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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

And God Said to Alfred

 (Lit. Fable Flash Fic)

So, once upon a time, God wanted to hang out with his friends. He cooked and cleaned and set up the most beautiful feast, and party games, and everything. It would make your mouth water just to hear about the foods he made. He sent out invitations ahead of time, and even prepared a limo to bring his friends to come see him! This would be an important party that would change everything--one of those kinds of parties you remember for the rest of your life, the parties where you meet your true love, or form friendships that will last forever, or have SHENANIGANS you never regret. This party would change everything.
On the day of the party, God sent his butler (I call him Alfred) to go get his friends. But the first friend said, "I decided to schedule work tonight." He could work any other night--in fact, he did work every other night--but it was never enough. He wanted to make sure his investments panned out. People called him ambitious, but deep down, he was just afraid.
So Alfred drove on. The second friend said, "I've got to study." He could have studied any other night, but he was lazy and put everything off to the last minute, because hanging out with someone who loved him just wasn't important to him.
Alfred was beginning to get tired of this. He'd helped God with all the cooking and cleaning, so he knew how much work it had been. He hoped the third friend would be more friend-like, especially since God had sent out the invitations two-thousand years ahead of time, and then Alfred and God kept sending invitations (not too often--God doesn't spam people) as friendly reminders. The invitations were really cool, too, and individualized for each recipient with things like dancers and doves and animations and Mona-Lisas and cool windy trees. The invitations themselves had become gifts, like a special hobby for Alfred and God, a way for them to make people smile.
But when Alfred pulled God's limo up to the driveway of the next white suburban house, the third friend said, "Look, I just got married--" as if God hadn't been paying attention to the events in the third friend's life--"and I don't want to bring my wife to the party. We're just going to hang out here, by ourselves."
Alfred don't know if it was sex or love that was more important to this guy than the party, but he understood that both were powerful things. "Please come," Alfred said, explaining: "We'll make sure she has a good time, and God has some special surprises planned just for you! We can give you both your own special room in the mansion if you want to spend the night and get some privacy. We think the party will last the whole weekend, maybe longer!"
It was ironic, thought Alfred, because God was the one who'd introduced the wife to the husband, and God loved the both of them more than they could ever love each other, but this guy refused to budge--maybe he was embarrassed to bring his wife out in public? Or maybe he was just stubborn. Or maybe he didn't actually love his wife that much, and didn't want her to have a good time with the person who loved her most, and enjoyed keeping her cooped up at home under his reign. Or maybe she was controlling and mean and didn't want him to go, and he'd have to give up her happiness if he went, and he couldn't bear to do that. I don't know, but I do know that Alfred went home to God empty-handed.
When Alfred told God these things, God was pissed. It wasn't like he hadn't told people ahead of time, and he'd done so much for his friends, without asking anything in return. He was partly angry because hypocrisy made him want to punch things--his "friends" loved to talk about how they were friends with the almighty God, and how cool that made them, but when he wanted to spend time with them they never answered the phone--but he was even more angry because he loved them so much. He wanted this chance to do something even better for them--he wanted it so bad his heart hurt! He just HAD to give. It was in his nature, like how a rain-cloud has to rain.
"There's not much time left, Alfred," God said, speaking in his deepest, most Batman-like voice. He took parties every seriously. "Go quickly out into the city, and pack into your limo all the homeless drug addicts and the struggling psychiatric patients and the stupid people and the people no one wants to hang out with."
Alfred went quickly--how exciting, he thought!--but when he brought all these surprised people to the fine house he discovered there was still so much more to give! "Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room!"

