Wednesday, January 25, 2006

(ssf) process of elimination

So, the reason we had to write two stories this week for short short fiction was so we could read one in class and workshop it this week and distribute the other to be workshopped next week. "Shortbread" is up for next week. The story we did this week was from an assignment where we were supposed to write a story that had at least 5 named characters and was no more than 500 words.

I wasn't going to post the story I wrote for this because, even though in principle I wrote it to stand alone, it makes way more sense with four facts as background:
1. I wrote it immediately after the first meeting of the short short fiction class.

2. In that first meeting, we did the whole "she was the kind of person who..." writing-class exercise (recounted here).

3. In that first meeting, we also read this one-page story "The Colonel," which the instructor said was arguably the most famous short short story and arguably responsible for the whole recent renascence of short short fiction writing.

4. My own reaction to "The Colonel" was that, while I thought it was a good story, it was also exactly the type of story I really don't have any interest in ever writing myself.
Anyway, my story is called "Process of Elimination" and is available with "The Colonel" pre-pended to it here. Going both above and below the parameters of the assignment, it has 6 named characters and comes in under 375 words. Yet still includes profanity, innuendo, and death. Non-cruel comments and suggestions welcome.

The class, incidentally, so far seems like its going to way more fun than whatever else I would otherwise be doing with my Tuesday nights the next two months. I was worried that the class wouldn't get my story, but they did, and they laughed at all the right places when I read it out loud, and so now I'm feeling that same rush I feel when I'm teaching and a lecture goes over really well.

The instructor also gets a big thumbs-up, as she turns out to have a gift for making everyone feel enthusiastic about everyone else's story, such that I think other people left feeling the same kind of glee and comraderie I did.

18 comments:

jlp said...

Clever angle. Thanks for sharing! It flows quite well.

sarahliz said...

Wow. That's incredibly funny. The first two lines alone are hilarious (though maybe they'd be less so if they didn't immediately follow the Forche piece).

And I just don't want to think about playing billiards with Professor Plum. Really I don't.

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed your story so much more than "the colonel." wow. short fiction. not sure i understand it if that piece is supposed to be the model. but, i'm the kind of girl who likes things to be handed to her. lift a finger? no way.

Anonymous said...

Really, really glad you're enjoying the class and your teacher.

Henry said...

i dug your story.

Anonymous said...

Good story!

Josh

Anonymous said...

It's true... all writing is really biographical, isn't it, Prof Plum?

-E.A.

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

I'm glad the instructor is good at that--it's an important factor in a workshop. And good for you for signing up for it.

I liked the story, although I think I like the other one better. My family used to play Clue all the time when I was a kid; we had an ancient copy of the game from my mother's childhood in which I'm pretty sure the lead pipe was made of actual lead. I always demanded to be Miss Scarlet, of course.

Anonymous said...

That's an entertaining story, Jeremy. Not to get all E.A. Poe about it, but is the narrator of the story one of the Clue! characters and I am missing the clues as to which one? I wondered whether the introduction of "I" (about halfway through, and then used in the final sentence) brought me out of the story too much, maybe a sign that the story's conceit wouldn't carry without an input. But I tried reading it without "I" and it wasn't as funny -- too cloistered. But I thought I'd share my thoughts. Thanks for putting your story online. I really like this short short fiction.

jeremy said...

Thanks all for the kind remarks about the story! Sarahliz, billards with professors is generally to be avoided. EA, you are right about its being autobiographical. RWS, my preference was also always to be Miss Scarlet especially since, if you play by the official rules, she always gets to go first. Anon 11:58 -- This same question was raised in the workshop, and I'm not sure what I could do about it. Basically, the way I was thinking about this is that the narrator and the person he's talking to are two detectives on the case.

jennifer said...

I've always thought you were destined for greatness... It's not enough to have the PhD, the Harvard fellowship, and great hair. You have, and always have had, the talent to make people laugh. Wonderful stories....
-jennifer n.

Absolut said...

Very enjoyable story, congrats! (I read the Colonel after yours so I didn't get the first few sentences the same way I would've otherwise. But was still fine. I much prefer yours over that one overall.)
I don't quite get the use of the word fuck in this story. I am no prude, I use it all the time in everyday language, but was there a particular reason to put it in the writing here?

jeremy said...

Absolut: I did entertain various alternatives for "fuck," but I liked having the three k sounds all together in the sentence in appears. The most obvious alternative, "freak", occurs a couple sentences later and would introduce a long vowel anyway, so that was out.

jeremy said...

It was, incidentially, the lone appearance of a profanity in anyone's short short fiction story for Week #1. Another guy used "pissed" (as in urinates, not as in angry) in his story, but I don't really count that.

Rhymes With Scrabble said...

Really? The lone instance? Well, in poetry workshop my senior year of undergrad, I wrote the only poem about burning someone's house down. You'd have thought I'd actually tried to burn THEIR houses down, the way some of the other workshop participants reacted.

Kim said...

Um, isn't "workshop" (v) on the same level of the ugggh-o-meter as "interface" or "impact" as verbs?

jeremy said...

Kim: No, I take them as very different, mainly because I think "workshopped" is a word that I don't think has a full substitute. I don't have any general opposition to making nouns into verbs in that situation.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that Colonel Mustard did it in the conservatory with Professor Plum.