This is a short story I wrote for a creative writing class, followed by an ‘artist interview’.
‘What Is and What Should Never Be’
The sun was shining high in the sky as Ryla walked back to the village. The water jug she was carrying was more than a little heavy and beads of sweat were beginning to make their appearance on her skin. She silently cursed the black woolen dress she was made to wear by the elders. The other women in her village succumbed to the wishes of those in power with no more than a whimper. Ryla however, felt that many of their rules were, in the least, repressive. Do not speak unless spoken to, do as you are told, never ask questions, and above all, never leave your skin uncovered. It wouldn’t be so bad if the weather was generally cooler. However, the sun beat down into the valley relentlessly eight out of twelve months of the year. The other four months were only mildly cooler. Having to wear this suppressive garb was, in Ryla’s opinion, akin to torture. What was so tremendously horrible about the human body that she was forced to persecute her own in this manner? Regardless of her inner thoughts however, she was left with no choice but to conform.
She came up over the last hill that separated her from the small village that was her home. The thatch roofs of the little huts pointed up to the sky as if they would soon detach and fly away. She wished for an instant that she could fly away, then quickly pushed the thought from her mind, knowing that she would never leave this place. Ryla slowed her steps to a crawl in the effort to enjoy what little time she had to herself. At thirteen, her father had sold her off to Kaluk, a man at least twice her age, in order to keep the roof over the heads of her twelve siblings. Kaluk was not an unusually cruel man, but he certainly had his moments. Ryla was his fifth wife, but by the time she came to live with him the rest were all deceased, taken by illness or accident. She had been with him for two years now and in that time their relationship had changed very little from the tentative friendship at which it began. She could not say that she was in love with him, but she did devote herself to being his wife out of respect and honor. She respected her duty as a woman and she honored her father’s wishes.
Ryla was no more than a stone’s throw from entering through the village gates when suddenly, she heard a blood-curdling scream that sent a cold rush up from the base of her spine. Instantly her mind froze and her steps ceased. Silence. She knew there was something definitely wrong. Her people rarely ever even yelled, never mind screamed. A scream like that should have immediately brought about all kinds of commotion. Yet everything remained unnervingly tranquil. Ryla, still standing in the middle of the road, examined her surroundings and quickly decided that her best option was a small thicket that stood only a few feet away from her. She dashed forward, towards the safety of the leaves, but the incurable dress she was wearing bunched between her ankles causing her to fall face first into the dirt. A slow trickle of blood began to flow from her cheek, yet she was unfazed as she clamored to her feet and stumbled into the bushes. She sought out the thickest section of undergrowth and burrowed her way into it. Ryla’s cheek burned and her mind reeled as she pressed her hand to her face, trying to stop the flow of blood. What was going on? Where was everyone? Why was it still so intolerably silent? She closed her eyes and began to take in deep, steady breaths.
She sat there like this for what felt like an eternity, waiting and listening, until finally she heard the sound of a horse galloping quickly up the path. From her position, Ryla could only make out that the horse was pure black, and larger than any horse she had ever seen in her life. She heard the beast’s rider dismount, and began to tremble uncontrollably. Before she could even realize it had happened, a traitorous whimper escaped from her lips. Instinctively she covered her mouth with her blood-covered hands, praying for her nightmare to end. No sooner had the thought entered her mind, than the branches concealing her parted slowly. The next thing she knew she was gazing into the most hypnotic, green eyes she had ever seen. For a moment, the whole world vanished and his eyes were all she could see. Suddenly, a tremendous feeling of security washed over her, but as the wave receded, she knew that she was anything but safe.
With one swift movement, he grasped a fistful of her long black hair and brutally dragged her from the thicket. Ryla flailed her legs and arms in a futile effort to escape. However, this only managed to inflict more injuries to her knees and elbows as they raked over the sharp stones, which littered the ground. When they reached the place where he had left his horse, the brute pushed her face down into the dirt and placed one foot in the center of her back, holding her there. From this position, there was no way for her to see him retrieve a long section of rope from the saddlebag. Then, before she could realize what was happening, he had wrapped one end of the rope around her wrists, the other end around her ankles, and fastened the two ends together, tightly behind her back. This was a very uncomfortable position and Ryla soon realized that the more she squirmed, the tighter the ropes became. With his capture complete, the man reached down and with one arm hoisted Ryla up, onto the horse’s back. As they galloped away, Ryla watched as the only place she ever knew as home slowly faded out of sight.
