By Craig J. Clark
Lately I’ve been having difficulty completing some of the stories I’ve been working on. This is not to say that they’re excessively long, I just haven’t been inspired enough to see them through to their endpoints. To counteract this, I’ve started formulating much shorter story fragments and accumulating them in one file. This is the first batch. There are more to come.

Accumulate #1: Getting to Here

Jordan took a deep breath. He knew he was going to need it. He wondered how he had gotten into this. Surely this was the sort of thing his manager would dismiss out of hand, but he didn’t, so here he was, seated on a stool in a photographer’s studio, waiting to have a bucket of green slime dumped on him.

“This is going to be perfect for our You Can’t Do That On Television-themed spread,” said the photographer as he made some last-minutes adjustments to the lights. “We were on the verge of scrapping it, actually. No one was willing to get slimed. Getting doused with water or hit with a pie wasn’t a problem, but the slime was a non-starter. Then you came through for us.”

“Glad I could help out,” Jordan said, gritting his teeth. He wondered if the photographer had bathing facilities on the premises. He decided not to bother asking. He did make a mental note to sack his manager as soon as possible.

The photographer picked up a camera. “Okay, we’re all ready here. Are you ready?”

Jordan looked up at the assistant standing over him, perched precariously on a stepladder, a large bucket at the ready.

“I don’t know...”

Accumulate #2: Hungry, Hungry Hippos

It wasn’t until after he fell into the hippopotamus enclosure that David realized that taunting the large beasts had probably been a mistake.

Accumulate #3: Freedom Flies

Billy thought he had it all figured out. As a performance artist, he had long wrestled with the problem of how to add a political component to his art. In years past, he had brought a toaster onstage with him and used it to make toast to throw into the audience. When he did so, he had cried, “You have your freedom, toast! Fly! Be free!” This had been a hit. Now he had to top it.

Sadly, his new idea -- freedom fries -- had caused severe grease burns to the audience members in his direct line of fire. In retrospect, he realized he should have let the fries drain a little before tossing them. He also could have salted them. Then maybe it would have seemed like it was intentional. Because he assaulted people with hot French fries.

Oh, never mind. Congress changed the name back anyway.

Accumulate #4: The Crazy

Bernard worried that he was slowly being driven insane by one of his coworkers. He was sure it wasn’t intentional, but it was happening nonetheless. Finally, at lunch one day, he snapped.

“Hey, could you do me a favor and dial down the crazy a couple notches?”

His coworker, who had been humming the same two bars of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” for the past 25 minutes, looked hurt as she gathered up her lunch and walked out of the break room.

“Fine, then. I know somebody who’s not going to be asked to join my mariachi band.”

After she was gone, Bernard breathed a sigh of relief. That had been a close one.

Accumulate #5: Vigilance

Oh, I’m watching you. I’m not taking my eyes off you for a second. Two minutes ago you asked to borrow a pen and I’ll be damned if you’re going to make off with it.

“And how much would that be with tax?” you say. I know your game. I ring the items up without completing the sale and tell you. “Okay,” you say, jotting the price down on a piece of paper that you also asked to “borrow.” “Thanks a lot.”

You cap the pen and start to walk away from the register. I’m about to say something when you freeze in your tracks, quickly doubling back.

“I don’t want to take your pen,” you say as you hand it back to me.

Sure you don’t, sir. Sure you don’t.


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I spoke to Weaver not to long ago about compiling something like this, a bunch of fragments. Whenever there's a collection like this, I seem to choose favorites. This time, I choose 4 & 5.

The Crazy is an idea that I think could be expanded, but I think I understand how you could get stuck. There's a woman I work with who occasionally walks around humming songs from Disney movies and annoying musicals like Pippin. She'll move from a hum to a "La, la-la" and she'll "La" in the most cloying pseudo-kiddy voice possible. As she's doing this, she'll glance at you and flash a crazy wide-eyed stage-smile at you. It's odd.

Your snippet reminded me of her. You could go many directions with your story. My guess is that all of his crazy coworkers might gang up on him at some point, subconsciously beckoning him to join their ranks.

Vigilance was my true favorite of the bunch, but thinking about it, I think it could actually be incorporated into The Crazy if you had a desire to do something like that. Bernard could very easily be the guy who protects his pen to the point where it drives him crazy. Or the pen protector could be a coworker of his. The possibilities are ENDLESS!!!

I once attached a pen to my computer with fishing line just see what happened. I hate when people steal my pens.

I have a ton of my own accumulates just waiting for some degree of inspriation to see through. None are written out as yours are, however. I kind of have blurbs and little phrases strewn together that I take from and use to push the story forward. But most often, I have the whole idea thought out so I stop for two reasons. The first is that there is something that is not linking things together enough, so time usually fixes that. The other is that the story sucks, and I wonder what I was thinking. I even put phrases in there for myself, such as: "that is a cool idea, Weaver", "make sure to use (this word)", "I like this part, fix this or else, dumbass" and "don't stray from this mood". But on the other hand, "Pancakes" was written solely on the fact that I wanted to use the word "angstrom", the rest followed. "Drink Your Asshole" was only a title, then the story followed and was finished in an hour. Go figure.

Obviously, walking away from an idea for a brief time strangely works. Continually forcing it rarely yields much more than frustration. It is always good to just write anything and see what sticks. I use the backspace key ad naseum. Start with any idea, end with the best one.

You do, however, have plenty going for you. I like "The Crazy", just so long as you follow her around and display her when she is alone. Maybe since I have this fascination of what crazy people do by themselves? Also, I really like the way you had the guy in "Vigilance" still call him sir in his mind. To me, at least, that shows that the guy has this pent up rage in his head, but still yields to people at the same time. He may be more confused than we think.

You do, as far as I see it, have the same temperament in your stories. It is very safe and the moods/voices appear very much the same with just the situations changing. You definately have your own style, which I like, but I would really enjoy something from you that throws me off a bit. Then again, the "Vigilance" line stood out. I'll just wait and see the before and afters WHEN you finish these guys.

I agree that continually forcing an idea isn't so great, but for me there's a way around this. I just sort of write all the crap out of the way. Just spew garbage onto the paper/screen for a few moments to clean my thoughts, kind of like cleaning the print heads on an Epson Color Stylus inkjet printer (that's bound to garner some weird search engine hits). You waste a little ink, but in the end you get a good print.

Also, getting initial rough ideas out and then smoothing them in the rewrite is often helpful for me.

I'm going to be completely exposing myself as the youngin' of the bunch but here goes:

This conglomeration of story fragments reminds me of the Cartoon Network/Adult Swim show, "Robot Chicken". The show idea in a nutshell is random snippets of parody/sketches in the guise of someone changing channels and all acted out by stop-motion action figures. This accumulates reminds me of that only in a more literary and smarter way.

I find I get random opening paragraphs like this but unfortunately mine usually stay unfinished because more often than not I never have a story to go with the opening paragraph.

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This page contains a single entry by Craig J. Clark published on August 21, 2006 7:00 PM.

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