Writing Challenge: When You’ve Scene It All

by Evan Yeong

First off, apologies to everyone who’s been wondering when the next Writing Challenge would be coming along. We’ve had so much to share recently, first in regards to our Warriors Wanted Blitz (still ongoing!) and then our call for Inspirational Historical Romance submissions (also ongoing!), that we simply haven’t had time to squeeze one in-

I had initially considered having this be yet another Historical challenge, but thought it would be nice to broaden the scope, especially toward those of you who may have WIPs set in the modern era. This is also a perfect opportunity for you to put a bit of what you might have learned this past Tuesday into practice!

Just like Bob Ross, I’m tasking all of you with writing a romantic scene of 400 words or less, with an emphasis on the setting. I want you to bring us into the world you’re creating, to the point where we can almost feel like we’re really there. Which brings us to the curveball I know you’re all dying to discover…

I want you to create your setting by utilizing all five senses but sight. You can write about trees and tables and your heroes and heroines, of course, but unlike Bobs Ross the point is to avoid relying on visuals. That means scale back on mentioning colours and shapes (though the latter can of course be felt with touch). Think about what your characters are hearing, smelling, and tasting! I’m well aware of how tough this might be, but you still have 4/5 of the senses available, and I known you’re up to the job!

All submissions are due on Sunday (June 14th) at 11:59 PM EST. We’re back to providing editorial feedback, and every submission that fits the outlined criteria will receive a response from one of the editors by Wednesday (June 16th) at the latest.

UPDATE: This week the editors received 30 eligible submissions which we are eager to dive into! You can expect your editorial feedback within the next few days, so we hope you get a lot out of that, and continue tuning back in to SYTYCW as there’s always something new around the corner!

74 replies on “Writing Challenge: When You’ve Scene It All”

She heard her name but the sound seemed too far away and she knew her voice wouldn’t carry. Her throat was raw and she didn’t have the strength to even try to scream to whoever was calling her.
“Avery. Come on, baby, wake up.”
“Jonah?” she managed to whisper then launched into a coughing fit.
“Yes! Oh, baby, I’ve been so worried. You’ve been out for hours,” he said patting up her arm until he found her face. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”
Avery opened her eyes but found that wherever they were had no light whatsoever. “There’s a faint metallic taste in my mouth so, I’m assuming I either bit my tongue or split my lip and a good-sized bump on my head. How about you?”
“I’ve got a couple of bruised ribs and a bump that likely matches yours but that’s all as far as I can tell,”
Avery reached up and grasped the hand that was cupping her cheek. “Where are we?”
“I think it’s some kind of storm cellar. While you were unconscious, I scouted it out. It’s about 12′ x 12′ with a narrow wooden staircase in the corner and wooden shelves along the opposite wall. There is a well-secured steel door at the top of the stairs.”
“Are you sure it’s not a crypt? It smells like death down here,” she asked.
“There is a dead animal under the shelves in the corner.” He laughed when she scrambled into his lap. “Honey, it’s dead. I don’t think it’s going to eat much.”
Avery hissed. “You don’t know it could be playing dead. Opossums do that, you know.”
“Well if that’s the case that critter is a master of his craft. He is so good that he can pretend to be nothing but bone.” Jonah answered then grunted when Avery’s elbow connected with his stomach.
Avery was about to dish up a vicious retort to go with her elbow when there was a thud against the steel door. Her heart leaped into her throat and pounded wildly. Was this their captor? What was he going to do with them? Jonah rose and drew Avery to her feet before shoving her behind him. Something heavy scraped over the steel and dropped with a dull thud. For a moment there was silence, then came a high pitched squeal as the heavy door began to open.
Word Count: 400

I really love your literal interpretation of this prompt. After all, if there is no light, you certainly can’t describe what the characters see! Furthermore, given your description of the hero’s efforts to scout the area, the reader is left with a clear impression of the setting. Great job!

Sara savoured the last drop of her Malbec, letting the rich, dark fruit flavours roll over her tongue, relishing the long, smoky finish. She may be struggling to get to grips with the nation’s famous dance, but at least she was enjoying Argentina’s favourite wine.

Glass empty, it was time to head home. Porteños were night owls and the dance hall was still buzzing, but Sara’s toes ached from being trodden on and she couldn’t face allowing another overconfident beginner to drag her around the dance floor. She was reaching for her bag when she was halted by a voice.

“Quieres bailar? Do you want to dance?” Sara froze, recognising the husky baritone. She had noticed the sexy singer on stage earlier, accompanying the club’s guitar trio: the timbre of his voice had raised goosebumps on her arms and she had been mesmerised by the rise and fall of the soulful melody, despite not understanding the lyrics.

Wordlessly, trusting her own faltering Spanish even less than she had trusted her previous dance partners, Sara put her hand in his.

Earlier, the packed dance floor had seemed threatening, full of couples crowding too close and moving in unpredictable patterns that her inexperienced partners were incapable of navigating. The hum of voices had distracted her attention from the rhythm of the music, while her fear of a collision had made her hyper-sensitive to the press of surrounding bodies, flinching as even a hint of body heat signalled another couple closing in.

But in this man’s arms, Sara could finally lose herself in the dance. Although she was closely pressed to the broad expanse of his chest, her body encircled by the steel band of his arm, there was somehow a sensation of spaciousness, like they were dancing in their own private bubble. Lifted by this man’s lead, her feet no longer ached and she could confidently extend her steps as she glided backwards, never catching her heel or so much as brushing another couple’s arm as he skilfully guided her around the dance floor. The stale smell of the small club packed with sweating bodies was replaced by the spiced, woody scent of his aftershave, and as he hummed along to the haunting melody, the music not only filled the air but vibrated from his chest straight into her soul. Sara finally knew what it was to tango.

Word Count: 400

Really nice job, Helen! I particularly enjoyed the way you described movement in this scene. The emotions were so clear and enthralling, which was partly due to the focus on senses other than sight.

The heady aroma of orange blossoms permeated the late March mid-day haze. The red Hamra low hills that surrounded the kibbutz were covered by white flowered tree orchards and the warm air buzzed with the sound of busy bees.
Ayala spotted John and her mother on the porch swing, talking and smiling. She approached them. “Mum, John and I need to get back to Tel Aviv”.
“Ayala darling, it’s Dad’s 60’th birthday, surely you can stay a bit more.”
“I guess. I’m tired”. She knew she sounded petulant. Her mother sighed and got up.
“It was lovely talking to a fellow Brit, John. I must go and see to coffee and dessert.”
Ayala took her mother’s vacated spot, flopping heavily onto the cushioned seat.
“No need to help me Ayala I can manage just fine.”
Ayala decided to ignore the guilt pangs and sarcastic undertone. “Great. I’m too tired to move.”
John waited for her mother to leave and then, over Ayala’s protestations, lifted her to sit sideways on his thighs swinging her feet onto the seat.
“Shush, Ayala, I’m your boyfriend for today, remember?” His large hand pushed her face gently but forcefully onto his chest, his fingers weaving through hair. His other arm encircled her waist and settled on her thigh. He spread his legs a bit more and she bent her knees and sank feeling his hard crotch against her right butt. The muscles in his legs moved as he pushed the swing back and forth in a gentle sway. His stubble grazed her cheek as he kissed her jaw softly and spoke quietly into her ear.
“I’ll take you home after the cake.”
Ayala relented. Ever since this whole business with John began, she thought, closing her eyes in fatigue, she got very little rest. She nestled further into his embrace and buried her nose in his warm neck smelling the by now familiar lavender scent of his Oxford and Cambridge soap. Her family’s loud voices receded into the background. Distant shrill cries of peacocks were followed by angry cock calls. John sighed softly his warm breath caressing her. The swing porch creaked. A sprinkler sprouted. Ayala fell asleep.

I really enjoy your exploration of senses here and how the different pieces come together to provide a nice understanding of the setting while also helping to deepen the readers’ grasp on the characters’ emotions. I would have loved to have seen a bit more background about the circumstances here, though. Ostensibly, Ayala asked John to pretend to be her boyfriend for the day; yet, without that context, I wonder a bit about whether or not his treatment of her is fully consensual.

