Thursday, July 16, 2009

Why writing can be fun

Well, as promised, here are the (very short) stories I worked on as writing exercises with Hervé. And I'm sure that someone somewhere has had the same idea before, but let's just pretend they haven't and say that I invented this game. Here are the rules: Each person writes down a list of ten words at random, as quickly as possible, and then gives it to the other person. Nouns are obviously what spring immediately to mind, but it makes things interesting to mix in some verbs and adjectives too. Even an adverb if you want. Hey, go crazy! Then you have ten minutes to incorporate all of the words into a (very short) story. Sometimes I would go over by a couple minutes, but I was writing in French; I had a handicap. (Or that was the excuse I used, anyway). So, obviously I have translated the results into English for you, which may in part explain the weird and slightly flat tone, and my extensive use of the passive voice (oh my god, so much passive voice). Here are some examples of what I came up with:

1) She studied the horizon spreading between the
ocean and the sky. She had her guitar in her hand. Far, very far away she saw the form of a boat. From such a distance it seemed almost transparent, like a ghost ship. Nearby was the frenetic activity of the port, but in the distance there was only the eternal calm of the sea. In her hand her guitar, and in her backpack her old teddy bear. She had traveled far from the provincial town of her childhood, far, very far from the countryside and her parents' house. Her parents who thought only in black and white, in hot and cold, and she was sick of it all. Sick, sick, sick, sick.

2) Find the best three
star restaurant in Paris - that was the goal. And he had perhaps just the thing. He reserved under the name Mickey Mouse, as usual. Sunday, 8:00 p.m. Then, he waited. He was anxious, and to distract himself, he took a walk. Somewhere there was the sound of bells, a wedding, perhaps, and the cries of birds. Strangely, there was a woman with a parasol. Not every day you see that, he thought. Finally he returned home and went to bed. Seven hours later he awoke to the sound of his alarm clock, tangled in his sheets. How brutal, he thought. Then he got up, showered, drank a coffee. 9:00 a.m. He did the grocery shopping, cleaned his apartment, had lunch. 3:00 p.m. My god! he thought. Slowly he left and began walking. Making his way along the banks of the Seine, finally he found his destination. The three star restaurant. The best in Paris? He would have to wait and see.

"Mr. Mouse," intoned the maitre d'hotel. "Please," he said, showing him to his table. And then the show began. There were amuse bouches beyond his wildest dreams, sauces made small lakes on the plates. But finally came the main course. He had never tasted anything like it in his life. "A miracle!" he said. "But what is it, what is this marvelous dish?"

"Monsieur, it is camel," said the waiter.

"Actually, I don't care for it," said Monsieur Mouse, dropping his fork with a clatter. "The next time I suggest beef."

3) "What a strange
coincidence," he thought with astonishment. Standing in the hallway he peered into his office. On the table his computer. And on the computer, a rat. Yes! A rat! Busily eating the remains of a pizza that he had left out from the night before. But what was truly bizarre was that he had been in the middle of writing a story, and in this story there was a man who came home to find, yes, truly, a rat sitting on top of his computer! "Bizarre, bizarre," he whispered softly. But what could he do? Quick, quick, he entered his office and kicked the table hard enough to start the lamp next to it to wobbling. But the rat, up to his ears in tomato sauce and hardened cheese, remained unmoved. Quick, quick, something else, then. The man in the story, what did he do to get rid of the villainous intruder? He didn't know, because he hadn't yet finished the story. He sighed and looked through the window. Outside, the park. Tulips swayed gently in the breeze. He let out another deep sigh, pushed up his sleeves, set himself in front of the computer, and began to write.


So, there it is. They may not be life-changing, but you know what, they were fun. What do you say, do you want to play? We can start slowly, I'll give you five words. Take five minutes (or more) to use them all, and post your results in the comments. I'd love to see what you come up with! And your words are, let's see, hmm...


Any order you want. And...go!


  1. Can you see why you're such a great writer? Can you???

    You took a few words -- silly, meaningless, banal words -- and made them magical. MAGICAL.


  2. She woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of thunder. She loved thunder. The sky was pouring rain, the air was fresh, it smelled like London. She was inspired, and thought it necessary to start a novel right then. The lights were out, she could barely see. She fumbled her way through the kitchen, managed to put some tea in the kettle, and turned up the heat. She looked for her glasses, the ones that went missing everyday. Table. Sofa. Closet. Nightstand. Lightening. Bang! Her foot met the foot of the bed. Thunder. She let out a silent scream, and involuntarily bent down in pain. Throbbing pain. But as her hand reached for her toe she noticed the glasses under the bed. Her apartment filled with black, then white, and black again, then earl gray. She walked over to the bay window, sat down, and with her fingers gracing the keyboard, she stared at the blank page. About what? she typed. About a man, she thought. About an old man... about an old man with a limp and a cane.

    FYI: I'm not a writer obviously, so please don't laugh, just did it because I was bored... but I actually found it really fun :)

  3. Wow, SV! I love love love it! Thanks so much for playing (and being the only one so far!) I'm glad you thought it was fun too. (Us word nerds have to stick together). :)

  4. And Dawn, once again what can I say but that I'm so lucky to have such a positive, enthusiastic cheering section in you. Your comments always give me the warm fuzzies. :) Muchas gracias!

  5. She walked into the café and looked around for the tell-tale signs: brown hair, glasses, striped sweater. Before going up to introduce herself, she took a moment to quietly study her newest specimen from afar, without his knowledge; a practice she found to be useful, necessary even, in these kind of situations. First impressions mentally filed away, she approached the table, and it began. His limp handshake made her sigh internally, but she smiled, noticing a Marguerite Duras novel peeking out of his messenger bag. She sat down, and fighting nervousness, she ordered a glass of red wine. He turned to the waitress; “I’ll have a green tea, milk on the side please.” She sighed. It was going to be a long night.

  6. Um, brilliant! But why do I have the uncomfortable feeling that this little vignette is about me??? Not that I've ever gone on an awkward blind date (or fifty)...