Friday, September 29, 2006

A List the Size of Your Mother

Editor's note: No, Mr. Writing Person isn't out of the asylum. Yes, this is me posting.

I have nothing new for you, dear, um, "Philistines," except a list of all of Mr. Writing Person's posts, all nicely sorted by date. (That is, not in reverse order like blogs usually like to do.) What's your favorite? I'm torn between Milieu Surprise and Serial Romance.

I should make it clear that anyone wanting to have women and fame and glory and millions in advertising revenue needs to follow all of this advice to the letter. And remember to publish under a pseudonym so they don't chuck you into the loony bin.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Day the Column Died

Editor's note: This post is actually written by me, Mr. Writing Person's copy editor.

I have some very bad news.

When I came home Friday night, I found Mr. Writing Person, his stepmother and stepsister, and a few representatives from the local mental health center in our living room. I heard them before I opened the door--apparently, I had arrived just when things had started to get interesting. His Imperiousness Mr. Person was being restrained, while his stepmother was shouting at him, calling him a perverted sicko, and his stepsister was screaming something about her gerbil.

It all went downhill from there. Yes, I tried to stick up for him. Who wouldn't? He pays almost all of my rent. To make a long story short, he's been taken away. That's right: Mr. Writing Person's family staged an intervention and had him hauled off to the loony bin.

It's not fair, really. No, he's not all there, and he's not exactly right in the head, but he's completely harmless. He can be a little unsettling sometimes, like the time I woke up at 3am to find him sitting in a chair next to my bed, pointing a sausage at my chest. Or when I came home to find the kitchen torn apart, and the words "keneths' freekwunsy is 90.3" scrawled in ketchup on the refrigerator. And he does donate to the Libertarian party. But really, he's never given the slightest indication that he'd cause bodily harm to himself or anyone else.

His stepsister has got to accept some of the blame. What kind of imbecile leaves a gerbil out where anyone could just yank it from its cage, strangle it, and make a sandwich out of it?

Anyhow, yesterday I received a letter from the Illustrious Mr. Person. I think it would be appropriate to post it here (edited for grammar and spelling, of course):
Dearest Copy Editor,

I hope this letter finds you intact. Those who defend genius are in as much danger as the geniuses themselves.

We who are endowed with irrepressible intelligence and revolutionary ideas have always been persecuted by the established media. Even the great Genghis Khan was hounded by the newspapers of the day and finally imprisoned for his groundbreaking though unconventional poetry.

I know not when I shall find freedom again. Until then, please take care of my dear Philistines. I doubt I'll be able to write to them myself, as they search and censor all of my mail.

Sincerely,
Mr. Writing Person

So there you have it. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to take care of you all, dear Philistines, because Mr. Writing Person has some incredibly large shoes to fill. I'll probably make one more post, to index his most enlightening advice in order.

So here's to you, Mr. Writing Person. The literary world has suffered a great loss. Wherever you are in that fortress, I hope they've got plenty of quills and good broccoli.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Very Special Ask Mr. Writing Person, Part 2

Writing is tough business.

I had planned to treat you, dear Philistines, to the next draft of The Sandwich That Wasn't Magical Enough last week, but alas and woe is me: I suffered writer's block.

Yes! Me, of all people! It happens to the best of us!

My mental state started to affect me physically: cramps, headaches, backaches, bloating, water retention, and general cantankerousness, to name but a few symptoms. Just when I thought I might succumb to an early demise, suddenly the door swang open!!! Revealing my copy editor, clutching a bottle of Midol. Those little white gel-caps cleared me right up, and I was able to finish.

So today's lesson will be a virtual smörgåsbord of hooks, dialogue, grit and realism, simile and metaphor, and other miscellaneous techniques. This time, nobody will interrupt us. We'll begin with the title (which was previously too short) and the hook.
You're a Complete and Utter Imbecile If You Don't Read This Novel About The Sandwich That Wasn't Magical Enough

"You done killed him!" Yvonne expounded like a nonconformist redneck spectral monstrous aquatic mammal at the gloriously pulchritudinous specimen who was sprawling regally at its state-of-the-art IBM Electronic 75 typewriter, congealing an incomprehensible hoagy with two corrugated two-inch apertures disencumbered from one periphery and another one-inch aperture (which was more of a mastication) disencumbered from the other.

