• Tyler Zeoli

Week 5 – Groundhog Day

This week was a little busy, to say the least. I started my final semester of undergrad, launched my new editorial website, and continued to do the 100 Day Writing Challenge. Three 300-level literature courses will really eradicate any semblance of free time you thought you had. So naturally, my word count has taken a bit of a hit.


What’s really been helping me throughout it though is my new morning routine (and the fact that I’m falling asleep around 10:30-11 every night). I wake up one and a half to three hours before I have to get on the bus. I let myself get acclimated to being alive for fifteen to twenty minutes. I make some tea. As the tea is boiling, I stretch and meditate, setting my intentions for the day. Then I go to the computer, write the exercise for the day. Depending on how much time I have on any given day, I will move on to working on one of my WIPs or read, or I’ll run out to the bus.


It’s really changed my outlook on the day. I was never a morning person. Like, ever. If I had my way from the ages of thirteen to about two months ago, I would have stayed in bed until two in the afternoon and gone to sleep at four in the morning. But the world feels a little brighter when I wake up before the sun rises, as ironic as that may be.


This week, the exercises on Tim Clare’s 100 Day Writing Challenge focused on many iterations of the same scene. Starting in third limited, I took an unwritten scene from my WIP and added in a voyeur, an unknown observer named Lincoln. The scene was fine enough, but then each day the prompt asked me to tackle the scene from a new angle, with different criteria. Here’s a list of all the different iterations:

  1. Original Third Limited Scene

  2. Original Scene First Present

  3. Perspective of another character in the scene

  4. Perspective of a Third Party

  5. Original Scene, Monosyllabic

  6. Original Scene but don’t use the letter “e”

  7. Play on the scene somehow using an unreliable narrator

While some might say that this exercise was a bit Ad Nauseum, I found it incredibly interesting. It was challenging, but pulling different things from the original allowed me to get a really well rounded view of the scene.

Here’s the original in all its unedited glory:

***

DAY 27 – ORIGINAL SCENE


Lincoln hid in the shadows of the treeline. Illuminated only by the light of the moon, the church stood like a ruin, only a hundred feet away. Each and every sound, the rustling in the trees above him, the crunch of leaves from animals that walked in the dark, sent chills of terror down Lincoln’s spine. He didn’t know how much longer he’d be willing to wait. 


The risk he took in going there was enormous. If they saw him, he didn’t know what they do with him. He had an idea, but based it off nothing more than rumor and speculation. Whatever it was they did inside the old stone church, they kept it entirely secret. And, if the rumors were true, they would do anything to keep it that way. 


There. Something in the darkness. Something rhythmic.


Not the sound of a deer’s hoof stepping on a leaf, or the wind brushing through the leaves. The sound of footsteps, all falling in unison; quiet at first, but slowly it grew louder and louder until the flickering light of torches licked at the edge of the trees opposite where Lincoln hid.


Thud. Thud. Lincoln’s heartbeat nearly doubled the pace of their steps. Taking deep, shuddering breaths, he feared they would hear it echoing through the near silence.

His body pressed against the cold dirt, trying to smother the sound. A man in a robe emerged from the trees, holding a torch in one hand, a large leather bound book in the other. Directly behind him were four people, blindfolded, dressed in all black. Their faces were obscured by the darkness. A small caravan of robed figures followed behind the four. 

It was true. Everything people said was true.


The group circled around to the other side of the church, the figure with the torch peeling back the boarded up door. They slipped in one by one until finally the leader slipped inside without so much as a second thought. They didn’t even think to look in the surrounding area, like they were sure that no one knew what they were doing, that no one was watching.

Every fiber of Lincoln’s being told him to run. Run as fast and as far as he could before they discovered that he was there. That he had seen them. But another part of him, a small but persistent part, urged him onward. He wanted to know more. 

***

It was interesting. For those of you unaware, one of my WIPs is about a co-ed fraternity at a strange private college that is a front for an old coven/cult that has existed in the area for hundreds of years. Its gonna be wild.

Here is my favorite iteration of the piece, which actually came on the third day, from he perspective of the novel’s narrator.

***

DAY 29 – OTHER PERSPECTIVE

“Blindfolds on.” 


My pledge siblings and I shot looks at one another in the back seat of the beat up car. The silent march across campus to the parking lot did nothing to settle our nerves, and now cramped into the back of Jordan’s beat up Toyota, we had no idea what to expect. 


