A Copywriter’s Blog

A little over a month ago, I had two things happen in quick succession that energized me to try writing some super short fiction. The first was that I read the introduction to Neil Gaiman’s Stories. The second was a bizarre event involving a woman shot-gunning a glass of red wine in a bar before rushing out. I mentioned both in (possibly excruciating) detail here.

So I decided to write four short stories where I imagined what happened after that woman left the bar.

The first was the longest. It was also the messiest, with an embarrassingly confused tense issue. I also couldn’t shake the desire to explain why the woman hit the bar in the first place, and spent more time on that then on what happened afterward. On the bright side, I think I made great progress in avoiding that pitfall in subsequent stories.

The second was in many ways my favorite. It had a bit of a twist, and I feel I managed to give the protagonist personality in a far subtler way than I had in the first story. Best of all, I think I managed to explain her motivation for entering the bar and what happened afterward in a harmonious fashion.

The third story was difficult for me. Mostly because I’d come up with this silly idea where she was going to a job interview and had downed the wine to give herself the courage to argue that she was a better choice than all the younger, prettier girls. I discarded that because it had no twist, and felt like it would become a long-winded rant. Then the idea presented itself again, where the entire thing was a thinly-veiled double entendre and she was actually auditioning for a secretary porn scene. It had a twist, but come on. That sort of sex humor is completely played out. Worse, I can write it in my sleep, meaning I was unlikely to learn anything from it. I struggled a bit, wrote the first few lines of story three, and then sort of watched as it unfolded in front of me. I think it might not have enough detail for readers to really get anything out of it beyond the surface events transcribed. Still, it’s way better than that secretary crap I nearly wrote.

The fourth story was my attempt at a somewhat lighter tale. The woman in the bar was, to me, an obviously tragic figure. She was desperately uncomfortable and out of place, and I had so far written her that way. This last short fiction was my attempt to bring more to the character than that. It actually occurred to me an hour after I posted it that the best way to write this story would have been from the man’s point of view. I may go back and rewrite it that way, because there were several elements about this one that I enjoyed. It certainly changed who the woman was in my mind.

I think the best thing about this project is that it forced me to write in a different way for a bit. I’ve had this blog for over two years- blogging is no longer a “different” form of writing for me. So I think doing short fiction bits like this is a good way to stretch the literary and story-telling muscles a bit. Also, I tend to write humor stuff. This is the first time I’ve written a serious or tragic story in…shit. Years, probably.

I haven’t gotten a ton of feedback on these, but I’m curious to know peoples’ feelings. Did you like the same ones I did? Were any utterly confusing and nonsensical? Do you think my self-critique is on point, or am I (like usual) spouting hot air? Are you flat-out horrified by the fact that I posted something unfunny on the blog? Am I contractually obligated to make fart jokes and filthy movie rants for the next month? Let me know in the comments.

She staggered down the street, purse over one shoulder, clutching the strap like a lifeline. The weight on the strap pulled shoulder down, making her stumble awkwardly, as if drunk. She wasn’t, of course. It would take far more than a glass of red wine for that.

It was a painfully bright day. She squinted against the glare coming off the skyscrapers and sidewalk. It took her a moment to realize why her vision was blurry. She wiped away the tears with the back of her hand.

She wanted an alley. How hard was it to find a damn alley in New York? Every time she left the subway after midnight, there was an alley every five feet. But now that she actually wanted one, it eluded her.

She didn’t know how many blocks passed before she saw one through a veil of tears. In the shadows behind a dumpster she sank to the ground and sobbed hysterically, clutching herself as if she were coming apart at the seams.

She lost all track of time. But when she realized the shadows were getting longer, she picked herself up and peered around to see where she was. Across the street was a church. She hadn’t noticed it earlier. It must be a sign.

She crossed the street and entered, twisting and turning down hallways. At the end of a hall she found what she was looking for, and opened the door without knocking. A dozen pairs of eyes turned toward her. It occurred to her suddenly that her clothes were probably filthy. She hoped they couldn’t smell her from the doorway. She took a deep, wavering breath.

“I’m Miriam Henley…” she shut her eyes as the tears began again, and struggled to speak around the lump in her throat, “and…”

The sob threatened to choke her. Her pulse roared in her ears.

“-and until this afternoon…I…I hadn’t had a drink for three years. I’m-”

The room was totally silent. Waiting. She heard a chair squeak, and a comforting arm moved around her shoulders.

“…an alcoholic.”

“Hi Miriam.” came the chorus of replies.

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