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Aaron’s first story

Perhaps because we weren’t frantically trying to cram in all our creative juices into just a few weeks, I feel like this story really exemplified why we do this project. Aaron presented me with a superhero story (which isn’t a genre per se, but you’ll see how it worked later) which was extremely rough. There were some real nuggets of good ideas there, but a) I felt like there wasn’t really any dramatic tension and b) I didn’t see it really read like a superhero story. I had sorta envisioned a comic book but without the pictures. He further had an additional challenge of writing the story in the present tense, something that I feel isn’t usually warranted and is VERY difficult to pull off.

When I read the first draft, I didn’t even take the trivial notes like grammar and stuff. I was going to make a couple of big-picture suggestions that I felt would round out the story and but also require somewhat significant rewrites. When I told him about them, he agreed with the notes (he had trouble putting into words why he felt his story wasn’t quite there to begin with, and it was largely the issues I had).

A few weeks later he gave me a story that was largely the same in terms of plot and characters but it worked so much better. He made a pretty bold (almost “gimmicky”?) choice on how to transition from the present tense to the past tense, and IT TOTALLY WORKED. Not only did it give a REASON for the story to be in present tense (aren’t most comic books?) but it also really made it a SUPERHERO STORY. It actually read to me more like a comic book just with this one addition. In fact, I suggested he continue to make that choice a tying element, something I think he will do in his final touch-up. Of course, the new play with tense resulted in many tense errors, but hopefully between the two of us we picked out most of those.

Also, he made the conflict much more immediate and threatening. It was in this strange place where it was MOSTLY an origin story but it also incorporated a fight scene. In his rewrite, he focused as much on the current fight, coloring it with how she found herself in that situation. That achieved two things – giving the story more importance, but also letting the character shine through more than it had. Aaron rarely writes women characters, and I’m glad he took a stab at one with such a distinct personality. It’s fun to see him playing around.

I think even with the extra time, both of our stories still have a slight feeling of being rushed because, as much as we like to pretend otherwise, we really write most of our stories in just a few writing sessions instead of writing daily or even weekly. I know with mine it shows by feeling a bit disjointed (something I tried to smooth out in subsequent rewrites). It shows with Aaron’s because I think more time would have fleshed out her character even more and evened out the tone of the past and present tense ‘stories’.

However, where this story stands at the “end” vs where it began is probably the most significant change in any of the stories he’s produced. Well done.

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One of those months

where i had around 2500 words and realized i hated the voice of the story.  i liked the story itself, but man was it starting to get tough to write.  so in typical me fashion, instead of going back and fixing things, i just scrapped it all and started over last night.  i’m sitting around 300 words now (everyone seems sick in this house and i didn’t have much time to actually sit and work) but i’m actually enjoying the story.

i’m not sure why i disliked the first draft so much, but after i got off to a hot start, it just stopped giving me any pleasure in writing.  part of it was that i’m writing a much more visually descriptive story than i usually do.  most of the time i like to give enough description to inform, without going overboard.  one thing that drives me crazy is when an author over describes everything.  it’s just a personal preference, but i don’t need you to describe the thread count of the bed sheets in a room the characters walk past, and never venture inside.  because i’m writing in a sort of comic book style, i have to get in some more description than i’d like, but it feels like it needs to be there.

as for now, i’m going to take a night off of writing to do a little re-plotting – i swear it’s not because i have no ending in mind yet.  we shall see how tomorrow goes with the writing.  i’m pretty sure i can knock out a decent amount of story in a short time, because it’s just fun to write this sort of thing.

when you do it correctly.

perhaps.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2015 in aaron's writing, Uncategorized

 

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thankfully 2012 has been the longest year on record

running into its 37th month, just so we don’t have to change the name of this blog.

first, let me welcome everyone back. it’s been a long time coming and we’ve finally decided to push ourselves again this year. we did have plans last year but they sort of fell through, i forget why. anyway, that’s besides the point. the point is, we’re here to write some more stories that end in awful deaths and/or sadness.

