The Schadenfreude Challenge

On Friday, I finished my first draft of Mute. Since this was my third time trying to write this story and the only time I’ve completed it to the standard I deemed worthy, I promptly went out and bought a bottle of spumante. My celebration was short-lived, though.

Last week, I’d agreed to a writing challenge with my friend Matt. Since we usually write in different media and in vastly different styles, we figured it would be fun and, well, challenging to exchange short story prompts. I took great pleasure in crafting an idea I knew would throw him, and based on his gleeful pre-emptive statement of “You’re going to hate me,” I think he did the same.

When I first heard mine on Saturday night, I was actually quite excited. It was different, something I wouldn’t have conceived myself, and in a genre I’ve never written. Beyond that, it was intriguing, and I had images from the opening of the story flying through my head. By Sunday morning, though, my excitement had given way to the sickening notion that I had no idea what to do once I got past the opening. My only comfort came from knowing Matt was having just as much trouble with the prompt I’d given him.

After having tossed some ideas around with my sister, I half-settled on an ending I didn’t like. It didn’t feel right, and I knew it, but I didn’t know what else to do. And with a deadline of next Tuesday looming in the distance, I was about ready to give up. In a last ditch-effort, I decided to take a Moleskine Cahier up to Borders and do a little freewriting.

Be it the magic of the Moleskine, the perseverance of the pen, or some deep-seated trauma lurking in the recesses of my brain, I’m pleased to report that my venture was successful. By the time I’d filled three pages with the beginning of the story, I had a clear vision of the end. I skipped to the back page of my cahier and wrote it out.

It’s interesting to see what my prose is doing stylistically these days. I can certainly pinpoint one clear influence that is completely unintentional and a little surprising. But it works for this story, I think. I haven’t done prose since last November, and even then, it was mostly middling with a few moments of above-average tossed in to keep things interesting. Perhaps the muses are jumping at the chance to escape the skeleton that is screenwriting for a while. For the moment, I’m happy to go along for the ride.

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