It is a dark and stormy night and we have 23 minutes until the 400 degrees work their magic on our frozen vegetarian supreme pizza. Moments ago, as we emerged from a disturbing dream involving an apartment furnished like those of the sophomore year, we picked up a signal that we should break our two-month silence and post something. As we crawled from beneath the torpor of our early evening nap, we realized that although we want to finish and post one of the several stories that are stalled out on our hard drive, we just are not in a mood to deliver a fictive dosage today. We have some ideas why—new day job; lack of sunshine heaped upon a daily deluge of rain; a longing to return to relaxing, reinvigorating tropical climes; a touch of the anomie that this modern life seems to inspire from time to time; and, not least, blabbing at length and publicly about how cool it would be to write a novel in real time online—we also think we just need to stop making excuses and do it. And we will, eventually.
First, however, we feel like tearing down the fourth wall; stepping out beyond the proscenium, and parking it on the lip of the stage to speak to the audience, workshop-style, because you all need reminding every so often that THIS IS A FICTION BLOG. We mean to say, it IS fiction; where others blog ABOUT fiction, we blog fiction. (We don't think we're the only ones who do it, but we think we offer some of the better work.)
Two incidents prompted this. First, we received the nine thousandth comment that maybe we needed a new job if we were this tightly wound. (We're not appending this disclaimer to the work in question because we actually like the idea of being mistaken for an accountant when we haven't even tried to balance our checkbook since 1990-something.) Dear, dear readers, none of these people are real. We made them up. This is how active and odd our imagination is!!!!! We are that good. Thank you.
For the still curious, here is how one mind turns "reality" into fiction: I was stepping into the shower, thinking about wanting to take someone out to lunch on a work-related reason and realizing I'd have to pay for it myself, because my boss at the time was a cheapskate. "My days of expense reports are done," I mused. One leg in and one leg out of the tub, a title struck me: "The Expense Report" and I stepped out of the shower to write it down. The first lines followed, and I wrote them down, too, as water dripped down the pen to the paper and smeared the ballpoint ink. (N.B.: Always use ballpoint pens in the loo—gel and rollerball ink doesn't fare well in the humidity.) As the needle spray pelted me, I wondered about this person who is so diligent and confident: what would she be like to work with? Who is she? Why is she like this? And I thought, Maybe this is a way to examine the line you hear over and over in writing workshops, that a protagonist should be likeable. (Nevermind that others have obliterated this already. See: Annie Proulx's Quoyle in the first half of The Shipping News.) I would experiment, make this person difficult to like but compelling at the same time by inflating a laudable quality—conscientiousness—to the breaking point. Did I succeed? Did you like her? Did you enjoy the read? Let us know. That's what the comments are for.
We also are reminded of a discussion we had on this subject. While we certainly don't like bullies, we disagreed with the guest columnist that the "Is this true?" question is often an intrusion into one's psyche and private life. Certainly it can be, but we maintain that usually it is not, and we think we illuminated very nicely various other facets of the question and some dignified ways to respond to it. We wish we had thought to mention the trials our artist friends face, musicians and painters who have to deal with much more painful questions, such as, "Do you have this in a color that will match my couch?" Now that hurts.
OK. What are you waiting for? Buy the book. Review it, and I'll send it to you free.