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Stephen King's Writing Challenge — Honest With Me

The following is based on Stephen King's writing challenge in his book, "On Writing." Short summary is that he describes a marriage where the couple starts out happily enough, but after a couple of years (and a couple of kids) it's clear that he is paranoid — accusing the wife of infidelity and conspiracy — and abusive — injuring all, including the children. Eventually, he gets sent to prison, but breaks out and surprises his wife when she is at home, alone (the kids are somewhere else, it doesn't matter where). He then twists the tale by reversing the genders.

I found that my approach is very dialogue driven, and that's something I've noticed of my writing in general. I find dialogue easier to write than description. It isn't that the imagined scenes are hard for me to see — they're in full-on technicolor — but that I find descriptions to be ancillary. I could tell you that the woman has raven-black hair and that she's five-foot-four (in my mind, she most certainly is), or that the living room (where our two players meet) is modeled after my grandmother's house, with blue wallpaper and wood trimmings, but that doesn't change the action. Writing is centered on spoken word: even in an all-knowing third-person the author is still monologuing for the reader.

I've also noticed that I haven't addressed the question of fidelity below. To be honest, I think that an almost trivial detail in this moment. I tried to work it in, but those avenues all fell flat. She is a mother and wants her children back. Interrupting that primal motivation for something as comparably trivial as infidelity would be disingenuous to the scene in my head.

He stood and turned, heart racing, a bass beating in his ears and chest. It wasn't clear if he wanted to run or just to meet the threat straight on. He hoped it was his imagination, that a tired and stressed mind brought sensations of the past, echoes of a former life sometimes realer than the moment, or that there was some other, less sinister, explanation. The footsteps stopped, a pregnant pause, and then she stepped into view.

She looked good. She looked really good. Even in the darkened room, lit only by the flickering inconsistency projected from the television, she was put together: her hair done, fresh clothes, blush, eye-shadow. He dress — the sleeveless one she always said was her favorite — still hugged her slim figure. Her vain streak was once so endearing.

She seemed calm, the hint of a smirk behind her otherwise stoic face, but her nervous tick was showing. She walked up to him slowly, deliberately, making it clear he had no avenue of escape. Even if he did make it outside, there was no where to go — his car keys and phone were left in the kitchen.

She was fidgeting, playing with something in the palm of her hand, as she started.



"You stole my babies from me, Josh."

"Now wait a minute," Josh sweat. She's acting calm, he thought, that's not good.

"It was one thing when you were sleeping around. I can live with a cheater even when you're lying to me. But you stole my babies, and I want them back."

"They're not here."

"I know that, asshole, I want to know where they are. I want you to get them back for me."




Janet sighed, crossed her ams, shook her head. "Josh, what am I going to do with you? I know they can only be in a couple of places. They're not here, so that means they're either at your mother's or your sisters. So which is it?"

"Janet, listen, I don't think you're in a good place…" he had to remain calm, because she wasn't.

"No, you listen. I want my children back!"

"And I said 'no'. You can't have them. They aren't safe with you."

"How dare you. I am their mother and I love them."

"Janet, the last time you were alone with them, you nearly killed them both."

"I did no such thing. They were safe."

"Ben ended up in the hospital. Mary's going to have scars for the rest of her life!"

"No! No, I didn't. And he was fine. I would never in a million years hurt one of my babies."

"You did hurt them. You hurt them both."

"I would never hurt them." With that she stopped fidgeting and Josh saw what was in her hand. It was a small corkscrew, probably some long-forgotten wedding favor. She curled her fist around it and slammed it upwards, under the chin. She ripped it out and rammed it again, this time into his neck.

Josh's eyes went wide and his mind clogged from the pain and surprise. His hand went to his throat, grasping the wound. He stumbled and she came at him again. He tried to block the assault, but she was too quick. He collapsed and she descended on him — embodying ancient and forgotten goddesses in some primeval rite — plunging her weapon into Josh and ripping it out again, flinging his liquid rouge around in a gore-filled Pollock painting.

He was not dead when she stopped, but he would be soon enough. His eyes were open, but it wasn't clear how conscious he was. Blood was spurting into a growing pool beneath Josh's still form, his breath irregular and forced. She sat down, stroked his arm, and started to tear.

"Joshua, Joshua. I didn't want to do this. You've always been so hurtful, and I've tried to be understanding, but you lied. You told so many lies. And I always said, if you were just honest with me, I would be OK with that. I could live with that. Why couldn't you ever be honest with me?"

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