second, we have a new way to follow the process. a new twitter account. you can follow us @shrtstryprjct because we have no vowels. that, or any decent name was taken or too long for twitter. most everything on there will probably just a a note updating about a new post here, but perhaps we’ll slip in some different information as well. or just randomly spew hashtags, as i am come to believe is all twitter is good for.

and now on to the fun stuff

so as derek mentioned, we’re only going to be writing four stories this year. possibly a 5th one thrown in for good measure with one of our ‘crazy’ themes from last year (where we each wrote the into for the other one to finish, had to work the same sentences or characters into a story, had to write a prequel/sequel to one of the other’s stories), but the year is long and we have plenty of time to decide on that in the future. for this month, we sent each other a list of around 15-20 characters/themes/locations to choose from. i’ve had a few ideas for things floating around in my head since we were probably working on this project the last time and i’ve never done anything with them. some of the things on my list reminded me of ideas i’ve had, and after some modifications i think i can finally write one of them.

now, keep in mind our subjects don’t have to be verbatim this year. it really started to become a chore trying to shoehorn some things into my stories because they had to be there, and i know there were times when it was forced. very forced. i had zero way to include my final sentence into that story, so i literally just threw it in anywhere. did it work? maybe. did it work well? oh god no. i got a note about that. did i change it? are you crazy? i had a newborn sleeping on me as i wrote most of that one, so i was running on fumes and didn’t care at that point.

anyway, the topics i am forming my story from (i’m not giving the entire list, just what i’m using in some way or another) –

  • a strong central female character (maybe lead, maybe not) that has a crippling fear or addiction
  • a code needs to be cracked in time
  • create a reality in which laws of physics are different but accepted
  • a sound that could kill someone

like i said, i’m using bits and pieces from each of these ideas to form my story. i guess i can talk about it, since we aren’t writing the same topics and are trying to keep things hidden from each other until our first round of edits. so this is it, my first reveal of this year.

i’m writing a superhero story.

now, before you are all shocked and thinking ‘what does he know about superheroes?!?’ i’ve done some research (i watched two episodes of the tick) and i think i’ve got this. actually, i’ve been reading comic books since i was little. i’ve always wanted to give writing one a chance, and while i’m not actually writing a comic, this is basically the next best thing. it’s only a little tougher because i can’t just write a description of some action for 6 pages and let the artist do their thing. i don’t think it’ll be that bad, and i’m up for the challenge.

the actual story is based on a girl with powers that is trying to defend her neighborhood from the triad’s influence and hostile intrusions. the strong female character is her, she basically has to stop something before it happens, the new reality is that super powers exist and people know about them, and her powers will be auditory in nature.

at least i don’t need to do insane amounts of research for this one. not like when i wrote elihu root and charles fairbanks into modern day times.

why do i do these things to myself?

 

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i’ll be honest

i completely spaced on writing this story.

i’m currently in week two of three of running my office while my boss is away, and if you’ve ever been involved in working for the government, you can imagine all of the ridiculous stuff that goes along with it.

with that in mind, i managed to write entire stories in a few hours for the project last year.  i’m pretty sure i can figure out a topic and write this one in a weekend filled with not only work (yes, saturdays are work days too), but also celebrating my birthday and mother’s day.

awesome times.

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2013 in aaron's writing

 

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Ranking My Own Stories

Needless to say, I was pretty surprised by some of Aaron’s analysis. I knew, for instance, that he wasn’t as big a fan of my funnier stories, but I didn’t realize HOW much he preferred the “serious” ones. (Four of his least favorite five were my funnier stories). That alone will cause a rift between how we view my stories, as I tend to feel my comedy ones have just as much to offer as my serious ones. At least some of them.

Unlike Aaron’s stories, our opinions are quite different on my works. In fact, we agree on #12 and that’s it. So, yeah, I guess that’s my worst story. Outside of that, our analysis is quite different, though some of the reasons why we like/dislike something are similar. Anyway, we’re off:

12. March – “The Efficiency Expert” – We both agree that this is a lopsided story. The ideas weren’t fresh (many were rehashed ideas I’d have from a while ago) and because of that I think I wrote complacently. The sentences themselves are integrated fine, I felt (only one sticks out), but very few of the jokes work. Sneaky Pete Cahoots is pretty good, though.

