Wednesday, April 20, 2005

the only tornado story i have

hmmm. flash fiction. (ponder, ponder, oooooh butterfly...what was i doing?)

so banzai cat has been toying with writing in 15-minute intervals, & now it's all tangled up.

flash fiction, which is essentially a really really short story, is a very cool medium; "sudden" fiction, as it's also called, has always reminded me of a telling photograph or an impressionist painting. the whole is more than it's parts, kinda thing.

me, i'm godawful at fiction, as in, i suspect i lack the ability to make things up.
oddly enough i've told a fair number of lies in my time, & i seem adept enough at that.

relax, they were little white ones.

with occasional Giant Technicolor Sharks of the Krakenful Deep.

& no one but my mother (who has special--if selective--radar for that sort of thing) has ever called me on it. hmmmmm.

point being, i love a good arbitrarily specific writing game (there was an entire month at one point when i wrote nothing but sonnets that consisted of lines ending with random words that random people would supply) but i can't write fiction, & am not entirely comfortable with bringing non-bloggie friends into the bloggie universe (basically, if your name isn't on the net already, i'm not gonna put it there), so what's about to ensue is a vaguely fictionalized autobiographical tangent of 15 minutes. it's a tale of 4/20, 2000.

She was twenty, drifting on the long green fields of middle Indiana. Having befriended the trees in Murder Park she realized that it was today, the clouds were rolling in all yellow & black over April daylight, & she had a class to attend over the river. I should never have worn these pants, she thought.

by the time the rains came, in sideways gray sheets of spring worthy of Eliot, she was treading water on the corner waiting for the bus, which came sleeting up alongside her in a vast & meaningless spray. At a certain point denim can get no more wet.

the driver, unapologetic, failed to notice her Greek shirt with the signs of long life running round her neck like a frieze. no one spoke.

Campus, in all its engineered & geometric glory, was strangely abandoned. the English building, like Murray Hall only derelict, echoed & slipped with traces from the wet outside. its vacancy was like a bell of paranoia in the back of her mind. What have I missed? there was no one to whom she could report. I know it's a holiday, she thought, squishing dreamlike through dreamlike corridors, But could there be that many stoners in Lafayette?

Wandering vaguely out into the rain again, there were figures drifting across the flat spaces like petite clouds. Less drifting than flowing. Less flowing than scudding. To the double doors of vast academic stairwells they rushed, like water over a curb, like Niagara Falls. Where were they going? What planet was this?

there was no one in the Union, there was no one beating Martians at pinball, there was no one at the ATM.

out onto the concrete circle, in the rain again, the fountain was shut down & it made no difference, rain & wind lifting eddies of water without pressure differentials to quantify the streams. she shifted her hands through the pool, rippling & splashing the surreal colors of the sky into a hundred new skies that splashed in & out of existence.

all this time there were sirens wailing, a symphony of emergency notes which she failed to really hear--her geography hadn't prepared her for the significance of that lonely horn.

they found her there, by the fountain. Had she seen the tornado?

What tornado?

they shuffled her off to the cellars, where the power flickered in & out of the lab where a dripping cross-section of academic life had found shelter, blinking in & out of websites at electricity's whim. contented, she scrolled intermittently through "A Diary of a Madman" & thought about the wind.

okay, that was about sixteen minutes, but i'll compensate by not editing at all.
so there.

24 little fish:

Blogger retarius swam up to say...

maybe you can't write fiction, but whatever that was right there was pretty damn sweet. nice turns of phrase like "At a certain point denim can get no more wet". good stuff i'd say...

4:10 AM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

that's kind. i figured the complete lack of editing & my utter disdain of capitalization consistency would be the last straw, & i'd be chased back to the fiction shack trailed by cries of "for shame!"

but what you said was better:)

10:35 AM  
Blogger anne swam up to say...

You'll have to read elsewhere for a constructive critique, but I liked it.

1:56 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

i like how this attempt at fiction has broadened your writing, almost forcing you out of your element. i think you should explore this avenue more often.

one of the bigest differences between fiction and poetry is the narrative quality of the writing. in fiction the words matter less, but the story-telling matters a whole lot more (though you can use poetry to tell narratives and fictions to detail imagry).
Even though the narrative quality of this piece is a little vague, it sparkles with imagry, as your poetry does but is not contained by your (often suffocating :P) line breaks.

It's lovely jennsee - reads like prose-poetry, esp. with your sporatic use of punctuation and grammar.

