Posts Tagged ‘story’

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A Little Close To Home

October 20, 2012

Today’s story started out with the basic idea that it frequently takes someone crossing the proverbial line to get people to care about anything. I wanted an entire city to be outraged by something a small group of people did, but ultimately I wanted what was done to be a rallying cry, and draw attention to their issue.

Furthermore, I wanted to make the setting my hometown of Detroit. I was born and raised in Detroit and I currently live here. I’ve always loved the city, and, honestly, I’m very sad about its current state. I hate that I was woken up by gun shots very close to my home last week, and heard more late Wednesday night. I hate driving by abandoned houses and burned out buildings as frequently as I’m driving by occupied ones. So how do I honestly portray what I see around me without dumping gasoline on the proverbial fire and spotlighting it for the world to see?

Well, until now I simply avoided it. With the exception of one story that I wrote for a friend many years ago, I never set a story here before. I might have characters that were from here or mention it in passing but I never had anything that took place here. The reason is simple: despite all the problems, all the hell that this place has seen and sometimes represents, this city is my city. I’m as much a part of this city as it is a part of me. It’s shaped me into who I am, and though I am not a dangerous person, I represent a not insignificant part of its population. I represent who Detroiters are and can be even as I myself am discovering who I am. I am incredibly defensive when it comes to my city, as are all Detroiters, against all outsiders, including those that live on the city’s borders. Yet we, me and other Detroiters, will be frank and honest with everyone about those very problems within the city. If nothing else, we’re honest people, and most of us are hardworking even if the rest of the world doesn’t see it.

So why set a story here, now? Well, it’s complicated as most things are. There are certain things that are going on within the city government that really aren’t fair, and someone needs to bring attention to them. A certain city organization is getting shafted by the city, and no one seems to realize they can just walk away. So I wrote about that; the organization, in defense of its members, just walks away when the city crosses the line one too many times. And what makes it so poignant is that I was able to use actual events and statements, changed just a bit, to underscore the reality and absurdity of the situation.

This was very therapeutic. I submitted it to The New Yorker as soon as I finished it.

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Back from the Dead

March 16, 2011

About 17 years ago, I began work on a time travel story that I thought had a unique spin. As I worked on it over a period of weeks, I kept running into problems that I couldn’t resolve at the time; the biggest of which was the point of view. Although I could have written the story any way I wanted, at the time I wanted to try something completely new to me: first person perspective and, more importantly, present tense.

The advantage of this perspective is that you almost literally get inside the primary character’s head; you get to know her thoughts, perceptions, and even her mental state by just reading the words that compose her train of thought. It’s not necessary to explicitly state “she felt trapped” or “fear gripped her heart” because the words she uses to describe the situation automatically convey emotional and mental states. Eventually I grew to love first person perspective, though I tended to opt for past tense after working on this particular story.

Sadly, at the time, I was unable to resolve my present tense issues with the story and was unable to make any significant progress on it as a result. Instead of discarding it, like I did with some of my other failed stories, I put it aside and vowed to come back to it some day.

About ten years ago, during a long bout of writer’s block, I decided to try to rewrite the story from scratch in an effort to reinvigorate myself and to work out some new ideas I had for the story. Unfortunately, I made the same mistake I had in the earlier attempt, and again chose to do first person present tense. I’m not saying that this perspective is bad, or that it never works, I’m just saying that it didn’t work for me for this story; after fleshing out some of my ideas in the rewrite, I again stopped work on the story. This time, I really didn’t make as much progress as I had in the very first attempt; I only managed to write two pages instead of the four that I had managed years earlier. Needless to say, this did not help my writer’s block.

More years passed. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently enrolled at Oakland University in the Cinema Studies program in an attempt to transform myself into a screenwriter. This semester, I’m finally taking a screenwriting course and, to brush up my story writing skills, I’m also taking a fiction writing class. The inspiration for my now self-published short “Right and Wrong” came as a result of some film noir I’ve watched this semester as well as the need to write a 50+ page screenplay for my class: I wrote the short story to flesh out the ideas I had for my screenplay, though the two have diverged substantially due to length requirements. If “Right and Wrong” the screenplay is ever produced as a film, it’ll be interesting to see how the public reacts to the fact that there’s a short story version as well… Will they see the screenplay as being based on the short story or will they assume that I merely summarized the script in the short story? Will there be a novelization of the movie, and if so, how confused will people be when they come across the short? Interesting questions…! But, I digress…

I have a new short story assignment for the fiction class, and though I had some interesting ideas, none of them seemed fit for the story I wanted to share with my class. I don’t mean to make this sound like I’m bragging, but my classmates have been really impressed with my work this semester, and they have some pretty high expectations of me. As a result, I have higher expectations, and higher minimum standards for what I intend to present them with. Despite my desire to explore the stories that I came up with, I was disappointed in the quality of the work I was churning out. With time I could correct the stories, and get them where I want them to be, but the class will end before I can really spend the time ¬†on them that they deserve.

