- Take a man. Take a woman. Add a slammed door, and a heart like flash
fiction(yellow diamond, un-scratched match, T-shirt reading BOO HOO, virtuosity, systole, diastole—or series of blows/working verbs: press, thrust, hiss, memorialize, kiss and fly). Add conflict, as in dead dog, as in our dog, Sarah, possibly skittering metaphor, as in the day you walked out the door—the dog leapt, the dog tumbled down the steps, away—half-drunk, half calling/half cursing my name, Sarah, but fully knowing, fully not-back, fully turned and door-framed like a prophecy, fully here, there, everywhere, gone.
- Write one page about fugacity. This moment no longer. This one. Add a shadow of cotton panties, a perfect angle, triangle, edge
sthis day softening in the memory flaw. Add two shots of tequila before the football game, and the way we lost, or won. (That I can’t remember now should matter.)
- Take a character, a young man. Create for him an ornamental garden. Now drop a stone onto his head.
- Take a bath. Take a nap. Take a nap
ina bath. Go lie down.
- Take an act you didn’t commit. Now confess.
- Write one page about how you should just kiss, not ask, “Do you want to kiss?” (I am telling you now how to begin
- Write one page to tack it all down: gray
foldafter un foldof brain. This is why.
10. Write about the poltergeist of yourself. An aftermath portrait . Describe the process, step-by-step. Add the day you drank 14 beers and tossed a urinal into the
- Write about what you know
, which I mean as nothing
1. There goes a highway dog, tongue lolling… There go es the writer wh o feels the climax early on.
- Take your draft and treat it like a final conversation—lacerate every Bad Faith/clumsy word.
- Take your draft and make it likeable, make it lean, as in wearing tank top and surfer shorts. Run it right into the ocean, below the horizon of expectation. Let i
sspill like an entrance . Add one glass of fake Irish beer .
- Take your draft, on its own terms, meaning things fall apart, meaning the flowers are collapsing on themselves, the car is rusting, the throat tightening, the very letters etched in tombstones crumbling as we write these words…so what did you expect from love?
Take your draft and make it feel, think, decide, experience. Don’t neglect the allure of pinot noir, sympathetic characters, and sex in bathrooms. Add a banana. Take your draft and give it to another writer. A guy named Buck. Buck will say, “The best story is an invisible story.”
Take your draft, your desert wind, Sirocco, the rattle and thunk of lungs, of window shutters, hot pop of glass panes, because the novel is a house or body (the first days, her kind mom offering me beer), the story a room or ventricle (her photos of men: prom date, college friend at beach, guy she met in Italy), the flash fiction a window or pulse (drywall scar—table thrown into wall, drunken Halloween), the poem the genitalia, or the day we made love in the front seat of my father’s Dodge, in the walk-in cooler full of apples (Easy Way Produce, Memphis, TN), in the Peabody library, in the beds of all those embarrassing hotels; for the last time, very last gasp, both of wondering why—bodies doing this (writer), minds doing that (editor)—both of us crying.
- I said a slammed door. The sound of sculpted cheekbones, the glint of aroma flesh, senses all wringed out wrong, words, mouth, eyes, chambers and cyclones. Something opens, closes, so sudden.
- Add a word loop.
- Add a fixed form.
- Add a rethinking
- Add a thought broken-loose, unmoored. Scrambling, scrambling dog.
- Add buying me bluster, the skeletons of words. The gift of gab. The gift of soft sobs on the page, or some flushed cheek. Enter stage
- Add buying me a beer, honey.
- Add a writer’s block. Another writer’s block. Stack them; build a fucking Taj Mahal (mausoleum of all our days).
- Write from the point of view of something low, a microbe, or everything you can do and lose, or an uneaten dinner.
- You are now a landscape. Go frame your days. Go plot-wise.
- You are now a long, steamy shower. Go drip
- You are now a hot sore. Go run.
- You are now a dog. There goes a thick pelt, some covering.
- You are now a glass. Go stain the page.
- You are now a flaw. Be certain.
- You are now Chicago. Go winter. Go spellbound fog. Go big hotel and skunky marijuana. Go wonderful claustrophobia. So close together. So pressed like a flower. Go video camera
- You are now a stunt. Be serious.
