Tuesday, May 7, 2013

exercise # 1

by genghis gilgamesh

illustrations by penmarq studios

aggripina rapped the blackboard with her pointer. the students stopped talking and faced forward.

"today, class, we are going to do a very simple exercise but one of my favorites."

jughead raised his hand. "what about our novels?"

"the ones you just passed in? i haven't had time to read them yet. i will comment on them at the next class."


"meanwhile for today's class we have this very short exercise. so listen up."

helen raised her hand. "are we going to write something right here in class?"

"indeed you are."

"will we get a grade for it?"'

"yes, but everybody will get an 'a'. i assume you all have notebooks with you. i have a couple of extra notebooks if anybody needs one. also some paper and pencils if anyone is inclined to such things. now have i got everybody's attention?"

nobody spoke or raised their hand.

"good. now, as i indicated, the premise could not be simpler. just write a story so simple, so unoriginal, so banal that it could not be copyrighted. that's all. any questions?"

several students raised their hands. madame ching pointed to morgan le fay in the front row.

"how long does it have to be?"

"i would like to see at least five hundred words." a couple of hands went down, but not all.

"mister taft?"

"yes - if you don't mind my asking, what is the point?"

"i don't mind your asking, it is a good question. the point, first off, is to show that it's not that easy. keep in mind, you are not just to have an unoriginal idea - the most unoriginal ideas can and do produce copyrighted material every day. you are to produce something that word for word, makes you think - surely somebody somewhere must have written this before. once you get past the first sentences, you will, i think, find it is not that easy. which brings me to another point - the story is to be banal, but not necessarily about people leading banal lives. feel free to use the cliches of popular culture - vampires, zombies, homicide detectives - "

"always female, of course, " veronica interjected.

"- exactly. and prosecutors and trained deadly c i a assassins, likewise."

"how about professional hit men?" asked petronius.

"they may be the best of all. you get the idea. to finish answering the original question, the purpose of all this is just to demonstrate the effectively infinite possibility of word combinations. a subject we will pursue in future classes. now, does anybody need a notebook? oh, and one last thing - you will of course forget any notions of 'writing well' or 'literary quality'. that is not what this is about."


the killers by petronius arbiter

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