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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.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Citizens of my Nightmares

Free short fiction; horror, magical realism, feminism, TRIGGER WARNING, WILL MAKE YOU VERY UNCOMFORTABLE, PG-15/R

What is a girl worth?

When I was six years old, I asked God to give me a little sister, because I already had two brothers and I wanted a girl this time. The sister he gave me became a citizen of my nightmares. I used to dream about a wolf chasing me; now I dreamt about coming over the hill to the ravine behind my house to see her surrounded by a pack. I stepped forward, but the leader stood stiff in my way, growling as the fur rose thick like a mane on his shoulders, his teeth a Joker-grin daring me to step past him. It was her or me, his blazing dead eyes promised. I stood still, my breath stolen, my heart stopped, eyes wide and stupid. I did not choose; time chose for me. They devoured her in front of me.

I used to dream about facing down the apocalypse. I would die fighting the world, or I would save it and then die, usually. But now when the volcano erupted next door, and we all lost our homes, in our Exodus across the countryside my sister wandered off into the dead, sunny outskirts of one of the cities we passed through. I was a teenager now, the oldest of eight, responsible for all the little ones trailing behind me, so in my dream my oldest brother and I followed her. We lost her behind an enormous apartment building. I heard her screams as men raped her. We weren't fast enough.

Some people watch themselves in nightmares like movies; I walk through like real life, with conscious decisions and full lucidity, and I hated myself for not saving my sister. I managed to stop the wolves chasing me once and for all one night by whirling around in my sleep and ordering the wolf to dissipate because “Jesus said so.” It was my mother's idea. It worked. But I never did any such thing for my sister. I never thought of it. I was too slow.

Finally one night I fought the wolf. The nightmare fell hard and fast like the first sentence of a well-written thriller. From my bedroom I could hear her screams. I raced into the kitchen to find a man with a knife bending her over the table. He threatened me, his eyes wide and jeering yellow like the canine's, as if he knew everything about me that I didn't want him to. As if he remembered I wouldn't stop him.

I charged him. I shoved into her side; my body pushed hers out from under him. I gripped his knife. He yanked it away—he thrust! A heavy chronic agony throbbed into my side, as if he'd stabbed me a long, long time ago instead of now. Blood seeped down my ribs through my shirt. I clenched my teeth. My fingers curled on the knife handle, squirming under his in the slick of sweat. I wrested it from him. I pressed the blade to his throat. I called the police. I saved her.

But I went to the hospital, and my then-fiance visited me as I lay dying.

My beloved is built like Spiderman with Batman's personality: in public he's a convincing Bruce Wayne, but in reality he's quiet and wears a mask. His friends call him the Ghost, and for years in my dreams he didn't speak. He wandered beside me like a phantom, never acting, sometimes hard to see, as if in my loneliness I'd invented him. In the daytime it takes faith to believe in God; in night-world it takes faith to believe in my lover. In the daytime people told me not to marry him; in the night-world they didn't even acknowledge he existed. When he visited me in the hospital, he spoke, and I felt him beside me even though no one else talked to him.

But he acted the day the bear came.

The bear in the daytime hurt my best friend. For many years I corresponded with a girl who lived in the woods, sequestered by neglectful family acres away from anyone in poverty and depression, with her chickens and dogs as her only real friends. She sounds like a character from my dreams, but it was in the daytime that the bear came and killed all her friends in front of her. It was in the daytime that the animal ate her sister. She hates the bear.

The night the bear came for my sister, I'd spent the daytime struggling with my worth. For years the wolves sent messages into the daytime to wreak their revenge on me for banishing them from the night-world, and most of my life I took my cues from Batman and hid the struggle. I don't have a million dollars like he does, so I never bought a very good mask, and sometimes people did question my sanity. But I don't think they knew about the suicidal thoughts, or my intense, bitter desire to be a man. I danced around the demons, sung away the spirits, and wrote off the wolves, my pen and my laughter my sword and shield—but the month the bear came I was losing the battle. I was wishing myself dead the evening my husband called me from school. I wept. I told him that in the book written by the God I love, a verse in the Torah sets a woman's monetary value at half that of a man, and like the chronic pain of that knife, that fresh stab brought back the much deeper wound of many years' war. What, then, was I worth?

“You're worth more than anyone else in the world to me,” said my husband.

My mother was driving us on our family vacation when the bear came. The seventeen-seat magenta-beige van hummed through the woods over a floor of pine needles as conifers rustled in a soft, almost imperceptible breeze below a chilled North American sky. My husband, my little sister, and I climbed down the van's high step to explore. My sister's eyes were bright, and my husband's gentle.

The bear caught my eyes still a hundred yards off. I've seen black bears in the daytime. Black bears usually amble. This black bear did not amble. It charged full-speed at us through the trees.

We ran for the van. I made it to the door first and leapt the step. I whirled--

To see my sister standing frozen in the bear's path, her back to it, her face to me, babbling and smiling. Fight or flight did not kick in. She shut down. Stupefied. Blabbing, muttering, waving her hands in the air like a dementia patient with Parkinson's.

The bear closed in. Fifty yards distance.

I screamed her name. “Get in the car!”

She bubbled on.

Twenty-five yards. The bear broke the tree-line.

“Come here! Get in! Run!”

She stood rooted, talking with her hands, immune to my screams.

Twelve yards, or less. Even on all fours it towered over her.

“You're going to die!”

My memory kicked in. Not conscious memory, but the unconscious identity that knows that when you cannot save someone, you must endanger yourself. I'm the cannon fodder, the shield, the sacrificial lamb. That was the only thing that worked before; that's what I'm worth. I jumped from the car and ran for the bear like I'd run for her rapist, flirting with acceptance of my own mauling.

As I sped between her and it she woke up and made for the van. I screamed and shouted and threatened. The dumb bear whirled on me. I ran from it around the bumper of the van to draw it away from her and the door, its breath just a pace or two behind me. My mauling approached.

A gunshot cracked the icy air.

My husband stood in front of the van with a revolver smoking in his hand. A revolver can't take down a bear! I've seen videos of angry ursines, enraged by gunfire with no stopping power, tearing men open to feast on their intestines. My heart thrashed against my sternum as the videos played out again. I don't know how many times he fired as it charged him.

I know it fell in front of the van. I tottered towards him as silence fell, my eyes on that paw the size of a tire. I dream about zombies. I dream about things that cannot die. I know the night-world.

But the bear did not rise. My husband stood over it, his hand unwavering, weapon still outstretched, solid and corporeal, no ghost. As real as the animal laying dead at his feet.

Because I am worth saving, too.

The End.

I don't have much of an explanation for this story. I believe in female characters who save their own butts, but I also believe in female characters who are worth saving. I wish there were more stories about men—and women—risking their asses to save girls not because girls are weak, but because girls are worth it. 

The Bible verse the MC mentions is pretty easy to find. It's widely debated on a number of atheist and Christian feminist websites, and I won't go into it here. I will say, though, that in an age where important people didn't even talk to women, Jesus did, and in his death he proved he found girls very worth it. What he said about God permitting evil or inequality in his OT law “because of the hardness of your hearts” seems to me to apply to that old verse that plagues the MC.