11. October – “Sleepytown” – I recalled having liked this a great deal when I wrote it, yet it’s at the bottom of the list. Why? Well, I think it got hurt by a few things. Some of the humor didn’t work very well, as this fairy tale would have been better suited to be told more like a straight fairy tale. The bigger problem is that a surprising number of my stories were ‘period’ pieces, and this one was overshadowed by one that was much better that I’d end up writing two months later. So thematically it’s very close to December, but not nearly as good.

10. April – “Leaving Gunite” – Aaron and I both feel that this one is one that it’s hard to actually find yourself caring about the major plot. I think the issue could be that the ending is spoiled in the first paragraph, so it’s just a tale about how they got there. There isn’t any tension and the story could be told better.

9. September – “Seeing the Forest for the Trees” – I was surprised that Aaron liked this as much as he did (6th). Within the confines of what I was given – integrating 9 different character names – and doing it in an inventive way, I was successful. However, if you look at it just as a short story (ignoring the “challenge”), it doesn’t hold up. Two of the “characters”, though, Voluptua and Lark, are quite well written. I’m pleased with them at least.

8. May – “Unbecoming” – This is a decent enough story, but it just has SO much exposition. This would make a better novella or something where it isn’t so relentless with its exposition and where it could be layered in. However, this was a pretty influential story, as it was the first of many period pieces and elements of this would find their way into both Aaron’s and my subsequent stories. My attempt at social commentary ended up being kind of average.

7. February – “Heads of State” – Here is basically the separation between the stories I feel are below average and the ones that I like a great deal. This story is in all ways unbelievable, particularly for one where I did so much research (this was most most heavily-researched story, and not just all about Roosevelt). There are a few continuity issues as well. But I can’t deny that it’s just an incredibly fun read. I had a smile on my face half the time when reading it. Inconsequential but fun.

6. July – “Two Pair” – Aaron’s #2, and I rank it as #6? What’s that? (That will not be the biggest discrepancy between our rankings either). When I reread it, I started out thinking I wouldn’t enjoy it very much for some reason. However, it is very engrossing. I found myself getting captivated (being a poker nerd helps). Where Aaron and I do agree is the interplay between the two major characters is very good. However (and I’m surprised he didn’t mention this), there is a jokiness about some of the narration that just doesn’t fit the vibe of the whole story. I should have kept it only to the dialogue.

5. November – “Sunset at Belham Bay Park” – As a concept piece this worked incredibly well. However, I tried to look at it as someone reading it who didn’t know what our “topic” was. And it still works. It’s engaging, the characters, despite only having 2000 total words to work with, are fleshed out. I’m particularly proud of the actual craft that went into writing this story. The silly accent for the psychiatrist was probably not needed.

4. December – “Birth of the Stone” – This one is my ‘epic’ story, clocking in at a 1000 words longer than any other, and it is a well-composed story. Further, it achieved what I set out to do – writing a prequel to a story that guides the action that happens in the sequel (which was written first) without commanding it. I wanted to provide context for smaller characters, all while creating an origin of the parts of Aaron’s story that were just taken as givens. It wasn’t quite as grandiose as I recalled it was upon rereading, but still a good read.

3. June – “The Exorcism of Anne Foster” – I don’t care what Aaron thinks, this is a damn good story (he ranked this as #11). Yes, it’s silly. Yes, I wrote it as a jab to his insistence on starting it so I wouldn’t be able to make it silly. However, it’s actually fairly structured considering its subject matter – certainly more than something like “The Unusual Suspects” which is equally inane but far less structured. More than anything, I was taken aback by the writing – this is better-written than it has any right (or need) to be. It has good pacing, interesting characters, and more than anything, it made me laugh. I mean, despite having written it, I still chuckled out loud when they wheeled out Mr. Foster.

