Below is a copy of my first draft of a short story I’ve entered in to a contest for the First Anniversary Beginning Writer. This story has been submitted to the workshop and I have already received extremely valuable feedback from other writers across the country.
One thing that I have learned from this process so far is that my brain is more wired for novel writing than short stories. This short story follows more of a format for a novel than a short story so I will be working on reshaping it before draft 2 is due on December 29. I’d love to hear what you think, and I’m also looking for a catchier title than the one currently prescribed to this short story. This is my short story based around the theme of creatives (main character is a writer, artist, or poet.)
The Murder of a Pen Pal
by Lauren Sisley 2015
“Writing has always come naturally to me. I don’t think, I write. From the age of six when my mother purchased my very first diary I knew that I would one day become a famous author. I opened my journal on my sixth birthday and penned my signature on the inside cover. I was sure to curl the end of the “e” in Rae and dot the “i” in Windsor with a cute heart-shape.
“As a kid, I would spend days curled up on the floor telling stories with my pink feather-top pen escaping to faraway lands and defeating mythical creatures.
‘Rae, won’t you go outside and play?’ My mother would always ask beckoning me to assimilate with all the other children my age.
“When I turned eighteen I packed my box of journals and moved across the country to study writing. I earned a degree in creative writing, and I now spend most of my days holed up in my Manhattan apartment crafting murder mysteries, my genre of choice.. Last spring I published my third novel, An Ace of Spades. This novel landed me a spot on the top ten books of 2015. Opening doors to speaking engagements and book signings I guess you could say this novel was a big hit, although in my opinion it was only mediocre compared to some of my others.
“You asked about my relationships didn’t you? At this point in time my companion is a miniature schnauzer, Abimelech. Nevermind, that he can’t talk to me. Our relationship is telepathic, which is perfect. I’ve never been good at verbal communication. I prefer emails and letter writing. Something about the chance to edit and make better those thoughts or erase them entirely. You can’t edit spoken words. Once it’s out there it’s permanent. Every single word.
“About a month ago I started a pen pal relationship. I was going about my daily business sorting through my mail. Amongst the stacks of bills and fan mail I found a letter which stood out to me. It was addressed with my name and the penmanship looked very much like my juvenile handwriting. There was a loop at the end of the “e” in Rae and and heart-shaped dot on top of the “i” in Windsor. It was impecable how similar this signature was to my own. The author had captured my attention so I opened the envelope pushing aside all of the other fan mail. Inside I found a letter from a man named Alton Snow.
“In his letter he praised my newest novel which he had placed in his collection in Nebraska. He talked of his library and the six thousand volumes housed in his small cottage home. Books were to him what writing had become to me: a single form of social interaction. In his letter he stated his affinity for the vivid details that I used in my books when I discussed crime scenes.
I couldn’t stop reading. My favorite line from your book was: ‘As Captain Rowland stood over Helena’s motionless body the blood began to spill from her like a crack in a dam. She held her breath after he heard the shot. “Maybe the gun had missed,” she thought, but she was wrong. The seconds before the slow leak of blood had given her false hope. Captain Rowland knew immediately that Helena was gone and the killer had gotten away.
“ I returned Alton’s letter with gratitude. Even with a book deal it still felt surreal that someone would be lost in my words the way that Alton was. Over a series of letters we became what most people would refer to as friends.
“My booking agent, Clarissa, sent me an email a couple weeks after my first letter from Alton. My publisher had asked for a short story by the end of the month. He wanted me to capture the ideas I usually wrote over the course of hundreds of pages into a 1500 word piece to be submitted to a journal. Limitations are not my friend. My voice is free and I do not like to confine it to a small box of rules. I responded to Clarissa and asked her to turn down the inquiry, but she reminded me that my publisher paid my bills and I was really in no position to refuse. So, I began to write. I wrote a short story every week. A killer on the loose, a kidnapping and ransom, a crime scene examined. All of the stories came quickly and suddenly and I lost myself in the art of short stories.
“Then one day there was a knock on my apartment door despite the half a dozen signs hanging on the front door which read many variations of, “Do not Disturb.” I was sitting at my desk in the living room and extremely bothered by the guest who had arrived.
“When I opened the door I found myself greeted by a short, balding, middle-aged man with spectacles half the size of his face and a bright bouquet of Spring flowers in his hands.
“Ms. Windsor, My name is Alton Snow. How very nice to make your acquaintance.” Mr. Snow put his hands out and after a few seconds of apprehension I decided to accept his commodity and placed my calloused hand in his. We shook and for a moment I wondered what to do next. I decided to let him enter my apartment, although every part of my being was reluctant to do so.
‘I have waited so long to meet you, Ms. Windsor. So many of your novels and short stories make me feel like I know you already.’ He said. The more he spoke the more uncomfortable I grew.
‘Is there something I can do for you, Mr. Snow?’ I asked, again weary of his unwarranted presence in my apartment complex. He began to make small talk combing through my apartment. His greasy hands on my trinkets made me cringe. His clothing pressing into my suede sofa caused my pulse to race. He made himself comfortable while I felt the opposite. As he took a seat on the sofa I caught a glimpse of something shiny in his pocket.
‘Would you like a drink?’ I asked my guest.
‘I would indeed, thank you, Ms. Windsor.’ Alton crossed his right leg across his knee. He laid the flowers on the coffee table in front of the couch and smiled back at me. Something within me began to sense that he had arrived in my apartment with ulterior motives.
“I made my way back to the kitchen to pour Mr. Snow a glass of water from the pitcher in the refrigerator when I saw him reach for the shiny object in his pocket. That was the last thing I remember before I blacked out.
“I know that’s why I’m here. There are people who think I’ve done something terrible. The police have been asking questions and probing me the past couple of days. I’m telling you the truth though, Doctor Patel. I blacked out and when I came to hours later I was laying in a pool of Mr. Snow’s blood under an overpass near the airport. I didn’t find out he was an officer until after they took me in. He really was a fan, and had figured out the case himself. I suppose the shiny object in his pocket was his badge or it could have been a gun. But, I have no recollection of ever seeing the object.”
“Rae, do you think it is possible that while you had blacked out that you murdered Mr. Snow?” Doctor Patel questioned.
“How could I? I’m five foot six and one hundred thirty pounds. He was easily two hundred pounds, and well-built.” Rae stammered.
“Rae, there are some people who believe you to be the culprit behind several unsolved murders in Manhattan. Do you think that is possible?” Doctor Patel continued to push her patient.
“There is no way. How could people say such things?” Rae’s pulse was rising.
“Many of the unsolved murders in the city have a striking resemblance to some of the stories you’ve been writing. And in some cases where there have been witnesses their description of the suspect matches your profile. What do you have to say about that? Could you be Captain Rowland?” Doctor Patel asked to the now sweating patient. Before Rae was able to answer her eyes rolled back in her head then closed and she sat up straight on the bed where she had been relaxed.
“Where is Helena? It’s time I pay her a visit.” Rae spoke begrudgingly.
“Officers, I think we are speaking to Captain Rowland now. Ms. Windsor has slipped into her alternate identity.” Doctor Patel spoke to the men who had been sitting quietly in the corner of her office throughout Rae’s discourse. The two men rose from their chairs and placed handcuffs on the wrists of Ms. Windsor.
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