Creative Writing novel excerpts

The following are excerpts from various National Novel Writing Month projects by Creative Writing students.

Which of the following Creative Writing excerpts is your favorite?

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The bright sun shined through the thin curtains of the unfamiliar room as I woke up, worsening the migraine I already had. I couldn’t remember the amount of drinks I had the night before even if I tried, or how many girls I kissed. With squinted eyes, I look to my right to see a bedside table with a bottle and pills covering it along with two half-filled cups of water with lipstick stains covering the rims. I picked the bottle up and examined it, reading Advil on the label. I throw two in my mouth and finished one of the glasses of water. I then look to my left and see a sleeping body covered by nothing but the thin sheet. I mentally groan and rub my face with the balls of my hands, wanting nothing more than to get out of there. I kick the blanket off my own body, and slowly turn to plant my feet on the floor. I gently stand, careful not to wake the girl whose name I didn’t even know. Hell, I couldn’t even remember what she looked like with her hair covering her face. I walk and wince when my foot comes in contact with something sharp. I look down to see an earring stuck to the bottom on my foot. I quickly take it out and place it on the bedside table before looking for my clothes. I first find my T-shirt, followed by my underwear and put those on before searching for the bathroom. I quickly splashed my face with cold water, already feeling the need for a smoke and some coffee. I rummage through the girls belongings until I stumble upon some mouthwash, then I gargle that down before exiting the bathroom. I put on my pants, shoes, and jacket just as the girl starts to wake up. I look at her as she yawns, hoping she would stay asleep so I wouldn’t have to explain why I didn’t want to stay—I never did. If there was one thing I hated about these kinds of mornings, it was explaining to the girl you just slept with that you weren’t interested in anything serious and that you basically never wanted anything to do with them ever again. Some handled it well, and others not so well. I’ve come across some broken hearts before, only to make it worse. There was one thing I hated more than broken hearts, and that was the fact that these mornings happened frequently.

“Hey,” the girl croaked as she rolled over onto her back and shoved the hair off her face revealing a smile. Her brows furrowed as she examined me, and I knew what was coming. “You’re leaving?” She asked disappointed as she sat up, supporting herself on her elbows.

“Yeah, I think it’d be best if I did,” I answered as casually as I could, but tried not to sound too heartless. She just sat there and stared at me with sad eyes. No matter how many times I’ve seen girls cry, I still never got over it. “You know, I just don’t think something good can come out of sleeping with someone whose name you don’t even know.”

“Your names Jack,” she said simply. Dammit, I thought to myself. “You told me last night before you bought me a drink.”

“I did, didn’t I?” I said realizing that I do that every time, which I was starting to think was a bad idea. “You never told me your name.” I wasn’t sure if she actually did ever tell me her name, but I was hoping that if I accused her of not, then maybe she would believe me.

“If I did, would that change anything?” She asked, though it was obvious in her voice that she knew that answer. I shook my head and looked down, avoiding eye contact. “Well,” she said with a sigh. “It was nice knowing you Jack. You can leave now; they always do.” I wanted to apologize, but that always led to me staying and comforting them; and holding a crying girl in your arms made it harder to leave than before. So I just left. Without saying another word to that girl, I was out of her apartment, and out of her life.

—Myranda Latino

I leaned casually to my left, discretely releasing a fart in my booth of the fast-food restaurant. That was me, a total lady. I counted what was left of my money. Just a couple of dollars. I either had to find some odd jobs soon, or start begging again, and the last thing I wanted to do was attract attention. You would think the police would focus on the gangs that were more powerful here than anywhere else in the country. But the sad fact was, Milincar city police weren’t equipped to deal with some of these guys. Our city’s SWAT team was swamped, trying to keep it all under control. So they did what they could to bring down crime, which, I guess, included chasing underage beggars through backways.

I had been living on the streets for a couple months now. Most of summer. In January, my mom had died, and I had gone into foster care. It’s not like we got along. I didn’t miss her. Not really. Having a room, and a computer to waste my time on, yeah. But not my mom. I didn’t need people, I was hard. Tough. Cold-hearted. Nothing could phase me.

