Sleeping Cyborg

Jonathan David Page talks about whatever he happens to be thinking about. Sometimes other people join in.

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On Keyboard-Bashing

by on 22 September 2014
in ,
with some comments, maybe.

In which I write some quick remarks on writing, as a break from writing.

Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, or worse, have the misfortune to live with me, might have noticed that I’ve been writing a short story. It’s for class. I spent all weekend writing it, though most of that time was spent just being frustrated at it. It’s probably up there as some of the hardest-won 2500 words I’ve written in college. I got it up to that many words by basically torturing myself: I put a box of cookies in front of me, opened them, ate one, and then told myself that I wasn’t allowed to have another one until I had reached such-and-such a milestone.

I’d gone by the LEGO Store at the mall on Saturday, and bought myself the 42023 Construction Crew set, which contains a nice little yellow loader, a red excavator, and a blue dump truck. Great fun to put together, and the articulation on the models is pretty great when they’re done, considering their size. (The dump truck is about 21cm/8in long and about 9cm/4in tall. The others are hard to measure because they have moving arms which add to the height or length depending on position. In any case, they’re all on the same scale.) The dump truck ended up being saved until Sunday evening/Monday morning, as my prize for finishing the writing process, before starting the editing. Yay me, woo.

I say hardest-won because the amount of keyboard-bashing involved in getting the words out was just ridiculous. Normally when I’m writing, I have some idea of what I want to write; in this case, I just knew how it would end (spoilers, the main character dies) and kind of what I wanted in the middle, which inevitably means that I’m going to have to go back and rewrite half of it now because it’ll suck.

The reason there was so much keyboard mashing is because, well, my writing usually falls into one of three categories. It’s either a long (non-fiction) story about a topic, in which case I know what I want to say because, well, there are so many things that should be said about something, and when you’ve said them all and tied them all together, you’re kind of done. There’s short observations and essays, which are similar, but lack the narrative structure, and are usually limited to a very specific thing that I want to say. They’re pretty okay, because they’re like the long stories, but I don’t have to tie them together into a narrative; just a train of thought.

Then there’s fiction. I tend to go for short fiction; one day I might write a novel, but not any time soon. Previous short fiction, at least the ones that have been any good, have been based on something that I’ve experienced, or something that caught my attention. For example, “Help Wanted; Enquire Within” grew fairly organically from a sign I misread. “Cats Have Nine Lives”, another short story that I haven’t finished editing yet, is based on a childhood anecdote involving a pewter cat figurine and some stuff I read on Wikipedia one night that freaked me out a little bit. Kels’ ongoing story, which I promise I will pick up again soon, is based on a combination of user input and some ideas I have been developing about AIs, which hopefully will provide a rich source of material if I ever get off my backside and get writing again.

Then there’s this story (tentatively titled “Smile for the Man”), which is based off an idea for a monster I had one night back in February or March, when I was trying to think of things to disgust Christopher Ruocchio. Christopher is much better at egesting words than I am, and is, at the time of writing, around the 150,000 word mark in his novel. However, he’s a little squeamish. Or I have an overly graphic imagination. Your pick. In any case, I was coming up with monsters to mess with him, and I hit on one that I actually really liked.

And so when it came time to write a short story for Kessel’s class (which Christopher is in, muahahaha), and I couldn’t think of anything else, I thought I’d just use the monster. I didn’t have much else—no real events in mind, no big plot points—and so the words were slow coming. What I ended up with was some kind of metaphor for work ruining a guy’s life, with a very linear plot. The structure reminds me, a little, of some Edgar Allan Poe short stories, which might be a good thing or might not be. In any case, this mostly resulted from the use of the following instruction manual:

  1. Write words about something
  2. If I can’t kill the main character yet, go to 1.
  3. Kill the main character

Next stage is the editing. I don’t know what kinds of legs and hair it’ll grow during editing, but I want to get at least one serious edit pass in before I hand out copies for peer review, so we’ll see then I guess.

Creative Commons License On Keyboard-Bashing by Jonathan David Page is licensed under a CC-by-sa 4.0 International License .