Fiction Friday #156 – Failed Sunrise

In this weeks edition of Fiction Friday, from Write Anything, we were given the prompt “A boy and his father awaken early to watch the sunrise from their mountain campsite, but they begin to panic when the sky remains dark long into the afternoon”.

At first I was eager to get started, because of all the possibilities, but before long I was seized with an intense case of Analysis Paralysis. There were so many options for the story that I became hung up on where to take it. I put off writing until Thursday (I normally write these on Tuesday or Wednesday when I have more free time) and opted to discovery write the entire story. Walking away from plans made the story come much easier but I hit a wall at the end of the piece.

I’m not happy with the ending and feel as though there is no resolution. I like the story up until it closes out. At that point it feels like it just falls flat on its face. I suppose it is another situation where I could end it, and be happy, but it would require much more story.


Fiction Friday #156 – Failed Sunrise

“A boy and his father awaken early to watch the sunrise from their mountain campsite,
but they begin to panic when the sky remains dark long into the afternoon.”

Harsh white light filled the tent before the earth trembled to the thunderous roar of the sky. Despite its ferocity, the storm was letting up. Rain patted against the nylon and eventually made its way inside the cheap tent.

“Told ya the storm would let up. News said it would be hard and fast but would lead to a weeks worth of clear skies.” Tom’s voice brimmed with pride as he spoke to his young son. This would be their last trip together as man and boy.

“I didn’t know that becoming a man would mean I would almost die as a child”. Chris knew he was overreacting but it nettled his father. With a cocky smile hidden by the darkness, he shifted in his sleeping bag and tried to get some sleep.

“You’ll see, it will be well worth the trouble. The sunrise is magnificent up here on the mountain. My father brought me here on my sixteenth birthday. My grandfather brought my father here, just as the family men have been doing for generations. You just wait and see, you’ll be doing it for your son one day too.” He was becoming annoyed with the boys constant cocky tone but it would soon be over. Just like when he was a boy, spending a night on the mountain to see the sun rise in the distance would make man out of him.

“If this is a family tradition that I have to uphold then I hope I have a bunch of daughters.” He cinched his eyes shut thinking that he may have just crossed the line. His father was a patient and kind man but he had his breaking point. When Chris heard his father sigh in annoyance and roll over in his sleeping bag, he relaxed and eased into sleep.

Chris woke to a pop and footsteps outside the tent. The flickering glow at the far nylon wall told him his father had somehow managed to start a fire. He decided to join him outside. Perhaps the fire would help ward off the chill in his bones from the long night in a damp sleeping bag. His muscled ached and his body protested as he rose and made his way out of the tent.

“Glad you got up on your own, I didn’t want to have to wake you.” Tom was giddy and it was visible from his tone of voice all the way to the way he moved about the campsite. Sixteen years he waited for this moment and it was finally upon them. They would sit and watch the sunrise together and his son would begin manhood in the Thatcher Family manner.

“How long till the sun comes up and we can get out of here. I’m cold, wet, and my entire body hurts.” Chris almost felt bad raining on his fathers parade but it was the mans own fault. He told him over and over again, he was not interested in this family tradition and wanted to skip it.

“Sun comes up in about a half-hour, according to channel six news.” Every facet of the trip was planned out. Tom spent time checking and rechecking the weather, noted sunrise and sunset times, he even brought along the camcorder so that he could share the moment with Clara and the girls.

After a hearty breakfast of crunchy granola bars and lukewarm bottled water was consumed, the pair began their short trek to watch the sunrise. They settled in on a rocky overlook and waited. The sky was clear and the air chilled. Father and son waited eagerly for the sunrise, both for very different reasons. Tom wanted to see his boy begin his life as a man. Chris wanted to get home and tear into the birthday presents that were undoubtedly waiting for him.

The official sunrise time of 5:37am came and went but the sky remained dark. Far in the distance there was a faint red glow, as if the sun attempted to rise but was forcefully held beneath the horizon. Minutes passed, then hours. The pair sat in intense silence as their minds screamed for a logical answer as to why the sun didn’t rise.

“Dad, I can’t do this any more. I’m freaking out, the sun should have came up long ago right?”

“Son, I don’t what what is going on. We’ve sat here long enough, lets get back home to your mother and sisters.”

Father and son made their way back to camp in panic induced haste. There was no logical explanation for what was going on but neither one of them wanted to be up on a mountain looking out at the failed sunrise. If something was wrong, they wanted to be with their family.

Without even realizing it, Chris learned his first lesson of manhood that day. It wasn’t always about him, sometimes it was better to endure a little discomfort to make those around you happy.

Please visit the comment section, located at the head of this post, and leave me some feedback. I would greatly appreciate it!

25 comments On Fiction Friday #156 – Failed Sunrise

  • All in all, good. I like the imagery, but the ending – I fully agree with you – left me hanging, big time.
    I like the rocky outcropping. I wrote in exactly the same thing. Let’s see how many other people did!

    Here’s mine.
    http://johnpender.net/2010/05/fiction-friday-156/

    • John,
      I didn’t like the ending the first time I read over the story, I like it even less when I read over it this morning.

      Lesson learned though, discovery writing is fun but requires a little planning on my part to make a workable ending.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • I liked it, Walt. Your characters were well developed for such a short piece.
    Eileen

    • Eileen,
      Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure if I was able to portray the part of cocky teenage boy well enough for it to be believable. I wanted the reader to actually become agitated by his remarks.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • This was a tough one for sure. I liked your story. Not crazy about my story but it was a good exercise.