The mystery personage rubbernecked uncertainly--as Abraham Lincoln's chiseled visage ferrets out over the protectorate of South Dakota--at the unappetizing, unsymmetrical carcass, contemplating its beleaguered substantiality. The sun's morning rays caught its face just so (like the sunlight catches Abraham Lincoln's, incidentally), highlighting its spellbinding chiseled nose, sumptuous chiseled cheeks, coquettish chiseled chin, and terribly hunky profile.

Q. But what about the plot to kill him?

A. Okay, who let the Philistine in?

Q. Didn't this happen, like, in the middle of the story?

A. Yes. If you'll stop being all uppity about it, I'll get to the actual beginning. The problem with the last draft is that the story doesn't start in a scene with much conflict. I've employed a technique called flashforward to start the story in a more emotionally-charged spot.

Q. Okay.

A. Glad we got that settled. Who are you?

Q. Susan Greschell, from Smileyberg, Kansas.

A. Great. Let's do this thing.
#

As Fabio "Grit" Writing Person brushed his long, flowing, golden hair, he wondered where his sandwich had gotten to.

This is so stimping unrealistic that you'd have to be a complete and utter gracking imbecile to believe it happened, but reams of blimming, futuristic-looking, gritty station wagons full of hip screaming children flew past his spleefy 113th-story window. It had been like that for years, ever since the groited Government started incentivizing the groaning population to have even more grit-covered, piftling children than required. His father had said at the time that it was a zorbing bad idea, and sure enough, the next ritching day, the streets were loaded with soccer moms taking their snotty little environmental liabilities to Little League, while pinching themselves in the grits to make sure they were real. They were.

Ah, his father, he thought as he wiped some grit from his typewriter with a well-muscled fingertip. If only--

Suddenly, the door swang open!!! Revealing his extremely ugly, hideously fat, freakishly albino stepsister, Yvonne.

"Has you seen my gerbil?" expressed Cottage Cheese Surprise Thighs, actioning redneck-like.

"Nay, and forsooth," verilied Genius Boy as he gestureth. "Hast thou seen mine sandwich?"

"No," retorted The Great White Snark.

"Marry, thou atest it," the chiseled chunk of man-flesh actioneth, "did you not?"

"No!"

Thunder rolled overhead as Yvonne slammed the door and stalked away, causing the downstairs neighbor's ceiling paint to crack and flake onto the floor. Fabio "Grit" Writing Person drilled a quick hole in the floor to make sure it was still seven feet of pure grit. It was.

That sandwich! he thought, thinking furiously about the sandwich. If Yvonne knew what power it contained within its meaty interior, she'd not rest until she found it, which would have been bad, because she really needed her beauty sleep. Fabio, on the other hand, was as beautiful and muscular as he was intelligent, even though he had stayed up through the last four nights being a search and rescue dog. And when he found the sandwich, he'd finally be able to...

#

Hellen was an extremely bitter woman, so bitter that a whole plantation full of sugar cane wouldn't have made her taste any better. Her latest ex-husband had tried just that, but even being a rich plantation owner hadn't made her any more agreeable. In short, she was the blackest coffee mixed with shredded pickles.

When it came right down to it, she thought as she, a giant albino coffee pickle slug, lounged on her bed, stroking her cat, it was all her step-son Fabio's fault. It had to be. Every bad event that happened to her during those events that occurred after she married his father happened after she married his father. Any fool could see it. The trouble was, she couldn't hate Fabio, because he was a spitting image of his father, who was Zeus.

In reality, all the bad things probably happened because she was the blackest coffee mixed with shredded pickles, but she didn't know that. She also didn't know that she was going to die in a few hours, because she was a drawer full of dull knives.

Fabio also had an uncanny resemblance to her own father, which filled her with shame and regret. As she fished around in her wooden drawers for another bottle of heroin, she wondered what he'd do if he saw her now. Even now, as a 54-year-old, villainous woman, she still sought her father's approval. In a terribly gut-wrenching and tragic turn of events, he had never given it, having been too busy with his patients to pay any attention to his family, especially not his youngest, ugliest, vilest, most albino daughter, leaving her to be raised by wolves.

