Writing Prompt: Breathe In…Breathe Out

Get up, get up, get up!

I stare at the ceiling and will my husband to show even a hint that he’s waking.

It’s 8:30 a.m., already a full hour after we were supposed to be on our run. But really, what did I expect? Justin went out last night for his typical Friday with the guys. And if he went out you could bet it would be a late night.

Still, we are supposed to be training for this race together.

I glance at his inert form on the other side of the bed and snort. Get real, Stacy. If you always waited for him to go with you, you’d never run.

Well, that’s true. 

Might as well get going. Sunlight has been stretching across the ceiling for some time now. Too much longer and it’ll be too hot to run.

I tiptoe from the room. The moment the door’s closed, though, it’s on. Hop, hop, hop toward the kitchen, I tug on my running clothes. Hair up, shoes on, and I’m out the door.

I pause at the bottom of our apartment stairs to stretch. The line that divides the building shadows from the sun-kissed sidewalk is like a doorway to another realm. I step past it and I’m off. Down the street, around the corner, and into the residential neighborhood beside us.

Down that tree-lined street, my heart dances, reveling in the shade fashioned from the branches overhead. The neighborhood is alive with activity. Children play outside, flowers are tended, and yards raked and mowed.

This is exactly what a neighborhood should be. One day, I’m going to live in a place like this. Justin and I will have our own home, with a backyard oasis, and all the space our future kids will need. 

Smiling to myself, I inhale deeply, focusing on the rhythm of my footsteps.

Breathe in…breathe out…breathe in…breathe in, breathe in? Breathe in, breathe in, breathe in!

Air explodes from my lungs in a choking cough. I stumble to a stop. Hands on knees, bent over, gasping for air. Deep, horrible, nauseating GRIEF fills my stomach, rising up through my chest and bursting inside me. Tears gush down my cheeks. 

What the hell? I don’t feel sad. I glance around me. That kid up ahead, playing with his dog – watching him makes me happy. And the house across the street with the beautiful garden – it’s so picturesque. I love it!


My brain swarms with pleasant images, but my body is wracked by the physical sensation of grief and sadness.

Come on, Stacy, calm down.

Eventually my breathing slows, the feeling passes, and my eyes dry. Then slowly, cautiously, I walk again. The brilliance of the neighborhood is still there but I can’t focus on it.

Seriously, what was that? 

Guess it’s time to head home.

Back inside the apartment, the sound of the shower tells me that Justin is finally awake.

Of course.

I drop onto the couch and sip from my water bottle thoughtfully. My cell phone rests on the coffee table. Seeing it takes me back to last night and all the times I’d woken to check it.

1 a.m. and Justin still wasn’t home. Around 2 a.m. I had wondered if he was lying in a ditch somewhere. It was sometime after 3 when I had finally heard the sheets whisper as he climbed into bed. 

It’s not that unusual for him to stay out that late, but still…. 

I’m on my feet and moving toward the bedroom before I even realize it, stopping only once I reach the doorway and spot his phone sitting on the nightstand.

I’ve never been one to give in to suspicion or go snooping through other people’s things. But right now his phone might as well be attached to a neon sign begging me to open it.

The shower’s still running. There’s plenty of time.

I jump across the room, slide open the phone, and find his texts within a few seconds. Immediately, my insides wither and shrink.

Sarah: It was nice seeing u last night. I wish u didn’t have 2 go.

Justin: Me 2. I’ll miss u. Sleep tight until I can hold u again.

  1. There are more, but I don’t bother to read them. Goosebumps cover every inch of my body. Of course he’s cheating! How could I be so stupid?

I set the phone down and sit up straight as the shower dies. A million thoughts shuffle through my brain. Do I stay to confront him? Cram the phone down his throat? Ask for counseling? Ask for a divorce?

Crying seems like an obvious reaction but I’ve already done that. 

Breathe in…breathe out…

Before the bathroom door opens, I’m back in the living room, grabbing my car keys. 

Where I’m driving, I don’t know. What I do know is that the curve of the road, the sun arching up over the horizon, and the solitude of the car bring me peace. 

Breathe in…breathe out….

I turn up the radio, roll down the windows, and I just keep driving.

25.5 Miles of Booyah!

25.5 Miles of Booyah!

Life can’t be all about writing so periodically I step away from the computer to get in some running. This weekend, my run time was all done during the 40th annual Gasparilla Distance Classic in Tampa, Florida. It was 25.5 miles over two days (a 15k and 5k on Saturday, and a half marathon on Sunday).

