Me writing fiction on-the-fly circa. 1989
I know what you’re thinking: Hey, William, your writing skills are superior to that of most lower forms of primate, maybe even moderately-trained chimpanzees, so why don’t you try to write a novel?
The answer is simple: I suck at writing fiction.
Believe me, I’ve tried. In fact, I recently found a whole box of manuscripts I wrote over the past 25-years; almost all of it fiction and almost all of it horrible.
Let me give you an example of just how bad it is by reporting the actual reaction of someone who just finished reading one of my novellas. This is an actual quote by a real person—remember, she is reacting to a serious science fiction thriller which was not meant to be funny:
“You can’t have Santa Claus breaking his colostomy bag! What if kids read this?”
In my defense, I don’t think young children would be reading a science fiction thriller involving Santa Claus crash-landing his sleigh in a dense Wisconsin forest where he is knocked unconscious and his mechanical reindeer go haywire to terrorize a group of hunters. And, yes, he broke his colostomy bag upon impact.
Here’s another synopsis from a much more sophisticated idea—again, not meant to be funny: a couple of cops fight crime as superheros, but they only think they’re superheros because they are abusing high-powered hallucinogenic drugs. The drugs give them the false perception that they have superhuman abilities. Believing the drugs are responsible for their powers, they shoot-up together just before going after criminals. “Needle-drug power… ACTIVATE!”
What is wrong with me?
I tell it from a split viewpoint. From the cops’ point of view, they are running at supersonic speed and flying like Superman, but from the criminal’s point of view, one cop is pantomiming a slow-motion sprint while the other is running around with his arms out in front saying, “Whoosh!”
Ridiculous, right? But this crazy scenario is critical to the story because it’s what distracts the criminals, catching them off-guard and allowing them to be captured.
Perhaps the funniest aspect of all is the title: Drug Cops.
Many of you may be wondering why I don’t just label it as a humor and let it fly. The reason is that it works as humor when it’s condensed into a short synopsis like I’ve done here, but the story stretches out to over 60-pages and the ridiculous premise can’t sustain itself. It’s horrible.
On some level I realize I’m writing something silly, but I’m not doing that consciously. I’m trying to write serious fiction with a slightly off-center premise. After reading some of these manuscripts I can see the problem is that my “slightly off-center” runs to the edge and jumps off.
About one-third of the manuscripts are what I would consider mainstream enough to work as serious fiction, but every single one of those are unfinished. At best, they go about two or three pages. Apparently, the premise wasn’t insane enough to hold my interest.
The tragic thing about all this is that fiction seems to come very easily to me. I can spit out page after page in the blink of an eye; whereas I’ve been tinkering with this short masterpiece of journalism you’re reading now for the past six hours.
Since I wouldn’t feel right making you read all this without giving you a sample of my fiction, I’m going to publish here, for the first time, the very first piece of fiction I ever wrote. It was written during Mrs. Gibbons’ eighth-grade typing class while everyone else was typing their assignment. I was supposed to be typing the assignment as well, but chose to use my time on the typewriter to produce what I thought would be one of the world’s greatest works of fiction.
I have edited it only for format (since I didn’t know you were supposed to separate opposing dialog to a new paragraph) and for the correct spelling of the word “booger.” Notice that the first sentence contains a slight variation of the biggest cliché in the history of fiction.
One dark and dreary night, Bud and I were floating down the nostril. Stalactites of snot were hanging from the ceiling. We came around a corner in a dark tunnel when all of the sudden a giant booger attacks! Bud, thinking quickly, grabbed his trusty icepick and stabbed it in the forehead until it was dead.
“There are a lot of boogers around here,” I said.
“So many boogers,” Said Bud.
“There must be a million of them,” I said.
I wrote that when I was, what… thirteen? I don’t remember my age in the eighth-grade, but I do remember getting in major trouble for writing it.
When the bell rang to go to the next class, I was in such a hurry to get out of there that I left the story in the typewriter where Mrs. Gibbons found it. The next day I learned she was not fond of booger-oriented fiction and actually preferred I stick to her assignments. She marched me to the vice-principal’s office where she presented him with my work.
The two of them sat me down in the waiting room while they went into Mr. Peterson’s office to discuss my fate. A few moments later, Mrs. Gibbons emerged looking twice as pissed as when she brought me in there. She passed me without so much as a glance, then disappeared into the hallway.
My heart was pounding as I waited. Finally, Mr. Peterson called me into his office.
To my great relief, I discovered he was a big fan of booger stories.