And God said to Alfred, "Go out to the highways and airports and ask people from everywhere to come in, all the people, so that my house can be filled! None of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet."
As Alfred picked up his coat and hat and opened the front door to return to the limo again, he turned back to look at God for a second. "I don't think it should be hard for those who call themselves your friends to come to a party like this," Alfred said. "The party will be the best ever."
"But they can't see it that way," God said. "Right now, they see only the cost they have to pay. And there is a cost. They know they have to put their families and even their lives and their dreams second to make this weekend happen. To give up that stuff is like being executed and tortured for them. And anyone who can't handle that cost really can't handle my party."
"Hm." Alfred was not a man of many words. But he couldn't stop thinking about how delicious the party was going to be, and so even though it was raining, and the traffic was yukky, and he'd missed phone calls from his friends and family, he shut the grand oak door behind him, hunched his shoulders against the rain, and slid quietly into his limo to gather the final guests before the night began.
The End
Luke 14:16-27

What kind of party guest am I?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Whoa! 25 Stories in less than 1000 words? Come one, come all, and watch the madness!

Can you write 25 stories in under 1000 words? Check out the crazy below!

You go do it! I bet you can do it better! Write some tiny fictions and tweet them to me @petr3pan--I RT fiction I like! And hey, if YOU like tiny short fictions, you can read more here, and here! Or, if you prefer longer short fictions, sweet tragic things about moms and Snow White perhaps, you can get some of that here, and here. If you prefer dark disturbing things, I have a descent into madness here and an escape from madness (trigger warning) here.

Happy reading. ^_^

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Medical School Multiple Choice (Flash Fiction, G)

2:00 AM
Q-Bank Practice Test #42
Days til USMLE: 56

Once upon a time there were three children with eating disorders. One of them chewed his own regurgitant from infancy onward; the second stopped eating with her family when she became a teenager, and complained of being overweight despite a BMI below 17 percent; and the third, an otherwise successful college student, ate chalk. Which of these patients has the best prognosis of complete recovery?

A. The infant, because rumination disorder often results from neglect
B. The college student, because pica inversely correlates with level of education
C. The teenager, because now that the Grlock Imperium have taken over society prefers larger women and anorexia's dead
D. I am so tired C looks like a legitimate possibility. Will our Grlock Overlords allow us to rest, or is the obsessive pressure to succeed something inside ourselves that we can never escape?

Your selection of a non-traditional response has been noted. Out of the three children in the previous question, which is most likely to correctly answer the following multiple choice question:
Find X.

A. 1+5(square root of 2i), and 1-5(square root of 2i)
B. I totally googled that and got A
C. The teenager, because the infant can't solve polynomials, and the college student has forgotten how
D. I have forgotten how to solve for X, just as I've forgotten the names of my siblings, my cousins' faces, and the color of the sky when summer's in my heart and not just outside.

Do you need to drop out of school? Are you suffering from psychosis? Are you afraid of losing your scholarship?
A. So many questions at once! What happened to my exam?
B. I demand a Turing Test. I don't believe you're really a computer.
C. What will happen to me if I say yes? Will I lose the chance to help the people who need me the most? Will you judge me, and see me as weak? If I say no, will I enjoy joining the profession where men like me are 70 percent more likely to kill themselves than other professions? Will I become one of the 400 who die this year?
D. I'm not going down without a fight.

End Exam?


Closing exam in 5…4…3…



Next Question. 

I'm not going down without a fight.


I hope you've liked this non-traditional flash fiction. 

It's based on real statistics you might not be aware of, in the hopes that maybe you'll research the suicide problem in American medical schools, or just consider stepping into someone else's f'd-up suffering head for a moment.

Thanks for reading! For other f'd up little stories, click here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Cost-effective and Encouraging: Review of Bill Taub's "Automatic Pilot" Screenwriting Text

Second year of medical school is taking up my blogging time! But I thought I'd share with you writers and fiction fans a resource I recently discovered. It's called Automatic Pilot, and it's about how to write the first episode of a TV show.

Next to Syd Field's Screenplay textbook, I'd say Bill Taub's Automatic Pilot ranks as one of the best beginning screenwriting resources I've yet encountered.

Well, stranger, what have you encountered? What does that even mean?”

