Collaborative Speculative Fiction: the Whole Story

After taking off last Monday for the Fourth of July, I now can publish the entire story I offered prompts for in June. Thanks to author M. Liz Boyle for her wonderful inspiration! This was so much fun to write. Since speculative fiction isn’t my genre, I had to work my imagination over time. To see all the photo prompt, click here.

Collaborative Speculative Fiction: the Whole Story.

The creature barely had to swish his tail, the sea was so calm. The moon turned the surface to silver, and the creature’s wake appeared as an arrow cleaving through it.

Lifting his head, the creature looked to the horizon, where many pinpricks of light dotted it, his nostrils flaring. He inhaled deeply, then tilted his head to one side and gazed at the sparks of light, which lined the horizon as if the stars overhead had fallen into a rut.

With one great last of his tail, the creature pivoted. Then with his tail acting as both rudder and engine, he swam toward the lights.


I ran onto the pier. I had to get out of the house, go some place without people–people meant problems.

Slowing to a walk, I jammed my hands into my windbreaker. The cold night and rising fog had left the pier empty of people. Perfect.

I leaned on the railing, breathing in the salt air. The sea was still, touched with silver where the moonlight could slip through the mist. 

I stared at the horizon. How far could I see? How many miles? How many miles could I put between myself and–

The smooth surface of the water rippled. Something was swimming toward the pier. Something big.

My eyes widening, I felt my heart take a jump.

The ripple stopped, and a head broke the surface. A head like every dragon I’d ever seen in a fairy tale.

I slapped my hand over my mouth to squash a scream.

What was it? And why was it coming toward me? The creature’s eyes had to be as big as my head. And its eyes were fixed on me. It was approaching me fast, now only ten feet away. A wild cry, a high-pitched roar that seemed to slice my ear drums, raged from the creature’s throat. I spun on my heels, adrenaline surging and heart pounding, but I slipped on the wet pier and face planted the cement. Was this it? Why, oh why did I leave the house, slam the door, yell that I never wanted to see any of them again? Was that really the end of it all?

I whipped around to a seated position, expecting to see the creature opening its mouth for its first taste of me. 

Instead it lifted its head and made a sound like a giant sniff. Then it swam toward the end of the pier.

Leaping to my feet, I was about to turn and put as much distance between me and the sea as I could when I saw a light bobbing at the furthest point of the pier. That bobbing had to mean a person was holding a light. I’d thought I was alone on the pier. Had the light or whoever was holding it attracted the creature?

The creature glided toward the light, its long body leaving a slow wake. My jaw open, I watched it too. Then a gentle splash to my left caught my attention. I stared for a minute and then realized that a second creature like the first was making its way toward the light. I quickly looked between the two animals, and then glanced back at the distant light. Clearly I had been forgotten by the enormous and mysterious creature. Had I also been forgotten by the hurt people back in my house? Now that I wasn’t about to be torn apart by teeth the size of my arm, I had a chance to go back and apologize. I blew out my cheeks, dropped my head, and took two steps toward home. Another thought crossed my mind. Now that I wasn’t about to be torn apart by teeth the size of my arm, I also had the chance to find out what that animal was. And who the person with the light was. And what they were doing. I looked back to the light and counted four distinct swells with tails cutting through the water. I turned my face toward home and heard the door slam. That was enough to make up my mind.

I strode down the pier, the only sound the slapping of those tails and a gulping sound. Through the mist, I saw a white head illuminated by a lantern. The elderly person was pitching something from a garbage can seated on a dolly.

I had the strangest feeling I was interrupting something but cleared my throat.

The person whirled to me, an old man, his face seamed from age and weather. “What’re you doin’ out on a night like this?”

“I-I-I–who are your…pets?”

His eyes narrowed. “You’ve seen the animals?”

“Yes.” I stepped closer, and the stench from the garbage can pushed me back. 

“And you didn’t run away?”

I decided to be honest. “I thought one was going to eat me, but then it swam out here to your light.”

“Ain’t my light.” He dug a short shovel into the garbage can and heaved the stinking meat into the sea. “They smell the rotten fish. They can smell it on still nights.”

A thousand questions swirled in my mind like the mist. As I was trying to choose one, the old man stiffened. “That shouldn’t be on the water at this time of year.”

I peered at the sea. The boat that took tourists on pirate cruises in the summer chugged toward the pier.

The old man rummaged through items in a box beside the garbage can. “It’s gettin’ so’s a man can’t have any peace with a few friends any more.”

