31 DaysDay 30: CENSORSHIP {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

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Rewriting History

Ruth sat at her table in the archive section of the History Building alone, tattered parts of scrolls spread out around her and attempted to recreate the Colony’s timeline of events. Her Candidate assignment was to record the events onto the newly made parchment scrolls being produced in the Creatives Building. As she recorded the events, Ruth worked concurrently to draft a narrative of the Colony history that was being expunged from the official historical records. Such covert actions and blatant disregard for protocols and Colony dictates would be deemed treason and considered punishable by death, but Ruth believed that the truth was more important than her life. Even so, she worked slowly and meticulously on her Candidate assignment and dared only a line or two at most so as to not draw attention to herself or her work.

Today, as she sifted through the bits and pieces of paper and history, her eyes scanned every detail and with her mind, she memorized each word and date and began creating the forgotten picture of revolution and freedom that developed from the harsh conditions so many suffered under around the land. Ruth closed her eyes and sketched the words in her mind, allowing her hand to record only a word or two at a time, her head bowed low and her finger tracing along the new scrolls as if she were proofreading her work.

In a small makeshift journal she’d fashioned from collected contraband paper and letters that other Truthseekers supplied her with and that she smuggled to and from the History Building each day, Ruth wrote the following:

Despite the claims of the Colony, their rule has been in place for only two decades and its stability has only ever been shaky at best. Though they would have us believe that they have the people’s interests at the fore of their laws and policies, their actions both preceding their rule and during it not only contradict this notion, but greatly discredit those who seek to lead this land and enforce these laws. The list of grievances against the Colony is indeed lengthy, beginning with the wresting of power through force, although not of any sort of coup, but rather a far deeper covert military action that began at least three years prior to the final takeover through the general elections. Elections that many suspected were not only fixed but minutely manipulated via a complex system of electric and digital overrides that were essentially untraceable by those without the extensive training of the election officials at the time.

Where power was not provided peacefully, meaning without question or without raising suspicion and greater awareness, use of military force was employed in the form of

Behind her, the floorboards creaked as if someone were standing just far enough behind her to monitor her work, but she dared not turn around. Instead she lifted a small pile of paper scraps and scanned them and shuffled them into chronological order and removing all questionable historical entries. She dipped the nib of her specially assigned fountain pen into the ink and recorded the passing of a law to enable all citizens the right and opportunity to own their own dwelling, which, of course, few outside of the Colony leaders and the Movement actually could or did. Deftly, Ruth reached for the next scrap and knocked a small pile of already completed records to the floor. Without hesitation, she reached for them, realized she couldn’t reach them and turned sideways in her chair. From the corner of her eye she saw Thomas standing just inside the door. As she scooped up the papers, the floorboard creaked loudly and she gasped as if noticing Thomas for the first time.

She smiled at him. “You startled me,” she said, straightening the pile and replacing it on the table. Still looking at him, she carefully slid the journal into her sleeve. “Don’t tell me I’ve worked through lunch again?”

“Not quite yet, but you’re dangerously close,” Thomas said.

“You’re kind to let me know,” Ruth said.

“What were you doing?” he asked.

“Same as always. Review, sift, read and record events.”

“It looked like you were writing in a book of some kind.” Thomas stepped into the room now.

Ruth turned toward her work as if looking for a book and shook her head. “No books here,” she said. “Though sometimes I do like to imagine it that way, you know? I gather up the various scraps and hold them as if they were a book. Out of curiosity, I suppose.”

“Dangerous curiosity,” Thomas said, looming over her now.

“I guess I never thought about it like that,” Ruth said and shrugged.

“Maybe you should start,” he said. He ran a finger across the scroll she was working on. “I’ve heard you have good writing. I see it’s true.” His eyes locked on hers and she willed herself to keep her eyes on his and smile at his compliment.

“Thanks,” she said. “I work hard at it, that’s for sure.” And now she smiled.

“I’ll let you get back to it,” he said, and, just before he turned away from her, she thought she saw a small smile play across his lips.

(this story post is part of at least two others from 31 Days of Stories as I explore the idea and characters of The Truthseekers)

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{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule, especially with these exercises and this challenge. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually. But not lately.}

Writing Prompt: CENSORSHIP – Imagine a very ordinary and mundane piece of writing that is threatened with censorship for political, military, or social reasons. This exercise treats our own moment of history as if it were historic – as if we were living in 1930s Stalinist Russia or in England during the French Revolution – but you can also try to imagine a historical moment, what it would be like to write a letter to your mother and worry about an unseen Soviet censor reading the words. Show us the effects of writing something that could get the writer arrested, jailed, or even killed. Show us both the writing itself and the thoughts of the writer. {Exercise 108 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

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4 thoughts on “Rewriting History

    1. Thank you for taking this 31-day adventure with me. I think I’ve found the story I’m going to pursue next month during NaNo where I get to write 50K words and hopefully a completed story. Perhaps you’ll read this soon 😉

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