As I sat down to write today (setting the timer for my pomodoro), Jaime, our Tattoo Girl, popped up and wanted to be written about. So, here were are with the next episode of Tattoo Girl.
p.s. There are some non-obvious elements behind the writing of today’s episode. More at the end!
This post is standalone, but if you’d like to read earlier installments, please see links at the end of this post.
At times Jaime dreamed about depredation. In her dream she walked in a landscape laid waste by nuclear warfare, by drought and pestilence, by anger and arrogance and technology gone mad. Awaking suddenly, feeling mad herself, she would find Mr. Mittens plopped atop her bedcover, stretched out in a “C” of cat, soft fur tingling her fingers, alleviating her dream panic. White patches of his tuxedo-patterned coat gleamed in summer’s pre-dawn dimness. Purring.
Still, it was hard to shake a feeling of waif-ness, of abandonment, in a barren landscape of dreaming. Frightening. She oppugned an idea of sleep-aids that might numb her against further dreams. These dreams were anything perfunctory; Jaime thought they might be trying to convey something critical for her to understand. Mr. Mittens seemed to sense this as well. She began to draw images from her dreams, sketchpad at bedside, pencil making long bristly scritches of comprehension.
Do you remember my trip to the Port Townsend Writers Conference last month? One thing I learned was a method of creating your own exercises that use a variety of self-imposed ideas or constraints, constraints which – for me – often result in a wonderfully inventive prose piece or poem. I did this today when Jaime wanted to be written about.
Here’s how you can do this yourself:
- After reading a book or story, try to identify 2-3 elements from the story that you can use as an exercise. Recently I read Anton Chekhov’s Little Apples and Other Stories, which is a collection of very-short humorous or ironic stories by a young Chekhov. He wrote these when he need to earn money for his family, while still in medical school, by publishing in small papers that paid for very short fillers.
- Write a story or essay using those elements or rules. In this case, I had three rules. (These rules were partly drawn from the Chekhov book, partly from constraints I’ve seen elsewhere.)
Rules for Today’s Story
Write a story of 150 words or less. (Today’s story is exactly 150 words – yay!) … Have you seen this market for 150-word stories? Hoot. They put your story on a postcard. You even get paid!
Incorporate particular words. From Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Day”:
- depredate – to lay waste
- alleviate – to relieve
- waif – a found but unclaimed property or stolen goods tossed by a thief
- oppugn – fight against
- perfunctory – lacking in interest or enthusiasm
Use no “the”s in the story. (This was challenging . . . did you notice the absence of “the”s? There is a book written with no “e”s in the text: Gadsby, by Ernest Vincent Wright. Hah!)
And . . . voilá! Jaime dreams, Mr. Mittens consoles her, she sketches to understand her dreams better. Did you have fun? I did!
Thanks for following along! Please feel free to share your thoughts below.
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