I was definitely what you call the athletic type. Some say the stubborn type, too, but I prefer “determined”. I had taken Karate and gymnastics when I was three, started kickboxing at seven, and traded Karate out at ten for a mixed martial arts class that was actually decent, not based on tv. In middle school I stopped the gymnastics and started track on top of everything else, and was considering wrestling, too. But frankly, it had too many rules for my taste. I still practice everything, the Karate and gymnastics, and I am definitely running a lot– and mix it in to what I already know. There’s something really satisfying about hitting stuff. I may be just a girl, but I knew how to use every bit of my 5’5” of lean muscle to my advantage.

I also really liked to do what I want. Authority and I do not mix. If I’m not in charge, I’m not there. So, as you can imagine, foster care didn’t work well for me. Neither did ‘the system’. Those places feel like a prison, shared rooms of metal cots and adults dictating your every move. So I left. Since then I had been roaming the deeper parts of the city, where stories are all in the double-digits and there’s a maze of alleys on each block. There were a few places that did handouts, but ever since that time I pretended to be possessed by Satan, they haven’t exactly been fond of me. Did you know those places were all connected, and shared records? I didn’t.
And they always assume that any girl on the streets is either a heartbroken, sobbing mess, or a drug addict selling themselves for a fix. Not to mention I’m sixteen, and have to pretend to be eighteen, so guess what? I’m the baby-faced prostitute with a sick sense of humor to those people, just ‘cause I don’t get all weepy. Okay, and for a couple of other reasons. But still. I mean, they always want to talk about my feelings and my definite troubled past. It all kind of makes me sick to my stomach.

All that ranting babble means that I have to make my own money now, either by finding odd jobs, which aren’t illegal and degrading, or beg, which is most definitely degrading. And it was harrrrrd. I didn’t mind sleeping in a nook in some back alleyway, or having to hold my own against a couple of thugs that for some reason, think a homeless chick even has money to steal. All part of the adventure of growing up. But when you have to stand at the end of a coffee drive-thru Sunday morning, selling copies of the paper that you snatched from the box, and then get spit on by some snobbish jerkwad? That’s when I want to hit something. Not to mention the lack of movement made me batty.

I scooped up my money and threw some trash away, feeling proud of my relative accomplishments. I turned left, and whaddya know, there’s a mugging right there. Other people walked past across the street, pretending they couldn’t see and probably just glad it wasn’t them. Unbelievable.

“Hey! Move it!” I yelled.

The mugger paused long enough to laugh at me. “What are you gonna do, call the cops?”

“PFFT! Haha no, that would be ridiculous,” I said. “What could they do? No, I’m gonna beat the shit out of you. Give the lady back her purse and go be stereotypical elsewhere.”

“Don’t think so, chick.” He swung his knife at me.

I ducked to the left and lunged, giving him an uppercut to the chin. He slammed into the wall, where the woman he had been mugging started frantically beating him on the head with a textbook. I grabbed his shoulders and slammed a knee into his gut, making all the nasty air in his lungs come rushing out at once. He crumpled, making a sound like a balloon deflating, and I picked up some textbooks that the woman had dropped.

“You alright?”

“Ah! Yes!” she answered, teetering with her load of books. She was bookish kind of pretty, like a young librarian. She had soft features, a small nose, light brown eyes and thin, straight dark brown hair pulled back into a loose ponytail. She wore thin-rimmed glasses, a sweater, and a knee-length skirt. She was young-ish, but not young enough to be an average college student, I didn’t think.

“Lot of textbooks,” I said obviously.

“I’m a new professor at the university,” she told me. “I was just bringing some books home. My car broke down and I thought I could make it in one trip, heh heh.”

“I’ll help,” I said. “If you’re walking, it’s not far, right?”

“No, my apartment’s right up here. Thank you.”

“No problem.”

“I’m Jenna Sierra.”

“Nikki,” I replied, opting-out of last name sharing.

“Nikki…” there was a concerned look on her face. “Do you… have a place to stay?”

