Tuesday, March 31, 2020

a spot of fiction for you

I wrote the following story as an example of four-paragraph narrative writing. The boss has me working on the final volume of our nine-book Gravoca series, which deals with grammar, vocabulary, and the art of writing. Specifically, the following story demonstrates how a writer can take a five-paragraph narrative and squeeze it into a four-paragraph structure by fusing the falling action and the dénouement together in the fourth paragraph. I'm bizarrely proud of some of the writing samples I've written for the Gravoca series. Here's hoping you enjoy this little spot of fiction.

     October. And once more, I came home bloody. My mother saw me and cried, “Claude! Why does this keep happening? Did you fall off your bike again?” I couldn’t tell my mother the truth: gigantic Billy Baxter, another student at my school, was a nasty bully, and Billy had been beating me up and stealing my lunch money. My father also saw me, but instead of looking horrified like Mom, he looked disappointed, and I could see that he knew what had really happened. “I already told you,” he said later, when Mom wasn’t around, “that if you let that kid beat you up, and you never fight back, he’ll never stop picking on you.” I saw no sympathy in my father’s eyes, and I realized that this was a problem I would have to solve myself.
     The next day, at school, my friend Cody tapped me on the shoulder and took me aside. “Hey, Claude,” he said. “I know you’ve been having a lot of trouble with Billy. My dad teaches self-defense classes. Wanna join?” Depressed, I thought about Cody’s proposal for a second, and then I said yes. And that’s how I met Cody’s dad, Mr. Hunter. Mr. Hunter looked a lot like a hawk—steely eyes, a piercing stare, and absolute seriousness. To be honest, I was more scared of Mr. Hunter than I was of Billy the bully. But Mr. Hunter proved to be an excellent self-defense teacher, and over the next few months of training (my parents gladly paid for the sessions), I learned a lot about fighting and how to stop being afraid, and more importantly, how to avoid fights. I also became closer friends with Cody, who was pretty cool. As I trained, my self-confidence grew.
     February. I was in the boys’ bathroom, washing my hands, when Billy Baxter walked up behind me and violently slammed my head into the bathroom mirror. Without thinking, and with almost no anger at all, I instantly ducked and spun around, trapped my opponent’s knees, and toppled Billy to the ground. He stared up at me in utter shock, and I stood over him, fists clenched, feeling victory flood through me. I could also feel myself starting to tremble as fury crept into my mind, and a desire to beat Billy into a bloody pulp—right there on the bathroom floor—came over me. But then I remembered what Mr. Hunter had said about controlling your emotions: “Angry fighters always lose. Control yourself, control the situation.” I took a few deep breaths, calmed myself, and extended my hand to Billy, offering to help him up. Without saying a word, and still looking a little frightened, Billy surprised me by actually taking my hand. I helped pull him to his feet, and for a quick second, we looked at each other. I gave Billy a quiet nod; he nodded back, and then he left the bathroom.
     June. We students were getting antsy because next week would be our last week of school before summer vacation. No one had seen me take Billy Baxter down, but somehow, the rumors spread that I had beaten Billy up. It was true that Billy no longer bothered me. In fact, he no longer bothered anyone, and maybe that’s why the rumors had been flying. Anyway, it was a warm, sunny Friday, and I was sitting on some steps by one of the high school’s many doors. Quite without warning, Billy Baxter, the giant ex-bully, quietly sat down next to me, saw the book I was reading, and said, “So, what’s that book about?”

I need to see whether I've blogged the pieces I did for earlier volumes re: Barrett the old gunslinger. If I haven't blogged them, I might slap them up.

ADDENDUM: you wouldn't be wrong to sense the influence of "The Karate Kid" on this story.

ADDENDUM 2: my boss, in reviewing my work (he's our editor-in-chief) criticized one aspect of the story. He didn't buy what may be the best part of the piece: "...Billy Baxter walked up behind me and violently slammed my head into the bathroom mirror. Without thinking, and with almost no anger at all, I instantly ducked and spun around, trapped my opponent’s knees, and toppled Billy to the ground." According to my boss, the protag can't duck if he's just had his head smashed into the mirror. I countered that ducking doesn't necessarily mean you've successfully avoided a blow. You can duck (i.e., crouch and gather yourself) as a precursor to a counterattack. I mimed what I meant, showing the boss how what I'd described in the story was not just possible but plausible. The boss replied that people who get their heads smashed into mirrors don't usually have the wit or the reflexes to execute a martial-arts move perfectly. I responded that I wasn't trying to make Claude (the protag) into an all-seeing ninja who can now anticipate all attacks from behind; to me, it seemed more realistic to let Billy the bully get a good blow in before Claude could reply. Claude's self-defense training didn't make him infallible. The boss, though, remained stubbornly unconvinced, so I shrugged and told him what I usually do regarding company-related work: I don't take ownership of anything I do for the company, so if he wants me to reword it such that Billy only attempts to smash Claude's head into the mirror, then he'll get what he wants. (Seriously: I don't care.) The boss seemed mollified, but it wasn't as though I'd been arguing adamantly not to change the story; ultimately, I don't give a fuck, so changing the story is no problem for me. My only real purpose in that office is to keep the boss happy so I can keep receiving a paycheck. Cynical, but there we are. At the same time, I still don't think the boss's criticism is all that valid, but I'll leave it up to my readers to decide.

1 comment:

John Mac said...

Well done! Yeah, I picked up the Karate Kid vibe, especially the part about not fighting in anger.