Thursday, January 29, 2009

I meet once or twice a month with three fellow amateur writers. Our stated goal is to inspire and encourage one another to get serious about our writing. But mostly we just sit around, drinking wine and shooting the shit, until finally one of us will say, "Okay, let's do our writing exercise now." Then we each throw out an arbitrary word, and we must each incorporate the four words into an extemporaneous story. We set the timer for 20 minutes and go to town!
Last week, the four words were: Naked, Bulgaria, Prison and Camels. I had such fun writing my story, that I simply must share it with you. ( You lucky devils!)
I was sitting, stark naked, in a Bulgarian prison cell, smoking the last cigarette from my beat-up pack of Camels. I had hidden the pack under a dead rat in the corner of the cell and allowed myself just one smoke each night, after the guard dozed off, which he did every night at midnight. You could set your clock by his first snore, if you had a clock, which I didn’t. I didn’t have a goddamned thing, except that pack of Camels, and now it was empty. The rat was in pretty bad shape too, not just from normal putrefaction, but also from me rearranging it every night for the past 20 days. But now, I could leave it alone, since the pack was as empty as my future. I had no hope of ever being released. I had no hope of ever being clothed again, or even given a blanket. Those goddamned Bulgarians were so goddamned mad at me, they wanted me to suffer as much as possible, without actually touching me, since they were all familiar with the details of the Geneva Convention.

It all started three weeks ago, when I was in the airport, trying to get to Poland. I wanted to go to Poland to do some research on the origin of Polish jokes. I wondered if a whole nation of people actually could be so dumb as to justify the volumes of jokes that started with the line, “What did the Polack…(fill in the blank).” So, while I was standing in that airport, where NO one spoke one WORD of English, I struck up a conversation with a guard, using my English – Bulgarian dictionary. That probably would have worked just fine, if I had known how to pronounce those idiot words they use. Apparently, the words are distinguished by some arcane set of accents and emphases, and if you put the emphasis on the wrong syllable, it can change the meaning of the word. So – when I was trying to ask the guard how long it was until the next plane would arrive, HE thought I asked how long was his DICK! He smiled and said, “Very long,” which I thought meant the plane wouldn’t be there for a very long time. Then, I tried to tell him I wanted to go home, and he thought I meant I wanted to go to HIS home and grabbed me and headed for the exit. So, I shot him, of course!

Then everyone in the whole airport was pissed off, even though there were plenty of other guards. I told them it was all their fault, because they had such a stupid language and why don’t they just speak English, like civilized people. So, the intolerant, unreasonable bastards stripped me down, looking for explosives, they said, but they didn’t check the one place where I had hastily stuck my pack of Camels. Thank goodness, because I would have gone nuts in that cold, rat-infested cell, without that one little thing to look forward to, each night.

I don’t know what I’ll do now.


Bill Stankus said...

So, you and a few other writers get drunk several times a month? And the drinking game is certain words? ... I know that game. Bulgaria is not one of my drinking words. Children, that is MY children, is part of my drinking game. I digress.

Call me Sigmund, but is that how you plan to write the novel of your dreams? ... I think the drinking thing is supposed to come after fame and fortune... unless you're Russian, that is. Or from New Orleans. Or my home town.

Wait til you're jaded and still unfulfilled by success and your movie deal. I'm so sorry they picked one of those scrawny Olsen twins to play your heroine... ya know, that's demographics.

Where was I? Oh, yes, that dead rat thing is highly symbolic. Be careful of that stuff, most movie goers won't get it. Instead, ya gotta have big guns and exploding heads... that's were the real money is. The being nude in the prison cell is definitely a good thing. That sells, fer sure.

breezmister said...

What color was the cell, was it cold,cinder blook, plaster, peeling paint, writing on the wall from the last prisoner, iron bars, window, was it a bed you sat on or a floor ??????

If you can see it it your minds eye, put it on the page. You are in control, control the vision. Don't let me see what I think you mean, make me see what you see.

I would give you a A plus for imagination (snicker) But a C for setting the vision of the story.

Well, that was my 2 cents.....

Connor said...

great start..but does our heroin escape?? maybe you could ask the gaurd about 'the plane' again and when he starts draggin you to his house, BAM! karate chop to the larynx and then sneak over the border into Poland..

Madam Z said...

Hey guys, I had to do this in 20 minutes! It wasn't meant to be the start of a novel! I wasn't trying to describe the setting in excruciating detail. The whole point of these exercises is to get our imaginations fired up. Sheesh!

If I ever get around to writing a serious story, it will concern a subject I actually know something the futility of life.

Lisa said...

I like the idea of writing exercises because it does make you focus. I like what you did with this one. So in your group, who gets to pick the words each time?

Bill Stankus said...

"Z?, hi babe ... listen, I've been talking over your book idea with the main publisher... yeah, that guy... Listen I know you got drunk at the Christmas party and gave him the what for - but he's got hide like an elephant. As long as the book sells, especially in New York and Chicago, he's happy." "Anyway, he took another look at your Bulgarian prison story and he wants a few changes. Lose the rat - it's a real turn off. Use a rock or something not so gross. And, listen, tell me again about the nude part... is she young or old... 'cause if she's too old you gotta fix that... think of the movie deal, ok?"

"And, babe, here's the deal... no more than 75,000 words, OK?" "Anything more and the price point per book will kick it into the too expensive category." "Keep it simple. play up the sex and maybe add some more violence ... yeah, I know, it's been done - but think of the movie and all that money you'll be making ... so, who do you want as the leading lady? I already got some feelers going with a few studios." "OK?" "What about lunch tomorrow, you're buying, right?"

fingers said...

Twenty minutes ??
You'd completed the exercise after the first sentence. The rest of the essay was simply an intellectual beat-up on Eastern European cultures and airport staff in general.
You, Z are no lady.

BTW, you can smoke a rat once it's been properly dried...

Spartacus said...

So what have you titled this wonderful vignette? I would call it Contraband.

Madam Z said...

Bill: The publisher called me already. He bought me lunch. After that, there was a lot of sex and violence.

Fingers: Get your fingers out of your ass and listen up! This was just a 20 minute extemporaneous riff, which was to include 4 random words, one of which was "Bulgaria." While it's true that I am "no lady," I was not beating up on Eastern Europeans. One of my favorite ex-husbands is a Polack. He's very smart and we both enjoy Polish jokes. My kids are half-Polish. They also are very smart and enjoy Polish jokes. I'm half Norwegian. Polish jokes *pale* in comparison to Norwegian jokes, which are told primarily by Norwegians, about Norwegians. I know absolutely nothing about Bulgaria or the Bulgarian language. In my story, I was joking more about "ugly Americans" than about Eastern Europeans. So lighten up awready!
(BTW, I did end up smoking the rat. It wasn't bad, after I got over the retching.)

Spartacus: I can't make up my mind about the title. Some contenders are:
Airhead in Camelrot
The Color Putrid
Days of Whine and Dozes

fingers said...

So, a Viking and a priest walk into a herring cannery...

Harry said...

Tough audience you have here Z. I have been neglect in stopping by but while I was reading this I was think"Right on Madam Z is back" thinking your little bout of writers block has finally vamoosed. I STILL think RIGHT ON!