Good question. I'm not an expert screenwriter, but I am an expert “screenwriter-resources” purveyor, if such a pitiful occupation exists. From college classes to online classes to online resources to books to at least three or four different “screenwriting resource companies”--eh, I've actually spent a few hundred bucks studying screenwriting. (Shivers in shame)

A number of those resources tend to repeat the same basics over again, so I really liked that while Automatic Pilot included the most important fundamentals of screenwriting for beginners, it also delved into TV-industry-niche specifics, a wide variety of structure techniques and suggestions, and Taub's own positive writing philosophy. The strong motivational tone of the book makes you feel like you've got people on your side—because when you're writing for yourself you've got you on your side, Taub might say—and as someone who used to write for a living I found that incredibly empowering. In med school you don't get a lot of time to read, so I bought the audiobook to play while I ate or whatever. Taub's encouragement was, for me, the writerly equivalent of blasting rap music on the highway, or rocking out when you're pumping iron: I got pumped up! There's something to be said for that.

For those of you who prefer more concrete definitions of value, we should probably talk about $$$. Automatic Pilot is actually a compilation of all the resources and reading material from a University class Taub taught/teaches on writing good pilot episodes for television. As you may know, it usually costs more than twenty bucks to access a University-level screenwriting class. Even cheap professional classes online bill as much as $90—I got a discount on a decent “Third Act” class for $45 once, but generally comparable screenwriting classes enter the ring weighing in nearer the hundreds mark.

To give you a more detailed cost-analysis, Hal Croasmun from ScreenwritingU charges $90 for a class that involves about thirty pages of reading material and no feedback from the professor. I'm not downing on Croasmun—apparently he's pumping out writers who make deals left and right—but pointing out, to you, that for $20 or less I can get nearly 200 pages from Taub, all new and unique information pertaining specifically to the TV industry. That's pretty good math.

Automatic Pilot is heavy with repetition, though. That's probably less of an issue in the hardcopy (which I also bought to keep as a skim-able resource), and for some folks repetition's essential to enhance learning, so it's not necessarily a drawback. I found it a bit much sometimes, but on the other hand a lot of the repetition was also a lot of the motivational cheerleading I enjoyed. If you're looking for new plotting tricks and tools to amp up your game; if you're unfamiliar with a lot of TV-writing terminology and structural customs; and if you'd like to tap the brains of multiple TV-writing experts before you start writing yourself into a crash-and-burn, a little repetition and two Red Robin meals is a fair price to pay.

I think, anyway.

What do you guys think? Any other screenwriting resources you've run into lately that you like?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ten twitter-length short stories

All my life I wanted to face my fears. But gradually. Not, you know, by being thrown out of an airplane into a vat of tarantulas. ‪#140novel

"I love you!" "Why." "Does it matter why?" "If you love me because I've got dissociative identity disorder and you like my other self, yes, it matters." ‪#140novel

She curls up by the doorway, stroking the key but never touching the keyhole. Cobwebs creep; she grays. ‪#140novel We fear unknown freedom.

The dark fae-folk, the ones that steal children, don't steal anymore. Our society gives them infants in exchange for career luck. #140novel

We've always feared aliens spawning inside us. We didn't know when we penetrated the gooey rock that we'd spawned inside an alien. #140novel

Luke spent twelve years in the jungle searching for a cure. He found the flower in his mother's backyard--the day of her funeral. #140novel

I coughed, scratching on thru the swamp; dank weeds slick with urine tangled my bare ankles. I lost my resolve. But I found hers. ‪#140novel

I screamed, plummeting sixty stories towards the dino-infested zoo. I screamed cuz my parachute opened. I hate my job that much. ‪#140novel
(May 9)

I found her in a dumpster; married her same day. She stopped drugs, got a job, grew rich--& left me because I'm a trash collector. #140novel

What got me about this guy wasn't his Mohawk, piercings, or leather. It was his worn copy of Trumpet of the Swan by EB White. ‪#140novel daw
(May 9)

I came. I saw. I ran away screaming as the giant scorpion whipped its stinger at me. I returned with bug spray. I conquered. ‪#140novel
(May 12)

You can read some other twitter-length short stories from me here, and if you like very, very dark horror about feminism and death, you can read that here, and if you like sad flash fiction about mothers you can read one here, and if you like dialogue-heavy flash-fiction about scifi and speech impediments you can read that here, and if you just want to choose a free short story your own dang self you can do that here.