I blanched. Okay, living on the streets was not the most hygienic of lifestyles. I didn’t think it was that bad, though. Could she tell just from looking at me? I self consciously scratched a bit of old dried blood off of my face.

“Oh, yeah, y’know… here and there. All over, really.”

“Would you like to stay a night or two at my place? This is my apartment, here.”

“I dunno…” As much as I’d like to have a place to sleep that didn’t involve cardboard and a chance to clean up, I didn’t like getting involved with people. She was the first person I had met since coming here that hadn’t tried to bite my head off the second I said “hi”.

Milincar didn’t have pretty apartments like some areas in New York or San Francisco, with the steps and the rails and little rims around the windows. This was the middle of the city, but almost all the structures were cheap plaster and cheaper, peeling paint and completely flat, ridgeless faces. Occasionally you saw some brick, and the really old areas had wood, which was later covered in stucco. This particular wall seemed just marginally better than the others, somehow… it seemed to have a touch of blue in the gray paint that actually wasn’t peeling much at all, as opposed to most others, which had gray or tan with a dash of despair, sometimes carrying an eu de feral cat piss.

I lugged my heavy stack of books up the stairs, because hey, this is Milincar! Who needs things like elevators, air conditioning, or stairwells that don’t smell like a waste disposal service! We’re too hardcore for pansy things like that. Jenna Sierra nudged open the door with her hip, arms full of folders. I don’t know how she got ten feet carrying all of this. I stepped inside and dropped my load directly on the carpet. If she wanted it elsewhere, I’d move them one by one. Teacher’s copies were even bigger than the student ones.

And then I looked around. I didn’t think places like this existed in Milincar.

You may have thought I was exaggerating before, about how bad this city is. If anything, though, I was basking it in a lighter glow. This place is living, grimy hell. Think Gotham. Now think New York sewers. Now think the underwear of a dead Los Angeles gangster that’s been hidden in the floorboards for a week. And shit himself when he died. And his last meal was beans. From that, you’ve got a pretty good picture of what it feels like to live in Milincar city, and almost everyone you meet is going to try to screw you over.

Jenna’s apartment wasn’t like that at all. The first thing I saw was pink. Normally I can’t stand pink. But this was a dusty, warm, light shade. It was nice. And it was all over the living room walls. The carpet was medium length and not matted with pet barf or somebody’s blood. It was a consistent hazelnut color. Jenna took her shoes off and walked to the kitchen.

“Would you like something to drink? Oh… I only have water. I could swear there was some juice left…” She drank juice. Not coke and vodka and applesauce in a blender.

“Sure,” I said absently. “Water’s good.”

There was a small couch and matching chair. They had a cream background with a rosy floral print all over. Buds and blossoms and leaves decorated a spot where one put their ass. And there were coasters. The kinds you can put pictures in, and in each one was a different plant. Landscape paintings were hung on the walls, and complimented the dusty rose shade of the walls.

I could see part of the kitchen from here, through the doorway. It was teensy, and there were some herbs growing at the single window. There was a plaid, green and cream kitchen towel hanging from the refrigerator handle. The kitchen was probably the only shade of yellow in the world that wasn’t obnoxious. I could not believe it. This place, it was… cozy. I set the water she gave me down without drinking any, and took a step back towards the door. Was she a serial killer? Nobody’s home was this clean and homey, even outside of Milincar. She probably used poisons, what with this obvious love of gardening. You know what they say: “If something seems too good to be true, it will most likely kill you.”

“The bathroom’s over here, and I can wash your clothes,” she offered kindly.

Oh, oh god. A hot shower? A real, live, hot shower? I obediently gave her my one spare change of clothes I carried in my backpack, and marched towards the bathroom. This was completely worth a horrific death.

She went to bed at nine, and I laid on her fluffy floral couch, trying to sleep. I’d usually still be roaming this time of night, wandering and looking for a good, hidden place. Eventually I’d curl up around three in the morning, with the waning sirens as my lullaby, and sleep late into the day. I turned on the fluffy couch. Silly, that I slept better on cracked cement under a pile of cardboard than on a couch in an actual building. You’d be surprised how much cardboard is thrown away. I could build myself a fort out of it. I wouldn’t, of course, because that would be childish. At least, I wouldn’t when anyone was looking.

