“WORDS TO SAY” is a bit of an anomaly for me, and I can’t entirely explain what it means for me or what it means in general. I wrote it one afternoon on the University of Michigan diag sometime around 2007-2008 in a notebook that was emblazoned with the label “Bad Ideas,” shortly after reading “Howl” by Alan Ginsburg.
I take this poem as a parody of my own lack of poetic ability. It lacks sense, pacing, or consistent structure. When all is said and done, I actually really like it. I have a version that I typed out on my Remington Rand Noiseless Model 7 hanging on the wall.
When the trash cans are
And the hypocrites come out
Swords unsheathed, ready to
Do battle with the
Of the imagination,
The history major weeps,
Weeps at the uselessness of
Wishing he had opted for
Quantum physics or psychology
The mystery man with
Plays green notes and hums out
Looking pale, mimicking a master
Of the forlorn art of
The hypocrites pay him no mind
As they lose their battle.
In full retreat they flee a ghost
That never had any intention of
The history major
“Fiction” is an abject failure for me. I first wrote it years ago in a beginner’s creative writing class as a two-page writing exercise. It started as a guy in a cafe musing to himself about how the process of putting ideas on paper was, at best, an absurd enterprise. Later, I took the basic framework and expanded it into a story that used the process of writing a short story as a framing technique to ground the narrative.
While I do think that my attempt at a “story within a story” wasn’t that bad, the story suffers from cardboard characters that are underdeveloped and fairly one-dimensional. I even sneaked a criticism of my own writing into the story via the framing (and I had a good chuckle about that). The narrative, which I’ve since cleaned up a bit, suffered from what I liked to call “inexperience” and it shows.
Still, I wanted to post this story so that I could share one of my failures. And, to be sure, I treat my experiences in life like a science experiment. Failures are not to be used as an indictment against your ability, or your worth. Failure is a tool for learning and growing.
So what did I learn from writing this story? I learned that properly grounding a story in location makes the story feel like it’s happening. Paying attention to the character’s surroundings and painting a picture of the scene in the reader’s mind is vital. I also learned that I overused “to be” verbs to the detriment of the narrative flow, and even now I find myself overusing them in my fiction writing.
This story is about 2,350 words. It has some sexual references. The story is below the fold, after the link.
“Noir” is my most recent bit of writing. I wrote it last night while the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “The Big Goodbye” was on in the background and I was feeling particularly doleful about personal matters. I consider it to be a bit of a spoof on a lot of the themes of your run-of-the-mill noir or hard-boiled detective story. It’s only thirty-six words long (yes, that’s 36), so it’s a pretty quick read. I chuckle when I read it, so I hope it’s at least good for that.
There is some strong language at the end of the story, so here’s the fair warning.
Deep, weary sigh. Rubbing temples, considering pouring a few fingers of rum. A few pulls on a cigar would be nice. Looking in the mirror and seeing more white hair.
I’m sick of your bullshit, world.
“Zombie Jesus Ate My Soul; or, A Reverse Sacrament” is the first long-form short story I shall be posting here. The idea for “Zombie” came about one afternoon when I decided that I wanted to write a story with a character that spoke using split infinitives and functional shifts. A functional shift occurs when one uses a word outside of its original syntax, such as when a noun is used as a verb. For example, the sentence “I couched with my friends all day” uses the noun “couch” as a verb, and from the context we can assume that it means that the person spent the day with their friends.
The story doesn’t actually have a zombie Jesus in it, so you’re not really going to get a feeling for what the story is about from the title. One of my friends who read it shortly after I wrote it described it as a monologue with different parts of my psyche (who are represented by the secondary characters). I think this might be a pretty good description.
The story is written in first-person present tense, so it has a stream-of-consciousness quality to it. The main character is not designed to be entirely accessible. I certainly don’t intend for him to be a sympathetic character. I had problems writing from his perspective because he doesn’t really give much agency to the people around him, especially the female characters. I hope his point of view isn’t confused with my own.
