Two Sides of the Same Coin

Here is my entry for the Prestigious Writing Competetion 2015. It got the position of 1sr Runner-up. Please leave constructive criticism. God knows I can improve.


 

Nina felt desperation grip her. The beginning scene was supposed to be something unforgettable, something that anchored you to the story. Why did she have gaping holes in her memory of that near-perfect epic she had cooked up?

This would not do at all.

She sat up from bed, hands in her hair, and tried to remember it. By staring at the sheered rectangles of light on the wall in front of her, by closing her eyes and straining. Just one frame. One moment in the entire scene. One small thing her protagonist said. Anything!

Keeping her eyes closed made her drowsy, however. So, she opened them again. Her eyes darted from one corner of the dark room to another, as if the walls could tell her what she was missing. They fell on the outline of a phoenix. Its golden wings glowed in the soft silver light coming in from the windows. And that was when she remembered.

The last frame. The last moment that left the reader hanging on to the story for dear life. It was a tiny thing, but it was still something.

She kept her eyes on the phoenix, because she knew she would forget as soon as she moved her eyes. Whatever she planned tonight would have to be done with her eyes on the phoenix, and then carefully stored away.

“You’ll forget it,” her sister said softly from behind her. The comment made her jump and turn in one swift motion.

“I thought you were asleep!” Nina hissed in reply trying to calm her racing heart.

“How could I do that with you tossing in turning so frequently right next to me? At any rate, you’ll forget it again if you don’t do anything about it.”

Nina gulped at the truth behind those words. Already the frame was becoming hazy. She turned and pinpointed the phoenix once more. The last time she’d thought of some scenes for her epic was almost a month ago.

“You know, sis,” said the younger girl behind her in the same soft, half-sleepy voice.  “These things that you think about, they’re like dreams. The longer you wait the more you forget.”

“So?” replied the older girl defiantly.

“Which is why some people, such as myself, keep dream journals.”

“These have nothing to do with dreams.”

“All the more reason to do something. Write it down somewhere. Take notes. You’re planning, right? If you have it all in front of you you’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t.”

Nina rolled her eyes. As expected of Lina, who was a published author despite being younger than her. Spewing writing advice like it was some sort of universal truth. Somewhere in her mind, though, she knew that it probably would help.

“Go ahead,” Lina said, her voice muffled by the covers and her pillow. “Write it. I promise I won’t touch the table till you say it’s okay.” Nina turned slightly to gaze at her in suspicion. Lina poked a pair of crossed fingers out of the covers. “Bet it’ll be something really awesome.”

***

Lina stood over Nina’s shoulder, careful to not cast a shadow or make a sound, so as to not set Nina’s presence alarm on. She watched as her older sister battled with the suffocating mass of mush that accumulates when you begin something and leave it lying for a long time. Nina wrote a few lines, paused, and crossed them out. Wrote a few more, crossed them out as well. She continued to do this to the point that the paper looked battered enough to crumble into pieces on its own. She then ripped the page out, crumpled it into a ball and left in front of her, on the table with a bunch of other balls of paper.

Instinctively, Lina picked up the crumpled pages and threw them in the waste bin. Nina jumped visibly. “Keep your station clean, sis. That way you’re not discouraged by the number of times you mess up.”

“For how long have you been watching me?”

“Doesn’t really matter. What matters is that you’re forgetting things again. When was the last time you wrote?”

“What does that have to do with this?” Nina said rather angrily.

“It has everything to do with this,” Lina replied with an air of command she’d never used with her sister before. “When you begin a writing project, you cannot afford to forget the feel of any of the scenes. Before you start writing, when you’re planning, it’s fine to tamper around, but in both cases you need a routine-“

Nina shot up from the desk, shutting the notebook she was writing on, or rather, trying to write on, with a slam. “Stop acting like a know-it-all, pipsqueak.”

Lina put both hands on her sister’s shoulders, immediately sensing the underlying tension there. “Sis, trust me. I’ve been through this. There are some things you have to train yourself to do in order to bring out the best. Writing is one of them.”

Nina sighed. She sat back down, reopened her notebook and began to reread the things she wrote over a month ago. Lina went back to watching from the shadows.

***

Nina watched intently, with anticipation and impatience growing inside her simultaneously. In front of her, Lina was deeply engrossed in a part of Nina’s first novel’s manuscript.  She flipped the last page and groaned in dismay.

“How can you leave me hanging like this?! There has to be more! There just has to be!” Lina exclaimed, almost flinging the manuscript out the window in a dangerous motion.

“Whoa! That’s the only copy of that!” Nina yelped, immobilizing Lina mid-motion. Lina lowered it slowly. “And, yes. There is more. But first, tell me what you think so far,” Nina said expectantly.

Lina beamed in reply. “I knew it’d be super awesome,” she said in a proud tone. “Now, give me the rest.”

Nina smiled as well, and retrieved the remaining portion of the manuscript from the desk; a pile at least ten times as thick as the portion Lina had just finished reading. She dropped the pile into Lina’s waiting arms.

She used to think doing the same thing everyday took away the fun to it, that it ruined the creativity, that routine and creativity were polar opposites. How incredibly wrong she was. They were just two sides of the same coin. It was as simple as that. But the world would not see that unless they saw it, felt it with their own conscience.

She smiled to herself. She had the perfect idea for her next novel.

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