Excerpt from WIP for LIS. Word count 395:

If there was one thing Kaitlyn Morris recognized from childhood it was the scent of the ocean. Salty, humid air and the constant rush of waves as they swept ashore and sucked quickly out to sea. The roar of the incoming tide was music to her ears but time was running out if she was right. Blinded by the cloth secured over her eyes, nothing was visible. Her hands and feet were bound too. Frustration built within as she struggled into a better position.

The kidnappers must have knocked her out to get her here. Last she remembered she was outside the library, locking up for the night. If only she could get free and remove the blindfold, she could find her way to safety before they returned. She settled into a precarious angle propped against moist craggy rocks that felt just a bit slimy. Her fingers crawled along the semi-rough surface until it no longer existed. Just to her left, there was a drop-off. How far she didn’t have a clue. Enough movement for now. With the ocean’s rumble so close and the slight echo, she must be in a sea cave. A tremor raced through her and she counted silently, slow, easy. Time the movement of the sea and its proximity. Don’t let panic set in.

If she could break her ties, she might have half a chance at survival. She felt for the rocky surface behind her and rubbed her bound wrists against it. Her shoulders ached and the liquid running down her fingertips might well be blood, but if she had an opportunity to escape her captors this was it. She clenched her teeth so hard an iron taste filled her mouth. Her tongue throbbed with pain, but she couldn’t open her lips for the tape holding them closed.

A bit more pressure and snap! The ties that bound her wrists fell free and she pulled at the tape over her mouth, gasping for air. Dizzy, she tugged the knotted blindfold from her head and gasped. Pitch black! Nothing for her eyes to see. Without light, it meant two things. Either it was a moonless night or the tide was already high enough to block the light and her escape. The rocky ledge she perched on would soon be underwater. Her choices were few. Jump in or die.

I love how the opening lulls the reader into a sense of calm before subverting expectations. It’s very intriguing! The tension in this scene is really fantastic, partly because you are keeping readers on their toes the entire time. Great job!

Only four people sat at the long conference table, at the Firm of Gallagher and Wheeler. John put the fountain pen, that Elizabeth bought him for his 25th birthday, into his jacket pocket. She was no longer Elizabeth Masters. “Take care, Beth,” he said, as he walked by her. He always wore the cologne she bought him. He loved that it always made her want to jump his bones. He wasn’t’ wearing it today; maybe never again.
“Are you alright Beth?” her attorney, Mrs. Wheeler, asked.
She scribbled idly on the legal pad in front of her. “No. It wasn’t supposed to be this is way.”
“You know, things don’t always turn out the way you expect them to, but sometimes the way they’re supposed to.”
Her lower lip trembled as she spoke the words. “Really? Was I supposed to lose my mother and husband in the span of 3 months?”
“This is hard, I know…”
“No, you don’t know,” she snapped. “You have no idea.”
“Just try and get through one day at a time. Come on, let’s get you out in the sun.”
Amid the bustling of people in the lobby, Mrs. Wheeler said, “It will get better.”
“I’m sorry I gave you a hard time. I do appreciate everything you did for me, Mrs. Wheeler.”
“It’s Ingrid,” she replied and handed Beth her private phone number. “Promise you’ll call me if you need to. My advice is free now.”
A half-smile was all she could give. “I promise.”
Manhattan was hopping with the lunchtime crowd, taking every available space on park benches and ledges in front of buildings that scraped the sky. Beth needed something sweet, and stopped at a street vendor for a Pepsi. Her face squinched when she took a swig. “Yuck! This is diet,” and threw it in the nearest trash. When she reached the corner of 51st Street and Fifth Avenue, she gazed up at the spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. She didn’t feel comfort from that sacred place, only abandonment. She remembered how long she prayed within those walls, asking why, and hearing no answer.
The platform was crowded with people waiting for the A train. Wheels screeched against the rails that took the train toward her home in the West Village, that she no longer shared with John.
* * * *

I really like the emotions in this scene. You’re exploring some really complex situations in ways that feel relatable and authentic. Yet, this scene feels a little rushed. Particularly given the prompt, I’d recommend slowing the pace a bit to really let readers experience each moment alongside the character.

He catches the scent of her blood before she even enters the room. Breathing deeply, he savors it. A tantalizing mixture of ancient Roman coins, copper earrings from a plundered Egyptian tomb, and peelings from a sweet Brandywine tomato.
Inhaling again, he detects a high level of acidity in that blood. Youth. Vitality. Life.
It had been centuries since he breathed in that delicious combination of aromas. Another sniff reveals candied violet, tea rose, and fresh cream.
“Hello,” the girl says, when she finally breezes the room. “I’m Nina Brown. Pleased to meet you Count Varja.”
“Miss Brown, a pleasure,” he says, hesitating a moment before accepting her outstretched hand.
The scent of a woman’s blood can only reveal so much. Yet now, as he touches her velvet soft hand, he feels a familiar spark. A connection. A reassurance that yes, she is the one.
“Please, have a seat. And call me Nina.”
The Count pulls out a chair.
As Nina launches into her presentation, the Count finds himself as entranced by the cadence of her lively voice as by her delectable scent. As she prattles on, he finds himself stirred by that girlish tone suggesting the deliciousness of youth, hope, and innocence.

Dear Marisa,
Great job on this! Even I can smell the young woman’s candied violet blood. 🙂 You most definitely used the four senses here and the writing was very well paced. Nicely done! –Patience

The sun on top of her head and shoulders chased away the chill of being stuck inside, hunched over a microscope for hours on end. The brush of the very male hand against hers took the warmth up at least ten degrees.
“Have you found anything new?” Brynn asked Sam as they made the loop around the lake trail. Sam was a cop and was looking into the disappearance of his childhood friend, Jake. Sam was also friends with Brynn’s brother, Dylan, who was also a cop. Brynn herself was in law enforcement, preferring the safety of a lab and burying her nose in trace evidence.
Sam’s sigh was heavy. “No. How about we not talk about work stuff?” He nudged her with his elbow.
She looked up at him—he was a good five inches taller—her gaze landing on his mouth. She quickly looked away, to the sturdy asphalt trail beneath her feet. Thinking of his mouth, remembering the zing of their brief kiss the week before, and the lingering sweetness from the strawberries they’d been sharing, the warmth inside her ramped to high heat.
Brynn glanced at Sam. He seemed unaffected. Phew. He was her friend. Her brother’s friend. Yet, the attraction between them didn’t seem to care. “What do you want to talk about?” She nudged him back.
“Let’s go this way.” Sam directed them off the path, to the short grass, where the ground was softer. Taller, environmental grasses swished around them in the breeze, startling a bird from their depths.
He led them to a single picnic table beneath a large tree. Though the air beneath was cool, the heat within Brynn didn’t abate.
He waited for her to sit, then sat next to her, taking her hands in his. His palms had a few callouses from renovating his house, and they were strong and reliable. Just like the man. “I wanted to ask you out on a date.”
Brynn angled her head, her heart thumping. “We’ve gone out before.”
“Yeah, I know. But I’m talking about a real date. The kind where I pick you up at your house, hold the chair at a restaurant table.” He paused, squeezing her hands. “The kind where I give you a kiss goodnight. What do you think?”
Brynn’s belly swooped and flipped like the birds in the tall grass near them. “I think yes.”

Dear Marisa, I like this little snapshot of a couple at the beginning of their romance, how they are taking a loop around a lake and the different sensations that the heroine feels: the sigh, the memory of a strawberry kiss, his tugging her sleeve. Very small moments make for a lovely, evocative scene. –Patience

He certainly smelt better than he had the first time she’d met him. A hint of spices lingered as he moved, the air brushing past her as he made his way to his seat. Brushing at her like his fingers would, if he’d ever touch her again like before… but after the first time, he had seemed repelled. Her mind snatched at the memory of his lips, taking her mouth in a kiss sweeter than honey. Her throat constricted as she relived the way his large hands had caressed and kneaded her willing flesh.
The long hall of the castle was warm. The November chill couldn’t nip at the warmth of the fire that spat and hissed. Audrey was glad of her cloak, the rich velvet cocooning her, as she took a breath and sat down.
“Madam,” Aidan said. “This marriage is a farce and we both know it.”
Audrey let out a hiss of breath.
“I have my lands back, but where is my pride? You’re brother has…” His voice stuttered to a halt. She waited. Kindle snapped in the flames of the fire, making her jump. She twisted the cloak in her slender fingers.
“Has trapped me,” he continued.
“We agreed,” she said, softly. “Our two families needed uniting. The years of war..all those deaths can not be in vain. We agreed on peace.”
The taste of him on her tongue… it had all seemed to be working. A marriage of convenience, yes, but a marriage never the less.
Someone, somewhere in the castle called out and was answered by a laugh.
Audrey swallowed against the bile that was rising.
“I think then, perhaps, this is the wrong time to tell you that I am with child. Husband.”