- You are now a bra strap. Go undo
something, or at least try.
- You are now__________________(this is where we imagination)
- Put a police officer somewhere on the page (enter
- Put a police officer in the rear
ewmirror. Blue sparks red. Feel that, as you slide away the can of beer. That’s how my heart always felt, then.
- Put a police officer at the door. Compare his hair to wet sand. Give his character a nature, which I mean as broken flowerpot on the table, winter rains, or what he does when someone slaps him in the face.
- Describe a kitchen. Add knives and something handy to cast and shatter. Add a yoga instructor/mom and the earlier police officer and a woman with skin like an electrifying rumor. You can’t quit looking at her, can you? Add me, and have somebody fling themselves to the floor.
- Lure the adverb into church.
- Lure the adverb into an alleyway. Cradle like a Pabst, nearly make love, and then crunch away in headlock exponential.
- Take a color, any color. It could be the purple of really dancing, finally letting go. It could be the yellow of reading crumpled receipts, a lover’s purse. The green of feeding French fries to sparrows, that photo kept. Red is all the fake people we lived to avoid, their sanctimonious pleads. (I hope we aren’t one of them.) So now add mathematics. Divide. Subtract. Where are we,
are we,are we summed up now?
- Take a list of objects: envelopes unopened, olive oil, hips rocking, Missouri in the rain, disposable razor, hardening nipples, day just dawning, unfiltered Camels, fierce and quick, floating in the pool, ribcages pressed, crushed Dexedrine, rapped it down,
Tupac Shakur,rubbing legs, glow of limbs, glow of tongue, gas station wine, hot dog stands, nacho stands, stands of pines, vibrators, purple lips, hummingbirds, 4 a.m., symmetrical cleavage, needn’t be nervous, needn’t look away, diet whatever sodas, touch of rum, touch of wet, throwing smoke, handstands in cheerleader uniforms, scratchy wool, paper petal skin, wrapped a towel, blonde hairs, brown curls, a dog’s howl, a dog’s black head, a dog’s way of thinking.
- Select an object from the list.
- Write about the object, but don’t look at it. Don’t pause. Don’t sit there in a predictable path. Other predictable don’ts.
What are you waiting for?
- We don’t wait, unless we are crouching (to spring), hidden in the ambush/scribbled crevasse, that space between known and unknown. This is why.
- We don’t use the word because. We don’t use the word almost or very.
- Take a letter and write it into a b
- Take a body part and write it into an unreal world.
- Take a frigid day and describe its lengthening. Its
- There is a dog house shape
of abox setof Billie Holiday…
- Take a proverb. Add a taste and aroma no one seems to write about: alkaline, salty, like edge of batteries, or the brackish sea. Some type of moaning. Finally, finally, give yourself permission to end this exercise with the words, “And then she awakes.”
- Take the language of road signs and describe making out atop the water tower.
Use a metronome to measure your phone calls .
- Take a cell phone. Whip out a cell phone. Eavesdrop like a writer. Drop-in like a writer. Steal everything not tied down, or even tied down—wrap yourself in knots of words, nets an tangles of words, barbed wire, glint and pierce and stuck bleeding still. Listen. Hear. Write one page, twelve more, and they must contain these lines of dialogue:
“I can hear you in me.”
“But won’t you need them now?”
“I think I want to, you know, hang out at home.”
“It seems I’m boring you.”
“Do you think this a fun game?”
“I won’t believe a moment lived beautifully was wasted.”
“Prove it then.”
“Look, it’s a habit.”
- Take a repetition, a potential for patterns to emerge, the way our bodies keep doing everything our minds tell us to avoid. Add floating like an octopus off a kitchen floor. Add a character prop, like cough syrup and cheap vodka, like molasses sex, thick and sweet, drifting above ourselves, like calling out to a ship passing by. I think this will be a Tuesday, but that’s up to you.
- Take white space and make it red.
- Fight for it. Break the nose of the sentence. Blow everything up like a semi-colon. Go omniscient on someone’s ass.
- Go flashback (body numb as if wasn’t there).