She became frustrated and swore under her breath as she snatched at dust bunnies under her bed. A flock of spring lambs played against her fingers. She should have been able to find a bottle of something by now, what with her bedroom decked out like a doctor's office and all, on account of her unhealthy attachment to an unrealistic fantasy father, which is sad. Sad enough to make you cry.

For some unexplained reason, probably fate, or the fact that she was jonesing for another hit, she began to consider death. Then a ton of bricks hit her in the head. Fabio's death! If he were to die, just like her father...

Rapunzel continued to brush his long, flowing locks, unaware of the sinister cheese mold forming in his stepmother's execrable mind.

#

Fabio "Grit" Writing Person finally found his MacGuffin sandwich. It had been a common criminal under his typewriter the whole time! He took it out, examining its new creases and grease stains to make sure it was still edible. No mold had formed, but as it was a magical sandwich, he hadn't expected any to. He took a ginger nibble out of one end and savored the raw power flowing down his esophagus, through his cardiac sphincter and into his stomach, sloshing around in bile, squirting through his pyloric sphincter, making a quick stop in his duodenum, and finally resting in his colon, where it was kneaded and squeezed until the most nutritional part of the raw power was separated and transported to various parts of his body and the rest was left in the toilet.

Suddenly, the door swang open again!!!! Revealing a giant whale, gleaming in the dim lamp light, hiding something behind her back like the secretive redneck she was.

"Is that a sandwich?" verbosed Unibrow as, outside, a tornado spun like a top, throwing gritty station wagons full of environmental liabilities all over the place.

"Verily, but it is mine MacGuffin," colloquializeth Grit, who didst expect Yvonne the Hutt to actioneth. How wrong he was.

"Have you seen my gerbil yet?" the woman of hideous girth articulated, trying not to gesture in interest toward the sandwich. A furious updraft lifted several houses from their foundations.

"No," soundeth Goldilocks.

"What kind of meat is in that sandwich?" Blubbery interrogated, as flying cars crashed into inexplicable floating residences.

Fabio started. What kind of meat was it? He tried to remember putting it together... he had sliced the Egyptian sourdough roll in the light of a waxing gibbous moon, picked the broccoli crown with a clockwise cut at midnight, stolen ketchup packets every Thursday from the Burger King next to the oldest cathedral in the country... but the meat? It was--

"You done killed my gerbil!" the dumpy dame oralized. Lightning struck!

She advanced. What a dolt he had been! If only he had gone to the pet store instead of strangling his stepsister's gerbil in a fit of inexplicable jealousy, none of this would have happened! He had to think of something, fast. Then a ton of bricks hit him in the head.

Goldilocks gestureth downward. "Oh, my," he uttereth as the sun shone brightly in the window. "Behold!"

"What?" Yvonne enunciated, gesturing.

"Behold the page number," converseth Immaculate Conception Chap, while, outside, birds screecheth mating calls and bees pollenateth flow'ring plants hither and yon. "It's divisible by 17."

Yvonne turned even whiter, if that was possible. She stared at Fabio, horrified, as the evil maniac grinned, but he really wasn't an evil maniac--I lied about that--he was just trying to save his skin. But she didn't know that, so she became a rocket and slammed the door behind her. She hadn't even noticed that the page number wasn't divisible by 17.

Q. That is so romantic.

A. It's the weather.

Fabio chuckled to himself. Then he realized that he ought to follow Yvonne. She'd undoubtedly run to her mother like a giant, blubbery cheetah, and Fabio wanted to hear anything she told her. Fortunately, even though they lived in a man's arm with a zillion rooms, it was easy to follow her because her heavy footfalls had created inch-deep prints in the floor.

The sneaky spy stood next to a primer-colored 1964 Volkswagen Beetle on cinder blocks and stealthily put his ear up to the door, which was hardly necessary.

"Mama, he done kilt my gerbil and et it!" the pudgy princess voiced. "And now he's got hisself a MacGuffin!"

