I haven't written much in a long, long time. I did a small piece, entitled Suckered, for Meat for Tea: The Valley Review. It wasn't exactly a short story... more of a vignette. Suckered was a little heavy handed and the dialogue was... well, the dialogue was not its strong point. Dialogue is something I've always struggled to write. So I decided to make it almost all dialogue as an exercise... for the most part, just a couple speaking over dinner. You can find it in Vol. 5, Issue 2 if you're really interested.
I recently decided to do something to spur me to write more. I enrolled in a creative writing workshop at Flying Object in Hadley, MA with Rachel B. Glaser. I figured if I paid money, that I would be compelled to actually write something. It will be good to get some feedback from other writers... good, honest feedback.
That said, I'm a little concerned as well. I'm concerned that my writing won't be that good. I'm concerned I'll be "that guy" in the class that is hopelessly clueless and the other students mentally groan over when having to read or hear his work.
I've decided to follow the class here on the blog. If anything, it will just give me some material and you something to laugh at, whether intended or not, I suppose.
The first writing assignment was "Bad Writing". Well HO-leee hell. That should be a no-brainer. Except when you actually try to write badly... on purpose... it's not that easy.
I took a couple of days to think about it after getting the assignment. It was to be no more than a page, in any form. I tried to think about what makes writing bad. For me, I hate repetition of words or phrases. I try to avoid writing which adds nothing to the story. Run on sentences and bad metaphor are always a sure sign of terrible prose. Finally, a single image came into my mind... that of a sunset. I figured I would start with a cliché and would make it as over the top as I could. I would take all of those things that I normally avoid and lay it on thick... like peanut butter... and jelly.
So here it is:
The sunset looked like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Not the outside, but the inside, once it’s been squished together and then pulled apart again. It met the ocean and was reflected in its imperfect mirror. Being low tide, the air smelled of dead, salty things from the ocean.
“I love walking on the beach at sunset,” she said.
“I know. That’s what you said in your online profile,” he grinned.
He loved the way her lips moved when she talked. They were the first thing he noticed about her. Well, actually the second, but in his defense, she was wearing a rather low cut blouse.
There was an electricity in the air. He could feel the sparks between them. It was like humming electric lines or his old Lionel train set that was always short circuiting and leaving scorch marks in the carpet of his room growing up. Mom used to always yell at him for that.
“Stop leaving scorch marks on the carpet in your room!” she’d yell.
But Andrea didn’t yell like his mother, and his mother didn’t particularly look like her and never wore low cut blouses, which tended to reassure him that there was nothing Oedipal about his interest at all.
They walked in silence for a while, neither of them saying anything. It was nice. They walked a bit on the sand and then they walked a bit in the water, which lapped their feet, like a puppy with sweaty feet. Not that puppies’ feet sweat. Neither puppies nor dogs sweat. That’s why they pant, because they can’t sweat. But puppies will sometimes lick your feet when you take your socks off and they are sweaty. I mean, your feet, not the socks. The socks are sweaty too, but the puppies don’t lick the socks, they lick your feet. They sometimes do eat socks, though. Probably because they are sweaty. The water was nice lapping at their feet and not at all ticklish like a puppy licking your feet.
“I love the way the waves lap at your feet when you walk in the water,” she said.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” he laughed.
She smiled at him. Her smile reminded him of his mother. Wait. No it didn’t. That would be weird. No, it was his sister’s smile that it reminded him of and for a moment a frown crossed his face as he wondered which was worse; Andrea reminding him of his mother or his sister. His sister’s hair was just about the same color auburn as Andrea’s, although he was pretty certain that his sister’s color came from a bottle.
“You know what the sky reminds me of?” asked Andrea?
“A peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Not the sandwich exactly, but when you pull it apart and everything is all squished together.”