Anyway, this story is about 2,800 words. It’s meant for a mature audience, as it contains strong language and some sexual references. The story is below the fold, after the link.
About four years ago, while I was a junior at the University of Michigan, I had an experience with anxiety and clinical depression. Both were serious enough for me to have had to withdraw from my classes to seek help, but before it got to that point I was still able to reflect on what I was feeling inside.
One night, during Michael Hinken’s class on creative non-fiction, I remember experiencing an intense sense of panic before finally rushing out of the room. I wrote this poem shortly after to try to capture it while I was still depressed, so it has a sense of hopelessness and I would go so far as to say it’s awfully close to maudlin.
I don’t feel that way now, so I feel fairly comfortable sharing it. I’m not sure if I’ll ever do anything more with it. It’s still a little too close.
But not acting.
You hear many voices
In your head
All of them your own
Pulling at the you they make one
Pulling in a thousand different directions
You want to scream
Not for validation
Silence the voices
But because you worry
Because you can’t stop worrying
Your heart beats
Faster and fasterandfaster
You swallow once
Your eyes dart
Looking for an escape
A fire exit
The shuddering breaths come hard
You get up and run
They stare at you like you’re crazy
You don’t think you are
Looking for an answer to a question
You don’t know how to ask
The air outside feels fresher
But is it?
Or is it illusion?
The beat slows, the pounding
Less like a drum and more
Like a ticking clock
Worry about what?
What’s so scary?
Walls of the world press down
You’re a mote
And you think
You’re trapped in a cage.
The cage is you.
“Conversations on Death” is an early piece of experimental writing that I consider partly a failure. I wrote it close to seven years ago in Ann Arbor in a cafe, and it’s very loosely based on an actual conversation I overheard (the resemblance it bears to the original conversation is the general topic, the tone of the speaker, and the the crass nature of the narrative).
The idea behind this narrative was to tell a story focused on only one half of a conversation. No action is described, and no quotes are used to denote the dialogue because the entire narrative is comprised of speech. I had fun writing it because I only crafted one half of the conversation as I wrote it, but I feel that if you fill in the blanks you can get a fairly good idea about what the other half of the conversation is about.
I consider it a failure in part because there’s no action. It’s just a series of conversations that take place on a cell phone in a cafe, and you only get half of the dialogue. There is a whole story, really, in it. Maybe I’ll take another look at it, but I consider this a finished draft.
I still come back to this story from time to time because I wonder if I made the right decision with the dialogue. Instead of spelling out abbreviations as “GPA” I wrote them phonetically, like “gee-pee-eh.” I felt that made it feel more organic to the dialogue that writing out the letters. I also spelled out numbers instead of using numerals, which I’m less sure about.
Anyway, on to the story. It’s 1413 words, and has strong language and sexual references.
I originally posted this bit of flash fiction on my other blog, A Rushed Joke, so I thought it would be a good inaugural post here. I first wrote this in a sophomore creative writing class at the University of Michigan. It left a mark on the people in the class, at least for the time we were in the class, because in a sort of final exam it was used as a question.
I was aiming for a circular, mysterious structure with this piece of writing. The use of the clock was a metaphor for the passage of time, and how little we pay attention to it until we recognize that time is almost up, but there is a contradiction because most of us are aware of our mortality. A clicking clock ticks away the seconds, and while we cannot feel the passage of time, we can perceive it.
The clock was ticking slowly, reminding us each of our own mortality. But we didn’t care because the game was on.
A couple of other guys came over and asked if we wanted to go to the bar. We thought it was a great idea, so we decided to leave. The clock didn’t care.
As we got up, we knocked over the clock, which stopped ticking. It didn’t matter. It was already broken; hence the slow ticking.
On our way out, we didn’t notice the clock was dead.
But we would.
Welcome to my blog. I hope you enjoy the ride.