Saturday, October 15, 2011

Vivid Nightmares

This morning, I woke up from a horrible nightmare with tears streaming down my cheeks and I didn't even know that I had been crying.  Wow, it was just terrible.  I haven't had a nightmare like that since I was in high school and I woke up screaming from a bad dream.  Sad part is... I went back to sleep and straight back into the horror, except now another close friend was dying.  Nightmares.... they really suck.

But it got me thinking.  How vivid should we write something that is terrifying our characters?  Should the reader be having nightmares about what happened to that person or be unable to stop thinking about it?  That's up to the writer.

At the same time, we should have scenes so vivid that the reader feels like they are actually there.  I decided to edit one of my scenes that I've written to make it even more vivid.  It's those concrete details that really help the reader see what is happening.  Those details SHOW what is happening instead of TELLING what is happening. 

The damaged wooden, brown door swung open with a hard bang, echoing down the long hallway.  Liora pulled her knees to her chest, adjusting her long green dress and refusing to look up at the man.  She set her chin, her face passive and emotionless.
“Get up,” the gruff voice snarled.  “It’s your turn.”
Liora slowly stood and he grabbed her arm, yanking her down the hallway and out into the sunlight.  It burned her eyes as she blinked quickly.  Too long had it been since she’d seen the sun.  The gallows hung in their forbidden glory; the rope already stained with blood from its previous victims.  Her captor forced her to stand on the uneven wooden box.  Small slivers went into her bare feet, but she didn’t make a sound.   He slipped the noose over her neck.  It felt warm and wet against her skin.  Liora glanced to the right, seeing the small bodies of the other children, lying in the dirt and discarded as if they meant nothing.  Some still had their eyes open as if trying to see a future that never came.  Liora felt the hot tears trickling down her cheeks as the man adjusted the noose.  The crowd didn’t speak words of remonstration, but she could hear them whispering and shifting in the dirt. The heat kept them quiet as the women moved their handkerchiefs back and forth to moving the stale air. 
“…her sentence will be to hang until dead.  May God have mercy on her soul.”
His voice echoed in her ears.  No one request clemency or yelled that someone stop what was about to take place.  Only a godless people could do this.  Liora took a deep breath as the box was kicked from beneath her and her lungs never took another breath.  Her heart beat once more and was silent.   

Really powerful, the stuff of nightmares. Hopefully I won't have another nightmare like that for a few years.  But I will make a point to make sure that whatever I write is vivid and full of concrete details.

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