2. January – “Finding Home” – I was pretty surprised to see Aaron rank this one as poorly as he did (#7) though I have my suspicions why he did. When I started writing it, I wasn’t sure what turns it was going to take, so the first half of the story is uneven and clunky. It was too bizarre to be serious, but too serious to be funny. However, when I start to set the story on the path to resolution, it becomes wholly engrossing and I daresay a great piece of writing. I don’t think I’ll edit this story – I prefer to keep it as is as a testament to the possibilities of this uber-restrictive setting – but I am not against the idea of turning it into a one-act play. I’m very proud of this story.

1. August – “Cornered” – I had forgotten how strong this was. In rereading it and its unusual voice, I found myself getting lost in the story, as if I didn’t know what would happen next. While I do agree with Ashley’s take that the narrator isn’t actually DIFFERENT from my writing style, just a highly concentrated and exaggerated section of it, it IS the most different of anything I’ve written in years. The plot is intriguing and the main character is one of the most fleshed-out I’ve penned. I was surprised myself that this unseated “Finding Home”, which I thought for sure was frontrunner to be my favorite.

If anyone who has actually read all of them  wants to rank our stories (with or without criticisms), I’d be interested in averaging what people think they “best” stories are. Taste is subjective, but trends can at least be found. And screw Aaron, my funny stuff is good too.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in derek's writing, short story project 2012

 

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time to rank derek’s stories

derek and i noticed something without or rankings of my stories from this past year – we both though the same 5 were the worst (in a different order however), we had the same pick for #7, the next 5 were the same (also in a different order), and had the same clear cut winner for which story was my best.  i’m curious to see how close we rank his stories.

12.  The Efficiency Expert (March) – my largest problem overall with derek’s writing (and he knows it) is that he sometimes has a tendency to be strange for the sake of being strange.  while i like the concept of having an efficiency expert come and detail exactly why a super-villain is always failing at everything he does (because they’re all dumb, duh), but this story gets a bit out of hand.

11.  The Exorcism of Anne Foster (June) – knowing that some of his previous stories had been a bit insane in nature, when we each wrote the first parts of a story for the other one to finish, i made an attempt to introduce as many characters as i could in as boring a setting possible.  derek managed to turn it into a game of party quirks, which foiled my plan entirely.

10.  Heads of State (February) – again with the fun idea taken overboard with the crazy.  i liked the eradication story, but this one just didn’t really do much for me overall – bitchesssssssss.

9.  Leaving Gunite (April) – the problem with putting two stories into one story is what happened to me.  i really enjoyed the old people on the bench stuff, and didn’t really care for anything else.

8.  Sleepytown (October) – out of all of his crazy stories, i liked this one the best by far.  it does, however, contain what i find to be the one of my favorite names for his characters – alvas grundstock.  no idea why, but it gives me a good giggle.

7.  Finding Home (January) – while his first month did bring the crazy, it ended up being much more serious and depressing than i thought it would have been.  i liked it enough to use my december ‘sequel or prequel’ story to continue the saga of portis goolsby.

6.  Seeing the Forrest for the Trees (September) – i like this story, i really do and wish i could have placed it higher.  even being written as a case study didn’t make it boring to me.  the idea of someone with multiple personalities having personalities that are aware of the others and want to cause harm to them was interesting enough to keep my attention.  it was an interesting use of having to insert 9 names into a story without having a giant cast of characters.

5.  Unbecoming (May) – honestly, the only reason why i rank this story as high as i am is because of the work derek put into designing that staircase.  i’m talking spreadsheets people.  the story itself isn’t bad by any means, but the effort put into what i’ve decided is the main character (the staircase) is beyond compare.

4.  Sunset at Belham Bay Park (November) – this was far and away derek’s most ambitious story of the year.  the fact that there are a couple long stretches of story without any adjectives.  the world being erased as the story goes on is just fantastic, even though i had to read part of it twice.

