When things don’t go as planned

Featured Fiction 2The opening sentence for the Featured Fiction writing prompt wouldn’t leave me alone this week. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t written anything in a while, and it makes me edgy. Since I had a minute or two today I decided to go with it. It turned into a lesson in what happens when you don’t plan! I often write like that, just see where the story takes me. Afterwards I can generally repair the damage, make sure there’s a beginning, middle and ending – you know all those ingredients a story is supposed to have!

In the end I’m not sure where I was going with it, but at least I learnt something and I’m writing again!

I decided to share it with you regardless, because just maybe you’ll be able to tell me what my inner writer was thinking – I have absolutely no idea!

The Fun House

Who invented the name ‘Sod’s law,’ that’s what I want to know and, is it the same as Murphy’s law, because I’ve got to tell you, here, in this house, the rule of thumb is to expect the worst.

It’s not what the brochures say, the skillful words written by someone who missed their calling as a best-selling author – of fiction. No, the publicity points to a home for children with emotional difficulties (air quotes optional). What the material doesn’t say it that the place is filled with whack jobs, and I’m only talking about the staff.

Sure, the house looks pretty, one could even say idyllic, but here at the funny farm they believe in labels, and we’re paraded like cattle, depending on merit. I never get put on show, they’re too nervous about what I’d say to the plethora of civil servants who march through here congratulating everyone for their service.

The deal is, the powers that be are supposed to be preparing us for integration into society, whatever the hell that means. We’re educated, which is the same as coerced into thinking we will go on to lead independent lives. I guess, in one respect, my solitary confinement teaches me how to be independent, and if it weren’t for the drugs, I might actually like this gig. Most people leave me alone, mainly because they’re afraid. I don’t just hear voices, you see, my friends have the ability to look into the heart of a person and see the truth.

I’m not completely alone. One of my occasional bunk mates, a paranoid schizophrenic who I affectionately call Sam, has a thing for contraband. During his more lucid periods he sneaks me gifts, one of them being this journal, the one thing which keeps me sane. The rest I steal from the barrage of nurses who come to poke sticks at me.

But I’m getting a little off the point. I was talking about the house, and the fact that at least on the inside, things rarely go as planned. It’s like the very foundations are angry at the behaviour of those who preside here. I used to wonder what we had done to deserve such punishment. When we weren’t being abused by our so called guardians, we were being shafted by the house itself; whether it be equipment failure, power cut or something worse.

What I’ve come to realise is, the house is protecting us. So whoever Murphy is, and whether he agrees with Sod’s law, as the staff are prone to muttering, for us, expecting the worst has become our salvation. It kind of blows your mind, doesn’t it?

If you’re reading this, it means Sam got out. He didn’t belong here, anyway, not really. He has good people waiting for him on the outside and though there’s nobody who cares what happens to me, I know there will be people who question his take on the events. Those labels are there for a reason, after all, and not everyone can trust the word of a paranoid schizophrenic, or that’s what I’m told. Whether they will accept my word remains to be seen. But it will make one hell of a story.

You see, we’re tired of living in a place where people want to take away our souls, to exploit us and mould us to fit their own values and expectations. We’re special and so is this house. So we’re going to take it back, and not in the way people expect. This time nobody will see it coming, and even the laws of physics will not be able to explain how a group of children disappeared without a trace.

Worry not, we are where we were meant to be. And perhaps that brochure was right after all. The house is a safe haven for tortured souls the world forgot. So, if you are reading this, my name is Constance Edwards, and I am free.

***

I hope you’re enjoying the holiday season, and I hope to catch up with you soon.

Mel

Let’s try a little experiment

In my last post I gave tips on writing comedy, gathered from resources I’d found and felt worthy of sharing. Armed with these tools I began to experiment. I’ve hit a few snags. Mainly my reluctance to plan, because comedy, it seems, is a genre which requires careful planning.

The next problem relates to finding a suitable sounding board, and then I thought of you –  my audience. What better way to gauge what works and what doesn’t than seeking the advice of my WordPress family.

So, I would welcome advice and feedback on what I’ve got so far. I must warn you, I’ve fallen into some of the usual traps, but I’m confident I can turn it around with your help!

The Sequel

“It’s me. Again. If you’re trying to make me paranoid it’s working, because now I’m convinced you’re ignoring me. I’m tired of talking to this machine, Mikey, the Schwarzenegger impersonation can only go so far. Right now I want to hasta la vista your ass, and the fact you’re forcing me to make such a terrible joke just pisses me off. I’m not kidding. You might be the funniest thing since sliced bread right now, but I’m far from amused. Pick up the god damn phone and CALL ME BACK.”

The machine stuttered a little before it succumbed to the silence. It was probably age, either that or a deep-seated loathing for people who hung up in the midst of a temper tantrum.

“That didn’t even make sense,” I muttered to the machine, my new-found friend and fielder to the world, or at least my agent. “What’s so funny about sliced bread?”

“Exactly,” I said to the ensuing silence.

Unhealthy perhaps, but then I was living like a poor man’s Howard Hughes. I’d spent days, or maybe it was weeks, barricaded in my office. My only goal – to write a sentence that would evoke more than an uncomfortable grimace. I was going to be funny if it killed me. At this rate it probably would.

My desk was brimming with plastic cups, each loaded with the balled up remnants of my latest manuscript – a writer’s version of beer pong, only there was no alcohol and I definitely had no balls.

I’d gained my fame under false pretences. I was a one hit wonder. A fake. The critically acclaimed comedy was a sham of epic proportions. A happy accident. Basically, I was buggered.

Now I was expected to write the sequel, and I could feel the literary sharks circling, hungry for my blood. I tried to picture the headline, but that only made me want to bang my head against the desk because nothing came to mind. Still, it would be funny, as long as somebody else wrote it.

It would detail all the ways I’d failed; the comedy fell short, the gags were old, laughs cheap. And the saddest thing of all – it was all true. My current attempt was so forced it bordered on excruciatingly and it was about as funny as a punch to the face.

The keyboard had become my enemy, my pen an instrument of failure. My eyes were burning and my stomach was rumbling from a lack of nutrition coupled with the humiliation of succumbing to coulrophobia. Only clowns weren’t the real enemy. That was all on me.

This time I did bang my head against the desk, and when I was through, I kept my head down. Perhaps sleep would help, I thought desperately. Who could be funny when they were suffering from sleep deprivation? I didn’t really want to answer that and so I succumbed to the land of dreams.

By the time the machine kicked in again, I was floating on a wave of happy.

“I’m coming over, and if you don’t have anything ready for me I’ll kick you from there to Timbuktu…”

“Who even says that anymore?” I wondered, and what made her think she could follow through on the threat. She was five foot nothing with the grace of a dancer, though granted she had a serpents tongue… “Holy shit,” I muttered reaching for the phone. Why didn’t I think of it before?

****

Thanks in advance for your comments.

Mel