Corn for Tallness

Prompt: Express yourself

My dear Wednesday,

I (and you, and anyone) have the opportunity to express myself (yourselves) for thirty days this November, which is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, or Nano. The idea is to sit down with a fresh sheet of real or virtual blank paper and start writing— about 1600 words per day for a total of 50,000 words (about the length of Catcher in the Rye) by the end of the month. A first draft of a book. A novel. Written by me/ you.

I’ve met the challenge every five or six times I’ve “competed”— it is an honour system tally. You post your word count to the NaNoWriMo website and your finished manuscript, which they mechanically verify and then declare you a Winner. You get to print out a full colour certificate, frame it, and hang it on the wall of your office or dining room or nail it to the fence.

I am generally a “pantser” which means I start writing without the benefit of detailed outline, as opposed to a “plotter” who organizes most the structure, theme, plot, and characters ahead of time.

This year I am trying the Save the Cat formula, which divides the story into three acts with specific pivotal plot points (called Beats) in each. So I actually have a story outline, but as yet no defined hero character at all.

I realize plot and character are interactive; each forms part of the other. As the plot affects the character, so does the character affect the plot.

…So what makes a compelling character?

I await your answer.


Meanwhile, may I present a few of my favourite cartoons, only the first of which is even tangentially related to today’s casual prompt, “express yourself”?

cartoon decorator-farming-new-yorker-cartoon_a-G-9180543-8419447

cartoon freshly-ground-pepper-new-yorker-cartoon_a-l-9476900-8419449

cartoon man-on-deserted-island-writes-tuesday-nov-27-dear-diary-still-no-si-new-yorker-cartoon_a-l-9168868-8419449

Peace, love, and lots of writing,



Rusty’s Emporium

Prompt: Tempted


“It’s very tempting,” said Envy, and both she and Mr McElroy knew she was lying. She held the object up to the light streaming from the window.

“My sister-in-law sent it up from St Therese— says it is a one of a kind find, reclaimed from a sunken ship off the coast.”

“Really?” said Envy. “I didn’t know they used Krazy Glue to embed coloured glass into little wooden boxes that you can get at the Dollarama, in the eighteenth century.”

Mr McElroy chuckled. “She sent about half a dozen of them. My guess is even the cruise ship tourists didn’t fall for these little boxes.” He took it from her gently, as if it indeed was a valuable and treasured relic, attached a stick-on price tag, and put it in the glass display counter along with masses of silver-coloured rings, bracelets, and earrings.


“I’ll be bargained down, I fear,” said Mr McElroy.

Envy had discovered his shop, Rusty’s Emporium and Used Books, on one of her restless walks around her new environment. The store was two and a half blocks away from the condo, part of the neighbourhood that hadn’t yet been gentrified,  snuggled up to a corner grocery on one side and a run-down bicycle and shoe repair shop on the other. All doomed to be squeezed out eventually, torn down and replaced by elite plate glass storefronts with mannequins, and artisan, gluten-free bake shops.

Mr McElroy had a consignment area in the shop, where Envy brought her old evening and cocktail gowns, because they were not really appropriate gifts for the Diabetes Association’s clothing drive. When she thought back on it, she and Marcus had attended many events where such attire was mandatory: Galas, charity balls, inauguration parties, seasonal celebrations. Now Envy stayed at home, eating sesame crisps and watched Netflix, brooding about her ex-husband and desperate for a new relationship. One didn’t need evening gowns for that.

“Actually the black dress with the teal stripe sold on Wednesday,” said Mr McElroy. He opened the till and counted out seven dollars.

“Ah, thank you,” said Envy. She didn’t tell him she had actually come into the shop to buy back that very dress, as she had a second date with Bob, this time to a restaurant. She found the teal stripe on the dress very slimming, and she’d felt bloated and puffy lately, maybe a result of too many sesame crisps.

She’d have to wear the backup fat dress, which she was wise enough to keep in her closet for an emergency such as this.

That Saturday, Bob picked her up in his Ford F-150 and they had a delicious meal at the Four Season’s restaurant. She was comfortable in her fat dress, but not comfortable enough that she let Bob into the condo after their dinner and coffees. She was tempted, but he’d got a bit too drunk, and anyway she had church early in the morning.

She didn’t tell Bob about the church part. He was a bit of a lout, but she wanted him to be her lout for awhile, and he would laugh at her return to the Catholic Church just because her husband had tried to murder her. He didn’t know about the murder part either. Envy didn’t want to give him any ideas.


Prompt: Sacred


Lily-Rose’s mother shook her gently. It was Sunday morning, time for church. The child had been awake most of the night, first for inspection, then on detention, when her father came home late from a night of drinking and needing to feel something, preferably power.

Her mother went to the closet and dresser and chose a pretty yellow and blue floral dress, and some white leotards, fitting for a little girl to wear to church on a Sunday.

But Lily-Rose wasn’t waking up. Her mother pushed her daughter’s damp, tangled hair away from her forehead. The child was frowning in her sleep.

Lily-Rose’s mother felt a drop in her chest, a drop in her life’s breath, like free-falling from the top of a tall building. My child, she thought, my beautiful Lily-Rose.

“Wake up, darling,” she whispered in Lily-Rose’s ear. “Wake up, we’ll go to church, and everything will be better.”

Her mother didn’t mean to, but her mother told a lie.