Dear Heidi,
What a dynamic scene, mostly through dialogue, but effective nonetheless. I like the heroine’s memory of kissing the hero (comparison to honey) and the main sense would be hearing, which hides everything that they are both feeling. Nicely done overall. –Patience

~~WIP~~ 400 words, for Love Inspired
Her hands broke part of her fall as her forehead hit the wooden archway. Stunned, she sat on the floor and rubbed her head. That was quite a bang. She wondered why Rocco was not running to her. Hadn’t he heard the bang? She wasn’t sure…maybe there had been no sound except the one she heard in her head. She ran her hand over her temple, feeling a small bump, and with that, a warm sticky feeling. Blood! That unnerved her. How much was she bleeding? And how fast?
“Rocco!” she forced herself to yell, her head feeling like it was in a vice. She prayed he heard her because she knew she could not raise her voice again because of the pain. She buried her head in her hands not caring about the warm blood. Her head hurt so badly.
“Gillian!” Rocco yelled, scooping her up in his arms easily. “What have you done? What happened to you?’ She rested against his chest and she felt him move. Soon, she was being held close to him, smelling the scent of his soap. Savoring their closeness, she was aware of the soft cotton of his sweater and being laid gently on the couch. Rocco sprinted away but was back at her side quickly with a towel. It felt good as he applied pressure to the top of her head.
“Is it really cracked open?” she asked quietly.
“Well, sort of,” Rocco told her. “Listen, head wounds bleed a lot and look far worse than they usually are but…how hard did you fall? You might have a concussion.”
“Rocco, what is that?” she asked rather innocently.
“It’s a bruise on the brain. Now please be quiet while I put pressure here.”
She closed her eyes tightly and thanked the Lord that he had sent someone here tonight to protect her. If he hadn’t been here, she might be sitting in a pool of blood. Thank goodness Rocco had insisted on coming to her home? What was it that had made him come? Why had he been so insistent that he come tonight? Thank you Lord, thank you Lord, she repeated to herself. She thanked him for the comfort He was providing and this protective, wonderful man. Aware of a long, warm tingle in her chest, it was absolutely intoxicating to have him so near. She didn’t want the feeling to end.

What an active scene, Susan! You definitely use the four remaining senses here, weaving them in quite nicely. And I like how the heroine takes in just about everything going on around her, desperately as she waits for help. Well done! –Patience

The chill in the early morning air nipped at Kym’s cheeks when she opened her door. Taking a deep inhale, Kym embraced the shiver that ran through her body as a reminder that winter, and her opportunity to relax, was almost here. Smoke from her neighbor’s wood burning furnace lingered in the air, adding a touch of warmth to the otherwise crisp atmosphere. It made her think of hot soup and a mug of warm apple cider. One more inhale and she imagined how deliciously satisfying a sip of that sweet drink would be right about now, especially with an added cinnamon stick to give it a touch of spice.

A school bus honking in the distance broke the silent surroundings of her farm. The horses perked their ears and a dog started to bark. Kym closed her eyes and tried to regain the moment, but the sudden vibrations from inside her purse forced her back to reality.

“Time to go,” she whispered with a sigh.

Her heels tapped against the thick, concrete walkway, a change from the usual, heavy strike she usually possessed. One touch of her bare hand to the car’s handle, though, and the frozen metal sucked all of the heat out of Kym’s skin. She quickly hopped in the car and rubbed her hands together before the chill traveled up to her elbow. Never mind that she had slammed the car door shut with such vigor that her two horses jumped from the sudden loud noise.

Grabbing her thermos, Kym swallowed down a large swig of hot coffee. She paused to let the bitterness subside before taking another, much smaller, sip. Steaming vapors swirled up from the thermos to tickle at her nose and dance across her cheeks, giving her skin prickles of forming goosebumps. Between the warmth of the thermos seeping into her hand and the heat she now felt in her throat, the last remnants of the chilly atmosphere outside her car fell away like a fading memory.

Dear Katrin, An automatic gold star for describing the taste of coffee! Which makes me want another cup. Lovely use of the four senses in such effective ways, almost before the story even happens. It really sets the scene beautifully. –Patience

Hank walked out of Fellini’s ballroom, his seething boots flattening an array of luxurious carpet fibers into big footprints that logged his progress down the corridors.

One more arched door.

Minutes of awkward stares later, none of Fellini’s henchmen was able to find Hank’s keys in the carton box where all guests’ threatening belongings were kept. Eventually, they brought the box to him.

Hank pointed to the bell keychain he used to call Rover with, as to ask for permission, then took it and the pocket knife chained to it, both protesting with the same click.

Finally out of the tower-decorated mansion, Hank admired for the last time the modernized copy of an European castle, built smaller, in under a year. Lights and music made it alive with fervour, like in a toy house where all the dolls were real.

When Randall Fellini had bought Northridge Mountain terrain, public outrage had exploded, which naturally made him respond by carving a noisy architectural abomination right into the old stone. It lacked the original castle’s guard walls, and was as ugly as it had been expensive, its sore sight made worse by the quiet sky around it. It pierced the night with laughter and modern rhythms, covering the usual murmurs of Thorny River, shaming the moon into hiding.

Around the palace, every flat surface had been utilised, every uneven edge, polished. Or groomed into a pathway promising a romantic terrace, where some poor imported flower pots needed extra maintenance just to keep the smell exotic. Steep rocks had made parking space a luxury, but no one in Riverside said no to a Fellini dinner.

The only access road silently followed the river’s curves to Riverside City, each turn marked by a splash of water washing over stone. Hank’s loyal truck waited somewhere down that old serpentine road, littered with better cars. Their cold shine hit easier on battered eyes, reminding him there should be a limit on how much gold one can put on interior walls.

The scream that echoed through the valley could’ve only come from one place: Fellini’s office, last floor, one lit window. Out of it, canary satin flapped in the wind.

A lone, desperate warning flag.

The dress fell, heavy, Hank half-expecting it to fly, instead it hit the water almost immediately, with a thud that screamed on behalf of the woman inside it.

Lots of lovely details in this scene to give a sense of setting and paint a picture of the surroundings here. I like how you opened with a description of the feel of walking on carpet. Nicely done and thanks for participating!

Somehow Danny’s fingers and toes were numb and scorching at the same time. He scrunched his nose and it inched slowly back to the centre of his face. Never did he imagine that a Sunday afternoon drive to the country would turn into being trapped in a blizzard. He clutched the car’s steering wheel, and gently pressed the gas pedal but he couldn’t see the brake lights of the car ahead or anyone trailing behind.

“Pull over and turn on the four ways.” Misha said.

While he blindly guessed where the shoulder of the road might be, Misha brushed his arm as she climbed into the back seat. Pulling on the parking brake, Danny reached a hand across his body and dug his fingers into the knots dotting his shoulders.

Suddenly, Misha’s hot breath floated beside his ear. “Allow me.”

Her hands rested lightly on his shoulders but her thumbs pressed firm even pressure, alternating between left and right. Danny closed his eyes and rolled his neck from side to side.

“When’s the last time you made out in a car?” Misha’s icy fingers slid inside the top of his coat and his skin goose pimpled at her touch.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” Danny pulled her warm, supple hand out of his shirt.

“Why not? Who’s going to see us? And besides, how are we going to stay warm?”

