Trying to make some cool new friends? Start writing lots of terrible fiction and then force people to read it!
Has this ever happened to you? You meet a cool person, start texting him or her, and then something totally out of the ordinary happens:
u: hey sup
urnewfriend: Hi there! I’m at a slam poetry event right now. What are you doing?
Oh dear God, what do you say to this? Do you tell this person the truth: that you’ve been managing your Cleveland Browns dynasty in Madden 2012 for the better part of the past 48 hours? No way; he or she will think you’re a complete loser. Just play it cool and buy some time:
u: nm jus chillin u
You dodged a bullet there. But wait:
urnewfriend: Well, as I just wrote, I’m attending a slam poetry event. Maybe you’d like to come to one with me. They’re very “chill,” so if you’re as into “just chilling” as your text indicates, you’ll have a great time.
No, a thousand times no! A poetry slam? Is this person “straight tripping boo”? You haven’t even taken the plastic seal off those CD-bundled textbooks you bought months ago for your University of Phoenix Online course (and you’re justified in refusing to unwrap them, since doing so would reduce their resale value). Well … maybe there’s a way you can salvage this awkward situation and get on his or her good side. Let’s try a different tactic:
u: sounds cool i’m workin on a short story right now
urnewfriend: Awesome. I’d love to read it!
You’ve caught this person’s attention, which is fantastic. What isn’t so fantastic is that he or she has expressed an interest in reading the story you’ve claimed that you’re writing. Now it appears that you’re going to have to type something longer than a hot text like “jus chillin” or “sup,” a terrifying eventuality you thought you’d avoided by crafting a schedule of “blow-off” online classes where the overworked instructors neither assigned papers nor graded them.
Fortunately for you, I’m here to help. I’ve written thousands upon millions upon quadrillions of stories, so assisting you as you compose the story of your dreams will be child’s play (or better still, Child’s Play 3: Look Who’s Stalking). Before we begin, though, commit these principles to memory:
- When writing a short story, keep it very short. Squib-length, tops. Ever notice how any news article that requires scrolling down or clicking to a second or — heaven forbid — third page is “tl;dr”? Exactly. And given how action-packed this upcoming NBA season is likely to be, it’s doubtful that anyone will have time to read anything besides his or her fantasy basketball team’s statistics (WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU ANDRAY BLATCHE? UR STRAIGHT TRIPPIN BOO!).
- The best authors write about what they know. This is why former lawyer John Grisham writes about lawyers, former wizard J.K. Rowling writes about wizards, former vampire Stephenie Meyer writes about vampires, and former pizza magnate Herman Cain writes about why 45 is his lucky number.
- The only difference between “best-selling” fiction and “literary” fiction is that the latter contains way more references to esoteric colors and flowers. If you’re going to write “literary” fiction, you’ll need to be unafraid to describe the cyan, ochre, vermilion, chartreuse, fuchsia and perhaps even aubergine shades of every petal on every begonia, orchid, marigold, wisteria and chrysanthemum in the cemetery where the main character’s abusive father is buried.
Got it? Good, because it’s time to start typing. Since it’s probably been eons since you’ve written anything longer than a punctuation-free e-mail to your professor or employer begging forgiveness for an absence (“sorry brah been having a lot of those colds n flus lately plus my momz died of cancer“), I’ll just write this thing for you. Even though this is a short story rather than a play, we’re going to work from the 5-act dramatic structure laid out in Gustav Freytag’s “Die Technik des Dramas.” First, the exposition, where we introduce our main character and the problem that he faces:
Haden Braden was a pretty cool bro who wore Ed Hardy shirts that were tight around the arms and loose around the stomach. His fave baller was Kevin Love and his main man in Madden 2012 was Peyton Hillis. He really wanted to get with this one girl he knew.
Man, doesn’t Haden Braden sound awesome? In addition to having a name that’s pretty popular right now, he’s as relatable as they come. Now for the rising action, where the main problem — HB’s desire to get with this one girl he knows — is made more difficult by the addition of various secondary conflicts:
Maybe they could hang for a little bit, he thought. However, he needed to finish his fantasy football waiver wire deals before the games this weekend. Also, some of his homeboys wanted to come over and “get their drink on.”
Poor Haden Braden! With so much to do, will he ever be able to get with this one girl he knows? We’ll find out in the climax to our masterpiece-in-the-making:
Haden Braden decided he would get up before noon to do some of this stuff. He managed to crawl out of the cruddy, sweat-stained futon mattress on which he slept by the crack of 12:30, which was still solid by his standards. After he picked up Dez Bryant and Sam Bradford off the waiver wire, he sent that one girl he knew a hot text: “sup wanna hang?” “yah sure,” she wrote back a few seconds later.
Whew! Seemed like he wasn’t going to make it, huh? Talk about a cliffhanger — but thankfully our bro HB managed to dig deep and find the right words. We’re approaching the resolution, although the falling action that precedes it will be no less breathtaking than what came before:
Haden Braden tried to clean up the huge piles of garbage around his rat hole of a place while he waited for the girl to arrive. He knew his bros would be over later, too. If the girl was still there, maybe she could hang with them as well.
Haden Braden’s on a winning streak, for sure. But will the ending be a happy one?
There was a knock at the door. As he walked towards it, Haden Braden fidgeted with the flat brim of the backward baseball cap that served notice to the world that he was one awesome dude. He took a deep breath and opened the door. “Hey, sup,” he said to the girl. The girl entered and looked around. “Cool ‘Scarface’ poster, bro. I’m looking forward to hanging,” she said. “Nice, let’s hang,” said Haden. “Yeah, cool,” she replied.
There you have it: a story that’s guaranteed to knock the Birkenstocks off your artistic new friend.
You can thank us after you’ve achieved “BFF” status, true believer.
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An earlier version of this article appeared in The Pitt News on November 14, 2011.