With a sigh of exasperation, I rolled off of the couch and quietly wound my way past the oval coffee table. I needed a walk. More familiar surroundings might help me sleep. It was hard to chill with Morpheus before I had a good rush of life-threatening adrenaline. I slipped out into the hall, and down the stairs. A preteen boy jogged up the steps past me, giving me a nod as he went about his business. His business being selling drugs. That’s right, we were in Red Ice territory now. They ran drugs like a newspaper delivery. Instead of you coming to the dealer, regulars would pay ahead and get it delivered to them regularly. It made it harder to catch them, because there’s no specific place they work out of. Also, they use kids, who won’t get as harsh a sentence and are easier to manipulate. There were some pretty serious juvie gangs in Milincar detention centres. At least the kids aren’t allowed to take. You know, like a dealer will never do his own product. Silver linings and all.

Our organized crime system was kind of unique, here. These people had it down to a science. Sure, we’re all familiar with the elements, but the criminals of Milincar worked it all seamlessly together.

On the bottom of the rung were the kids and crazy hobos. If they weren’t too crazy, they’d be put in the industrial area making coke in exchange for stable food, sometimes a fix, and protection. Kids were scouts, of course, and had a future in the next rung, as well as running the delivery service. And just like other places, there’s women in their undergarments that weigh the coke, and lots of other drug stuff.

On the second rung were the actual gangsters. Gangs were big and serious. Newbies would go around taking protection money. Then you’d oversee the making of product. The ones that were better at all this would pull special missions, robbing places, getting weapons. And then the top were in charge of various sub-groups, and dealt with the sponsors.

A “sponsor” was at the very top. This was someone in business usually, with a sparkly clean record. They handled all the high-tier business aspects. These were the guys in charge of doling out bribes and analyzing sales patterns, of making sure the most incompetent person possible would be elected mayor. They had lawyers that they paid a steady sum to work for their group and not any other, prison guards that would bring in special items, and kept track of all the dirty cops.

A dozen or so different gangs would make an alliance under one sponsor. The big ones here, all named by the ever-competent media, were the Mutts (blue), Red Ice (red), and Seven Blades (green). The head of each smaller gang formed a sort of council that communicated directly to both the sponsors and the people in their gang, connecting the levels. Sponsors would discuss the council’s interests, and then use that information to make deals with the sponsors of other alliances. That meant there were no gang wars. Which meant the gangsters weren’t thinning themselves out and making it easier for the cops. And if they can all work towards a common goal when it suits them…

That’s why sponsors changed the whole game. In other cities, gangs can be too busy fighting each other to bother with fighting the police. Crime is far more business than it had ever been before. There was a massive cooperation between Milincar’s criminals, and the gangs that merged under sponsors a decade or so ago were now so big and squeezing out anyone smaller, we were facing the possibility of a criminal empire monopoly. That was all kinds of wrong. I hated that game. More of a Yahtzee person, myself.

Walking towards me down the street were two men, proudly wearing bright blue t-shirts with the logo of their smaller gang drawn on in black. They were in the Mutts alliance. Great. Mutts were the strongest and most brutal, overall. I tried to shuffle past, keeping my head down. They ignored me, and kept walking. But then a drunk man stumbled out of a bar, and that caught their eye. Grinning like sharks, they made a beeline for him. I walked silently behind them, from the other side of the street. The man hurried into his car and locked the windows, as if that would help. One of the two pulled a gun, and used it to tap on the glass.

Tink tink tink.

Not even thinking about how incredibly stupid I was, I jumped onto the hood of the car and then onto the arm holding the gun. I landed on my knees, smoothing the motion with a somersault. Then I grabbed the gun with a sleeve-clad hand, and chucked it as hard as I could, before I was tackled from behind. I rolled on my side, jabbing an elbow into his gut. The other jumped at me, and I kicked him with both feet while still on the ground. Then I jackknifed, and the one lying on the road grabbed my arm, trying to pull me back towards the ground. I threw a punch at his face, then scrambled backwards as the second one came for me.