She had a point. His feet were heavy like bricks of ice and his body jerked involuntarily. Danny reclined the front seat and hadn’t shifted comfortably before Misha’s was on top of him pinning his arms to his sides.

“Wait.” Danny yanked one arm out from under Misha’s bony shin and a rush of brisk air jabbed under his arm.

“You have a hole.”

He flinched and banged his elbowed when Misha’s finger poked into his side. “Thank you. Get your hands off me.”

“Ouch. My funny bone.” Misha whined.

“I changed my mind. Terrible idea.”

“It’s not.”

Her weight pressed into his stomach and her coat slid and whooshed against his. Misha circled her arms around his neck surrounding Danny with the scent of orange blossoms. The freshly cut ends of her hair threatened to cut his cheeks. When she nipped at his ear with the sharp edges of her teeth, he sucked in a sharp, crisp gulp air freezing the back of his throat.

Fortune, really clever idea to write a blizzard scene for this challenge, with the characters’ vision of their surroundings obscured by the snow! You’ve brought in so many lovely descriptions of touch, hearing, etc. here. Well done!

He uncorked the brown bottle, which smelled rotten, probably containing sulphur, and of something bitter. He dripped a couple of drops of the noxious fluid on the square black iron key. Then he poured some into the key hole where it fizzed. He thrust the key in and tried to turn it. Silence.
She stared at him, once again attracted by his air of determination. She looked away, wondering where this impulse to gaze at him was coming from, and then back. Did his raised brow indicate an unspoken joke about the sexual imagery of locks and keys?
Then, he was all business. Gritting his teeth, he put all his weight, 14 stone or so, into twisting the key, which gave with a disgusted click. He unwound the slightly rusty chains, each chinking and clinking as he pulled them aside into a pile in the narrow alleyway.
“Ick,” she said, peering into the dark of the musty warehouse. “There’s probably spider webs.” After as she took one step into the dark, she unconsciously brushed away the filmy threads on her shoulders. She despised spiders. She had hated them ever since one of the Dysart boys had put big, black spiders in her sagging, soft bed.

Shannon, I like the tone you’ve set in your scene. There’s an air of mystery about this scene as you describe the smell of sulphur and the sounds of the key and the chains. You’ve managed to pack lots of great details into these few paragraphs – well done!

Kiara jerked woke up with a putrid flavor in her mouth as she felt a repeated hammering inside her head. Bell buzzed once again. Her head felt heavy as she lifted to glance at the ticking wall clock. It was around quarter to eleven at night. She swung her legs out of her soft, springy bed. Rubbed her eyes gently as she plodded mutely on the carpeted floor, under the dim light, to the door.

Her brows arched, holding her sleepy eyes wide open, like a devil had appeared in front of her— “Liam…”, her face wrinkled with vexation, and nostrils flared slightly as she smelled alcohol from him. “What -you- want- at this time?” she asked gruffly as she drew her neck out towards him.

“You…”, said Liam, and then scoffed at his own response. He gave a resigned shrug while adding— “Just thought I must give you this…” his arm stretched as he offered a big bunch of white lilies. “…to thank you for all you did for my dad.” His tone was smarmy and unctuous.

The rustling sound of trees filled the silence for a beat. Anger gushing through her veins; she bit her tongue, holding back bitterness inside her dried throat. “Huh…, you don’t have to do such formalities at this hour, Mr. … Besides, what I did was my duty.”

Liam gave a lopsided smile as he read her face, “Huh, well, you know that I will not even offer anything more than this. So, stop your theatrical reactions.

She felt the cold pain as her grip tightened around the steel-hard surface of the door handle, obstructing the blow flow to the fingertips. Tornado of anger roared inside, but she simmered it down once again, and responded seethingly, “I think you must leave with your pretty flowers.”

“But, my convertible is full, where shall I toss it on?” he mocked again.

“Well, you can toss it into any of your girlfriend’s lap.”

Kiara pressed down the handle to shut the door. Liam banged resisted as he splayed his finger on it “Hey, at least tell me which one? He shot a spearing glare at her like a devil, like a charming devil, “One is getting married, and the other one is slamming the door on my face.”

“Damn you, just get lost!”

A thud sound echoed as Kiara slammed the door.

Eisha, I like how you introduced taste right away in your scene! Lots of other great details too to describe sensation and emotion as the scene unfolds. Consider watching for too many body parts that act of their own accord, like brows arching and hands gripping (though, this could just be a personal thing I tend to edit out! :p). Overall, though, well done and thanks for participating in this week’s challenge! 🙂

Hi Katie,
The challenge was intriguing. It gave me an opportunity to work differently by not only getting into character’s mind but body too.
Thank you for your wonderful feedback on my attempt, although I couldn’t eliminate the visual sense completely.

Where was he? The twists and turns of their journey from the house had played havoc with his sense of direction. Her small, warm hand in his, guiding him along, had done nothing to improve his concentration. The warm ground beneath Simon’s bare feet, remnants of another glorious summer day, hinted at what the heady perfume of honeysuckle and wisteria confirmed. Of course she would continue their game in the garden.

There would only be one place she would take him, he reached his arms out and was not surprised to feel the hawthorne leaved walls of the maze. Even blindfolded he could get to the heart of it in minutes, but Eve knew that, she would be waiting elsewhere.

Wasting no more time Simon moved forward until the wall on his right disappeared. The path straight ahead would eventually take him to the middle of the maze, right and right again would end after another 40-50 paces. She would have chosen the third path, it offered more opportunities further along.

His instinct was rewarded a few steps in, his fingers pulling a long, silky ribbon out from the hedge. Immediately Simon had an image of his wicked wife; glorious curls released from their confinement, a quick smile as she placed the ribbon. Eve played fair with their little scavenger hunts, she always wanted to be found. Simon’s strides were more confident now, faster. Why make her wait?

At the next fork instinct guided him again, a few strides later his feet almost missed the smooth gossamer feel of her discarded stockings. Deep in his chest a growl erupted, the thought of her bare legs stoked the desired which had been growing since starting his hunt.

Simon walked straight ahead at the next cross road, and found her cotton gown waiting. Clutching it he inhaled her sweet floral perfume. Next came her petticoat, her scent even clearer, and by the time he turned right and found her stays his body was hard with anticipation.

Except there was no way forward, he was down an empty dead-end. His confusion turned to comprehension when he sensed someone behind him. “I have you right where I want you, my lord.” Simon turned, and before he had even walked two strides Eve had thrown herself into his open arms, her lips instantly finding his, her body ready to deliver on all the promises made.

I love that you’ve written a maze scene for this challenge! Very intriguing setting to work with. Lots of wonderful details you’ve brought into this, like the feel of her hand and the smell of wisteria. Well done and thanks for participating!

“I don’t know what to do anymore.” Makayla admitted as she fell into a chair.
“You can start by telling me what happened in Florida that made you come running back to Louisiana like there was an alligator nipping at your tail?” Wesley stated as he pushed himself off the door jamb to walk over to her.
She threw him a disbelieving look. “I don’t know why you’re here! This is nothing to you!”
Wesley slammed his hands on top of the table. “You want to know why? You ran off with my daughter! Then come back here with a murderer chasing you!”
“This is nothing to do with you!” She bit out.
“Nothing to do with me? What are you thinking? You’re running scared and you got my daughter with you! Have you lost your mind?” He snapped as he grabbed her by the arms and snatched her to her feet to face him.
“Let me go now!” She bit out between clenched teeth. “I’m a crime scene investigator, my father and brother are both cops! I think we can handle this without you! I don’t need you here to protect me!”
He laughed at her. “But they still called in a body guard to protect you!”
She blew out a deep breath. “That’s only because my brother’s trying to play match maker!”
“No! If that was the reason he wouldn’t have brought me in to protect you!” He growled at her.
She pulled against his grip trying to get lose from him.
“We have a long history together going back to middle school! This is all because you’ve made the wrong person mad at you and now he wants you dead! And he’s willing to kill our daughter to get to you! That’s why you’ve come back after all of this time!” He bit out.
“Let me go! I can handle myself!” She snapped.
He let her go but stood toe to toe with her. “If that was the case then you wouldn’t have come back home for help!”
She finally gave in. “He has already killed one girl to get to me! I know hw will again! Although I can protect myself, I need help protecting our daughter!”
“Then let me help you for once. You’ve never let me be a father! Let me be here for you and our daughter now!” He stated.
399 words

We learn a lot about the story in this dramatic dialogue, but it would have been nice to see more emphasis on the setting as requested in Evan’s prompt. Apart from the fact that we are in a room with a table and chair in the state of Louisiana, we don’t have a lot of information. Is it a hotel room? A home? An office? What details might you include to bring the reader into the world of the characters? An added dialogue tip: don’t feel obligated to avoid “said” in dialogue tags. Sometimes making a conscious effort to eliminate “said” with replacements such as “snapped”, “stated”, or “bit out” draws the reader’s attention away from the action to the writing itself. Thanks for taking part in our challenge!

