At an old copy-editing job, I worked with a writer who thought it was hilarious to slip the occasional vulgarity—often spectacularly creative and monstrous—into one of the publication’s stories before I proofed them all. It became a sort of game, a sort of watching Zac over the top of a page as his eyes widened in final-proof horror. Sure, I chuckled, grumbled and deleted the intruder (albeit on the brink of journalism tears).
But what if I hadn’t?
Forget that for a second, and consider a moment from yesterday or today, a moment when you could have done something terrible if you had just changed one small thing. It could be anything stirred up in your imagination: bellowing a cheerful vulgarity to a co-worker who issued you the standard morning Hello!; mumbling, “No, more, all of it, everything,” when cashing a check at the bank; choosing not to extinguish a candle burning close to the curtains in a house you’ve lived in for too long.
How do you define “terrible”? And isn’t it sort of fascinating how one otherwise mundane moment, decision or turn of phrase can change a life, spreading alternate futures out like the branches of a tree?
So keep the terribleness confined to your writing (and away from poor, young copy editors), and have a great weekend!
And, happy birthday to Audrey.
Yours in writing,
PROMPT: THE TERRIBLE DECISION
In 500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring:
Choose a moment from yesterday or today, an otherwise normal moment when you could have done something extreme, something terrible, if you had just done one small thing different. Do it in scene.