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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Writer's Challenge (NOT the FaithWriters Challenge) (06/10/10)

TITLE: Black Inspired
By Marita Thelander


Balance. I must find balance.

I deleted every lame, fluffy, rough word I’d written all day.

I pushed away from the desk and grabbed the leash. Jasper perked up at the jingle. I shrugged into my jacket and slipped into Bert’s moccasins.

Bert glanced over his newspaper and then eyed the sink full of dirty dishes. I smiled sheepishly and ducked out the door for a bit of fresh air. Through the window, I noticed Bert saunter into the kitchen to take my turn at the dishes again.

Balance. It eludes me in too many areas of my life but the one I’m focused on right now is the battle between a fluff-feel-good go-nowhere story and the rough display of emotional crud I just attempted to produce.

Jasper’s leash jangled happily while I revisited a recent conversation with my writing coach.


“You gotta get into the character’s head and cause the reader to join you there.” Michael encouraged after our critique group meeting. “You’re a good writer. An excellent writer…”

“But…?” I knew there was more. “I can take it like a man,” I teased.

Being the only female in the class, my fluff-stuff didn’t seem to meet their reading enjoyment very often. I’d become accustomed to harsh criticism. It stung at first but I strived to step up to their challenges and improve. That is, after all, the purpose of the group.

“You’re too soft,” he chewed on the tip of his glasses. “You don’t have to solve every problem in a story. Be realistic. Let the readers unravel the ending on their own. You produce good emotion when it comes to sorrow, grief, peace, and contentment but what about anger, hatred, fear, and depression?”

I winced.

“Exactly,” he jumped up and pointed at me. “You reacted at the very thought of those emotions. We live in a fallen world and I know there is readership for your nice tales, but maybe someone outside your faith will read a novel with emotions and events that they could understand. Tell us the account of someone’s hideous side before they begin a journey towards the Light.”

My shoulders slumped. I stared at my purple painted toenails and blinked at the threat of tears. How stupid is this? Don’t cry, you ninny.

“You can do it,” his voice softened. His eyes followed the gaze to my flip-flops. “Your toes are pretty,” he snickered. “Now go paint ‘em black and get ugly. But you better warn your man first.”


Happy dog, dishes done, Bert watching TV…

I rummaged through my cosmetic case for the tiny bottle of black nail polish I bought after my chat with Michael. I joined Bert in the living room and proceeded to paint my nails.

“What are you doing?” Bert stared at the color of my toes.

“I’m getting into character for something I’ve been challenged to write for my group.”

He smiled, left the room, and returned a few minutes later with an ornery twinkle in his eyes. I went to put the polish away and discovered that Bert had lit candles and laid my black teddy on the bed. I giggled. Well, that’s not the character I’m trying to develop for my all male writing circle, but okay.

Around four in the morning I bolted straight up in a sweat. My heart raced. The bitter taste of fear lingered after a vivid, violent dream. I snuck out of bed leaving Bert blissfully snoring, and slipped my robe on. Thankful for the pure, unconditional love of my husband, I hammered out an appalling story of someone less blessed.

My heart pounded, my stomach churned, my mind raced, and my fingers flew over the keyboard. I wrote words I’d never say and described scenes I’ve never visualized before and at the very end… I let a slim sliver of Light trickle into my main character’s heart, a tiny trail towards hope…if she could only see it.

A few days later I sat in my writing circle. My heart pounded, my stomach churned, my mind raced, and my fingers picked at the black polish. Four men held my hidden soul in their hands, engrossed in every word.

“Wow.” Someone whispered when they finished.

“No kidding, wow.”

“What a gripping, spectacular display of raw emotions.”

“So,” Michael cleared his throat. “What inspired this tragic story?”

My face flushed bright red. “Well…” Flustered, I swallowed hard and stared at my black toenails. “You don’t really want to know.”

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This article has been read 751 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Ruth Clowater06/19/10
Black nail polish! Love it. I had to say "ewww" when the character started picking at the nailpolish, thinking that she was picking at her toes. Then I realized she probably painted her fingernails as well, so I hope that's what she was picking at!
Beth LaBuff 06/19/10
This is so creatively perfect for the topic. I loved that she used black nail polish to get into character. :) …and what a guy, that Bert!
Joanne Sher 06/19/10
VERY creative piece - and I love the inspiration of the black nail polish. You got into her heart.
Francy Judge 06/20/10
Like the writing coach said--you are an excellent writer. I enjoyed following your character's inner dialogue. Very real. Great job.
Ann Grover06/20/10
This was spot on, in my mind, and one of my particular challenges, also: to write about life "as it is" and not all fluff-and-stuff and "happily ever afters." There are so many "less blessed" people. Very well done.
Catrina Bradley 06/20/10
I love this. The second half is especially good. So honest and real.
Colin Swann06/21/10
This is writing in the raw. A very striking piece! Thanks - Colin
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/21/10
I identified immediately with your challenge--I share it. Guess I'll have to paint my toenails black. Well rounded, interesting story.
Susan Montaperto06/21/10
So that's what black nail polish is good for!! Great story. Loved the characters and how you developed a story within a story. Definitely keep writing.
God Bless.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 06/21/10
This is excellent. I felt sad at the beginning.

Then I felt connected with the MC and her purple toenails.

Next I found myself smiling and in the end a hearty chuckle came out.

Now that's pulling the reader into your story.
mick dawson06/21/10
I agreed with the mentor on every point... except the black nail polish lol. Life is a mixture of everything and to write as true to life as you can means you must write about the bad as well as the good in humanity.
Folakemi Emem-Akpan06/24/10
Now I know why I get stuck sometimes - it must be from lack of black nail polish. On the way to the store right now for a bottle.
Beth LaBuff 06/24/10
Mari, it's wonderful to see this on the EC list! Super congrats on your HC and EC!!
Laury Hubrich 06/24/10
Yay! So proud of you! Love this story. :)
Kimberly Russell06/24/10
Wow- great job. If only we could all learn how to get into character like your's did. Congrats on your win!