After losing my mother, learning that I had a dad, and having to leave my boyfriend, it was too much for me. Tough, I worked hard and now I was here for celebrating my graduation. I was ready to start my life, but there was a missing piece, Coaster. Where was he? Did my father fire him? When my father realized that I was more than just a friend to Coaster, he menaced him to take back all his right to become the next leader of our motorcycle club. It was his deepest wish, so I left him for the university. It broke my heart but at the same time, it gave me a chance to become who I wanted to be, the next best seller writer. Yet, I wasn’t, but I will.
My father opened the passenger’s door. I jumped out of his car. Standing in the parking lot of a restaurant five stars, I heard that sound. My body shivered. I knew without seeing him who was coming. I turned back to face Warrior. All hopes were nourishing my soul.
« Tell me that I’m not dreaming»
«You’re not my baby girl»
My eyes were sparkling under his words. I needed nothing else. My father’s laugh stuck into my ears mixing with the Coaster’s motor’s sound of his bike. My body became like fireworks ready to explode. The asphalt under my feet was almost too hot now to stand in place. I was almost jumping everywhere. I restrained myself. Telling me that It wasn’t the right moment to show my father that I gave me the perfect happily ever after.
The air was hot and thick for this period of the year, but nothing could stop me to run into his arms. Coaster had just enough time to dismount his bike before I embraced my lover. I closed my eyes and I smelt his column on his neck. His sent was like Heaven. My nerves calmed down at the same time he was lifting me for a kiss. He tasted just as I remembered, a soft taste of mint. My hands clinched to his leather coat. The tissue was the same as well, rough on some parts and soft on others. Coaster’s touch on my back lighted the fire that was sleeping between my legs. I tightened my embrace around his shoulders.

This is a good example of using body language and the senses to convey feeling (the scent and taste of her lover, the sound of his approach and so on.). A bit more detail about the surroundings would ground the reader in the scene more firmly. Were there any smells wafting from the restaurant? Can we hear the sounds of a busy street? Is her father’s car a luxurious, leather-lined sedan or a pickup truck cluttered with fast-food wrappers? (Or a luxurious pickup truck or garbage-strewn limo ) Thanks for writing, I enjoyed reading your scene!

Darkness had settled over the house, yet noises filtered into the guest quarters from the Great Hall. The rustle of straw bedding, a cough or snuffle. A more distant clang of pots told her there were servants in the kitchens still, doing final preparations for the morning. Close by she could hear Harry’s soft snores and the whisper of linen as he tried to make himself comfortable, still deep asleep. The scent of rosemary and cloves masked the earthy smell of his fevered sweat.
Her skin itched in the unfamiliar coarse shift borrowed from the household. She was used to softer linen, well washed. This was a new made hemp garment roughly woven. Even her hose had been taken by the maidservants to be laundered.
She missed the hose. Alone in the bed, her feet were icy, the heated stones long cooled by the autumn chill. Wriggling under the coverlet, Ismay tucked her knees up to bring her feet closer to her body. The feather mattress billowed around her, as if it were a beast determined to swallow her into its soft maw. She struggled into a sitting position, sucking in a breath redolent with the scent of linen stored with sachets of herbs and spices. How was she ever to sleep in this strange place, in a strange bed?
A metallic click as of a latch dropping stilled her body and sent her heart into a swift gallop. Her eyes strained in the darkness to see what danger threatened. Had someone in the household guessed who they were? Was a secret vengeance the goal of the soft footed intruder? A heavy weight pulled the mattress down on one side.
“Ismay? I heard you moving around.” She recognised Robert’s deep husky tones a moment before the stringent scent of lye soap and virile male embraced her with a sensual familiarity. “Is Harry unwell?”
Resisting the temptation to reach out and find his warmth with her hands, she shifted in the bed. “He is restless but sleeping under the influence of your mother’s potions.”
“What keeps you awake then?”
She shivered and he huffed out a breath.
“You’re cold.”
The covers heaved and a large body, all bare skin, slid in beside her. The heat he generated must be greater than the great log fires in the hall. With a contented sigh, she allowed him to wrap her in his warmth.

This scene effectively conveys details not only about the physical surroundings, but also the time period and plot, without “telling” the reader everything. It’s easy to imagine ourselves in the heroine’s situation, but there’s also a sense of mystery and suspense that makes us want to read on. Setting the scene at night cleverly avoids the use of visual details in order to comply with the challenge. Very well done!

The singing of a blackbird roused Otto back to consciousness. As a boy he had loved listening to the tuneful melody of birdsong as he walked in the forests behind the castle. But now the distinctive call of the blackbird took Otto right back to the wooded clearing where his brother Elias had breathed his last.

In the months that followed, he had grown skilled at pushing back the tidal wave of emotion that engulfed him whenever he thought of Elias, and he automatically went to blink back the un-warriorlike tears he knew would come. But he couldn’t blink. His eyes were bound with rough cloth and he could see nothing but darkness through it.

With a jolt of alarm, he reached for his sword, but his hands encountered only the smooth linen of his tunic. He patted around in confusion and soon found something much worse. Something wet and sticky, that sent a wave of pain through his body.


Otto pushed himself into a sitting position, ignoring the pounding in his fears and the harsh, metallic taste in his mouth. He forced himself to breathe slowly and quietly, gathering as much information about his surroundings as he could.

There was the blackbird again, and a rustling sound like wind through branches. His ears tensed for the sound of footsteps or talking in case his captors were somewhere near, but all was quiet. His hands roamed the floor around him, which was soft and scented. His nostrils flared.

What was that smell?

It was sweet, strong and not unpleasant. His fingers closed around something sharp, which he picked up and brought to his nose.

Pine needles. He must be in Allimar forest.

Otto’s mind raced. He could remember little from the day before. But somehow he had been wounded, blindfolded, and if the nagging pain in his legs was anything to go by, bound with rope and then left here in the forest.

Where was Ariana?

He must ensure she was safe.

He opened his mouth to call her name, but closed it again. The people who had done this to him could still be nearby.

For the first time in his life, Otto was afraid.

Then he tensed with alarm. Someone was walking towards him. He could hear their footsteps coming closer with every step.

He made his voice fierce. “Who’s there?”

This was very vivid. I could put myself in Otto’s place, hear what he heard, feel what he felt.

I agree with Maurine that your scene is very vivid! I like how you’ve put us in Otto’s place, discovering details about his surroundings through his physical sensations. There’s a wonderful sense of urgency and clever use of the blindfold to eliminate visual cues. Great job!