My eyes focused on a gun in his hand, so I took a slow step backward. “Y- you’re going to shoot the pirate cruise ship?”

His dark eyebrows lowered. “Course not. Ya’ think I want me AND the boys to wind up behind bars?” He took aim at the water and I heard a pop, not as loud as I braced myself for. “I just shoot a pellet into the water, in the direction of danger. Just enough to warn the boys without drawing attention.” Immediately the animals changed direction and turned toward the open sea.

“The boys?” 

“They’re all males in this pod. Won’t join the ladies until next month. Then I don’t see of ’em for awhile.”

Pod? So are they some type of whale? Afraid that question was too stupid to ask out loud, I asked another question, a safer question. “So are you a researcher?”

A throaty chuckle rumbled out of the mysterious man as he propped the shovel back in his nasty garbage can. He grabbed the handles of the dolly and looked at me with dark, serious eyes. “No. And you best not mention any of this to anyone.” 

He wheeled the dolly two steps when a beam of light landed on him. “POLICE! STOP! You too!” Another light blinded me.

I threw up my hands, but the old man just snapped, “Della, it’s me. You think you’re gonna find a drug kingpin out on the pier?”

“Martin.” The cop groaned the name as she lowered the light. “Martin, I can’t keep persuading the owners not to prosecute you for trespassing.”

He glared at her. “My family’s been on this shore for three hundred years. This pier’s been here for sixty. Who’s got more right?”

“I’ve got to follow the law, Martin.” She sighed. “You should too. And you definitely shouldn’t talk this girl into coming out here with you.” She looked at me for the first time. “Maybe he didn’t tell you it’s trespassing if you’re on the pier after it’s closed.”

So much had happened so fast that I didn’t bother to make up a lie or a truth. I just stared.

“C’mon, kid.” Martin pushed the dolly toward the beach. “We’d better get a move on before Della cuffs us.”

Once we reached land and the cop had driven away, I had to ask, “Has your family been feeding the creatures for three hundred years?”

Martin just grinned and then pushed the dolly and its odorous trash can up the street.

People meant problems. And I didn’t need any more. And yet–

I caught up to Martin, the mist obscuring the mist behind us. “You said they come on still nights?”

He nodded, the dolly creaking up the hill. “In winter.”

“Could you use some help?”

He stopped and grinned again.

Muddling Through the Middle of Stories

This month’s theme tackles the part of story writing I think is often overlooked–the middle. A great deal of advice is written about how to start a story, but the middle and end don’t seem to be analyzed in as much detail. So muddling through the middle of stories isn’t unusual for writers. The posts this month aim to help you with your middle.

The Middle is Critical.

When I examine my YA mystery, A Shadow on the Snow, the first 48 pages are what I consider the beginning. The last 41 pages make up the end. So that leaves 162 pages, minus a few blank pages, of middle. Since the bulk of my story is the middle, it’s critical that I get it right. A story can’t just be set-up and resolution. The resolution won’t mean anything if the set-up hasn’t been developed. For a mystery, the middle is where the detective conducts most of his investigation. It’s also the part where readers get to know the characters.

If Your Middle Isn’t Working

A number of reasons could lead you to muddle through the middle of stories. Like …

Secondary characters take over. If you are writing in the middle and find you are spending more time with your main character’s (MC) grandmother than with the MC, you’ve got a problem. Maybe you’re writing the story from the wrong POV. Or maybe you need to flesh out your MC better to make her more interesting. If she’s more interesting, it will be easier to write about her.

The stakes aren’t high enough. Are you too nice to your characters? If you don’t let bad things happen to them, then you might find yourself writing pleasant, boring scenes. Think of situations that would really hurt or test your MC. Don’t save all the action and suspense for the end. In A Shadow on the Snow, I have a suspenseful chase through a snowstorm in the middle. It’s sort of like putting the second most thrilling feature of a roller coaster ride in the middle. Just be sure to save the most thrilling one for the end.

No ending, no middle. I may be atypical, but I usually think of a climax before any other part of a story. Knowing where my story will eventually end up helps me construct the middle. It’s like planning a trip. I know where I’m starting from and I know where I need get to. Between those two points are quite a few different routes I could take. But if I only have the starting point, it’s impossible to plan a route. I could end up anywhere. That’s not always bad, but I can waste a lot of time.

So let me hear from you. What problems have you had muddling through the middle of stories? Or what stories have you read that did a great or terrible job in the middle?

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