Friday, June 15, 2007

Our Unfinished Stories


Deep in the doldrums of summer, my friend Hank and I would often take refuge in the KFC buffet. There was almost never anybody at the buffet which explains why they stopped offering it, but back then we'd eat and discuss our unfinished stories. There's two schools of thought about this -- that writers should never talk about the work while the work is in process. To talk about it spoils it, releases the need to tell it. The other school of thought is that it's good to get feedback, no matter what. I'd like to add a third way of looking at things. Hank and I would talk about our plots and characters, and we'd offer each other such uniformly hideous suggestions about what to do next (stoned, no doubt, on the copious amount of grease in the food we'd just sucked down) that by the end of the meal, both of us would have been forced to think of something better for fear we might have to resort to the idea offered. Maybe you could make your character a clown school drop-out, one of us might say. You never read anything about clown school, not really. Or we'd resort to smart-ass mode -- How about a car chase? A lovable character named Gramps? We each had projects that were never going to work -- mine was a novel about a born-again evangelical bulimic whose life had taken a bad turn, his was Yellow Leg: The Incontinent Wolf, a long poem written in entirely in couplets about well, you can figure it out.

When we wore out our ideas for the imaginary world, we'd turn to the real one, which in its own way, was just as complicated as our stories. R never changes her clothes before our dates anymore. She just wears what she was wearing to softball practice. Do you think that's a bad sign or is she just comfortable with me now? Bad sign, I'd say, reading the remnants of my mashed potatoes as if they were tea leaves. Or maybe not, I'd backpedal, could be really good. Hank grinned before finishing off his coleslaw. You're right. Maybe I ought to take it as a compliment. Two weeks later she'd left him for someone she'd met at softball practice. You know even when you don't. That became a poem for him, "When Anne Stopped Changing," (I came up with the title on the next KFC visit) which contained the great line -- What, you never thought anything stupid? I've thought so many stupid things, but some of my favorites are ones where I was stuffing my face on my very favorite fast food, dreaming of fiction and life, the two things becoming one and the same by the time we dumped garbage off our trays and entered into the harsh sunlight once again.

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"I'd rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not." Kurt Cobain


Cocktail Hour
Drinking short story suggestion: Welcome To The Arrow-Catcher Fair Lewis Nordan


Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Friday!

11 comments:

T. Hughes said...

Hey, Sylvia, I thought I told you to stay away from the stove!

A. Pope said...

I see nothing wrong with long poems written in couplets. Take my "Dunciad," for instance. And then there is Chapman's brilliant couplet version of the Homer poem--magnificent!

Herman Northrop Frye said...

I prefer the Robert Fagles translation of the Odyssey. It's the best modern translation.

Mr. Professor said...

One of my students wrote a very persuasive essay about the death of Kurt Cobain. Her theory was that he was murdered. She apparently worshipped him as a godlike figure who couldn't possibly take his own life. At the time she wrote the essay, she was a guitarist in an all girl band playing at Paychecks's Lounge in Hamtramck, Michigan. Her father was a vice-president for Gale Research in Detroit. I still have her picture.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm sort of sorry that "yellow leg: The incontinent wolf" was never finished.

Anonymous said...

I wonder. Do the stories one writes in one's head and never puts to pen or paper gets sent out to the universe on some wave length or do they just languish somewhere in the files of the brain?

Professor Irwin Corey said...

These are the universalist tomes of both inhuman and humane humanity. Indublitabluy.

paul said...

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R2C2!!!!!

the walking man said...

Do stories and books really take that long to write; where you have time to discuss or work out character/plot details with someone else? I thought you just hit the zone and let the fingers fly until you have the completed rough and then edit it until it says stop?

I have to throw all seven novels out now and, find someone to be a fried food eating friend to discuss story details with while reading the fork trails in the faux tater food.

O my GOD! Is this finally the Advanced Creative Writing class II that I have been waiting two years for?

If it is can I have my three credits now which only makes me 14 short of my two year degree?

I had surgery on my ass today so can I get a couple extra credits for sitting down while I write this?

And anesthesia (great stuff)) that ought to be worth at least four more and, add two for the 6 polyps that were removed from my colon.

And maybe if I ask nicely(please)three more for the trip God and I took while my body was being worked on to find a certain demon in need of knowledge of the wrongness in fucking with a child of God.

And add in some extras because I went to the funeral home, directly from the hospital with a pocket full of the green ones in case they were needed (they were.)

And because I capitalized all the I's that should about cover it. So teacher fair and friend wonderful; thank you so much for adding the class, finally to the curriculum,
and the extra credits to complete my degree for this my final short story; which completes my education.

Please just mail the diploma, I have to go find someone to help me find seven new novel subjects. Maybe I'll go try Churches chicken their food is greasier and they have collards, which in my neighborhood are as easy to read as tea leaves.

Very Much at Peace Now
and peace to you Michelle, always

TWM

PS What the fuck is a couplet?

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm all for writing "reality fiction" as long as I don't get it tangled with "creative nonfiction." For me, I have to keep company with my ideas and characters for a very long time before I can get them to become real. It doesn't matter whether I discuss them with others or keep them to myself. At some point, I just know that what I've created is completed or ready for the scrap heap.

Susan Miller said...

I adore Hank. Your writing of him is such a wonderful tribute.