"Does he?" responded Grit's wicked shredded pickle. "I think I might a-quest myself after that. But you don't worry your little head, darlin'. He done gonna get his. See this here guillotine?" Lightning struck! Several small meteors pelted the windows.

The corpulent cow laughed like a maniac, which she was, on account of being raised by a ruthless black widow who had killed all of her ex-husbands, which had driven her to run off to Hollywood, become a cocktail waitress, and set fire to Sigourney Weaver's car, which was spleefing sad. Sad enough to--well, you know.

A loud scraping followed by a THUNK! told Fabio that Hellen had just demonstrated the guillotine to Yvonne. He calculated that it was time to disencumber a giant-sized aperture from the periphery of his hoagy, and brought it up to his mouth--but it was gone!

Suddenly, the door swang open!!! Revealing two very fat, very angry-looking albino redneck slugs. Fabio tried to run, but Yvonne fell on him, pinning to the floor under sheets of quivering blubber.

"Now, young Fabio!" declared the pudgy, heroin-hopped pastry processor, "I have you in my clutches! Your MacGuffin will be mine, and I'll rule this world with an iron fist! And you'll go to join my filthy father, whom I secretly desire to please even though he's dead and I should just get over it!" A giant comet cratered in the middle of the street below, killing hundreds!

Gallantry Personified groaned. This was it, he wasn't getting out of this one. He was a wad of chewing gum, consuming his shorts for sustenance.

A blinding spotlight shone on them from down the corridor. When their eyes adjusted, they saw the strangest assortment of human-shaped beings they had ever beheld.

Two were short: one squat and hairy, the other clean-shaven and boyish, monkey-like, with a funny gait. The four normally-heighted ones were a rugged-looking man in a stimping park service uniform, a long-eared waif with girlie-looking blond hair, a dandied-up royalty figure, and an effeminate man in a white robe with a very long beard. The royalty figure was a porcupine with eleven flaming arrows sticking out of his chest, but he was still standing--probably because his stamina was above 17.

"Save me!" pleaded the lover of words to the figure with the bearded robe.

The boyish-looking, growth-challenged one spoke. "I've taken your MacGuffin," the geriatric disco chimp pronounced, holding Fabio's sandwich aloft, "and I'm going to throw it into the fires of THE MOUNTAIN!"

The party was a bolt of lightning.

"Well, I'm a-glad that's over," colloquialized the fleshy female. "I really din't wanna do much walking in this here penthouse's labyrinthine corridors. Let's behead this creep and get on with our lives." The comet's payload, a sample of greenish slime, oozed onto a bystander and melted his flesh clean off his bones! It followed up with thousands more unwitting victims, until it became inexplicably inert.

THE END.

Q. That's amazing.

A. Isn't it? Though it took me three weeks on the whole to produce, I have a riveting 2000-word story, fit for publication in any number of top-tier magazines. Of course, this being me, I'd simply produce twenty more and sell them as an anthology.

Q. If you hadn't published it online, anyway.

A. I'm really taking a hit for you on that, you know.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A Very Special Ask Mr. Writing Person's Copy Editor

Editor's note: This post is actually written by me, Mr. Writing Person's copy editor.

If Mr. Writing Person would condescend to open his door, I'm sure he would apologize for being late. As it is, the only thing that makes it out of his room are sound waves, which are occasionally interpretable as words, usually sweary ones.

He said he'd update his story to reflect the other half of the advice he's given so far. I think he's having trouble following it. I'm surprised--how about you?

Anyway, since it's bad form to go two weeks without a blog post, I'm going to cover for him. He's actually had questions about his last post, though he's been too busy to answer them. I'll be... differently selective than he is, which should be fun.

Q. Where's all this "women and fame and glory and millions in advertising revenue" you're talking about? I mean, if you have all these women, why haven't we heard about them?

A. I believe Mr. Writing Person would present his mother as a prime example.

Q. I have a question about this paragraph:
Yvonne slammed the door and stalked away, causing the downstairs neighbor's ceiling paint to crack and flake onto the floor. Fabio Writing Person drilled a quick hole in the floor to make sure it was still seven feet of pure steel and concrete.

