Friday, January 15, 2010

Your Writerly Comfort Zone --- Crushed: In Vein, Part 2

On Wednesday, I wrote about my writerly discomfort with the present tense, short stories, and a male point of view -- and the one writing assignment that included them all.

Another element of my comfort zone was the traditional romance -- oh how I loved the meant-to-be couple who lived happily ever after, beating all odds. In In Vein, I wanted to experiment more with one-sided longing and the silly daydreams that people have about attractive strangers -- and what happens when those strangers step out of the daydreams and into real life.

Leave it in the comments: What's your romantic comfort zone? Do you have a penchant for bad boys? Soulmates? Unrequited love? Happy endings? Commitment phobes?

Previously on In Vein...
In between his college classes, Devin donates blood for the first time in order to strike up a conversation with Natalie Vance, the star of many of his mid-lecture fantasies. He sorta forgets about his needle fear.

Devin's take on his decision? "Okay, so my reasons aren’t noble. At best, my blood is used to save someone’s life and Natalie confesses that she worships me. At worst, I get a free STD test."

In Vein, Part 2
I only manage a half smile as I walk past Natalie, who’s already lying down on a high, cushioned table with a blood pressure cuff on her arm. She smiles back, and I float through the next three minutes like some lovesick idiot. I see the snack table set out for the people after they donate and imagine wooing Natalie over pretzels and apple juice, discussing climate control and rainforest preservation. Of course, the me in my mind actually knows about these kinds of things. Hopefully real-life Natalie likes college football.

“Do you know which vein is better?” asks the tech, whose name tag reads "Marta."

“There’s a difference?”

“You’d be surprised,” she says, feeling along the inner line of my elbows. “I think the right one will do just fine. Lay down here.” She pats a foam pillow.

My stomach tightens, and I remember how much I hated needles as a kid. I tell Marta as much, but before she can reply, a different voice interrupts.

“Oh, needles aren’t so bad, you kind of get used to it.” The girl looks vaguely familiar from around campus, with a heart-shaped face and brown hair in a ponytail. She hops up on the table across from me.

“I guess,” I say. Marta is busy strangling my bicep-in-progress with a blood pressure cuff. Suddenly I wish I haven’t been focusing on my abs so much at the gym.

“I’m Sarah.”


“Nice to meet you. Is this your first time donating?”


“That’s cool. I’ve done this a few times before. I mean, when I was a kid, I was in this really bad car accident, and I needed like tons of blood, so I figure it’ll take awhile before I make it even on the karma scale.”

I have no idea how to respond, so I don’t. Marta wipes some cold brown liquid on my inner elbow, and when I see her pick up the needle, I turn my face away.

“Now, you’re going to feel a prick and a burn,” she says. I squeeze the squashy stress ball she gave me as hard as I could, willing the vein to pop out of my arm with a loud “Here I am!” like a demented Jack-in-the-Box or a stripper from a giant cake. From that idea, my mind begins to happily transfer into Natalie mode, but Marta chooses that moment to gouge me.

I can’t help the grunt of pain that escapes.

“Your vein is just rolling a bit, it’ll take a second.”

“Ooh she’s just digging around in there, isn’t she?” comes Sarah’s voice from her table. She’s lying down now, her head opposite mine, so she has a perfect view. “My veins are really big, so they never have a problem.”

I just clench my jaw until I feel Marta loosen the cuff a bit. The pain mercifully begins to fade. Turning my face back, I see that my shoulder blocks the view of the needle. Good.

“There you go,” she says, “Now just roll the ball around in your hand to keep that blood flowing, and you’ll be done in a few minutes.”

I look up at the beige ceiling and my right foot begins to twitch with impatience. I wish I had my iPod. A nearby radio plays a rap song, something I vaguely recall hearing at a party. Right now, I need Foo Fighters or Chili Peppers, anything semi-decent to distract me from the creepy feeling of the needle resting in my vein.

“So what year are you?” Sarah asks. I glance at her just in time to see her lab coat person slide the needle directly into her arm. I wince, she doesn’t, and the line of flowing maroon shows success.

“Junior,” I say.

“I’m a sophomore.” She pauses. “Bet I’ll beat you.”


“You have what, a minute or two head start? I’ll be done my pint first.”

“Are you serious?”

She shrugs her shoulder. “You got anything else to do for the next six minutes?”

There’s just something about this girl – her openness, the light musical tone of her voice, the way her t-shirt has ridden up slightly, exposing a pale, flat stomach – draws me in.

“Okay, why not.”

Who is this mysterious Sarah? Will Devin ever talk to Natalie, his dream girl? And who will win the epic blood-draining battle? Find out on Sunday in the thrilling conclusion to In Vein!


  1. Well written! The business with the needle is visceral and really comes across. I was squirming in my seat reading it.

    I'm looking forward to the next part.

  2. I love the voice here and I'm totally drawn in. And nice plot complication.

    Looking forward to part 3!

    And BTW, you've inspired me to try male POV for Courtney's "Love at first sight" blogfest.

  3. Ah this totally skeeved me out. I don't mind needles but I still don't like to focus on them when giving blood. Nice job. Also Im the opposite of Sarah I have really small veins and I bleed so slowly that they sometimes cut me off. Eeek. Nice job! Can't wait for part 3.

  4. I'm really into the character and want to see what happens. Thanks for sharing this well written story. Anxious to see what happens!!

  5. I like funny guys when it comes to romance!

  6. This is my first time to your blog. Found it through Guide to Literary Agents blog. I really enjoyed the story. I really enjoy the male POV. I will add you to my blog roll. Can't wait to read more!

  7. What a great line: "bicep-in-progress." Ha. Terrific male pov writing, Donna. And funny, too.

    Looking forward to reading the conclusion.

  8. Jon Paul - I (thankfully) don't have a fear of needles, but it's definitely odd to feel one sitting in your vein. Makes anyone squirm!

    Laurel - Yayyyy male voice!

    Frankie - My veins are tiny too! They're always like "did you forget to drink water?" and I'm like "ummm I've been drinking like GALLONS for 3 days."

    Mandy - Thanks! Hope you like part 3!

    Bonnie - Since I'm a little late responding to the comments, part 3's already posted! Yay!

    Daisy - I don't think I could write a non-funny guy. Maybe for my next comfort zone breakout?

    Vivi - Welcome! Glad to have you, and thanks for the comment!

    Joanne - Yep, poor Devin doesn't quite have the bicep.


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