This wasn’t the movies. They didn’t stop to size me up, put their fists up, and there was no time for witty comments. I didn’t even have time to catch my breath, try to balance, or get in a proper stance. I just dove at them as they lunged towards me, not even thinking, just acting. I got a good shot at one’s gut, but the other grabbed me as the first doubled over. He held me as that one pounded my face, until I shoved myself backward, forcing the one holding me to lean back to stay balanced, and me to be able to kick the first in the balls. The force of that knocked over the one holding me, and I struggled to get him in a hold, pounding him in the face repeatedly. I moved just in time as the one I had kicked in the balls recovered. Feeling a new burst of energy and determination, I took my stance. Fists up. Feet apart. Aim for the weak spots and- whoosh! His punch went right past my head. Dodge. Dodge, dodge, dodge. I avoided his hits, and then landed a few of my own. Nose-gut-eye-dodge-uppercut, all in fast succession. Finally I hit him hard enough that he paused for half a second, recovering. That was enough. I jumped onto his back, hooking an arm around his neck, and choked him from behind until he went unconscious.

I sat on the ground, breathing heavily. What had I just done? I scanned the area. No cameras. The man had fled sometime during the fight, leaving his car behind. Well, that was a waste of my effort, then. I picked myself up and headed back to Jenna’s. Ow! Nope, I didn’t head back to Jenna’s. I sat with my back against the car and moaned and tried to catch my breath, my stomach hurting really, really, badly. I needed to get away before they came to. Alright, I could do this. I gritted my teeth, got up, and started jogging.

To keep my mind off of the screaming pain in my gut and face, but mostly my face, I analyzed my fight. It was something I always did after a fight in my classes, and the habit certainly hadn’t gone away. My reaction speed was slow. My punches were weak. I had managed to take down opponents who outnumbered as well as outweighed me, and they had had a firearm. But there was room for improvement. Let’s see, I should follow that with a snap kick to the chin… after a few minutes of working out new combos, the severity of what I had done finally kicked in. Not the “having a huge criminal empire as an enemy” part, ‘cause who cared about that, but I had fought two fit, bigger-than-me men, and won. And it was kind of fun, other than aching a bit. But so worth it. A girl could get used to this…

Just Super! by Heather Hanisco

The dead refuse to slumber. The world no longer belongs to the living. A pedophile, a rapist, a crossdresser, a pastor and his family, Satanists, a hippie, an anarchist, a gay man, polyamorous lesbians, a pothead, a sociophobe, a Nazi, an interracial family, a Muslim, an atheist, and a Klansman attempt to slum it together during the apocalypse. Time sows discontent like nothing else, as frustration and conflicting interests and opinions bite deeper than the dead do. Can mankind survive itself? Does humanity have a chance when the living take more than the dead?

“What the f***?”

Ronan hid behind a tree at the edge of camp, watching the zombies tear the place apart. Birch was there with a smoking gun. Jäger was cradling a dead Deuce in his arms. Jäger pushed his knife between his brother’s eyes.

“You’re only going to die once,” Jäger sobbed. No one had ever seen him cry before.

Ronan turned his back and rested against the tree. “Good thing I found that wild weed in the forest,” Ronan exhaled. He was sitting so high up on his cloud that he did not hear the groans of the earth.

Ronan yawned, turning to see Katya and Niccolo approaching. Niccolo was walking funny, a strange gait that resembled a limp. Katya zipped up her pants.

“Where was you two?” Ronan slurred. They did not answer; Ronan’s laughter resembled a snake hissing.

“Oh, shit!” Katya pushed Niccolo and Ronan to the ground.

“Easy!” Niccolo whispered, rubbing his behind.

Katya borrowed Ronan’s roach while they waited for the gunfire to cease.

Poking their heads beyond the treeline, they spied a circle of campers, gasping for breath and covered in blood.

“Where were you three?” Birch demanded, tucking her gun into its holster.

“We were hunting,” Katya explained, pushing the other two into the grass. Neither one wanted to move.