Ann took a deep breath inhaling the salty air as the cold water rushed across her feet. She wiggled her toes in the sand savoring the soft sensation on her skin. She tilted her head back feeling the warm sun on her cheeks. She could just stay like this all day she thought to herself waving her feet back and forth in the cold water. She could not believe she was here with him finally. She quivered in delight when she felt Zac wrap his arms around her waist and pull her close to him. “Did I wake you?” she asked leaning into him.
“ The absence of you woke me. Come on Annie lets go back to bed and start the day right.”
She felt the warmth of his breath as he kissed his way down her neck. She could smell his musky sent that nearly sent her over the edge She leaned back into him enjoying every minute of this early morning affection. She wanted to taste him now she swirled around kicking sand and water on him as she wrapped her arms around his neck and raised herself up on her tip toes to meet his lips with a deep kiss.
“ I think that is a great plan” she said between kisses.
Zac let out a deep sigh as he scooped her into his arms and turned to head to the cottage. She started nibbling on his neck tasting his sweet skin she felt his muscles moving in anticipation with each nibble. “You better stop or I am just going to lay you down right here in the sand” he laughed.
She could hear the wind chimes ringing in the breeze and began to nibble his ear knowing this would get them to that bed even quicker. He sighed and pulled her closer she felt his pace quicken she got that familiar ache for him that made her gasp in delight.
“Ann” he said in a low voice that brought her out of her daydream state she could feel his heart racing under her hand she stopped kissing him and looked up at him he quickly met her with a deep kiss as he slowly put her back on her feet.
“What are you doing?” she blurted as she started to turn around he grabbed her shoulders to stop her ”it looks like we have company.”

It’s easy to imagine this beach house scene with your description of the sand, water, salty air and wind chimes! You can make your writing more vivid by minimizing the use of “filter words” – felt, heard, smelled, etc. – which can pull the reader out of the scene by telling her what’s happening to your characters instead of letting her experience it. Instead of, “She could hear the wind chimes”, try, “The wind chimes rang in the breeze.” Instead of, “She could smell his musky scent”, try describing the scent of his skin. Thanks, and I hope you enjoyed participating in this week’s challenge!

When she awoke, Jamesina coughed, smelled a musty odor of cellars and straw. There was a sack on her head, a woven one with just enough air holes so that she could breathe. But where was she?

The floor shifted beneath her. She was moving. Was she on a cart or a boat? She took the deepest breath she could, and smelled the faint odor of fish. A boat. On Loch Ness. Headed towards MacDooley’s Castle, where he would no doubt make her his bride to get his hands on her fortune. Or maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he would just take advantage of her and just steal her money. For the first time she was truly scared.

Angus MacDooley was singing an old Highlander tune, and she could smell the medicinal odor of Scotch, hear the clinking of the glasses. He was drunk. How could he operate a boat when he was drunk?

The answer was, he couldn’t. She felt the vessel hit the rocks, every nerve in her body jarring with pain as the boat fell apart around her. She felt the walls she was bound to collapse, and she managed to pull free of the side of the boat, still wearing handcuffs attached to decaying boards. She still couldn’t see, but she managed to stand up and roam aimlessly, trying to find the edge of the boat and avoid drunken MacDooley. The floor was uneven and filled with splinters. She took two steps, then the wood beneath her disintegrated.

She was sinking, the water of Loch Ness frigid. Her tartan gown and metal handcuffs were weighing her down. How deep was it here? She still hadn’t hit the bottom.

Suddenly, she felt her body supported by an object that was smooth and strong.

“Cairtriona!” she thought.

“Yes, dear,” Cairtriona communicated silently. “Just hang on to my neck.”

Jamesina hugged Cairtriona’s muscular neck and tightened her thighs on her hump. She swam quickly, making a strong wind that chilled Jamesina’s dress and the sack over her head. A few minutes later, she dumped Jamesina back on the shore.

“Where am I?” she asked. She smelled the fish on Cairtriona’s breath as she bit off the top of the sack on her head.

“Urquhart Castle!” Her home. “Thanks, Cairtriona!”

“No problem.” She ducked back into the loch before anyone could see her.

Hi Taffy,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
You do a great job, Taffy, at using touch, and sound, to guide this story. It helps, in addition, to add great pace, to this story. We are taking in the situation, at exactly the same time as Jamesina – which is great! The arrival of Cairtriona, however, does feel a touch out of the blue and it would great to understand, in a bit more detail, how they manage to silently communicate with each other.

You’re not the man I fell in love with…

The irony of the homely cafe’s warmth and comforting aroma of rich coffee and sweet treats was not lost on Nico Portifino. Once a favourite place for Sunday brunch, the cafe now felt alien, loud and nauseating. Deceptively at ease in the hard wooden chair too small to accommodate his large frame, Nico was vitally aware of his estranged wife not two feet away.

Nico knew every delectable rise, curve and crevice of her lean frame. How the delicate flush that transversed her from the top of her silky, long hair to the tips of her ticklish toes would warm her skin in the throes of passion.

It had been eight weeks since Briony had blindsided him. After ten years of marriage she wanted out. And judging by the large envelope she was absently scraping with manicured nails, she hadn’t changed her beautiful mind.

There was no need to even look at that beautiful face, with its high cheekbones and classic looks, the tapping of her long fingers on the table belied her discomfort. And the absence of the familiar click of gold on wood told him her hand was no longer adorned with her engagement and wedding rings.

Briony slid an envelope across the table towards him. “I wanted to do this myself.” So crisp, so final the paper felt beneath his fingers. Nico steeled his heart against the woman he’d committed his life to.

“I’ve already signed them.”

…and I don’t know that I can love the man you are now.

Nico said nothing, refusing to acknowledge the ice spreading through his chest for what it was. The cool, soothing caress of her fingers on the back of his hand brought him back to the present. “Nico?”

The one person he had never hidden his emotions from now had to ask for that knowledge. “How are you?”

Slowly he removed his hand from hers, “Fine. But your concern is touching, querida.” His cutting delivery sat her back in her seat, the legs grating on the tiled floor.

“Please don’t be like that. You know this is just as hard for me.” Once he would have believed that gentle, sweet tone. Now he knew better and couldn’t help poking to see if her wounds were truly as raw as his own.

“I never took you for a quitter, Briony.”
Word count – 399

Hi Danielle,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
I love, Danielle, the way in which you show the depth of Nico and Briony’s relationship, through the ways in he which knows her, beyond just her appearance. He can, we feel, know Briony has arrived, just by the change in atmosphere. Great job!

Milena’s heels hit the stage floor like a mallet tapping a woodblock. Cello and bow in one hand, music folder in the other, she walked to her section and sat. She had ten minutes before the rehearsal began.
Her ears absorbed the soft cacophony of instrumentalists warming up. A harpist played a rising glissando, the pianist practiced sixteenth notes, a bassoon fingered a string of low notes.
A woodsy fragrance met her nose as a new trumpet player sat next to her.
“Blaring sound and spit,” she muttered pulling two ear plugs from her pocket. Bowing each of her strings, she listened for the slight echo informing each note was in tune.
The trumpeter played a few measures, then stopped. Milena’s ears strained to hear more of the melody his horn produced.
“We call it water,” he said in a voice as rich as string bass notes.
He blew air through his mouthpiece while he held a valve open. Drops of moisture fell from the horn onto a small floor towel.
“Ear plugs?” he asked.
“To filter out extraneous noise.” She placed the ear plugs on her stand, catching another whiff of the man’s piney scent.
The conductor lifted his baton. Silence like yards of velvet covered the hall. Anticipation filled Milena as she awaited the oncoming boulder of sound, a delicious soup of melody, countermelody, and harmony. Her back arched forward, as she longed for the sound.
Instead, the conductor lowered the baton and stepped off the podium. The musicians sighed and placed their instruments in rest position.
The trumpeter flipped to another piece of music and practiced a few bars. Milena had never heard such purity. She lidded her eyes and tilted her head back letting his melody fill her.
Eyes still closed, she failed to see conductor step back onto the podium and raise his baton.
The opening chord sounded. Milena inhaled trying to absorb all of it. How could she inject this music into her bones, blood, and sinew?
A tapping sound brought her back to the moment and she reluctantly opened her eyes.
“All the cellos this time, please,” the conductor said.
A sudden heat rose from within and scorched her skin.
The trumpeter chuckled.
The conductor raised his baton and started the piece again. This time, her cello and the trumpeter’s horn blended into a harmony she had never known.

Hi Nancy,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
I love the idea, Nancy, of Milena being a musician. Sound, we feel, is her second language; her cello is, almost, an extension of herself. You do a great job, here, of painting a picture, for the reader, without any visual descriptions!

