Perception #Tanka Tuesday

Pixabay image by Michael Seibt

Perception

“Cross the bridge.” The crone points her staff to a log spanning a luminous pool.

I squint at the strange collection of creatures impeding my way. I’ve been lost for days in the swamp’s wet greenness, breathing the emerald dew. So many moons that knobby horns sprout from my skull. Vines weave through the fibers of my clothes, and my skin grows iridescent scales in myriad hues of moss. I am hungry despite a bellyful of beetles.

Upon the bridge, a naiad plays her flute, the sound hypnotic though the melody unfurls backward. “Wayward magic,” mutter I, one wary soul who’s encountered these tricksters before. Does this one revel in opposites, mirrored reflections? Which is real, the opposite of whom? Is there any way to know what’s true? My ears droop at the bothersome riddle.

The pipe’s dulcet sound charms a viper, its crescent fangs smiling. Safeguarding or warning? Did the sprite awaken the snake, or does she lull it to sleep? Beneficent or Mischievous? I wrinkle my snout in study. And which of the two covet the poppy? All three could be lethal to me. Beautiful peril, perilous beauty. Or simply a flower?

“How am I to cross?” ask I, my jade whiskers twitching.

The faceless hag shrugs.

choose your poison, child
life implies no guarantees
forsake illusive
dreams of immortality
perception decides the truth

**

I had the privilege in September of choosing October’s mid-month photo image for Colleen’s #Tanka Tuesday. What fun to finally write for this fairytale image. If you enjoy syllabic poetry, visit her site and check out her fun prompts. Thanks, Colleen.

Empty Space #Tanka Tuesday

 

Rail against despair

When deceit inters the truth

When corruption shrieks

And Narcissus chokes the void

With yowls from a vacant heart

 

For Colleen’s #Tanka Tuesday #Poetry Challenge. We had to use synonyms for empty (vacant) and space (void).

Sorry about the politics. I couldn’t help it with those prompts.

The Cowboy in the Bedroom

Can you guess who this is?

I have a framed picture in my bedroom on a small table. It was drawn by a local artist, Kerri Boutwell, and I eagerly bought it several years ago.

Lately, on several occasions, I’ve noticed the portrait turned around and facing the wall. I’d turn it back, only to find it flipped around again several days later.

Finally, last week, I mentioned the odd ritual to my husband. “Have you been turning the picture around?”

“Yeah. I don’t like the cowboy staring at me while I’m in bed.”

“The cowboy?” I laughed. “That’s not a cowboy. It’s Mark Twain!”

Well, apparently it’s okay to have Mark Twain staring at him in bed because the drawing hasn’t moved.

Isn’t it a great picture? I never knew Twain was so handsome, even with the god-awful mustache.

The Word Police: Filter Words

The Word Police are at it again. This time they plan to rap some filter words on the head.

Filter words are generally bad dudes and worth arresting when you catch up to them. They’re guilty of two things:

  • They add lots of unnecessary/empty words to your story and therefore can bog down your pace… a lot.
  • They distance your readers from your characters. The “narrator” tells us that the character is thinking/sensing something (filters the information) instead of just letting us experience the thoughts/sensations directly.

In this 217-word passage, there are 20 filter words.

Greta stood on her front porch. She felt the long-awaited spring call her with a rustling of leaves and patter of hummingbird wings. A smile brightened her face as she watched them battle around the feeder that she’d remembered to fill yesterday.  She supposed she wasn’t the only one enjoying the languid morning. On the porch rail, she saw her lazy tabby stretch and heard his rumbling purr as she rubbed his ears. She knew he liked the sunshine; she imagined he always had.

Lilacs bloomed at the edge of the house, and she could smell their heady fragrance. There were other newcomers that morning. She noticed that the butterflies had returned with the warmer weather and saw crocuses pushing up through the grass. Years ago, her mother had planted them in the lawn, and she realized she’d seen them return every year since.   

Greta suddenly felt hungry, and she listened to her stomach growl. She wondered about the muffins baking in her kitchen and recognized the sound of the buzzer on the oven announcing they were done. She rushed through the screen door and heard it slam closed behind her as she hurried down the hall. She thought they would taste wonderful, and if she wanted to, she guessed she could eat them all by herself.

Now here’s the same passage written without them (173 words instead of 217):

Greta stood on her front porch. The long-awaited spring called her with a rustling of leaves and patter of hummingbird wings. A smile brightened her face as they battled around the feeder that she’d filled yesterday.  She wasn’t the only one enjoying the languid morning. On the porch rail, her lazy tabby stretched, and he rumbled a purr as she rubbed his ears. He liked the sunshine; he always had.

Lilacs bloomed at the edge of the house with a heady fragrance. There were other newcomers that morning. The butterflies had returned with the warmer weather and crocuses pushed up through the grass. Years ago, her mother had planted them in the lawn, and they’d returned every year since.   

Greta’s stomach growled with hunger. Muffins baked in her kitchen, and the buzzer on the oven announced they were done. She rushed through the screen door, and it slammed closed behind her as she hurried down the hall. They would taste wonderful, and if she wanted to, she could eat them all by herself.

That’s about 22% less words!

Same meaning, improved pace, and closer to the character’s experience.

Less distracting to your reader, too.

You won’t be able to eliminate all filter words, nor should you, but an editing pass to rid yourself of a bunch of those annoying delinquents is worth the effort. And it isn’t that difficult when you know what to search for.

Here’s my starter list: watched, saw, observed, felt, smelled, tasted, heard, knew, thought, suspected, remembered, believed, understood, imagined, doubted, supposed, realized, wondered, guessed, hoped, wished…

Do you kill off the filter words in your writing?