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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Black (10/15/09)

TITLE: The Rules of Writing
By Sara Harricharan


I walked out of the café, feeling sicker than when I’d first entered. Open mike was not open at all. There was too much censored in it for me.

“Never break rule number 4.”


“Writing something religious you can’t back up.”

“Excuse me?”

His shabby, dark jacket and scruffy pants did nothing for him, but the smile was friendly enough. “That was a black story.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Sure you do. It’s something marked as hopeless, you know it won’t work, but you’re hoping raw talent will drag you over the incoherent, self-created hurdle, by having some crazy fan gush over it.” There was a comforting tone to his voice. “Never works. It’s dark. Blotched. Black.”

I glared at him. “I would thank you for your opinion, but I don’t particularly care for it!”

“When you write something close to you; don’t argue everything. If someone is truly asking to an answer to disturbing question, then you completely botched the best opportunity by coming across as a clueless, hypocritical snob.” His smile was slightly crooked at the left corner.

There was something familiar about it.

“Aside from that, they were brutal. Had I suit and cape, I would’ve rescued you.” He stepped out of the shadows fully, face was visible in the evening light. There was a tiny panther tattoo visible just above the collar behind his ear.

I relaxed. I knew that tattoo.

“Ice cream at Jenny’s on eleventh?”

I shrugged. The sugar would ease the sting of rejection.

“There are ten rules in writing.” He informed me, paying for two sundaes. “Want to hear them?”

“Do I have a choice?”

“Considering I just bought your sundae…no.” He was cheerful as he said it. “Sit. Eat. Listen.”

I did.

“Rule number one, always write. Everywhere you are, even when you think that you can’t. Writing something different every day is good.”

This was one conversation I’d never had before.

“It is the most important of every rule-”


“Write what you want to read. If you wouldn’t read what you just wrote, torturing yourself by reading it in front of an audience only makes it worse. Write what makes you happy, then you’ll reach someone.”

“Number three?”

“Follow a schedule…or a routine…or something. Try to stick with it, pretend to stick with and keep it even if you miss a few days, weeks, months or years.”

I choked on the ice cream. “Years?”

“Number four, nothing in the world really rhymes. Meaning, poetry is pointless and so is syllable counting. Just make it work. Don’t kill yourself over what rhymes and what doesn’t. Write it out, then make it work…saves on headaches.”

“And Aspirin?” I swiped the cherry from the corner of his dish.

“Quick study.” He announced, his fake British accent almost drew a laugh. “And what makes you think you can steal my cherry?”

I ignored the question, chomping on the candied treat. This would be my payback. “Why me?”

“Why not?” He countered.

“Your name is Lawrence Templeton, bestselling author, whose hair isn’t really black, and who doesn’t normally hang out on street corners. You hate dinky diners and open mike nights. You shouldn’t be here, but you just bought me a sundae.”

Thick eyebrows curved upwards. “For a moment, I actually thought I did a fairly decent job, blending in.” His voice dropped to a hushed whisper as he cast a cautious glance around the diner. “Try not to announce it too loudly, would you?”

I rolled my eyes. “What’s the matter? Writer’s block?”

His mouth twitched. “Not anymore.”

A tinge of warmth curled up the left side of my neck. I stuck a spoonful of ice cream in my mouth. “So when are we going to do this again?”

He laughed. “I don’t know. I won, but I still bought the sundaes.”

“That’s ‘cause you’re my dad and you weren’t supposed to be here.” I wrinkled my nose. “Did Mom send you?”

He nearly choked.

I frowned. “It was just open mike night.” Another mouthful of ice cream. “Was it really that bad?”

“It was black.” He said simply.

I winced. “Black, black, or just black?”

“Black, black.”

“Why didn’t I inherit your brilliant talent?”

“If I answer that, your mother will hang us both.” He said cheerfully. “Let’s go…you can come back next week after you…edit that piece a bit.”

I slid out from the booth and to the open arm he offered. “Thanks…I think.”


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This article has been read 861 times
Member Comments
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Mark Bell10/24/09
good read. kept me engaged. interesting turn to the story there. nice touch having the dad be a writer and the son trying to follow along.
Jan Ackerson 10/26/09
Great, snappy dialogue!
Betty Castleberry10/27/09
Enjoyed the father and daughter banter.
Like the story concept too. Nicely done.
Mary Lou Cook10/27/09
Enjoyed the dialogue, a nice flow to it. Also, the ending. Good job.
Genia Gilbert10/27/09
I thoroughly enjoyed this, surprise ending and all.
Sarah Elisabeth 10/27/09
Ah, loved the twist at the end!!! Great dialogue, and a fun read
Laury Hubrich 10/28/09
Love this. Dad to the rescue! Awesome:)
dub W10/28/09
Nice dialogue handling.
Loren T. Lowery10/28/09
I took this as a conversation between an earnest father and his receptive daughter. The reader benefits from the dialogue and exchange of ideas and rules. You've asked why the reader would consider the gender of the MC one way or another. I took her to be female as I couldn't quite picture a male swiping a cherry from his dad's ice cream cup. And, at the end, walking into his welcoming arms. But, that's just my take and I could be wrong. It's a 50 50 chance, right? Nice work!
Yvonne Blake 10/28/09
I like the mystery...and conclusion. Well done!
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/28/09
So creative and clever--informative and sweet, too. How did you manage all that?
Melanie Kerr 10/28/09
Great dialogue with the twist at the end. I wish I had a dad like that.
Seema Bagai 10/28/09
A good story. I liked the little details like the rumpled pants and swiping the cherry. Hope the younger writer keeps working on that story. ;-)
Catrina Bradley 10/28/09
Fun story - I loved when I found out he was her dad! Reading it again, tho, it seems kind of unlikely she didn't recognize him or his voice until he stepped out of the shadows. You changed rule #4, too. :)

As for your question, your MC is definitely a female - a young woman/older girl. Her voice is girly, and she used the adjective "scruffy" PLUS she wanted sugar to ease her pain. (My opinion.) :)

An entertaining read - I enjoyed it very much!