The Sri Lanka stories blog is turning out to be a dangerously compulsive online project. The premise is simple. Write a 55-word story based on a word announced via a twitter account. I find this to be brutally hard. It also forces you to notice themes and ideas lurking in the dimly lit parts of the subconscious.
The first hurdle is producing something bearable to read in 55 WORDS (not characters) within 24 hours or less. The other is keeping up with the daily word that is fired at you. I have found that the key is not to think too much and leave it to the voices in the head to do the heavy lifting. If the word triggers anything that doesn’t feel embarrassing you are in luck. All that’s left is the grind of squeezing out the 55 words or less.
The approach that works for me is a selective form of “show – don’t tell”. A cruelty of the 55 word limit is pecking out enough specific visual descriptions for the reader’s mind to do most of the work. All without requiring too many words. Long words that pack a lot of meaning are gold since you don’t have to worry about a Twitter like character count. I’ve never used a thesaurus so frequently. Of course you have to balance big words with simplicity or your output will be incomprehensible without a dictionary.
I find it an exhausting process even without the treadmill of daily life. Brevity takes longer to be squeeze out of flabby sentences. Another horror is that the search for telling details can turn original ideas on their heads. Stories morphs into increasing slippery things. Worse your path to something usable will be littered with carcasses of half bake ideas.Its decadent fun but leaves you brain fried, unable to even pour bottle of Chivas regal down your throat.
All that aside, discovering un noticed themes in your own writing is the creepiest. I have found a disturbing, dystopian voice. Its sits in the dark dressed like a character out of Mad Max film sipping tea. Perhaps its existence is the part that I find draining.
Thankfully the fun of writing conquers all. These are my pathetic word droppings – listed from the most recent to the first. Feel free to blab your insights. No word limits here.
Soon the nation’s saviour, our supreme leader – his excellency the president for eternal life, will press the button. It will trigger the first detonations, starting the carving of Sigiriya into his noble visage. Thus a symbol of ancient decadence will be sanctified into an altar where countless grateful future generations will venerate his greatness.
She smiled, unwittingly. “Early poems. Not my best”. Those poems carried me through shrapnel and amputations said the commander gently. Don’t worry, I keep this very quick. The blindfold’s for the squad – their just boys. She nodded, whispering into his ear. Years later, those words, roared by crowds, would bounced off the fleeing presidential helicopter.
It is grown and ecologically processed in the rain forests of Columbia. Pristine as the day the conquistadors arrived. Loving caressed in organic Bolivian jute. Barely touched by a molecule pollution. Indulge yourself in No.5 Caquetá Puro, a cocaine dedicated to you: the elite who savour and celebrate perfection. Logo dissolves in, then fades to black.
We bribed border guards on the 3am shift. No time to buy an exit visa out of Colombo. Yes THAT pompous little poem of yours put you on tomorrow’s kill list. Your pride is very expensive. So is the grenade in this bag. Use it only if you are cornered. Remember, its not 2013 anymore.
Look at that fat Buriyani fed Muslim you said. A muttered tirade followed – these Muslims etc.. Then: how’s the family doing? Stunned, I replied on diplomatic auto pilot. How could you of all people say such things? I wanted to plead. A hopeless chill inside choked the words, hope and a lot more.
MOST SECRET STOP UNABLE TO CALL AFTER CAMEL STEPPED ON SATELLITE PHONE STOP GPS LOST IN SAND STORM STOP SUPPLY AIRDROP 100KM+ OFF TARGET STOP SUSPECT DRUNK UKRAINIAN MERCENARY PILOTS STOP RUNNING OUT OF AMMO FOOD WATER STOP AWAITING INSTRUCTIONS STOP HAVE EATEN ALL CARRIER PIGEONS WHAT TO DO STOP YOUR MAN OUTSIDE TIMBUKTU MALI