So why have "Fabio" drill a hole in the floor? What's up with that?

A. I believe this falls under "show, don't tell." If he had just told us that the floor was seven feet thick, that would have been cheating, because there's little chance Fabio would be thinking about that. However, His Inestimable Mr. Person found a tricky way around it: show how the floor is seven feet thick instead. This allows him to demonstrate ("show") the thickness of the floor without breaking POV ("tell").

Or something like that.

Q. So Fabio Writing Person just whips out an industrial drill with a seven-foot masonry bit and perforates his apartment whenever he feels like it?

A. He's active that way, yes.

Q. What's with this "beyond all rational belief" thing?

A. Did you notice how His Excellency Mr. Person tends to get stuck on phrases?

Q. He does?

A. Beyond all rational belief.

Q. Was the gerbil sandwich crunchy?

A. Horrendously so, I imagine. Notice, by the way, the sublime puppet stupidity / out-of-character moment portrayed in how that sandwich came to be.

Q. Stunning.

A. Quite.

Q. When Hellen "fished around in her drawers for another bottle of heroin," did that mean wooden drawers?

A. Probably not. Wooden drawers would be awfully hard to walk in, wouldn't you think?

Q. Okay, I'm really upset about this whole foreshadowing thing. When you foreshadow that someone is going to die, that person better be dead by the end of the story.

A. Haven't you ever read The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton? No fewer than twenty chapters end with something like, "Little did I know, it was the dumbest thing I could ever have done." Then, at the end, the story takes a turn for the worst and everyone ends up just fine--alive and well, except for the disease, which becomes globally inert.

The short answer is, if it works for Crichton, it works for Mr. Writing Person.

Q. The ending to The Andromeda Strain really bugged me.

A. It did?

Q. Beyond all rational belief.

A. Have a cookie.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Very Special Ask Mr. Writing Person, Part 1

Welcome, dear friends and soon-to-be-ex-Philistines, to A Very Special Mr. Writing Person. Today, in a fit of goodwill and benevolence, and a healthy dose of wicked literacy, I deign to demonstrate about half the techniques I have taught you so far. I shall deign to demonstrate the other half next week. You may also see some techniques I haven't discussed yet: foreshadowing, cliff-hangers, and a few tricks of the trade. See if you can spot them, along with heroin-drenched subplots, out-of-character moments, puppet stupidity, romance, MacGuffins, extrapolation, demonizing, and characterization. Then, prepare yourself for a spanking good surprise ending!

What does all this mean? It means that, at the end of next week, free of charge, you will receive a genuine Mr. Writing Person work of fiction, complete with MacGuffins, grit, and a side of snappy dialogue. This is one story that I will not be able to send to a publisher, so I'm really taking a hit for you, and I hope you appreciate it. Every penny does count, even when you have all the women and fame and glory and millions in advertising revenue you can handle.

When you write a story, you should always draw most heavily from your own experience to avoid inadvertently lying to your readers. This story is a dystopian future / fantasy murder mystery, which involves areas of human experience that I am uniquely qualified to write about.

Let us now experience Schadenfreude together.

The Sandwich That Wasn't Magical Enough

As Fabio Writing Person brushed his long, flowing, golden hair, he wondered where his sandwich had gotten to.

Reams of futuristic-looking station wagons full of screaming children flew past his 113th-story window. It had been like that for years, ever since the Government started incentivizing the groaning population to have even more children than required. His father had said at the time that it was a bad idea, and sure enough, the next day, the streets were loaded with soccer moms taking their snotty little environmental liabilities to Little League.

Ah, his father. If only--

Suddenly, the door swang open!!! Revealing his extremely ugly, hideously fat, freakishly albino stepsister, Yvonne.

Q. Is that foreshadowing?

A. Where did you come from?

Q. I'm Michael Downing from Experiment, Georgia. I've been here the whole time.

A. Right.

Q. So are those names, like, foreshadowing? "Fabio" and "Yvonne"?

A. If I tell you that now, it won't ruin the foreshadowing, if you get my meaning.

Q. I don't get it.

A. Then shut up and let me tell the story, okay?

"Has you seen my gerbil?" she said, redneck-like.