Birch, Jäger, Rosen, and Cassie lowered their guns and looked around for any more survivors. Finding no one, Birch excused herself so she could fetch Snow.

The trees rustled. Mary and Esther stepped into the field. Mary was straightening her bra and Esther was buttoning up her shirt.

“And where were you two?”

Cassie snorted in disgust. “While you two were fornicating out in the forest, my family was right here dying!” She threw her shotgun to the grass and charged them.

“Cassie, stop!” Jäger grabbed her wrist.

“Let go of me, you prick!” Cassie turned and scratched Jäger, breaking several nails in the process.

Jäger wrapped his arms around her and held her. “Are you going to behave?”

“Let me go!”

“Do you think you’re the only one who lost someone!” Jäger released her and grabbed her arms, shaking her. “I had to kill my brother, you hear me! I took care of Darius so you wouldn’t have to! So don’t give me any shit, Cassie!”

Jäger let her fall on her ass.

“Are we the only ones left?” Esther asked.

“Far as we can tell,” Rosen sighed, sitting beside Cassie. He took her hand and let her cry into his chest.

“Crowe, Ajax, Darius, Deuce, Erik?” Mary laid down in the grass and rubbed her eyes.

Suddenly, things were not so funny to Ronan. He hated to waste, but he snuffed out his spliff and tossed it. Ronan sat down, too. When the lone bird started chirping, Ronan was not the only one to curse him.

“When did this happen?” Katya asked.

“We were eating dinner and they surrounded us,” Rosen explained. “The smoke must have drawn them. The sun hadn’t yet set. I guess the scents of dinner masked their smell.”

Katya’s stomach grumbled. “Do we still have any food?”

“Hardly,” Jäger sighed, prying open a can of beans with his clean pocket knife. “Well, who’s hungry?”

Birch screamed.

Jäger picked up the shotgun and ran towards her. Katya and Esther grabbed a weapon and followed him. Birch was on her knees in the road just outside the field and Snow was lying flat on his back. She leaned her head back and howled like a wolf baying at the moon.

Jäger lowered his gun and tried to console Birch. She punched him in the stomach. Then everyone saw Snow nursing the bite wound on his side. Jäger immediately pulled Birch away from Snow. She screamed and kicked and pounded her fists into his chest, but Jäger refused to let her go. Her screams of rage and pain pierced everyone like giant metal hooks. Birch elbowed Jäger’s chin and moved toward Snow.

“No! He’s infected!” Jäger hollered. Jäger, Katya, and Esther held Birch back. Rosen had since joined them, keeping his revolver raised at Snow.

“Do it,” Snow pleaded.

“No!” Birch roared.

“Please,” Snow begged.

Rosen leveled the gun between Snow’s eyes. He pulled back the hammer.

Snow closed his eyes, and Rosen pulled the trigger.

—Jacob Williams

Aiden had everything he could ever dream of; the fame, the money, the talent. But he always felt like he was alone, even if he was surrounded by his four bandmates and their adoring fans. With no one to turn to, Aiden found comfort in locking himself in his apartment and drinking the hurt away with countless bottles of alcohol. That is until he nearly drinks himself to death and is required to be put in rehab for months on end. Once checked into his so called prison, Aiden meets his fellow group mates and one patient in particular might just be the key to not only unlocking his inner demons, but hers as well.

I guess it was the feeling that drew me in.

It was the feeling of empowerment; the feeling of control. It was so addicting, feeling the burn in my throat, satisfying the thirst for power that my body begged for. For once I felt in control of myself, and there wasn’t anyone to tell me what to do. I could never stop once I started; the haunting words and feelings would just keep coming back to me again and again, begging to be put to rest with another bottle. And that’s what I did, because it was the only solution to stop them. It was almost as hard to start as it was to stop, but after the first couple weeks I became used to it. It was like a routine for me now. My blood would crave more every time I had to stop, in fear that I might drown. But maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. I just wanted to feel at ease all the time. It was like all my problems and fears would drift away, leaving me with a certain emptiness that was almost as bad as the pain, but in a good way. The emptiness was curable too, though. Just drink more.

Lush, by Julie Vasquez