    Mine

    http://uncleteebooks.blogspot.com/2010/05/fiction-friday-may-21-2010.html

  • I really liked the majority of this. Like you and John I feel like I’ve been left hanging. But then you could develop it into something longer… and I’m hardly one to talk – I used to leave the biggest cliffhangers on these pieces.
    I really liked the view points from the two characters, they’re totally believable. Good job on this.

    • I agree, I think this could be something I am happy with if it was extended a bit to make room for a more thought-provoking ending.

      I have a ton of respect for anyone who can write an engaging story that packs a punch in less than 800 words. As hard as I try, I just can’t fit in everything that I think its story-worthy and come in at less than 1,000 words. I suppose the only answer to this problem is practice, practice, and more practice.

      Thanks for the comment

      • Before I started doing these Fiction Friday things, I totally didn’t get how you could get a story in less than 1000s of words. Doing these exercises has been so good for me. You’re right, practice practice practice!

  • I think we’ll be reading several stories like this, this week. Your character’s teen angst came through well. To the point where I was getting a bit annoyed with him too. But that’s good, it added to the drama when the sun didn’t come up and the boy had his epiphany.

    Regarding the ending: The thought behind the ending was strong. Find a way to show us the lesson Chris learned rather than tell us he learned the lesson and I think you’ll be much happier with the piece as a whole.

    Overall a good piece.

    • Chris,
      I’m thrilled that you were getting annoyed with the boy. I’m a fantasy reader and think that Robin Hobb writes some of the most amazing characters. Some you just want to reach through the page and strangle and others you become completely immersed in. I was trying to emulate Hobb and write a character that struck a nerve with his wise-cracks.

      Thanks for the comment and the suggestion

  • I definitely recognized that smarmy teen voice! Well done developing that awkward parent/teen relationship. I liked the contrast between that and the desire to get home and be with family. I actually think the ending would have worked better if you had left it without the manhood pondering.

    • Shelli,
      The aspect of the piece that I was so focused on was making the boy annoy the reader. I’m thrilled that I was able to pull it off.

      Thanks foe the comment

  • Hey there Walt,
    the ending what it is, so be it. What you have created is a great dynamic between father and son, highlighting the weak points of their personality and showing how they clash. You do bring about a resolution to their relationship and it may be worth having another go at this and focus on their relationship. Nice idea.
    Adam

    • Adam,
      Its funny how you can write something, step back and read it over, then be turned off by one aspect of the piece. In this case the ending kind of kills my motivation to rework the story. I feel as though I just want to wash my hands of it and be done. At the same time, I want to fix it because I’m so disappointed in the ending.

      I suppose “Re-work Failed Sunrise” will just have to go on my list of things to do on a rainy day.

      Thanks for the comment

  • I was really getting into the story but was a little disappointed with the ending. I expected to see some unusual right of passage into manhood. All in all, you did a fantastic job of setting up the relationship between the son and father. Good writing!

    • Terry,
      This one was tough. I wanted the ending to be some sort of right of passage into manhood but the things that were coming to mind resulted in a little eye rolling and me thinking out loud “nope, don’t like that one either”.

      Thanks for the kind words and the comment.

  • Actually, I think that you are being a bit hard on yourself–just like the rest of us writers, lol. I enjoyed your story and love the visual imagery that you producted.

    You are right that the ending was inadequate and disppointing. But it’s something that is easily fixed. I think that you should leave off the last paragraph–about the boy’s lesson learned. Without that weak paragraph, you have an ending that shows the importance of family (what the story is really about) and an unasnwered and disconcerting question about why the sun didn’t rise.

    • Christie,
      I was going back and forth with that last paragraph. I knew I wasn’t happy with it but I didn’t want to completely scrap it either.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the story and imagery.

      Thanks for the comment

  • Walt, I notice that Fiction Friday June 4th is a prompt on coming of age. I am looking forward to seeing you revise this story a little and submitting it on that prompt. It has so much potential. Surprise Us!

    • Terry,
      You really know how to put someone on the spot huh… LOL
      I’ll have to give this alot of thought because I’m really unsure of where I want this to go. Its going to be a challenge but I want to redeem this piece 🙂

  • Another great story Adam. I like the relationship between father and son. Just the right amount of sarcasm and fear in the teen. The dialog is spot on.

    The ending is a little heavy-handed. I noticed some other comments point this out, also. Maybe you could let your readers come to the “moral of the story” on their own. Rather than stating it, just let it reveal itself through events or dialog between your characters.

    • Laura,
      I’m glad you felt the dialog was spot on.

      The more I see people comment about having left that lest bit out, I kick myself for not going with the urge to remove it.

      Thanks for the comment
      -Walt

  • I though you did a nice job of showing some of the family history and background of the rite of passage, but maybe you focused a bit too much on that for the space constraints and that’s why you aren’t harppy with the ending? Just a guess. I liked the description of the relationship between the man and the boy. Nice characterization throughout.

    Thanks for posting it!

    • I think that is a recurring problem of mine. I get wrapped up in telling the story and before i know it, I have to fit an ending in the tiny allotment of space left over.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the relationship between the man and the boy.

      Thanks for the comment
      -Walt

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.