2:58 PM  
Blogger gatsby swam up to say...

fuck punctuation and grammar.
i liked it.
real artists don't bother with the confines of their medium, they simply change mediums to realize their expressions. i mean listen to this:
"Your reader may have no idea what is going on for the majority of the story. This will lure them on to the end."
that's from your "flash" fiction link.
is that something you want any part of? that's like working backwards- formulas and tricks played in the structure and tone are tools of designers not artists. "short stories," "flash" fiction, "micro" fiction; these bland format labels are there to simplify your writing for business jerks and publishers, and while it's handy to speak this language, it's never going to be a substitute for confidence in your talent.
your craft will improve with every piece you write;
the important bit should be that you write to a purpose, whether to share a story, to connect to an experience, to challenge yourself... whatever- but as long as there's a personal honesty behind it, (even if you're conscious of your lies) it's worthwhile.
you rock.

nice diatribe there gatsby.
yes, it seems i really ran with that one didn't i?
well, to me you came across as a self-important twat.
what did you just call me?
you heard me.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Carl V. swam up to say...

Ms I-can't-write-fiction! Whatever! If your posts didn't prove that statement wrong on a daily basis this 16 minute exercise removed any doubts. I agree with other comments, exercises like this are not only fun but are a really great way to practice your craft. Reminds me of 24 hour comic book day that takes place every year. It forces you to let go of fears and just free flow a little and it an excellent exercise. Good job, I really enjoyed it. Was expecting some last-days or horr scenario while I was reading it and was pleasantly surprised that it was a tornado...oddly enough it just got dark out and we are under a tornado warning here!

6:41 PM  
Blogger banzai cat swam up to say...

You doubt yourself too much. :-)

I agree with the others above, very lovely, ethereal images: prose-poetry indeed.

Some of the standouts for me were:

"by the time the rains came, in sideways gray sheets of spring worthy of Eliot," (I pictured this perfectly in my mind)

"At a certain point denim can get no more wet." (Hah! So true!)

"there were figures drifting across the flat spaces like petite clouds" (Such delicateness!)

... and so on and so forth.

Thanks for the heads up on the flash fiction, too! ;-)

10:50 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

ah see the thing is here--i don't doubt my ability to write--i doubt my ability to invent scenarios that have enver existed except in my mind--although that's everything i guess--see the thing about my writing is, as Eddie Izzard so aptly mumbled, "and, er, this is all true."
truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
you'll have to excuse me, i've been drinking champagne & watching I Heart Huckabees.

the Daily Show calls. there may be sushi involved.


1:49 AM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

anne--where elsewhere, precisely?

1:50 AM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

gatsby--i have to say i dig definitions or categories if you will becaus eof the sudden & often unexpected restraints on writing. don't know that i'd do it with other particular goals in mind but it makes for expanding yr writing parameters.

in other words, it's like chess.

1:55 AM  
Blogger banzai cat swam up to say...

Hehe the funny thing about writing is that scenarios are best invented in the mind. From there, it's a small leap to the page-- er, screen.

As for truth, what is truth anyway? (And no, am not being facetious. ;-))

3:58 AM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

the funny thing about scenarios invented in the mind is that they almost always come from a way of looking at the scenarios in front of you...

one of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card, when ask how to come up with stories, made the suggestion to ask "why" and then "why else"

i love why else's...

10:17 AM  
Blogger Carl V. swam up to say...

Mysfit, have you read the nonfiction books of OSC's on writing? Those are so excellent. They are actually the first books written by him that I read.

10:46 AM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

just because it occurred to me:

i really dig & have always dug Raymond Carver's short stories. if you're not familiar with them, read them immediately.

12:01 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

Roald Dahl's pretty freaking bizarre too.

12:01 PM  
Blogger anne swam up to say...

jenn see - everybody else?

12:02 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

ah yes, anne, that makes sense.

think the champagne was getting via bubble directly to my brain last night.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Carl V. swam up to say...

Roald Dahl is a genius!!! I love his children's books as well as his very twisted adult tales.

12:47 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

brain in a vat my what?

1:04 PM  
Blogger Daniel Heath swam up to say...

hey, that was wicked, write more.

"she was treading water on the corner waiting for the bus, which came sleeting up alongside her in a vast & meaningless spray. At a certain point denim can get no more wet."

good stuff.

(and you know, it even had an ending and a nice hook to it, too... but if you're trying to write more of it and out of ideas, I'd encourage you to just tear into it, hook-or-no-hook, and who cares if you arrive anywhere... we get lines like that, we're happy for the ride.)

11:16 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

oh, congrats deary on this conversation, we've been waiting for you to prove yourself wrong for so long...

11:47 AM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...

i'm never wrong.

12:52 PM  
Blogger mysfit swam up to say...

just misunderstood right :P

1:21 PM  
Blogger jenn see swam up to say...


9:26 PM  

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