3.  Cornered (August) – derek has a style of writing.  the vast majority of what i’ve read of his (both in and out of this project) have been in that style.  this story shattered that style into a billion pieces.  it was actually a bit surprising to read a very angry narrative voice in his story.  this was close to being ranked #2 but couldn’t because of –

2.  Two Pair (July) – this story was fantastic.  and i’m saying this while admitting completely that 90% of the poker talk bored me.  the interaction between the not-devil and not-god was fantastic.  the end of the story came as a nice twist.  just a very well done story.

and of course, this leaves my favorite story as

1.  Birth of the Stone (December) – maybe i’m biased because this was based off of one of my stories.  i just really had a great time reading the history of two almost throwaway characters.  well, they weren’t really throwaway characters in my story as they both had important roles to play.  the world i created didn’t have a lot of description.  derek came up with an entire history (placing his story centuries before mine took place) of that story universe.  it was extremely well done, and i loved every word of it (even his initial draft which had such major plot holes i laughed at him).

 

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in response to derek’s rankings

before i go back and re-read (and possibly re-work) my stories again, i figured i’d give my own rankings of my stories.  it may change after reading them again, so this ranking list may change.  i’ll do it in reverse order as well –

12. The Baker (October) – after realizing that an awful lot of my stories ended up with someone’s death, i decided to write a choose your own adventure which let me include a whole lot of death.  painful and ridiculous deaths.  while i liked my idea, i didn’t really think i managed to pull the story itself together as well as i would have liked.

11. The Ledgers (August) – this was the first month that i decided i would attempt to throw in crazy names for things.  the merchant of tennis as the guys pro-shop name is possibly my favorite of them all.  the rest of the story just didn’t really do much else for me.

10.  Gaius the Bold (March) – i really like the idea behind this story a lot (what does your dog do all day when you aren’t home?  protect the house from alien invasion, duh), but i did end up throwing at least two of the sentences in for the sake of inclusion.

9. Sign of the Times (January) – if i wrote this story later in the year i think it would have been about a million times better.  that being said, it’s one of the ones i know i want to go back and fix.

8.  Rigging the Future (February) – william taft stealing teddy roosevelt’s time machine and heading into present day america?  roosevelt and a bunch of his cabinet coming here after him to bring him back?  what could possibly go wrong?  besides me getting to include a bunch of odd historical references pretty much everything else.  another one i think i could do a much better job with.

7.  The Fat Man (April) – this one sort of just slides by.  i don’t dislike any of it.  i just don’t like it all too much either.

6.  Year of the Stone (July) – i think the best part of this story is that it let derek write ‘The Birth of the Stone,’ his december story (which incidentally may be my favorite of his stories this year).  that’s pretty much the only reason why this one cracked the top half of my list.

5.  Dark November (November) – a short, short story.  i wrote this one in just a couple hours the night i emailed it to derek.  it was also a complete departure from my writing style in any other month.  considering those facts, i think it came out pretty good.

4.  My Name is Cashew (December) – it’s no great secret that i usually make fun of derek’s bizarre names for his characters.  it’s not all the time, but you won’t find any ‘randolph jones’ in his stories, you’re more likely to find a ‘phytzler swagtragler.’  i really did like his january story, and when the idea for a sequel came up, it was my first instinct.  it let me be a bit more loose and comedic than i had been for much of the year, and it also let me make fun of his naming abilities.

3.  A Life in Rouen (September) – writing a short story about an author where all his stories come to life was a lot of fun.  including references to all eight previous stories i had written (be it locations, characters, or objects) made it even more fun.

2.  Climbing for Her (May) – derek and i disagree about the ending.  not that it was good, only what exactly happened.  i’m pretty sure i’m right, but i won’t spoil what my intentions were so you can interpret it however you’d like.  also, i had a lot of fun with this story.

1.  Project Titan (June) – i’m seriously considering submitting this one for consideration in some contest or another.  the only problem is that derek wrote the first page.  my defense is that i just used it as a spring board and didn’t build from it.  i mean, there’s no way i would have thought of my idea without his start, but that doesn’t mean anything, right?  this was far and away the best thing i wrote all year.  i felt the most confident about it when i sent it to derek to review, and i still think that it holds up pretty well.  this was the first month i really felt comfortable with my writing, and it’s definitely evident.  from this point on i think my stories got stronger, not always better, but the writing was much improved.

so … i guess i’ll have to go back and read derek’s stories again to rank them.  hopefully i can get that up by the end of next week.

 

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