Revision of the exercise based on Country Husband by John Cheever
This one is a bit overdue, as I’ve already written this weeks ago for the last Writers Studio class back in May. Like the revision of the “Chicken Rice” piece, this is a piece I would like to work out into a longer story. I know in broad lines already what the story will be about. However, I am still jumping back and forth about who the main character will be in terms of personality and background. Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Frank never believed in extra-terrestrial life, but there it was during that chilly late October night as he was taking his dog Spotty for his nightly walk along that dark forest path, when he suddenly found himself enveloped in bright white light. It only lasted for a few seconds before the world went dark. When the lights came back on again a few minutes later, he found himself staring straight into a pair of huge eyes, which reminded him very much of a creepy bug. The alien – or at least Frank assumed that’s what he, she or it was – nodded approvingly before walking away from him, leaving the room through a sliding door, which emitted a pleasant humming sound as it slid open and shut.
Revision of the exercise based on John Jin by Rose Tremain
Even though I missed two previous sessions, I decided to do a revision of the Tremaine piece instead of bringing one of the exercises I skipped, because it is definitely a piece I want to develop into a real short story. I’m not too unhappy with how the piece is developing; I think this version is already stronger than the previous one, and I’m starting to get a real sense of direction on where I am heading with the story. I do believe the final draft will deviate from the original exercise, but that’s ok. The exercise has given me the structure to develop the initial ideas, but now I just have to work out the story according to my own vision.
Although there are some autobiographical elements in the story (as people close to me will undoubtedly notice), I would like to emphasize that more than 95% of the story is fiction, and thus have little bearing with the situations and characters in real life!
I often held my auntie’s hand whenever we walked together to the hawker center, a few blocks away from where we lived in Singapore. Once we arrived however, I would always yank my hand free and run off. My auntie always struggled to keep up, shouting at me not to run, while I was zigzagging between the many tables and stools and evading the hordes of hungry people, while I explored the stalls that went round and round the entire hawker center. There were hundreds of them, thousands, millions, as far as the eye could see, and every single one of them held the delightful promise of a delicious treat. I want the Mee Goreng! Or maybe the Hokkien Mee? Or do I want Otah? No, no, wait! I see Roti Paratha! I want Roti Paratha!
Exercise based on Deuce:12:23am by Barbara Anderson
Create a narrator who is completely different from myself and who is giving a monologue, and just let him talk on and on and on in an exaggerated way. Underlying the monologue there is a core issue, but touch only lightly during the story.
Welcome to Sunnydale high school on this beautiful day! The sun is shining brightly outside, the birds are chirping merrily and life is good, so good in fact that I want to share it with you, dear audience. That’s why we’re here today, that’s why I’ve brought my video camera, because I want to show you my wonderful school and all the wonderful people who are in this beautiful place.
Let me introduce you all to my pal Brian first. Brian is such a nice guy, always offering to meet up with me after school to teach me some lessons. I learned sooo much from Brian during these after school sessions, about how the real world works, about how being weak is considered a sin and about how being strong means you can do whatever the hell you want. Hey Brian! Look here! Wave at the camera Brian! The audience just loves it when we interact with them, don’t you know that? But… why are you shaking, Brian? Don’t tell me you’re afraid of the camera, surely not you, not a big tough guy like you, who is so strong and so full of self-confidence. Yeah, you’re a tough guy all right, so why are you shaking? Wait a minute! Stupid me! Of course you’re not afraid of the camera. Continue reading
Exercise based on John Jin by Rose Tremain
Have an older narrator look back to a special place in his childhood. Have something happen to that place as a foreboding for the real story. Though the real story is not revealed yet, there should be hints of it throughout the story.
I often held my auntie’s hand whenever we walked to the hawker center, a few blocks from where we used to live in Singapore. Once we arrived however, I would yank my hand free and run off while my auntie would struggle to keep up, zigzagging between the countless tables and stools and evading the hordes of hungry people, while I explored the little stalls that went around the entire hawker center. There were hundreds of them, thousands or maybe even millions, with every single one of them holding the delightful promise of a delicious treat. Shall I go for the Mee Goreng today? Or maybe the Hokkien Mee? Or do I want Otah? No, no, wait! I see Roti Paratha! I want Roti Paratha!
“Bondiola?” I pointed at the entry on the menu card. “What is bondiola?”
I was about to order the bife de lomo, the Argentine tenderloin steak, at El Cucharon when my gaze fell upon this mysterious word, especially since the price tag was similar to the one behind the lomo. The menu card indicated that it was pork, but that wasn’t nearly enough information for me, so I looked up expectantly at the waiter, even as my mind started to wander off. Bondiola. The very word conjured up images of the tough gauchos of Patagonia, sitting steadily atop their mighty steeds while their eyes never averted from the herd of cattle they were attending to. Bondiola. I could almost hear my imaginary gaucho whisper the word softly, all alone in the wide open pampas with only his dog, his horse and his cattle to keep him company, as the wind rustled across the dry, desolate desert landscape. The word itself was pregnant with solitude. And with longing. Longing for his home and family. Longing to consume his next hot meal together with his loved ones.
“Ah! Bondiola!” the waiter exclaimed, a wide grin appearing on his friendly face. He formed a ring with his hand by bringing together the tips of his thumb and forefinger, while the other three fingers were pointed toward the ceiling. He brought the tips to his lips and made a soft smacking sound as he kissed them. “It’s pork shoulder. Excellent quality! Muy bien!”
Last weekend I went back to Maastricht to visit my cousin Gwen (who is a starting but talented journalist by the way) and we held a short writing session at a lunchroom. We took one of the magazines lying around on the table and picked out a sentence on random, and we had to use that sentence as the beginning of a story, which we had about 60-90 minutes to write. (Thanks to Thaumaturgist by the way for suggesting this method for the writing challenge a while ago. It has become one of my favourite methods whenever I’m looking for a writing prompt). The article we ended up with was an article about IKEA, and the sentence we picked out was “Zweden wordt eindelijk wakker”, which is Dutch for Sweden is finally waking up. Well, I quickly had the idea of taking that as literal as possible. What if the whole country was really in sleep for years?
It was a lot of fun to write. However, the whole piece is basically just background story. I probably would have done it completely different if I had to do it again. I would have placed the main character from at the start of the story, instead of including him when the time has almost expired. Now it seems as if the main character is merely an afterthought in this story. Still, I am quite satisfied considering the time constraint. I think it can be the start for a potentially cool storywith a lot of different possibilites, although it would be quite complicated to write correctly. Anyway, here is the English translation of what I had written (click on Read More), with the Dutch original included after the translation. Enjoy, and let me know what you think 🙂