Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another writing sample

From my unpublished novel:

Two years ago.

Laila walked up the gentle incline, her arm securely tucked inside that of her father, Ahmed. It was a warm, dry day, with brilliant sunshine and a fresh wind out of the north as the two made their way up the rocky, dusty slope. Laila and her father lived farther north, in Lebanon, but had traveled down here to visit the land that had once been the home of the family. It was bare ground now, a dusty, rock strewn field where once existed a thriving community. After the 1967 war, the Israelis had leveled the village and obliterated any trace of its existence, ostensibly to help with their claims of possession, in the eyes of the international community. It was Israeli land they walked on now.

Ahmed wanted to show his daughter the ground, even though the home was long gone. He had sensed in her a lack of appreciation for her family history, was afraid that the traditional nationalistic fervor was lacking in his beautiful young girl. He wanted to instruct her, teach her, to give her an understanding of why, even after 35 years away from this land, he still considered himself, and his family, to be refugees. He hadn’t been able to summon up the courage to visit this ground since the war, long ago.

Neither of them noticed the rusted sign. The upper portion, written in Hebrew, was still readable, but rust obscured the lower half, written in Arabic. Neither of them could read the warnings about this area being an uncleared minefield.

Ahmed had moved ahead of his daughter, searching the ground for remnants of the foundations of his house. Laila slowed, staying back, allowing her father to reconnect privately with his past before moving closer to him.

Laila suddenly saw the blast; it was as if a strong puff of dust-laden air had risen up out of the ground at her father’s feet. The old man crumbled to the ground, and Laila stood for a moment, not comprehending, until the sudden realization of what had happened soaked through to her thought processes. Screaming, she rushed forward, heedless of the mine beneath her feet. Then, it was black…

The sky. Puffy white clouds slowly drifting by. The tickling sensation of the scrub grass being brushed against her cheek by the wind. Gulls flapping their gray and white wings overhead. The wispy contrail of a jet plane traveling to the south. No pain. No feeling. Time moving slowly, if it moves at all.

She was able to turn her head a little, and she struggled to get her eyes to focus. Her mind was still too cloudy to understand where she was. Straining her neck, she saw her father, lying on his side, perhaps 10 or 15 yards away. Dark red blood was oozing down the shirt visible beneath his open vest. There was another object between them, perhaps two or three yards away, a shapeless lump at first. Laila struggled to comprehend it. Her mind cleared a bit. She knew what it was.

It was her own right leg.


  1. Norm,
    I’m not a big one for prologues, but if this is the setup for your novel, it’s very effective. Not only was it not too long, but more important, you caught my heart in my throat and set the hook for what follows.

  2. Yeah, I needed the setup. Prologues work well, I think, as setups to plotlines buried much deeper in a novel than will be revealed in the first few chapters. Laila's injury, per se, doesn't figure large in what follows... but it helps to clarify and cement the motivations of one of the characters.

    In the meanwhile, maybe I'm dense or something, but I don't know where to find your riting samples on your blog... or am I missing the obivous?

  3. Damn, I can't correct spelling errors in my own comments! My apologies... 'writing', and 'obvious'

  4. I had a few chapters up for a while. At this point, they’ve undergone so many revisions that I just didn’t want it still ‘out there’. There are also a few other considerations, which this comment box won't let me post (via a link to a good writers' blog), so I'll email it to you. I think the points are valid.
    Taking all that into consideration, and given how long it’s been since I posted anything, perhaps I’ll post another sampling—hmmm…what to choose...

    ...and don't you just hate how these comment boxes don't let you edit!