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?"


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


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.


"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."


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!


At 12:49 PM, Anonymous pabo said...

Wow, that was beautifully done. I think I may spend the rest of my life trying to learn the things you taught and still never be able to write as good as you do every single week. Thank you Mr. Writing Person, you're an inspiration to us all that aspire to write anything in our lifetimes.

At 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God damn.


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