I signed up for a 6-week writing class. I attended the first two class meetings, and that was it. Here’s the story.
The class was about reading and writing Magical Realist fiction. Check out this Wikipedia article about Magical realism, if you want to know what that is.
Our text book, Magical Realist Fiction: An Anthology, was not what I expected. The included authors like Eudora Welty and Nikolai Gogol are not terribly contemporary and I was hoping for more modern readings. The first assigned reading was a story by Henry James called “The Jolly Corner” -it was difficult to handle. I have never seen such long sentences in my life, but I gritted my teeth and read the whole thing. Eurora Welty’s “Moon Lake” was almost as densly paked with words s the James work but it was somewhat easier to follow. Her descriptions of vegetation at a Mississippi campsite were beautiful, almost fragrant. “The Procelain Doll” by Tolstoy was plesantly short and Gogol’s “The Nose” was funny, fairly shor, and had a very modern feel (in my opinion). I’ve even kept reading seledtions from the book after quitting the class. I’ve just finished reading “Lyompa” by Yuri Olesha.
During the first class meeting we took turns reading aloud Leo Tolstoy’s “The Porcelain Doll.” This one was a good introduction to the genre (if Magical Realism can be called a genre. Someone in class suggested that it is actually a mode of writing). We did a writing exercise that session. The idea was to come up with metaphors or maybe cliches, and then alter them to create something a little bit off-kilter. The class came up with phrases like ‘ears in my music,’ and ‘easy as a buterfly,’ (both of those were mine).
Our take-home assignment was to write a 3 to 5 page story using one of our newly coined phrases. I chose ‘easy as a butterfly,’ and began a story about a woman who could pass though solid objects when she wanted to. I didn’t finish it, but here’s the start:
Sheila floated through the man with the gun. “Easy as a butterfly,” she said. She said that every time she made the transformation from flesh and bones to vapor. The man, once he realized what happened, dropped his gun and ran down the street. After ten seconds of running, he stopped, turned around, and ran back to retrieve the weapon. Sheila had in that time become solid again and found a nearby police officer. The officer arrived at the spot where the gun lay seconds before the gunman. Shortly thereafter an arrest was made.
Sheila discovered she could go through solid objects six weeks prior to the incident with the armed man. She was awakened by her cat, Bebo, in the way he normally woke her. Bebo wasn’t a nuzzle up against the chin kind of cat, nor was he prone to purr gently into his mistress’ ear stirring her gently to wakefulness. What he did to get the day started for Sheila was jump onto the dresser and knock things off so that the sound of objects crashing to the floor would disrupt her restful sleep.
“Oh why Bebo!” She moaned. Bebo leapt off the dresser and bounded out of the room and Sheila looked at the alarm clock beside her bed. “8:30!” She shouted as she sprang off the bed and rushed to the bathroom. She had fifteen minutes to get ready and get to the bus stop and she was determined to make it. In twelve minutes, she had haphazardly brushed her teeth, combed her hair, and thrown on a dress and a pair of sandals.
At 8:23 she was out the front door and sprinting down the sidewalk. The bus stop was only a block away, and she was an okay runner. She heard the bus’ engine. It was approaching the stop. She picked up speed, the bus pulled to a stop, and the door opened. The four people in line flashed bus passes and boarded quickly. Sheila cranked up her pace another notch, pushed off her back foot and attempted a leap onto the vehicle. Her leap began just as the door was closing. Sheila closed her eyes and waited for the inevitable impact, but there was none. Instead she sailed through the closed door and landed (on her feet) beside a distracted bus driver who had no idea what had just happened.
Sheila turned around and looked at the closed door expecting to see shattered glass, but the door was intact. She placed her hands on her face and torso expecting to feel blood, but she too was intact. She looked at the ten or so bus passengers, but they were all engaged in reading or sending text messages. So Sheila simply took her seat and rode to work.
I like this story and I liked writing it. I was full of ideas and I wanted to give the character a rich back story, but sheesh, writing is hard work! When I thought of things I wanted to add to the story I thought of how much time it would take to do it.
Difficult yes. Worth it? Don’t know…