so much closer to him. He wanted nothing to do with them. 

“G-Get away,” stammered Chris. The boxes multiplied, closer, and closer still. “N-no! G-get away!” He swiped at them sending them flying across the room. He needed to get out of there. Shooting glances in every direction proved futile as no doors existed. “Noooo! Get me out of here, please!” cried Chris. The tiny boxes closed in.

Then he spied it. A tiny light appeared from across the far right of the room. A way out? Scrambling to his feet, he tripped over the boxes landing on his knees. The boxes appeared faster now. He picked himself back up and continued. The closer he came to the light the faster the boxes grew until they became immovable. The light sat within inches of his fingertips and began to fade. His heart sped up. His breathing heavy, suffocating.

Chris stretched every muscle he had. His fingers hung in the balance. Blood rushed to his head and the room darkened. A gray haze floated like fingers across his vision. His head lolled to the side, then “POP”. His body thrust backward, slammed against the back wall, and slunk to the floor.

Chris’s eyes trudged upward, then slunk shut. An eyelid lifted and a bright light entered. Oh good. He reached the light. How, he didn’t know. A pop, body flying, couldn’t breathe. His other eye lifted and again a bright light invaded.

“Chris, Chris can you hear me?”

The voice. Distant. The room. The silhouettes. “uhhhh,” moaned Chris.

“Easy does it now. That’s it.”

Again, Chris lifted his eyelids, resting them at half-mast. His fuzzy vision swam in front of him at first. His eyelids drooped closed, then lifted, then closed, then lifted. His hazy vision cleared. The hospital room was painted a dusty pink with white trim. A wide wooden door with a vertical window above the handle stood ajar. A doctor stood on his right and a nurse stood on his left. The bed was hard and his back ached.

“What?” asked Chris in confusion.

“It seems you passed out. When you did, you hit your head pretty bad,” said the doctor.

“We thought we lost you there for a while,” said the nurse whose name badge read Carrie.

Chris’s body hurt like it had been steam rolled. He blew out a breath and looked out the window to his left. But something caught his attention on the windowsill. A box.

(The End)

Posted in Short Stories

The Box (Part II)

Chris bent and snatched up the box. The burnt, orange 3 x 3-inch little structure with silver trim stared back at him, empty. The burgundy lid stood open, hanging on its hinges. He threw a pursed lipped scrunched eyebrow look in Tom’s direction. “What the hell, dude?”

Tom’s smile of malice spoke volumes as he waved at Chris’s shrinking body being sucked into the box. “That’ll teach you.” His laugh echoed as the box dropped to the floor, and he exited the otherwise empty classroom.

Chris glared back down at the box as Tom’s figure grew larger, and the classroom faded. An empty room void of anything now surrounded him. Yet, a presence closed in around him. He turned in a slow circle. Faded silhouettes with a faintness of gray began to materialize then faded. This mantra continued, strobing faster and faster until a sickness clenched his gut.

“Stop!” yelled Chris.

The silhouettes halted at the sound of Chris’s command. They opened their mouths in unison, revealing white holes with jagged black teeth.

Sweat beaded at Chris’s temples as hot flashes accosted him one after the other. He spun in a circle once again, gaining momentum now but against his will. The silhouettes loomed closer and flung backward in repeated fashion gripping his stomach, and he threw a dry heave once, then twice.

“Stop!” yelled Chris once more.

Again, the silhouettes halted their sickening motion. They stood for a minute staring at Chris, then opened their mouths wider and threw themselves at him.

(To Be Continued)