The samba music floated across the large room to the two of them. Other couples stepped and twisted near them, the shuffle and squeaks of their shoes on the waxed hardwood floor. Luke imitated Molly’s body movements, following her even when it seemed so wrong. The man was supposed to lead.
Her musky perfume wafted from her, reminding him of the first time they’d met. She curled one hand in his, the other rested gently over his heart. Heat gathered under it, warming him in spite of the coolness of the room. He faltered, lost his timing and stumbled.
She tipped her head, peering up at his face. “Don’t look at your feet. It will mess you up. Keep your eyes on mine.”
He stared into her eyes and tried to block everything but her from his concentration. The soft skin of her back, the silky fabric of her dress helped make him aware of only her. “I don’t want to step on your toes.”
“You won’t if you relax and feel the best of the music. Let it become part of you. Let the rhythm take you to the next step. Remember what I showed you. One, two-and, three, four-and.”
He stepped closer to her, felt the sway of her hips near his, the brush of her thighs against his. The steps became more familiar, imprinting the pattern into his mind. “This is getting a bit easier.”
“You lied to me. You’ve done this before.”
“It’s a lot like the Texas two-step.”
“You said you didn’t know how to dance.”
“Only the two-step. I didn’t want you to have high expectations, be disappointed.”
She laughed, the sound melodious, contrasting with the faster tempo of the music. “I wouldn’t be disappointed. You’re getting the hang of it. Do you want to take over now?”
“You mean lead? That would seem more natural.”
He took the next step to the side, leading her away from the other dancers. The music began to fade, the steps of the other dancers quieter now. He spun her away from him, then drew her back, pulling her in closer so that they touched. His mouth claimed hers, tasted the strawberry lemonade she drank earlier.
“You’re improvising now.” She smiled. “That’s something most of my usual partners don’t do until the third or fourth lesson.”
“I’m not your usual partner.”

Hi Maurine,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
Dance is, Maurine, a wonderful way, to explore the senses! I could almost hear the Samba music, as I was reading. Luke and Molly, however, do keep their eyes on each other, and it would be great, instead, if you could focus on how the feel, of each other, guides them, rather than their eye contact.

Sorry to be late getting back with my thanks to you, Hannah. For some odd reason my browser wouldn’t let me on this site. I’ll keep your suggestion in mind when I edit this scene. Thanks again.

Heidi left the warmth of the sunshine to enter the shadows in the barn. The drop in temperature refreshed her as the sweet scent of hay wafted around her and the grainy dust sifted into her mouth. The scraping and shuffling told her someone worked nearby. Turning in the direction of the noise, a new aroma assaulted her.

“Heidi. It is good to see you this morning.” As Jared spoke, she listened to determine where he stood.

“Father did not tell me you were here.”

Heidi didn’t move. She sensed Jared moving closer to her, but didn’t fear his presence. She had wished every night for him to ask her to marry him, but no proposal had ever come.

A gentle hand lighted on her arm. Never before had any man been this close to her. She reached up her fingers, guessing where his face would be from the warmth of his breath, but pulled them back in a quick motion.

“May I touch your face?” Her voice shook as she spoke the words.

A soft laugh filled the space between them, putting her at ease. “Of course. I will be as still as I can.”

Reaching her fingers up once more, she inhaled the earthy scent surrounding him. As she tapped her finger against his face, he pulled back.
“My eye!”

She recoiled her fingers once more, only to have him snatch them in his hand and pull her nearer.
“Let me help you, Heidi.”

Trusting him to guide her, he released her fingers once they rested on his face. Gliding them in a slow outward motion, she ran her fingertips across the textured lines of his cheeks and up to the edges of feathery eyelashes. Swooping back down once more, she traced the crook of his nose, then followed along the curve of his lips. His warm breath moved closer. Jerking back in surprise, the screeching of a cat told her she had stepped on poor old Tom’s paw. The cackling and flapping of the geese added to the uproar.

“What have I done?” she lamented.

Stepping backwards, she lost her balance and a hand caught her before she tumbled to the ground. “You got turned around.”

“I know this barn too well to get turned around.” Except when Jared lingered nearby.

“I only wanted to kiss you,” he whispered.

Hi Wendy,
Thank you so much for taking part in our writing challenge, this week!
You do a great job, Wendy, at using sound, to guide this story. You build, through the idea of physical closeness, and how that is felt, a wonderful emotional intensity. It would be great, next, if you could you use sound, to dig that bit deeper, into Heidi and Jared’s relationship, before we meet them.

Tara pounded her fist against the door in the pitch black closet. “What is this, Angela, middle school? Let me out of here!”
“Nope!” Her best friend’s voice was annoyingly cheerful. “You have to stay in there until you make up. Later!”
The laughter and voices faded away.
She banged her fist one more time against the solid door. Pain shot from her pinky to her wrist.
She jumped when a low, deep voice rumbled through the darkness.
“That’s impossible. Us making up.”
In her panic over getting locked in the closet, she’d almost forgotten the reason for her panic. Adam Layton. The arrogant jerk who’d made her adolescence miserable.
His voice came closer. “We can’t make up because you never liked me in the first place.”
She backed up against a plush, fuzzy coat and snorted. “Seemed like the feeling was mutual.”
“You’re right. I never liked you either.”
She bristled, even though she knew it was true.
“I was head over heels in love with you.”
She scoffed and inhaled the scent of cedar and Adam’s woodsy cologne. “You made fun of me every chance you got.”
“I was sixteen. I wanted to kiss you so badly that every time I saw you, I turned stupid.”
“You weren’t stupid, you were hateful.”
His voice grew closer still. “There’s a thin line between love and hate.”
“Wanting to kiss someone is lust, not love.”
“Okay,” he said, calmly.
“It’s true. Kissing someone doesn’t mean love.”
“If you say so.”
The urge to wipe the smug tone from his voice overwhelmed her.
“I know so.” She reached out, gripped his shirt in her fist, yanked him to her, and shut his arrogant mouth with hers.
His surprised gasp warmed her skin, but he recovered quickly and threw himself into the kiss. His strong, warm hands skimmed her ribs, and pulled her closer.
The taste of mint and man sent fire rushing through her veins.
One of them moaned.
Tara gathered her scattered senses and broke the kiss.
Heart pounding, she swiped her palm over her face, trying to erase the taste of his lips from hers. What. Just. Happened?
His voice was ragged in the darkness. “I think we crossed that line.”
She laughed and heard the hysteria in her own voice. Crossed it? They’d covered the line in gunpowder and lit it on fire.
And she was still burning.

Having the premise be seven minutes in heaven (if we want to call it that) effectively eliminates any need for visual details and also promises something tantalizing.

Honestly, overall this is exactly what I was looking for when I put this challenge together. I will also say I found your dialogue really excellent. It’s difficult to create a compelling dynamic between two characters given the word count limit, but you really did it-

She didn’t know that he had moved until she felt his breath on her neck. She couldn’t help but wonder if he was going to bite her. She spun around and found herself face to face with him. “What are you?”

He reached out gently stroking the side of her face. “You know what I am Katrina.” As he smiled at her his fangs slipped from their sheaths revealing himself to her.

She took a step back. “But how’s that possible? I got to be dreaming. This can’t be real.”

“This isn’t real?” He took a step towards her as he wrapped his arm around her waist drawing her closer to his body. “You know this is real! Katrina you can feel this as much as I can.”

She took a deep breath of air, holding it as she watched him closely.

He laughed. “Settle down a little. I will not hurt you. And breathing would be nice considering you can’t live without air. after all you are a mortal.”

She smiled at him. “Is that such a bad thing Edwin?”

“No, but I sense something else about you to.” He stated watching her more closely. “You’re a witch!” He hissed at her as he started pacing the floor.

She laughed. “A witch? You mean to tell me that an all powerful vampire is scared of a witch?”

“Not just a witch. A natural born witch and there’s something else about you that I can’t put my finger on.” He stated as he stopped pacing and watched her.

She smiled as she stepped over to him. “Edwin, is it such a bad thing that I’m a witch? Do you think that makes me a bad person?”

“Not a bad person. But what you are is not a good thing for my kind.” He said pulling her into his embrace.

She couldn’t help but laugh at him. “A witch is bad for you?”

“Not a witch. The other part of you. I just realized that you’re also a natural born vampire hunter.” He smiled as he held her tight.