- Go currents struggling; go revealing truth (receiving a blow jobwhile you watch the plastic glow-in-the-dark stars. Later you will peel them all away, and think of yourself as childish
- Go personal urgency (a need to leap from roofs).
- Now start cleaning up: verbs, coffee spills, that pile of letters, words, clichés: dog-tired, sick as a dog, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, let sleeping dogs lie, in the dog house, and you, wow, you look like somebody just shot your dog.
- Start on a hagiography (all of this in a phone booth).
- Start on a Homeric (all of this on a slow train).
- Start on a passion play (all of this in an elevator).
- Start on an index card. We’re going to file something here. We’re going to impale everything on the wall. First drafts with cigarette smoke with last of the beer with focus on nouns with a patch of dim yellow lights in the distance, the howls of dogs…They call this juxtaposition. They call this structure.
Take your eyes and close them.
- Take all the five senses:
Smell of cooler and blankets.
Taste of taking a deep breath, of standing.
Sound of tight within the body, curled.
Sarah. That’s the dilemma for all the writers. Too much reliance on sight.
- Take a plot.
Take a beginning, middle, an end.Throw in the sad thrill of laughter.
- Take the day of your birth, the year. Go research. What did
- Take a word range. Make an omelet. Devastate some eggs.
- Take a bad poem, your weekend, now make it worse.
- Take a brief moment in time. A scene. Note and describe. Example:
Early spring. Thunderstorms. A squatty motel in Pensacola, Florida, pastel walls, vague paintings of shells, seahorses, a
ceiling of rosy pink.
Now you write the rest. You finish. I want you to…You need to lie down. Get a clean sheet of paper. As if. Get some help. Describe what you feel right now. Describe a place you love. Think of a title. It should be simple yet complex. I said lie down. Shhhh… Control your tone. Someone is about to find out something rare: what another person truly thinks of them. Outside is a dog scratching at the door. A rain sweeping on the roof. Outside I am walking soon. Let’s say limping. There was a time in my life. Take the pen, the flat keypad. Take this text. Listen: you have no colleagues in this undertaking. Listen: I could be wrong. Listen: Why won’t you lie down?
- Take an article of clothing (The seven days straight I wore her socks to work)
- Do you follow all the rules?
- Take a photo (digital, naked, her pelvis, ridge of that scar)
- Write about the time you
- Take a myth and recreate the myth (If I fall, I’ll be caught. And we won’t spoil the moments born.)
- Are you sick, or
shade are you, black or white or evaporate?
country song? Sing Which key will you discover? Which low door?
- Which unlucky bird? Silent still, in all this rain about us.
- Which flea market?
- Which god are you?
Which god? Come on!
- Take a moment. Calm your spirit.
- you stumble across a woman named
- Take her skin. Aching, rubbing. Feathers of a rare bird. Fragrant silence. Buckle and heave. Wept on my shoulder. Oh…
- I am going to lie down for you now.
- I am going to lie down.
I am going to circle and circle and circle like a dog. Then lie down. Take every title of every text you have ever written. Now m ake these titles into your ending lines.
Sarah… Why does it Hit Bottom ?”
Sarah… Why does it Hit ?”
Sarah… Why Does it ?”
POTENTIAL BLOG READER COMMENTS:
Yes! Very strong!
Sticks out as one I’ve heard before.
I feel like this one is a good start toward trashing the tired admonition to write what you know. I’d like to see you go off on it.
Seems like these need some kind of lead in.
Maybe a different response?
Yes, yes, yes! This is perhaps a capsule of what I think you’re great at doing. Absurd twists, erudite glosses, bottom-feeder humor, all wrapped into a whirlwind passage.
I appreciate the brevity, especially after the previous passages. I think they do need some beefing up though.
How about “rear-vision mirror”?
I like the interrelatedness of the entries. Might be something worth exploring throughout.
More an aside, I think.
What other words don’t we use?
How about a starting sentence?
Needs more, I think.
Here’s a great place I think needs some more of your disjunctive style, like #18.
Yes, a few more of these asides throughout would be great.
A riff would be nice here.
A familiar one. Needs making strange, methinks.
I’d say these would serve well as an aside much like the one after #79.
This is great! I’m not sure about your examples.