“I said blindfolds on. I say. You do. That’s how this goes.” Jordan light a cigarette form the driver’s seat, the sour scent of burnt tobacco filling the car. “Now, don’t make me say it again.”


The four of us rushed into our pockets, pulling out the deep maroon bandanas we’d been told to buy. 


“Heads down until I tell you otherwise.”


I obliged. My siblings ruffled next to me, the only comfort we had in the situation was the brush of our legs against the other. Lauren gripped my hand, and I squeezed it gentle. We’re going to be okay. 


The jingle of keys. The turning over of an engine. Screaming came over the radio, heavy metal with guitars so distorted the instruments were almost unrecognizable. 


We moved forward, peeling out of the parking spot on the side of the road. For a minute everything felt suspended, so surreal that it had to be happening to someone else. That I was just an observer, listening to the patently absurd reality around-


The car turned sharply. Lauren slammed into my side, and in turn I slammed into Billy. IT took a moment to readjust. The momentum of the car slowed down, until we came to a gentle stop. Someone lowered the music, though I still heard it like quiet static through the speakers.


“Stay down. If that cop sees you were all fucking dead.”


My heart rioted against my chest, begging me to escape. But I didn’t move. I couldn’t. Where would I go. This was it, I was sure of it. We’d all go to prison, before it even begun. This was a mistake. I should have been content just being their friends. 


For a moment, everyone was silent, the only sound the blood pumping in my ears. The car started up again, and moved forward at a normal pace for a time before the music ramped back up, seemingly louder than before, and the car picked back up. Occasionally we turned, being thrown left and right into one another. Blinded, there was no way to tell how long we’d be driving, a minute, twenty, and hour. 


Eventually, the car slowed to a stop, and the engine turned off. The driver’s side door opened, and the cold winter air burst into the car, freezing my sweat covered body. Someone walked around and banged on the door to my right. I jumped, unable to stop myself. They ripped open the door.


“Get up.” Jordan said from the open door, his voice a firm whisper.

The pressure of Lauren’s body left my side, and I reached to take off my blindfold. 

“Did I say to take them off.”


My hands fell to my sides. I got out of the car. The ground beneath my feet gave a little, and blades of grass tickled my ankles. Two hands gripped me by the shoulders. I tensed. 

“Shh. It’s okay, it’s only me.” Serena whispered in my ear. 


From behind me, the sound of striking a match. Muffled steps walked around to the front. Through the blindfold, the muffled flickering orange glow of a flame danced in the darkness. The flame started to grow smaller, and Serena’s hands gentle pushed me onward.

Leaves and twigs crunched beneath my feet. Wind rustled branches above my head. Somewhere, off in the distance, there was a loud crack, and the sound of something running. Serena’s hands stayed firmly on my shoulders. We turned left. Then Right. Then left again. I was being led through a labyrinth, with no string to guide my back. 


Then we stopped. Crickets sang in the momentary silence. Then, the reluctant creak of old wood being pulled. Serena’s hands ushered me forward, pushing my head down. Everything was infinitely darker. The temperature dropped significantly in this black abyss. A chill ran down my spine.


The ground beneath my feet no longer had any give, but the harsh resilience of stone. Every step forward echoed around me. 


I stood in silence for a moment, like an animal in an unfamiliar cage. 


More footsteps. More echoes. 


The gentle orange glow came from behind me, licking at the edges of my periphery. The creek of whatever wood had been disturbed being replaced.


“Blindfolds off.” Jordan’s voice echoed in this stone cavern, so it sounded as though there were six of him, repeating the command on after another.


The moment I took the blindfold off, my breath caught in my throat. The stone walls were covered in symbols and letters. There were two rows of wooden pews lined up before a raised platform. Near the ceiling was a small circle, that once might have been covered in beautiful stained glass, but was now just a broken fragment of what it once was, covered partially in wood planks. 


Jordan circled around the room, lighting sconces that hung on the wall. My siblings stood beside me, in a line at the entrance to the old church. He stepped up onto the platform, torch still in hand, and spread his arms open wide.


“Welcome, initiates,” he said, “To the Witch’s Grave.”

***

So yeah, it was fun getting to explore that scene a little bit. I also managed to get out the first chapter of my second draft of the Fantasy novel I’ve been working on for almost a year and a half, and it felt like I was really on the right track this time. But who knows. I just gotta trust the process.


Weekly Total 1/28-2/4: 4089

Best Day: 2/3, 1433

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