“Oh.” She laughed even harder now. “So now I am a natural born witch and a vampire hunter. I wish somebody would’ve let me in on this secret.”

“It’s no secret. Though I find it hard to believe that nobody ever told you this.” He stated as he stole a kiss from her.

Although I found it very refreshing to read a paranormal submission, I’m afraid this didn’t strike me as the most effective answer to the prompt given.

It’s hard not to draw comparisons between this scene and Stephenie Meyers’ series, and on that note I would call attention to a detail she did particularly well, which is the temperature difference between Edward and Jacob’s bodies. Since your Edwin is a vampire is his skin cold to the touch? Is it as hard and unyielding as marble? We hear him implying that vampires don’t need to breathe, but we could just as easily have Katrina placing a hand on his chest and not feeling it rising and falling. Overall I needed a lot more detail, as right now I have trouble determining exactly where this scene takes place.

“The beach?” It was two a.m. on New Year’s Day. This was not where she’d expected Jock to take her.
He opened her car door and the scent of the Pacific Ocean washed away the cloying perfume of the party-goers.
“You rejected me all evening. It’s not good for a man’s ego you know.”
Caitlin laughed. “I was working. Doing a job you employed me to do, if you’ll remember.”
“Pfft. Details.”
Adrenalin was still swimming through her bloodstream from pulling off the party-of-the-year.
She was going to crash hard tomorrow, but for now she was riding the wave.
The beach was empty. New Year’s Eve revellers must be continuing the celebrations along the harbour foreshore and in the city, leaving Bondi in peace.
The night enshrouded them like a midnight gossamer wrap and Caitlin hitched up the skirt of her beaded gown as she followed Jock’s faint citrus scent to the water’s edge.
The yielding sand enveloped her feet in a cold embrace with every step, provided a soothing balm.
The ocean drew them forward. The waves pounding on the sand mimicked the thumping of her heart against her ribs. Don’t fall for Jock. Don’t fall for Jock. The mantra had failed over the last month but she was stubbornly sticking with it. His easy whistling of Auld Lang Syne mocking her determination.
When his bold fingers entwined with hers and he caressed the back of her hand with his thumb, she was lost.
Gone was the gentlemanly polite hand at her elbow as he’d teetered on the line between manners and caress during their meetings. This clasp was a blatant declaration.
“It’s been killing me.” Jock’s lilting voice filled the space between them.
“What has?”
“Not being able to kiss you.”
The rumble of the ocean underscored the maelstrom of thoughts rolling in her mind.
“So Caitlin…”
God, how she loved the way he said her name.
“Can I kiss you?”
Her heart leapt to her throat and blocked off her air supply. She turned her flaming cheeks to the cooling breeze coming off the water and inhaled the strong briny scent in an attempt to calm the churning waters of her mind. She wanted this. She wanted it more than anything.
He stepped in front of her, blocked the assault from the Pacific Ocean, and with a chuckle placed his lips on hers.

Wow, really incredible work. I absolutely loved the details used here that made me experience the beach setting without ever having to read about what it looked like. The cold wet sand underneath their feet absolutely took me there.

My one bit of advice would be to watch for sentences that start to border on unwieldy. Near the end one has “flaming cheeks”, “cooling breeze”, “briny scent”, and “churning waters.” It starts to become too much for just one line. That said, really phenomenal submission that absolutely captures the heart of the prompt.

Hi Evan,
Thanks for organising another great challenge.
Your feedback made my day!
Thank you, too, for your advice – I’ll take it on board.
– Marianne

The warm sun through the window heated the weathered wooden chair. Unconsciously, Kara ran her hands over the surface as she nervously took a deep breath. Why was she so nervous? She knew why, but it was hard to process. She had decided, or maybe it was more her heart that had decided, after the accident, that “Love” was off the table. Kara tried to be strong, but losing Adam, her fiance’, was a heartbreak that she was not sure she could endure again with someone else. So, her solution had been to refrain from any dating. But, “Love” finds a way.
She could feel the steady lub-dub of her heart echoing throughout her body as she sat waiting. The longer she waited the quicker her pulse rate climbed. The little bakery had always been one of her favorite spots. She would sit with a cup of tea and some of Lilly’s sweet creations and watch the sun rise before she started her day of writing. She chose a calming chamomile, no extra caffeine, needed today. Holding the warm mug of tea, Kara tried to decide what decadent concoction of Lilly’s she would have, a chocolate chip cookie? A blueberry muffin? Just then, the bell above the door chimed its news of a customer. Before Kara turned, she knew it was Abraham. His cologne, with its woodsy undertones greeted her senses, instantly she felt his presence. But, not in a scary way, it was protective and safe.
Abraham had been one of the biggest surprises of her life. After her devastating heartbreak, she had unconsciously decided to give up. The pain had crept into every bone of her body and every inch of her life. Some nights she would just cry till she didn’t even make a sound or have any tears left. It had become impossible to do even the simplest things, nothing brought her any joy. Until, one day while sitting at Lilly’s, a customer came in and when he smiled at her it was literally like the old cliché’ of “time stood still”. His eyes were the brightest blue she had ever seen, you could see the sky through them. But it was more than his handsome good looks, it was as if she had known him her whole life. Deep inside a voice was saying “this is the one”.

Hi, Sue, I really liked this setup here where Kara is waiting for Abraham, and knowing it’s him just by the scent of his cologne. Personally, given the prompt, I do wish you hadn’t ended your submission talking about his eyes and good looks, as it undercuts much of what came before it.

The bakery is a fantastic setting, but I also wanted you to really bring us into it. You talk about her watching the sunrise but now how it might feel on her skin, and a number of baked goods but not how their aroma fills the space. You included some really great details here, but could’ve done a bit more in really making readers feel like they’re in your setting.

Quickly, Caryn blindfolded him not too tight. Caryn giggled. “So how many fingers am I holding up?”
“None, since I’m blindfolded.” Jack quipped.
“Oh, good answer, are you ready for the random mystery treat I’m about to serve you?” Caryn said as she threw open the fridge wide.
“Better not be any mystery meat that has been hiding in there for three weeks.”
“Have a little faith there Jack! Everything is good and fresh!” And off went Caryn to retrieve a bunch of grapes. She pulled a chair right in front of Jack so she had the pleasure of seeing him moved his sensual lips as would he chew on the grapes. She instantly loved the sensation of the feathery touch as her fingers glided along his bottom lip. “Open wide, something tasty is coming your way!”
His lip curled into grin. “Ah, grapes!”
Caryn snorted. “Like I was going to feed you liver.”
“Better not, or I’ll spank you!”
“Ha!” Then Caryn grab and broke a piece of chocolate and feed it to him.
He smacked and licked his lips savoring the tasty treat. “Chocolate.”
Caryn started to giggle as she grabs the next item.
Jack could hear the racket of something being opened and he had to admit he enjoyed this unexpectedly playful side of Caryn. He felt the coldness and the hardness of the metal that was pressed again his lips. He took a spoonful of the gooey substance and his lips puckered like he was sucking on a three-day old lemon. “Woman, what was that nasty stuff?”
She chortled. “Greek Yogurt.”
He swallowed hard. “Please take that off the menu!”
As liquid courage fortified her boldness, Caryn wanted nothing more than to feel her lips on his full lips, Caryn temporarily lost her mind. Decided in that moment she was going to kiss him. She grabbed her purse, and took out some breath spray and spritzed it into her mouth.

Curiosity got the better of Jack when he heard the strange sound. “What are you doing Caryn?”
She jested. “Just flavoring the next tasty morsel!”
Before he could say a word, suddenly Caryn’s lips covered his. Her taste was so sweet but her desire was undeniable.

I must say, Theresa, having one of your characters be literally blindfolded is a brilliantly obvious setup that hadn’t occurred to me! I also love Caryn “flavoring the next tasty morsel”; what a fantastic line.

I would recommend a quick readthrough before submitting just to catch a few stray typos and grammatical errors here and there. Also, given the wonderful premise, I wonder if we couldn’t have experienced more of this scene from Jack’s perspective. In particular what Caryn’s laughter sounds like to him when he can’t see her.

All that said, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read. Great job!

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