"No," he replied, annoyed. "Have you seen my sandwich?"

"No."

"You ate it," he accused her, "didn't you?"

"No!"

Yvonne slammed the door and stalked away, causing the downstairs neighbor's ceiling paint to crack and flake onto the floor. Fabio Writing Person drilled a quick hole in the floor to make sure it was still seven feet of pure steel and concrete.

That sandwich! If Yvonne knew what power it contained within its meaty interior, she'd not rest until she found it, which would have been bad, because she really needed her beauty sleep. Fabio, on the other hand, was as beautiful as he was intelligent, even though he had stayed up through the last four nights searching. And when he found the sandwich, he'd finally be able to...

#

Hellen was an extremely bitter woman, so bitter that a whole plantation full of sugar cane wouldn't have made her taste any better. Her latest ex-husband had tried just that, but even being a rich plantation owner hadn't made her any more agreeable.

When it came right down to it, she thought as she lounged on her bed like a giant albino slug, stroking her cat, it was all her step-son Fabio's fault. It had to be. Every bad event that happened to her during those events that occurred after she married his father happened after she married his father. Any fool could see it. The trouble was, she couldn't hate Fabio, because he was a spitting image of his father, who was handsome beyond all rational belief.

In reality, all the bad things probably happened because she was so bitter, but she didn't know that. She also didn't know that she was going to die in a few hours.

Q. Hang on--is that foreshadowing?

A. Honestly, grasshopper, do you notice nothing else?

Q. I noticed the cliff-hanger at the end of the last section.

A. Have a cookie. Can I finish now?

Fabio also had an uncanny resemblance to her own father, which filled her with shame and regret. As she fished around in her drawers for another bottle of heroin, she wondered what he'd do if he saw her now. Even now, as a 54-year-old, villainous woman, she still sought her father's approval. He had never given it, having been too busy with his patients to pay any attention to his family, especially not his youngest, ugliest, vilest, most albino daughter, leaving her to be raised by wolves.

She became frustrated and swore under her breath as she snatched at dust bunnies under her bed. She should have been able to find a bottle of something by now, what with her bedroom decked out like a doctor's office and all, on account of her unhealthy attachment to an unrealistic fantasy father, which is sad. Sad enough to make you cry.

For some unexplained reason, she began to consider death. Then it hit her. Fabio's death! If he were to die, just like her father...

Fabio continued to brush his long, flowing locks, unaware of the sinister plot forming itself in his stepmother's execrable mind.

#

Fabio Writing Person finally found his MacGuffin sandwich. It had been under his typewriter the whole time! He took it out, examining its new creases and grease stains to make sure it was still edible. No mold had formed, but as it was a magical sandwich, he hadn't expected any to. He took a ginger nibble out of one end and savored the raw power flowing down his esophagus, through his cardiac sphincter and into his stomach, sloshing around in bile, squirting through his pyloric sphincter, making a quick stop in his duodenum, and finally resting in his colon, where it was kneaded and squeezed until the most nutritional part of the raw power was separated and transported to various parts of his body and the rest was left in the toilet.

Q. Was that foreshadowing again?

A. This time, no. But you did manage to spot a "trick of the trade," so you get another cookie.

Q. Goodie!

Suddenly, the door swang open again!!!! Revealing the whalish Yvonne, gleaming in the dim lamp light, hiding something behind her back like the secretive redneck she was.

"Is that a sandwich?"

"It's my MacGuffin," said Fabio, fully expecting Yvonne to assume it was just another McDonald's monstrosity. How wrong he was.

"Have you seen my gerbil yet?" she said, trying not to betray her sudden interest in the sandwich.

"No."

"What kind of meat is in that sandwich?"

Fabio started. What kind of meat was it? He tried to remember putting it together... he had sliced the Egyptian sourdough roll in the light of a waxing gibbous moon, picked the broccoli crown with a clockwise cut at midnight, stolen ketchup packets every Thursday from the Burger King next to the oldest cathedral in the country... but the meat? It was--

"You done killed my gerbil!" Yvonne shrieked.

