Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The real question is how do they do it all without opposable thumbs?

To practice my writing skills I sit down most nights, pick out a writing prompt from a collection I have and type up a paragraph or two with the hopes that something will spark.  This forces me to write fiction because like all people who fiddle around with writing I have dreams of one day traveling to a remote cabin in the wilderness with no tv, internet or Tyra Banks, strapping myself to a chair and willing myself to write a novel.  Why a novel, you ask?  Because I am currently annoyed with this whole memoirs trend that is happening right now.  Holy Cats, there are a lot of memoirs in the bookstores.  Every newspaper book section I read has twice as many memoirs as novels and most of those are written by kids in their 20s.  I don't know that I want to read the life story of someone who can barely remember a time before Facebook.

Looking over these bits that I have written I've noticed a familiar devise - I write about animals acting human.  Not animals who can talk but still act like animals*, but animals who have BBQs and pay taxes.  Like the movie Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Gosh, that was a cool movie.  So as I was noting that I keep going back to this it dawned on me that I've been doing it for decades - going all the way back to my earliest stories in elementary school.  In high school instead of passing notes I would write up one page stories involving water buffalo at a costume ball or jack rabbits learning how to knit and pass those to friends.  Thus confirming your belief that I was a weird child.  This could mean a couple of different things.  1.)  I haven't progressed at all as a writer since age eight or 2.) the idea of animals doing something human has always struck me as really funny. 

To be brave (These writing exercises have reminded me that I'm much more comfortable reading fiction than writing it) I thought I'd share an example:

Bart did not like his pants.  They fit oddly.  They were too long in the leg and too short in the waist and the hole for his tail pinched.  He had purchased them in a hurry without giving too much consideration for comfort because he was under a time crunch. At 11 the next morning he was to stand as best man in the wedding of his oldest friend Mark to Maureen, an accountant who collected angel figurines.  Pants were not optional.  Bart would look at pictures of his grandparents and long for the days when suits were not worn by wolves.  They could roam the land free from the restraint of tailor-made attire, letting their feet and fur breathe.  It wasn’t until, as myth told it, a certain wolf decided to dress in sheep’s clothing to get near his prey that clothes became all the rage.  First it was sheep skin, next it was sports coats.  Hats.  Shoes, sometimes with spats.  Gloves when it was cold.  Ties and pocket squares.  Dresses for the ladies with sashes and trim.  All of these layers of gabardine and tweed seemed, at best superfluous and at worst, an affront to the essence of wolfness.  
*This is another trend I simply cannot handle - non-animated movies with humans and talking animals.  They make me want to throw sharp objects.

14 comments:

Laura said...

I love it! It makes me want to know the rest of the story. What happens at Mark and Maureen's wedding? Why was Bart in such a hurry to buy the pants? Was it a shotgun wedding, or was he jut like a typical guy and waited 'til the last minute to go buy the pants?

Also, I agree about the memoirs. Every once in a while, I want to read one. But there should be a law that the person has to be a certain age before writing one. And at present, that can't include someone born in the 90s!!

Bronwyn James said...

This seems like a whole new genre of fiction waiting to be delved into by the next generation of America's Greatest Writers. Be the first Rachel. I love it.

Or am I just not up enough on modern fiction to know that this is already a trend?

Rach said...

You are such a fabulous writer. You know I'd be the first person in line at the bookstore to buy your book. And we'd read it for book group, and I'd give it to everyone I know for Christmas. The point is, please continue. The world needs your books. And I'm with you on memoirs. Ugh. And on non-animated talking animals with humans movies. I refuse to take my kids to those. They aren't funny. But Fantastic Mr. Fox was, well, fantastic.

Chris said...

So, does this mean that you didn't like "Babe"? I loved it, especially when, after Babe finished herding all of the sheep into their proper pen, the farmer said, "That'll do pig. That'll do." Oh, it just tugs at the heartstrings.

Rachel said...

Babe is obviously the exception to the rule. But it took me a few years and multiple recommendations to convince myself it was worth watching.

Rach said...

Oh, Babe really is good. It helps that the mice sing classical music. And Chris is right about the "That'll do pig" line. So awesome.

Hannah said...

Write. A. Novel. STAT. PLEASE. Also, I love Babe. And I remember Gene Siskell ardently defending Babe and throwing up his hands in disgust when it didn't win Best Picture, and that makes me remember him fondly. Which is funny, because I never cared for Siskell and Ebert. This comment seems to have veered off topic. The main thing is, I want to read your book Rachel Kay! (I'm trying that out as a nickname, like Rachel Ray but less irritating and more delicious. I'll work on it.)

Heath said...

I'd be in line right behind Rach. I love reading pretty much everything you write--I've yet to read your shopping lists, but I'm sure I'd be thoroughly entertained by them, too.

PS- "I don't know that I want to read the life story of someone who can barely remember a time before Facebook." --> Made my day.

The Other Mary said...

Um, yes please. I love this.

Valerie said...

So charming. I always love a surprise in fiction. I like the way the information unfolds slowly, just as you need it.

Stephanie said...

I, too, would be willing to stand in a very long line and dress up like a pack animal in order to purchase your book at 12:01 a.m. on the day it came out.

Please write something so you can go on a book tour and come to Phoenix - I'll be one of your groupies.

Empress of Venus said...

I'm speechless. That was the best first line of a story ever. I have to know more about Bart and his pants. And may I applaud your decision to name him Bart instead of something like "Preston" or "Skylar." (More obvious wolf names)

the freshmaker *ting said...

so i am obviously catching up on my blogs so please don't mind the late response. But Amen to everything ; and i can still say i haven't watched BABE i just can't do it.
might i suggest that maybe fairytales and aesops fables might have something to do with your writing style ? i don't know but i would have to agree i love everything you write. and well i too am wanting to hear the rest of the story. but i can also see this being discussed in some english course someday by a professor who insists there was some deeper meaning to this story other than animal wearing clothes. so can i ask you now while your still alive did you mean to write this symbolically trying to make some political statement ... or did you just find this entertaining and funny b/c i choose the latter.

Rachel said...

I have yet to be accused of having a deeper meaning in any of my writing. May this always be the case.