On a whim, I thought of rewriting something I had worked on in the past, and the first item that appeared in the list was my old time travel story. Having the files for both prior attempts, I decided immediately that this was the one. I printed both, and got my mind cranking on them as I drove to class yesterday, and when I got the opportunity to enter the classroom long before the start of class, I immediately went to work writing. Again I chose first person perspective; there were just too many visuals and thoughts that needed to be expressed by the main character that I wanted and needed keep to use a different point of view. But this time, I shifted to past tense, and in the space of just a few minutes I had already exceeded the two pages that I wrote in the last attempt at this story. I still have a lot of work to do on it, but this time, this story is back from the dead for good. I will finish the class version of this story, limiting myself to the upper limit of 10 pages, but I will also fully explore where this story goes this time, be it 15 pages or 1,000. This is turning out to be a story that I would have loved to read had it been written by someone else, so perhaps one day I’ll be sharing it with you!

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Flash Writing Exercise

February 15, 2011

Tonight’s writing class covered the art of flash writing, the creation of short stories in 250-1000 words. Until I started this class, I’d never heard of it, so I won’t blame you if you haven’t either. Our next assignment is to write a piece of flash fiction, due in two weeks, but tonight we needed to give it a shot in class. To spur things along, the professor passed around three bags with folded pieces of paper in them. We each had to take a piece from each bag (which represented occupation, an object/tool/appliance, and a location respectively) and write a quick story in 10 minutes. The three items I got were “balerina”, “high school yearbook”, and “bar in a corner of London.” For me, this was like shooting fish in a barrel. (Mythbusters not withstanding.)

I want to edit this, to flesh things out a bit better and slightly differently, but here’s what I wrote. I call it the “Ballerina of Her Majesty’s Pub.”

She twirled on her tippy toes, over and over, pirouette after pirouette, dizzying all who watched her in Her Majesty’s Royal Stein on the west end of London. She reminded me of a girl I had known only by a picture in my high school yearbook in years long past: beautiful beyond reality, long blonde hair, and a dazzling smile.

The ballerina spun dangerously to the bar and a couple of patrons that eagerly and lustfully looked on, but she paid them no heed. To her, there was only the dance as if flowed through her graceful motions. Drunk on a pint of Guinness or wine, the only things that mattered to her were the dance and the moment.

Her golden hair drew out behind her spin as a scarf on the wind, and captured the attentions of all in the tavern. There was more than one cry of “Brilliant!” as she leaped and spun, and even a woman or two could be heard commenting that the girl, Sarah, was a “right fine lass.”

Her dance ended in a sudden leap, landing with impossible grace. She threw her hands up, bowed her head, then emptied her stomach on the floor.

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The Job

January 13, 2011

Ok, what I’m going to post below is a scene, just a single scene, that I was tasked to write for the Fiction Writing class I’m currently taking. There’s no more to this story than what’s below, but I had a bit of fun writing it, and the people in my workshop group loved it. So, I’m sharing it with the world. The title is simply “The Job.”

Read the rest of this entry ?

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What would you do with these plot points?

July 25, 2009

Lately, I’ve been coming up with various ideas for stories, mostly based around some specific plot points, and yet I’m not sure if I can, could, should, or will use them. Some of these ideas/plot points seem over-used or cliche to me, so while I think they’re cool, I don’t really want to throw another derivative work out there to be mocked and criticized. On the other hand, 90% of the time, what determines the value of a story is not it’s unique plot, but how it was written and used.

If you use these ideas, please let me know, and share your story with me privately. I’m just curious. Otherwise, I’d just like to hear your comments and ideas.

So, without further ado, here they are:

  • Fearing a potential alien invasion, a multi-national join military and research organization builds an underwater base, developing highly advanced technology, and creates a world defence force to protect Earth.
  • Psychological battle between two men, one an invulnerable, omnipotent (but not omniscient) being and his very much mortal nemesis. In some respects the omnipotent being would be similar to Dr. Manhattan from The Watchmen, but far from being all knowing, or being capable of existing in multiple places at the same time. It should be difficult to determine who the protagonist and antagonist in the story are, if there really is a protagonist or antagonist at all.
  • A story where the villain not only wins, but has already done so by the time the story begins.
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A Treatise on Fate

May 4, 2009

This “post” has been moved to a slightly different URL: https://brokenfingers.wordpress.com/a-treatise-on-fate/

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