She advanced. What a dolt he had been! If only he had gone to the pet store instead of strangling his stepsister's gerbil in a fit of inexplicable jealousy, none of this would have happened! He had to think of something, fast. In an instant, it hit him.

Fabio looked down. "Oh, my," he said. "Would you look at that?"

"What?" Yvonne demanded, heaving.

"The page number. It's divisible by 17."

Yvonne turned even whiter, if that was possible. She stared at Fabio, horrified, as he grinned like an evil maniac, which he wasn't--he was just trying to save his skin. But she didn't know that, so she took off and slammed the door behind her. She hadn't even noticed that the page number wasn't divisible by 17.

Fabio chuckled to himself. Then he realized that he ought to follow Yvonne. She'd undoubtedly run to her mother, and Fabio wanted to hear anything she told her. Fortunately, even though they lived in an impossibly huge corner penthouse with a zillion rooms, it was easy to follow her because her heavy footfalls had created inch-deep prints in the floor.

He stood next to a primer-colored 1964 Volkswagen Beetle on cinder blocks and stealthily put his ear up to the door, which was hardly necessary.

"Mama, he done kilt my gerbil and et it!" Yvonne shrieked. "And now he's got hisself a MacGuffin!"

"Does he?" said Hellen. "I think I might a-quest myself after that. But you don't worry your little head, darlin'. He done gonna get his. See this here guillotine?"

Yvonne laughed like a maniac, which she was, on account of being raised by a ruthless black widow who had killed all of her ex-husbands, which had driven Yvonne to run off to Hollywood, become a cocktail waitress, and set fire to Sigourney Weaver's car, which was sad. Sad enough to--well, you know.

A loud scraping followed by a THUNK! told Fabio that Hellen had just demonstrated the guillotine to Yvonne. He calculated that it was time to take a giant-sized bite of that sandwich, and brought it up to his mouth--but it was gone!

Suddenly, the door swang open!!! Revealing two very fat, very angry-looking slug-like albino redneck women. Fabio tried to run, but Yvonne fell on him, pinning to the floor under sheets of quivering blubber.

"Now, young Fabio!" declared Hellen, "I have you in my clutches! Your MacGuffin will be mine, and I'll rule this world with an iron fist! And you'll go to join my filthy father, whom I secretly desire to please even though he's dead and I should just get over it!"

Fabio groaned. This was it, he wasn't getting out of this one.

A blinding light shone on them all from down the corridor. When their eyes adjusted, they saw the strangest assortment of human-shaped beings they had ever beheld.

Two were short: one squat and hairy, the other clean-shaven and boyish. The four normally-heighted ones were a rugged-looking man in a park service uniform, a long-eared waif with girlie-looking blond hair, a dandied-up royalty figure, and an effeminate man in a white robe with a very long beard. The royalty figure had eleven flaming arrows sticking out of his chest, but he was still standing--probably because his stamina was above 17.

"Save me!" pleaded Fabio to the figure with the bearded robe.

The boyish-looking, growth-challenged one spoke. "I've taken your MacGuffin," he said, holding Fabio's sandwich aloft, "and I'm going to throw it into the fires of Mount Condemnation!"

The party left as suddenly as they entered.

"Well, I'm a-glad that's over," said Hellen. "I really din't wanna do much walking in this here penthouse's labyrinthine corridors. Let's behead this creep and get on with our lives."

THE END.

Q. That's it?

A. Surprised?

Q. Well, yeah. I mean, they kill him?

A. Sure! It's a very literary thing to do. Readers have gotten tired of protagonists who survive the crucible. They want to know that things generally end up badly to validate their bleak existences. Besides, it's a dystopian future story, and those always end badly by convention.

Q. But you foreshadowed Hellen's death!

A. If it makes you feel any better, she later dies tragically in a freak lint-catcher accident.

Q. Really?

A. No.

Now, back to my dear Philistines who don't interrupt me during a good story. I've deigned to demonstrate only the story elements of the techniques I've taught you so far. What's left is style. Not that it doesn't have any now, but I've purposely held myself back from the elements of style I've taught in order to demonstrate the barrenness of the story without them.

Join us next week, and we'll have a romping good time putting them back in!