I’m taking a bunch of fall courses through various MOOC offerings. One is called, “How Writers Write Fiction” based out of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. I completed a setting/dialog exercise last night for this week’s assignment. It’s practice for my dream of writing a Young Adult novel in the near future. Here it is:
They pulled into the dead end street. Susanna could see the side of the auto body shop come into view, its concrete face looming over barren scrub and dirt. She grabbed the window crank and whipped it around until the window disappeared.
She didn’t need to lean her head by degrees because her face was instantaneously slapped by heat. She instinctively let her mind turn her body into a flyspeck then cast it toward a dark cellar.
“What are you doing? You’re messing up the air conditioner,” said her mother.
Susanna sat all the way back in her seat and turned the window handle opposite the natural movement of her thumb. It ached to push it this way.
“Will you hurry up, for God’s sake!”
The wheels crunched against the gravel road and she could hear the hard crackle turn into a softer shiver as they pulled into the wide incline of her grandmother’s property, the entire front lot covered in sand.
Susanna’s mother put the automatic lever into park jerking the car to an abrupt stop and turned to her.
“We’re here,” she said.
Susanna didn’t like her mother’s expression. Master at feigning the pursed smile, Susanna invariably perceived it as a sort of grey grimace, the natural pink outline completely pressed out. This lynx-like expression nearly always came before a storm, clouding what Susanna thought might be reasonable, making her feel vulnerable. She thought, here it comes.
“Just one second, Susanna. Before we go in I have something to tell you. I had you pack for a week but the truth is– I’m leaving you here for a while–a few weeks this summer.”
Susanna couldn’t breathe. She tried to suck in something that would help her feel a tangible now. She folded her arms and pinched the skin by her left elbow. Was she really here? Wasn’t she promised the lazy comfort that comes from all things familiar—her room, her books, her music?
Her mother shifted, her eyes an indistinct gaze through the windshield.
“It will be OK, I promise.”
She turned back to look at Susanna and said, “Get your things. Let’s get moving. I want to get back.”
Susanna fixated on her mother’s lipstick, the crimson of it meeting at a dark pin prick where the lips merged, drawing her into its vortex.
“Come on,” she said.
Susanna came back to herself.
“What happens if I don’t like it here?”
“Just help your grandmother. I’ll call you soon. Before you know it, the time will fly.”
Let me know what you think. 🙂