Project 1 – Artist Interview
What is it that you enjoy, appreciate, or find most interesting about the style of writing you chose?
I enjoyed writing the short story, “What Is and What Should Never Be” because I felt I had a very well developed character and I was excited to see what would happen with her. What I find most interesting about writing fiction is that sometimes the stories seem to take on a life of their own, as in this case.
What kinds of works of literature do you most enjoy reading? Who are some of your favorite authors and why? Did this influence why you chose your writing style? Explain.
I most enjoy reading fantasy novels with castles, dragons, magic, and such. My favorite author is David Eddings. I read his series, “The Elenium” for the first time when I was a teenager. Now, at 31, I am reading it again and I am just as fascinated by it as I was the first time. David Eddings uses vivid imagery and detailed descriptions to bring his characters to life. I do not feel that my influence to write comes specifically from his work in particular; I feel that my biggest influence to write comes from my love of reading.
What were some of your pre-writing techniques? How did those help you in developing a draft?
One pre-writing technique I feel helped me a lot was describing my main character’s wooden trunk and the belongings she kept within it. I think this helped me to become more familiar with who this character is. Not only was I thinking of the objects themselves, but I was also imagining why this person would own these items and the history behind them.
Was your drafting process linear, or did you have a less structured way of drafting?
With this story, I free wrote the whole thing. I let my imagination go and wrote the story as it came to me.
How many times did you revise this piece? What changed from one draft to the next and why did it change?
The draft I submitted of this short story was actually my first draft. I re-read and edit as I go, so I guess technically it could be considered my second draft. The only thing that changed as I was writing was the direction that the story was going. I imagined what I wanted to see happen to this character and then altered the story line along the way.
What organizational frameworks were used in the piece (such as concrete, abstract, factual, formal, informal, formulaic, etc.)? Explain.
I wrote this story with an informal framework. Although it follows a short timeline, there are also instances when the main character has thoughts of her past which help to give more detail to the story.
What circumstantial contexts influenced you when writing the piece (such as politics, psychology, history, sociology, etc.)?
My idea for the main character, Ryla, sprouted from my thoughts about what it must be like for the women in India to live in such a society where they are forced to remain completely covered at all times.
Does your piece have a particular point of view (1st, 2nd, 3rd, omniscient, limited omniscient, etc)? What is it? If it does not have one, explain why.
This story is written from a third person limited omniscient point of view. The ‘voice’ of the story knows anything and everything there is to know about the main character and her surroundings. However, when it comes to the stranger who abducts her, the narrator is as clueless as the main character is.
Talk about the symbolism that you used in this piece. What images did you choose and why? Explain their significance. If you did not use symbolism, talk about why you made that choice.
I incorporated into this story imagery associated with underdeveloped countries such as washing laundry in a river and living in huts. I also feel that Ryla’s husband Kaluk is a symbolic image in the sense that he is her ruler. For Ryla, Kaluk is the symbol of her repression.
What is the purpose of the piece? What is the unifying theme? What techniques did you use to bring out the theme?
The title, “What Is and What Should Never Be”, reveals a lot about the theme of this story. What is and what should never be is one in the same for this character. This story is telling us not to take our lives for granted because everything could change in a heartbeat. In the beginning of the story, we find the main character wishing she could leave her village and travel the world, even though she ‘knows’ she never will. By the end of the story, we know that at least half of her wish comes true when an unknown dark stranger kidnaps her. Therefore, this story also seems to be saying, “Careful what you wish for.”
What other creative skills and knowledge did you use in the piece?
I think the greatest tool for writing is the imagination. I invested a lot of time thinking about this person, details about how she lived, what she thought about, and how she felt. I also based certain aspects of the story on pieces of my own life experience. I think this adds a more personal touch to the writing.
What writing plans do you have for the future? How will creative writing prepare you for your area of study and/or future career?
I have always wanted to write a novel, so I hope to accomplish that goal. I think creative writing can help me to stay creative weather I use it directly in my work as a web designer, or just to keep the creative juices flowing in my downtime.