When expectations are high, money is tight, love is tainted and stress is ubiquitous, the citizens of Chase County will do anything to make sure they survive. From the deconstruction of a town to frivolous intercourse with strangers, No-Injury Policy explores the dark depths of human nature when social pressures peak. No sooner than the meek taste retribution, however, they encounter the demons that have aided authority figures to the top - demons that refuse to lose control no matter what it takes.
No-Injury Policy is the 1st short story collection by C.M. Humphries, showcasing seven of the eeriest tales from every town in Chase County: Raven's Crook, Lovington, Lakeside, and Long Brooke.Following along as I provide a snippet of each story in the collection. If there's a picture to the left of the premise, that means I blogged on a topic from the story. Be sure to check them all out.
Minutes to midnight, the taxi dropped the boy off in front of Thomas Harrington’s home under a light rain. The boy paid his fare and tapped on the yellow roof of the car. As the driver sped off down the road, the boy neared the driveway, where he stole his first good look at the property. A lightly stained picket fence encompassed the outskirts of the yard, keeping some unwanted guests from ruining the even, dark grass. A light smoke derived from the chimney of the quaint one-story home.
The boy kept walking down the driveway, following the thick essence of chimney smoke. He admired a small pond with a mini-geyser along the way until he reached the front door.
(BLOG ETHIC NOTE: You might notice I use "they" instead of "he" or "she" in many of my posts. This is an effort to remain gender-neutral and a choice of craft I implemented during linguistics courses at Ball State University,)
The reason show is more of focus than tell in a story is all due to the way we perceive information as human beings. Interestingly enough, Amanda Davis, a Byrn Mwar student, wrote, "It's become clear to me that humans' primary sight organ is our brain."
Even the recent democratic speech made by Bill Clinton tried to apply this notion. Rather than making promises to change America, he spent time getting the audience to visualize the democratic plan step-by-step with actual facts and practical explanation. Whether you side with democrats isn't relevant in order to see the way Clinton came off more emphatic and believable than any of the other speakers for any side of the presidential race. If you apply this theory to the page, you'll quickly realize why certain books entertain and inform better than others. Sure words can be written on the page that tell the story. With a little more craft, a great description can provide an excellent visualization of geography and set the tone. But what's more effective, is constructing a story in a such a way that the reader can relate to multiple layers of the story, especially a character's actions - what a character does without much explanation.
In No-Injury Policy, I strive to showcase stories that rely more on character interaction than anything else. I haven't neglected eloquent description, and sometimes a little tell sets the scene like the beginning to a theater production. But if a character does something, then it's important that they don't need to say why. It should be obvious. And as for the things said character does, readers should be able to think, "Yeah, I thought about doing something like that before."
The general concept is to set characters in pressing social constructs (that nature of trangressive fiction) and have them live out the reactions we all wished we could live out. One example is the story "Sleep" from No-Injury Policy. In this story, a character named Adam Hope is a recent graduate/writer (how creative of me, right?) who is pressed by the norm of finding a "real" job. In short, he loses a lot of sleep while trying. We've all been in situations during which stress kept us wide awake through the night.However, Hope is sickened by the expectation of having a great career right off the bat. The thing is, he's not alone. The rest of Long Brooke can't sleep, and soon they'll all going to show society just what they think. The idea of demonstrating our angers and frustrations to someone or something pressing is a dream for many of us; therefore I hope many of you will enjoy the tale. Admittedly, the story's a little off-the-wall.
It's this kind of retaliation that I think makes a good story. A character is in an extreme version of everyday life, faced with crushing social constructs, they want to break free, show people what they think of their norms, and pursue a vocation they truly enjoy. In most cases, a character who acts out the way we all think about doing is always the protagonist in our eyes. Occasionally the bad buy will make us cheer on the inside, but that doesn't mean the character is the antagonist. He could simply be the anti-hero, or he could be the antagonist in the literal sense: The opposing force in front of a hero's goals. Then again, every protagonist is someone else's antagonist.
The same argument could be made for recent college graduates. You spend four years deep in ideology and practice, but once there's a taste of the real world, things change. Some of us live out our dreams. Some of us keep trying. And the weaker of us simply gives in. As the butler from "No-Injury Policy" says, "You're too young to understand now. You might say you would't do things just for money, but when you're an adult you'll be surprised at what you won't do for money."Of course, the longer you live, the more you'll become for which you'll become responsible. In this sense, priorities need to be made in order to fulfill those responsibilities, but the dream still lives on somewhere. And this is where a good story comes in: It can at least allow us to imagine the things we always wanted to do. It only makes sense a good story can relate to us in such a manner. While I aim to have my characters live out our best and worst ideas, it's important to note they are all "manning up." This is the difference between a great speaker and mumbler. It's the difference between a good character and a flat one. And it's crucial to real-life. In college, you learn all the things that are important to you. In some cases, you might even have a strong sense ethics. Unless you act out what you know, the information can dry out and render itself useless. If you wish the world would operate a different way - a better way - practice that method in front of it in a manner is relatable to many, one which they can support. You might just be the catalyst for revolution.
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Writing your story like a song.
Each morning I try to listen to a song out of my preferred genres with optimistic lyrics and, preferably, an upbeat melody. I escape away into the words, deriving my own meaning from them, and imagine what more I can do with my life.On the days I am down, it seems I go back to some sadder rock songs, in which I'm lost in sympathy or empathy. Gloom or glad, I find myself lost in music I can relate to - or at least, think I can relate to.This is how a good story should work. Forget the genres. Forget the reading level, literary or genre. Think of the last memorable book you read. More than likely, you burned through hundreds of pages in a setting or two. Some writers blame their platform, publishers, or promotions for a lack of sales. Sales are (unfortunately) the only tangible means of measuring a manuscript's success. If people aren't buying, it is assumed they are not reading. And as a writer, a lack of readership is the same as a C on a term paper; it means you were good enough, but didn't try hard enough.Or perhaps it means you wrote something people couldn't relate to. I'm not preaching on verse-chorus-verse or telling you to write something generic. What I mean is, if you write something people can relate to, then it is more likely to read by more people.How do you write something relatable? If you run with my maxim from His Daughter that "Life is universal", then you might be able to draw from your own experiences. Dig hard and dig deep. When you're writing a story from true emotions, it's bound to sail. It's important that a story makes sense. If your prose piece is "too personal", you might have the same problem Prince had, which was no one knew what he was singing about. If you're lucky, you'll find the same success Prince found: He became famous later on.Write about the way you felt. Write about what absolutely made you happy. Write about what made you contemplate suicide for the first time. Most people know those feelings even if they never admit to having them. Write about feeling lost in the world, or how you felt the world hated you. Write about wishful thinking. Write about wanting to give up.If you ties these emotions into a solid plot, you've found gold. If you chose to write about wanting to give, explain why. After you explain why, write about success or what made you happy. Music has the advantage of tapping into every part of our minds. Its sound can conjure emotion, while it's lyrics provide scenes for us to interpret. For writers, there's more to describe and more direction to be provided. But if you connect the dots and tie in the strong emotion, people will relate to it like a song and drift away.Write a story that people will remember like the chorus of a song.
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