Voodoo Doll (Failure)

During his third night out of town, a travelling businessman discovers a voodoo doll in his hotel room.

From The Writer’s Book of Matches: 1001 Prompts to Ignite Your Fiction by the staff of fresh boiled peanuts, a literary journal

End: Phil watched as the cloth doll pulled a pin out of the chair and shoved it in its tiny little head. Then everything went black.

Phil nearly stumbled into the padded chair in his hotel room. He loosened his tie and sighed, then removed his shoes and propped his sock feet on the coffee table. Closing his eyes, he leaned back, arms raised and wrists against his forehead, and sighed again, this time not so relieved.

Me: I really need to take some words out of my vocabulary and add some others. “Sighed” would be one of those verbs. Note: He doesn’t react to ‘nearly stumbling into the chair.’

In fifteen years of travelling, he’d never had a day like the past couple of days. Every meeting he was to attend had been delayed by at least thirty minutes to an hour and naturally set his whole schedule off. But it didn’t seem to matter. Every manager he spoke with acted as though they had a piece of coal so far up their ass that, if it were to come out, it would be a ruby. Everything he was supposed to work on in that week of travel had failed miserably.

Me: This whole paragraph is telling, but I think it’s okay. The coal/ruby joke is lame though and I could have described his most recent meeting, then say all the meetings had gone that same way or something similar to that → that’s what would have been on his mind as he collapsed into the chair. Would have been less telling, more showing, and much more interesting.

Phil felt something behind him, something soft. Putting his feet down, he turned around and there was some sort of cloth doll laying where the back of the chair met its seat. He didn’t remember it being there when he sat down, but then today, he could have sat on a beehive and would never have noticed. Much less a small cloth doll.

The doll was handmade from brown fabric, a tightly woven burlap, its edges sewn together with multicolor yarn ranging from purple to dark blue to black and back to purple again. Its eyes, nose and mother were smudged, its owner carelessly touching it before its face dried.

Stuck through the doll’s back was a very long pen with a pearl-colored head.

Me: I like the description of the doll, but it feels boring. Even if I’m telling you what the doll looks like, I can show you. There’s no reason to show. Phil could have run his fingers over the rough burlap… Definitely more ways to describe this doll that just telling you what it’s made of and what it looks like.

<Middle of the Story technically should go here>

Phil grinned as he took the doll’s left leg and bent it backwards. Jim’s leg moved the same way, the popping of his kneecap and cracking sound of the cartilage being torn and bones breaking almost too quiet to hear under his screaming as he lost balance and fell to the floor with a thud.

“No! No more!” Jim nursed his leg with his hand as he lay on his side on the floor, his eyes wide and focused on that doll.

“What about the way you had me lie for you, to cover for you, when I knew you had left the club with that Sasha chick?” Phil said calmly, smoothing the doll’s front material with a tender hand.

“I didn’t… I didn’t know…”

“That’s bullshit,” Phil said, twisting the doll’s…

<Insert Sesame Street’s Don Music slamming his head on the piano here.>

Ick. I don’t like this at all. So, Phil kills Jim with the voodoo doll? Or does Jim have one of his own that he finds and they just end up duelling it out? (laughs) I think I like the last one more.

In this, I don’t know how to get Jim and Phil together, assuming that we’re in Phil’s apartment. But having Phil kill Jim feels so cliche — and not a good kind of cliche. My endings always seem to be like that… someone killing someone else. Or focused on a serial killer or a murderer or… whatever. Wonder what that says?

But I drew out the ending… if it was actually the ending. The more I type here, the more I think about what I typed above and the more I want to change it. But I don’t know what I’d change it to.

My original idea (well, for practical purposes) was to write a story a day. Had a friend say to work on it for 4 hours and then put it away. Not sure if I agree with that time frame, but I’m going to take the idea and run with it. If I do feel like I’ve got something good, I’ll continue working on it — but when I go to bed, it has to be finished. I need to get into the practice of finishing my stories.

So, not necessarily a complete failure in that I’m still learning where I suck, but close enough to it that I’m going to call it done. Yeah, anyway, sorry for inflicting this on anyone who’s still reading…

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Kari J. Wolfe

Never-ending student in the realms of writing fiction/nonfiction and telling stories. Hopeless wannabe equestrian learning from a distance.