The other day, I talked about how to write good opening lines—the kind that hook the reader and draw him in—that make him want to find out what happens. Using the opening lines from a previous post, I simply continued to write what I saw and watched it unfold.
This story ended up being more of a character study, which can really help a writer. It got me into the character’s head and I could figure her out a little.
I wanted to dig deeper into the mind of a crotchety old lady and find some gold; and I wanted to show that, despite Mrs. Hobbs’ outer caustic mouth and body language, underneath all that was a heart that needed a friend. Showing the vulnerable side of a character can then help readers to like and identify with her more, rather than dislike her.
With flash fiction, a writer can really only introduce two characters and have one incident; otherwise, the story will go over the acceptable word limit (1,000 words; sometimes even fewer). This one ended up being under 5oo words.
Angelika was masticating. Even though she was looking in from the outside, and the book store window was a bit grimy, Mrs. Hobbs was certain she could see the girl’s jawbone moving up, down, in, out . . . such a nasty habit: gum chewing. So uncouth.
She clicked the wheelchair into forward to get closer to the glass and rapped it with her cane. Angelika must have seen her out of the corner of her eye, because Mrs. Hobbs could have sworn she saw the girl’s left eyeball twist into the back of her cranium before it turned her way; if she were a swearing woman, that is.
Angelika’s svelte body wisped its way toward the door and pushed into it from the inside with a slow swish. Mrs. Hobbs felt her breath quicken along with her motorized chair, as she rose up the ramp at full throttle before almost doing a wheelie into the establishment.
Angelika’s chomping was audible now. Mrs. Hobbs made sure that she was seen turning the volume down in her hearing aid—a sophisticated device that had enabled her to turn off her husband during football season, God rest his soul.
“So? Did you get it in then?”
Angelika moved to stand in front of the visitor, arms folded across her barely-discernible chest, fingers draped like silk ribbons on the black turtleneck dress. One eyebrow lifted slightly with the shake of her head.
“Mrs. Hobbs. I have told you that I will call you when the book comes in.”
Mrs. Hobbs slumped her head into her neck. “Alright then.” Her cane ascended into the air. “Help me get back to the bus stop.”
“Mrs. Hobbs! I have told you before that I cannot leave the premises.” Angelika’s legs took a few steps to the wall. “Now, please; I have a lot to do.”
Feeling like a deflated balloon, Mrs. Hobbs removed herself from the store. Bubble gum popped behind her right before the door shut her out.
Her chair remained at the bottom of the wheelchair ramp for quite some time. Occasionally, a surreptitious set of fingers would reach up and wipe at her eyes. Once her breathing settled into a less labored pattern, Mrs. Hobbs buzzed her way mechanically until the wheels came to a halt at the bus stop.
Maybe tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow, How to Win Friends and Influence People will get here.