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  • Zack Slansky

Idea #5

I’m completely out of ideas. This is effectively my last resort because, if we’re being completely honest, my previous attempts at this were mostly crap.

I don’t especially want to do this, but “this” is a one-way ticket out of my situation. That doesn’t make much sense, now that I’m looking at the previous sentence. The whole situation as it stands is a little convoluted, but the basic gist is that if I:

1. Submit 1 piece of writing to the writing contest currently going on and

2. Submit 1 other piece of writing to the school’s literary magazine

then I can quit a particular club that has basically been killing me with regard to the amount of boredom received. This is a pretty good offer, in my opinion, considering I’ve been trying to quit for some one and a half years now.

However, I ran into somewhat of a roadblock, in that I didn’t especially like anything I wrote. The concepts I’ve tried so far are:

1. A kind of true-to-life account of two things which occurred simultaneously:

a. My not wanting to go to a friend’s birthday party

b. My reading Infinite Jest

This didn’t work because, due to (b), everything I wrote sounded

like I was trying to ape David Foster Wallace, which I kind of was. Tom Bissell wrote the introduction, and he wrote about how the book affected his writing. This was kind of like when you told someone something hurt, and then forgot about it, and then they ask you if it hurts after you’ve forgotten, and you go, “Well, it didn’t until you just reminded me about it.”. What I mean to say is that the effect on my writing wouldn’t have come to light and caused me to think about it, and hence be unable to avoid it, had Mr. Bissell not mentioned it. That explanation isn’t much better. Okay, wait, so, what I think is that if I hadn’t been told about the effect, I wouldn’t have thought about it. This resulted in a couple of things happening to the story, which work when Wallace uses them, but not when I do. They include:

a. Several metafictional comments on the nature of the story itself

b. A complete exploration of the narrator’s (me) inner thoughts

c. A couple of supposed-to-be tongue-in-cheek comments on parties and the like

These seemed kind of forced in review. The moment when I knew it

had to go was when I put a footnote at the end of the story just for the sake of a nod to Wallace. The only word I can think of to describe it is cringeworthy.

2. A short story about the end of the world. This was actually

pretty good, I think, because I decided to focus on, like, a human relationship instead of action, but I ran out of steam half a page in, so into the trash that went. Goodbye.

3. A story about kids forming gangs in a semi-futuristic city. This was again drawn from Wallace, based on his short story “Brief Interviews With Hideous Men”. If you’ve read it, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but each story is told in an interview format, with the unnamed interviewer’s question being replaced with “Q” each time. I think I actually pulled this off rather well, but the way I saw it is that it the story itself was really just a repeating cycle of the first page’s events, and I ran out of steam there too.

4. A short horror story which I never got any more than two sentences into. This actually happens more often than you’d think.

You might notice a few recurring themes, namely that I run out of steam and that I tend to draw from David Foster Wallace. I think I tend to get on a roll with things, story-wise, and once I get into the actual work, I start to lose interest. I don’t know.

Regarding the Wallace issue, I went through a period where I only read David Foster Wallace for a while. This was pretty recently, and I was just beginning to recover from the, while not thoughts per se, way of thinking that his writing kind of pounds into your brain. Then, I, as aforementioned, began to read Infinite Jest. So, that was that, in respect to remaining non-Wallaceian.

So, really, this is it. This is my fifth try, and if I can’t get it right this time, I’m just going to have to trudge right back on down to the club and awkwardly attempt to explain my absence. A few things that make my situation alright, though, is that:

1. I feel like I avoided any derivations of Wallace this time around

2. If this doesn’t work, I still have about a week to retool it

These two things do help me in the way of softening the blow if I screw it up. However, the big problem with this is that I really can’t seem to find a point here. I’ve told you about my situation, but there’s really not much the reader (you) can do about it. Or does admitting that there’s no point kind of give it a point in a roundabout sort of way?

Honestly, I feel like this sort of literary pondering is better left to people who do this for a living. I mean, geez, I’m 16. Can I really be expected to provide a thematic dissertation of my own story?

I’ve always had a problem with endings, making sure my stories don’t just trail off, leaving unanswered questions behind. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong here, a painfully self-aware wink towards the reader, or just an ending that doesn’t have any meaning with regard to the rest of the story. The hardest part is matching the tone. I can’t go for, like, a wry comment, because that wouldn’t match this. I think.

The best thing right now, I think, is for us, you being the reader and I the writer, to part ways quickly. I’m going to have to be completely honest about my inability to finish a story. I really am sorry that I have to use the ending of my story to dismiss you. You’re probably a very nice person, and I’m sure you don’t merit a goodbye quite like this, but, unfortunately, that’s the way it is.


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