I’m so proud of everyone who ran, including myself! There was a time in my life when I would have sworn I’d never be able to do races like this so I really appreciate every time I complete one. That’s also why I say “booyah” to that race challenge! 🙂

For those of you who don’t know, the Gasparilla run is part of a two-month pirate-themed celebration that occurs in Tampa. As such, I had to have a little fun and add a “pirate” sash to my running outfit (yes, August Kyle is a pseudonym, hence the different name).

My mom, who is also a writer (Author Robin Michaela), went a step further and got a pirate-themed running shirt. She realized a little too late that it was actually a men’s shirt, but hey, it was worth the laughs! You didn’t know running could put hair on your chest, did you? 😉

My mom, husband, and I began running a few years ago. It started with a bucket list goal I had, to run a full marathon. A full seemed daunting at the time so we agreed to try a half marathon first. Three years later, I can say with confidence that we’ve shut down our aspirations for a full but it was exciting to realize that we’ve now run 12 races together (plus a bunch of individual side races).

This weekend, after we ran, we each reflected on how different we felt compared to when we first started. After our first half marathon, we all could have been extras in a zombie movie. We had to walk half a mile back to our car from the finish line and that half-mile was the longest walk EVER. Our sore muscles caused us to stumble everywhere and we were so fatigued that we could barely form coherent sentences.
Fast forward to this weekend and we were relatively normal, even after doing double the work. Of course we were tired and sore, but for all intents and purposes we were our usual selves.

It’s so nice to see progress like that and know you’re getting stronger and healthier! And, just like with stories, it’s great to realize how lessons from one part of your life can apply to others. For example, right now, I view my writing similar to my run training. When I first started running, it was a real struggle because I had to build up my endurance and muscles. Eventually, though, I found my groove and I’ve gotten stronger because I’ve continued to run even after accomplishing my initial goal. For my book, I’m building up my writing muscles – the routines, habits, and skills I need to craft what will (hopefully!) be a great story. 

A lot of people have the goal of writing a book. In fact, that specific goal used to be on my bucket list. Recently, though, I changed that goal to “establish a sustainable writing career” because really that’s what I’ve always wanted. So now I need to not only complete my first book but my second, third, and so on, until I got the point that my writing is stronger than ever.

What about you? What goals are you working on or have you accomplished lately? 

How Smell Can Enhance Setting and Develop Characters

Yesterday I stepped onto an empty elevator and was greeted by lingering traces of a sweet, musky perfume. I don’t know the fragrance’s name but it was very familiar to me. It used to be worn by the owner of the bookstore I frequented as a child. Every time I come across it I reminisce about that wonderful little store. Books littered the floor there in teetering stacks and overflowed from the shelves into which they’d been crammed. It was a reader’s dream!

That trip down memory lane and the perfume that triggered it got me thinking about the role smell plays in building out character and setting in a story. 

The use of smell in writing can enhance setting and develop characters.
Enhanced Setting

No setting is complete without the sensory detail that helps readers imagine their way into the story. But many writers, myself included, often forget to include smell in this process. This can result is settings that are only partially formed.

Consider how flat the following scenes would be without the accompanying smells:

  • A campsite without the woodsy, comforting incense  of the campfire
  • A backyard without the scent of freshly cut grass
  • A movie theater without the butter-laced aroma of popcorn
  • A car shop without that whiff of gasoline and rubber

Smells like these, that are familiar to so many people, transport readers into the scene just like I was transported back to my childhood bookstore.

Character Development

Writers looking to take their sensory weapons to the next level also use smell to paint a distinct image of who their characters are. Consider the scents above from the perspective of different characters:

  • The acrid, sickening stench of campfire smoke burned his nostrils, forcing him to turn away.
  • She opened the car door and was pummeled by the scent of the neighbor’ freshly-cut grass. Like she needed a reminder that her own grass was in desperate need of a good cut!
  • The odor of over-cooked popcorn offended his nose. He was only two steps into the movie theater doors and already it had soaked into his hair and clothes.
  • She breathed in the fragrance of gasoline and rubber, savoring the memories it called forth. If “autoshop” was a perfume, she’d wear it daily.

Clearly, the perceptions characters have of the smells they encounter can say a lot about them or the elements/characters that surround them. 

Personally, I love using unique twists on scents to add a touch of reality to my characters. After all, each of us has that oddball smell that we love or hate for individual reasons. An example for me is  mothballs. Most people feel mothballs put off an odor they’d rather avoid. But my nana uses mothballs in excess in her home so I associate them with her, which means I love their fragrance. Whenever I return from a visit, I relish the whiffs of them that linger on my clothes and suitcase.

What about you? What are some smells that you passionately love or hate based on your own experiences?